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Luther on Luke 14:23

by pastorjuhl ~ May 28th, 2008

Blessed Martin Luther’s First Church Postil for Trinity 2 spends a bit of time unpacking the infinitives “compelle intrare”.  He translates the words to mean “constrain (them) to enter”.  The New King James Version translates the words to mean “compel (them) to enter”.  There is more than one way to compel.  Luther explains the Gospel way to compel over against the Law way to compel:

When the Law is preached and sin is unfolded or made manifest, that man comes to a knowledge of himself, so that compelling and constraining them to come in means, to force anew the sins into the conscience, that thereby man may acknowledge, that he is nothing, that all his works are sinful and damnable, and thus quickly receives a despairing conscience and a bashful and terrified heart, in which every refuge and help are taken from him and everywhere he is unable to find any comfort in them, and finally despairs of all help in himself.

When this now takes place, it is called “constraining,” for you should not delay his “coming in,” but help him out of his state of despair.  But this takes place, when you comfort him with the Gospel and tell him how he may be delivered from his sin, and say to him: Believe in Christ, that he has freed you from sin, then your sins are forgiven you.  That is what “constrain them to come in” (compelle intrare) means; and it does not mean outward compelling as they explain it, so that they drive rogues and wicked persons, as it were with police force, to this supper; for that accomplishes nothing, and it is not the sense of the Gospel.  Therefore do the constraining energetically in the conscience only, and let it be an inner and spiritual constraining. (Vol. 2, Part 2, p. 37-38)

The way of the Law is to force or coerce someone to come to the Great Supper.  The way of the Gospel is to proclaim first God’s Law, showing someone their sins, then proclaiming God’s Gospel, showing them their Savior and where their Savior is found (preaching and the Sacraments).

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