Where There Is No Love, There Doctrine Cannot Remain Pure

In this holy season of Advent, a time of repentance as we await the birth of the Savior according to the flesh, as well as in difficult circumstances in our country and, yes, even among Lutherans in America, let us take to heart the words of Blessed Martin Luther:

It is inevitable that one member occasionally jostles the other, just as a foot or a toe of our body bumps the others, or as a person injures himself. Such bumps and trials do not fail to come, especially because we are sojourning here in the realm of the devil, who tempts us uninterruptedly, and also because the flesh is still weak and full of flaws. This explains why even dear and faithful friends fall out or become irritable with one another. At times the devil injects poison and suspicion into a heart because of a single word or glance and thereby stirs up mutual animosity. He is a master in this art and devotes himself to it most diligently. He employs his craftiness before one is really aware of it. As we read in Acts 15:2, this is what he did in the case of St. Paul and Barnabas, who had a sharp dissension and parted company. Or take the two men Jerome and Rufinus, who had been the best of friends and like brothers. They quarreled over a preface and were unable to re-establish their former friendship. The same thing would have happened between St. Augustine and Jerome if Augustine had not been so shrewd. Trifles can lead to such quarreling and enmity that great harm results to many. The blood soon begins to boil; then the devil shoots his venomous darts into the heart by means of evil tongues, and finally no one says or thinks anything good about the other person. The devil keeps on fanning the flames and is eager to set people against one another, to spread misery, and to incite them to murder….

Therefore it behooves us Christians to be on our guard against the devil’s craft and cunning, to exercise prudence, and to beware of letting such poison develop in our hearts. We must repel any suspicion and antipathy that may be stirred up in us and remind ourselves not to let love depart and die out for this reason but to hold to it with a strong hand. And if aversion and discord have arisen anywhere, we must restore and improve the love and friendship.

It does not require such great skill to begin to love; but, as Christ says here, remaining in love takes real skill and virtue. In matrimony many people are initially filled with such ardent affection and passion that they would fairly eat each other; later they become bitter foes. The same thing happens among Christian brethren. A trivial cause may dispel love and separate those who should really be bound with the firmest ties; it turns them into the worst and bitterest enemies. That is what happened in Christendom after the days of the apostles, when the devil raised up his schismatic spirits and heretics, so that bishops and pastors became inflamed with hatred against one another and then also divided the people into many kinds of sects and schisms from which Christendom suffered terrible harm. That is the devil’s joy and delight. He strives for nothing else than to destroy love among Christians and to create utter hatred and envy. For he knows very well that Christendom is built and preserved by love. In Col. 3:14 Paul speaks of love as “binding everything together in perfect harmony.” And in 1 Cor. 13:13 he calls love the greatest virtue, which accomplishes and achieves most in the Christian realm. For in the absence of love doctrine cannot remain pure; nor can hearts be held together in unity.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (Jn 15:9). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

About Pastor David Juhl

The Reverend David Michael Juhl was born June 1, 1972 in Du Quoin, IL. He was born from above by water and the Holy Spirit on June 18, 1972 at Bethel Lutheran Church, Du Quoin, IL. He was confirmed on March 23, 1986 at Bethel congregation. He attended Du Quoin public schools, graduating from Du Quoin High School in 1990. He attended John A. Logan Junior College, Carterville, IL, and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, graduating with the Bachelor of Arts in Radio and Television in 1994. Before attending seminary, Pastor Juhl was a radio disc jockey, working for WDQN Radio in Du Quoin, IL and volunteering at WSIU/WUSI/WVSI Radio in Carbondale, IL while a student at SIU. Pastor Juhl is a 2002 graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN. He served his vicarage at Faith Lutheran Church, Tullahoma, TN. His first charge after graduation was Trinity Lutheran Church, Iuka, IL, where he was ordained and installed on July 7, 2002. He served Trinity until March 4, 2007, when he accepted the Divine Call to serve Our Savior Lutheran Church, Momence, IL. Pastor Juhl is married to the former Rebecca Warmuth since October 3, 2003. They have one daughter, Catherine, born September 3, 2004, and two sons, Matthew, born October 11, 2008, and Christopher, born August 12, 2010.


Where There Is No Love, There Doctrine Cannot Remain Pure — 4 Comments

  1. Great Luther quote. And very timely. Thanks, David! I am reminded of the Ephesian church in the Revelation – doctrinally pure, can spot a false prophet a mile away, hate those Nicolaitans, hard working, all the good stuff. Except for one thing. “You have abandoned the love you had at first.” This calls for repentance.

  2. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

  3. Thank you for a great quote. I’m reminded of how blessed I am to have people in my family and congregations who love me in spite of my being “a poor, miserable sinner.”
    When we consider and take to heart the title of this post, we are also reminded of St. Paul’s words:

    “Owe no one anything except to love one another.” The truth is, we always “owe” but there is One who has fulfilled this in His own person.

    I think Dr. Murray brings this out in another wonderful and also timely devotion here:

  4. In the past year, I’ve been reading Luther’s Sermons, and these are well worth reading for anyone.

    Anyhow, I’ve decided that pure doctrine is what I will spend the rest of my life upholding and teaching. A general leading an army has to first be concerned about defense, before he can go on offense. It seems that the LCMS spent about the first 100 years on mostly defense. This makes sense, considering the vast amount of false doctrine in America. Also, the New Testament seems to have a lot more to say about defense against false doctrine than it does about evangelism. IMHO, we have seemed to wandered away from our history, and now put most of our emphasis on evangelism and not very much on the defense against false doctrine. Like a general that forgets about defense, the LCMS is in trouble of being routed.

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