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Fifth Sunday of Easter (1885)

John 16:5-15

Our time can rightly be called a time of unbelief. It has now permeated all layers
of society and prevails throughout the so called Christian world. Not just individual
doctrines, but the entire Christian faith, including its foundation, the Holy Scriptures, is
now publicly ridiculed in speech and writing as contemptible superstition and childish
fable. Yes, among countless people faith in one God and an immortality, even natural
religion, is in general rejected with a dirty look. The nonsensical assertion that man is
descended from animals, and is only a more perfect animal is welcomed with loud
acclamations as delightful truth by countless people, educated and uneducated,
scholars and simple-minded. This especially includes the Turners, whose task,
according to its own program, is eradication of the Church and religion. The Christian
faith is combated by it, unbelief is promoted as the highest wisdom in public lectures,
attended by thousands, as by newspapers and books. Yes, unbelief itself has broken into
the Church like an all-devastating flood. Even among those who still want to be
Christians, the majority follows their reason and falsifies or twists or denies the clearest
doctrines of God's Word. One might say: now the believers themselves have become
unbelievers! And what is the consequence of this unbelief? On the one hand
unspeakable ruin of sin, on the other hand the most horrible destruction of the Church.
This should not surprise us. For it is only the fulfillment of the prophecy of the
condition of the world and the Church before the Last Day.
Faithful preachers of the
Word recognize unbelief as the main enemy, against whom they have to witness most
In today's Gospel Christ promises His disciples His Holy Spirit. He describes as
the Spirit's first office that He will punish the world concerning sin because they do not
believe. Wonderful words! Is unbelief the only sin in the world? Without a doubt,
because Christ says it here. This subject is of such high importance that we want to stay
with this one Word of Christ today, as we have often considered the content of the
whole Gospel.

Matthew 24:25; 1 Timothy 4; 2 Peter 3.
How the Holy Spirit chastises unbelief as the true chief sin;

in that He reveals it to us
1. as the natural source of all other sins.
a. Evidence from God's Word. Even the fall of the first parents had its source in
unbelief. For as soon as the devil with the words "You will be like God" took their faith
in God, their dear heavenly Father, and led them to believe God as an envious character
Who does not grant them the highest perfection, they fell into the sin of disobedience.
The loss of their faith or their unbelief is therefore the source of their other sins. Satan
repeated the exact same thing when he tempted Christ. Genesis 6:3 witnesses that the
sin of perdition before the flood had its source in unbelief. Unbelief is the Spirit of God
not abiding in man. The Israelites so often came into manifest sinful life that the Holy
Spirit witnessed through the prophets that their falling away from God's Word -
unbelief - was the source and cause of it. Because Sodom laughed in disbelief at God's
judgment, the most horrible fornication arose in it. Because Peter despaired of Christ's
power and goodness, he denied; because the Jews did not believe, they rejected and
crucified Jesus; because Paul did not believe, he persecuted Christians in the most
bloodiest manner: unbelief is the source of sin everywhere;
b. Evidence from Church history. When the Holy Spirit began His office of
chastisement through the apostles, the world was sunk in heathen unbelief. What was
now their moral state? So horrible that it defies all description. Despite all wisdom, art
and culture, the most horrible vice of fornication, murder, fraud, and theft prevailed
openly and with impunity; one considers the bloody spectacles of Rome, where slaves
and prisoners of war had to kill themselves or was torn by wild beasts for the
amusement of the people; of the mass slaughter or mutilation of Christians; of the
terrible warfare of the Gentiles, the government of tyrants like Nero; public charity was
unknown; all of paganism did not have one hospital, asylum, or orphanage. Further,
how was Christianity before Luther, as the unbelief of the papacy covered the Church
like a cloud? Even Bellarmine confesses that the moral destruction was beyond
description. Finally, in what had the horrific atrocities of the French Revolution at the
end of the last [18th] century, in what have the spawns of hell, nihilism, communism,
socialism in our time their source? What did the German nation bring into the swamp
of immorality, desecration of Sunday, hedonism, and debauchery that it is now the
most religious-less nation of Christianity, that protects those who deny Christ and
persecutes confessors of Christ with imprisonment? Is not unbelief the poisonous
source of this everywhere?
c. Evidence from the effects of faith against unbelief. What a noble ruler was
King Saul, as long as he believed! What a murderous monster he became through
What was Paul while he was in disbelief? And what was he through faith?
What form did the heathen world take when the Holy Spirit took away its unbelief and
gave it faith? What happened to Christendom again when Luther was allowed to give it
faith again, what blessings did the world itself receive as a result? Did not art, science,
culture, etc. bloom now more powerful than ever? What are the Gentiles in their
unbelief, before the mission brings them faith? What turns cannibals into blessed
Christians? When a person is converted from unbelief, is he not pious? Let not the
drunk return to drinking, the thief his stealing, the fornicator his lust, the miser his
avarice, etc? Finally, does not the unbelieving world itself confirm that unbelief and
ungodliness and faith and godliness are connected? For what a cry it raises when a
Christian at one point falls into a gross sin, while she quietly considers the same sin to
the children of the world and does not chastise it! Does not it incontrovertibly reveal
how good it appreciates that whoever believes in a holy and relevant God and an
eternal recompense is necessarily godly, but whoever does not believe, his sinful
passions will boldly appear? So who should not be horrified before unbelievers,
because it is the source of all other sins? Even this truth cannot be important enough for

2. as the main cause of condemnation of mankind.
It is intolerable for unbelievers to hear that their unbelief alone condemns. Why
not works, life? The reason is simple:
a. faith is the adoption of redemption through Christ's redemption and the
return of the prodigal child to heavenly Father. For through Christ's suffering and death
sin, guilt and chastisement was atoned for, through Christ's resurrection redemption
was sealed and made certain, through Word and Sacrament grace for sinner presented
and offered by the Holy Spirit.
Faith accepts it, rejoices over the reconciliation and
grace of God, takes comfort in the Savior, and man is again a child of God;
b. but unbelief rejects Christ and His salvation, spitefully and stubbornly resists
against the Holy Spirit with His Word of grace, what is the consequence? Unbelief
manifests itself not only as the most formidable, but also the only damnable sin. After
his redemption man is not actually condemned by his sin, but by his unbelief.
the patient pushes back the healing medicine, he does not actually die as a result of his
illness, but as a result of his contempt for the drug. Who should not violently curse but
devoutly thank God if he can believe through His grace?
Otto Hanser

1 Samuel 10:24, 27; 11:13; 18:8; 22.
John 16:13-14.
Mark 16:16.