16“yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). ([reftagger title=””]Gal 2:16[/reftagger]). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Now the true meaning of Christianity is this: For the Law says: “You are an evil tree. Therefore everything you think, speak, or do is opposed to God. Hence you cannot deserve grace by your works. But if you try to do so, you make the bad even worse; for since you are an evil tree, you cannot produce anything except evil fruits, that is, sins. ‘For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin’ ([reftagger title=””]Rom. 14:23[/reftagger]).” Trying to merit grace by preceding works, therefore, is trying to placate God with sins, which is nothing but heaping sins upon sins, making fun of God, and provoking His wrath. When a man is taught this way by the Law, he is frightened and humbled. Then he really sees the greatness of his sin and finds in himself not one spark of the love of God; thus he justifies God in His Word and confesses that he deserves death and eternal damnation. Thus the first step in Christianity is the preaching of repentance and the knowledge of oneself.
Here there is no “congruity” or work performed before grace, but only wrath, sin, terror, and death. Therefore the Law only shows sin, terrifies, and humbles; thus it prepares us for justification and drives us to Christ. Without our merit—since, after all, we cannot merit anything—He wants to give us forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and eternal life for the sake of Christ. For God is He who dispenses His gifts freely to all, and this is the praise of His deity. But He cannot defend this deity of His against the selfrighteous people who are unwilling to accept grace and eternal life from Him freely but want to earn it by their own works. They simply want to rob Him of the glory of His deity. In order to retain it, He is compelled to send forth His Law, to terrify and crush those very hard rocks as though it were thunder and lightning.
This, in summary, is our theology about Christian righteousness, in opposition to the abominations and monstrosities of the sophists about “merit of congruity and of condignity” or about works before grace and after grace. Smug people, who have never struggled with any temptations or true terrors of sin and death, were the ones who made up these empty dreams out of their own heads; therefore they do not understand what they are saying or what they are talking about, for they cannot supply any examples of such works done either before grace or after grace. Therefore these are useless fables, with which the papists delude both themselves and others.
Therefore Christian faith is not an idle quality or an empty husk in the heart, which may exist in a state of mortal sin until love comes along to make it alive. But if it is true faith, it is a sure trust and firm acceptance in the heart.Thus faith is a sort of knowledge or darkness that nothing can see. Yet the Christ of whom faith takes hold is sitting in this darkness as God sat in the midst of darkness on Sinai and in the temple. Therefore our “formal righteousness” is not a love that informs faith; but it is faith itself, a cloud in our hearts, that is, trust in a thing we do not see, in Christ, who is present especially when He cannot be seen.
But how He is present—this is beyond our thought; for there is darkness, as I have said. Where the confidence of the heart is present, therefore, there Christ is present, in that very cloud and faith. This is the formal righteousness on account of which a man is justified; it is not on account of love, as the sophists say. In short, just as the sophists say that love forms and trains faith, so we say that it is Christ who forms and trains faith or who is the form of faith. Here there is no work of the Law, no love; but there is an entirely different kind of righteousness, a new world above and beyond the Law. For Christ or faith is neither the Law nor the work of the Law
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 26, pp. 129–130). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
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11“Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Christ says: “If My preaching does not make you willing to believe that God dwells and is in Me and that I dwell and am in Him, then believe this because of the works you see before your eyes. These works, as no one can deny, are not human; they are divine. They prove and attest powerfully enough that He speaks and works in Me and through Me.” These are the works and the miracles which He performed publicly before all the world—giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, healing to all manner of sick, casting out devils, and raising the dead—solely by the Word. These are not only divine works, but they are also witnesses of God the Father. Therefore he who sees and hears these sees God the Father in them; and he is not only persuaded that God is in Christ and that Christ is in God, but from them he can also be comforted with the assurance of God’s fatherly love and grace toward us.
For if God were disposed to be angry with us, to condemn, punish, and torment us, He would not forgive us our sins through Christ; He would not remove the penalty for sins from the paralytics, the lepers, and others, who were possessed of, and tormented by, the devil. Furthermore, if God took delight in death, He would not raise and quicken the dead. But that is what He did in Christ; He taught us to look upon and recognize Him as a gracious Father, who is eager to help and to save us. This He also demonstrates daily in all the works He does in all the world by constantly preserving all His creatures, bestowing so many benefactions on the whole world, and bountifully pouring out His goods, except when of necessity and for the sake of the godly He must punish and restrain the wicked. But He rules in such a way that even physically we always see more of His grace and blessing than of His wrath and punishment. For we find a hundred thousand healthy people for every ailing, blind, deaf, paralytic, or leprous person. And even if one member of the body has a defect, the entire person, still endowed with body and soul, shows forth nothing but God’s goodness.
Moreover, all the wretchedness and misery rampant in the world is the work of the devil, who delights in bringing ruin and death on man; for it was he who plunged all human nature into sin and death. But, as we learn from [reftagger title=””]1 John 3:8[/reftagger], “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” and to re-establish the divine works of life. This He proved so forcefully that even the Jews had to admit grudgingly that no man could perform such works. And even though they declared that no one but God could forgive sin, still His works stood before their eyes in testimony that He had this divine power and that He was the Man who could help man from death to life, against sin to righteousness, from strife to peace and every good. Thus we become assured not only of the doctrine that Christ is true God with the Father, but also that He is a merciful God and Savior; and we can recognize and apprehend the Father’s heart and will in all the works of the Lord Christ, for the true and blessed consolation of all wretched and aggrieved hearts and consciences. “Thus,” says Christ, “My works will aptly demonstrate to you that the Father is in Me and wants to be known through Me.”
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, Eds.) (Vol. 24, pp. 73–74). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
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