June 12, 2012

Martin Luther's commentary on Galatians

I am going through the excellent videos by Faith Lutheran church, Capistrano Beach, CA, of Rod Rosenbladt going through Luther's commentary on Galatians.  Good stuff.  He says at the beginning it's only going to be 8 weeks but it apparently turns out to be 14.  In the first part, at about 27:50 minutes he says something that I am sure, if read or played in an adult Bible Study class, will cause a lot of pietists of both Lutheran and regular evangelical stripes to  stand up and rend their garments...regarding teaching people to "ignore the law."

Martin Luther’s Preface to His Commentary on Galatians
The greatest wisdom of Christians, then, is to have nothing to do with the law and works and the whole of active righteousness, especially when the conscience wrestles with God’s judgment. On the other hand, the quintessence of wisdom among those who are not among God’s people is to know and earnestly follow the law and active righteousness.

It is very strange to the world to teach Christians to learn to be ignorant of the law and to live before God as if there were no law. Yet unless you are ignorant of the law and convinced in your heart that there is now no law nor wrath of God, but altogether grace and mercy for Christ’s sake, you cannot be saved, for knowledge of sin comes through the law. On the contrary, works and keeping the law must be strictly required in the world, as if there were no promise or grace. This is because of the stubborn, proud, and hard-hearted, before whose eyes nothing must be set but the law, that they may be terrified and humbled, for the law is given to terrify and kill such people and to exercise the old nature, and both the word of grace and that of wrath must be properly taught, as the apostle teaches in 2 Timothy 2.

Here, then, we need a wise and faithful teacher of the Word of God who can moderate the law so that it is kept within bounds. Anyone who teaches that people are justified before God by observing the law goes beyond the law and muddles these two kinds of righteousness, active and passive, and is a poor logician, for he does not explain the law correctly. On the contrary, anyone who sets out the law and works to the old nature, and the promise and forgiveness of sins and God’s mercy to the new nature, interprets the Word well. The old nature must be coupled with the law and works; the spirit, or new nature, must be joined with the promise of God and his mercy.

Therefore, when I see a person who is bruised enough already being oppressed with the law, terrified with sin, and thirsting for comfort, it is time for me to remove the law and active righteousness from his sight and set before him, by the Gospel, the Christian and passive righteousness. This excludes Moses with his law and offers the promise made in Christ, who came for the afflicted and for sinners. Here we are raised up again and acquire hope; here we are no longer under the law but under grace (see Romans 6:14). How is it that we are not under the law? We live according to the new nature, to which the law does not appertain. As Paul says later on, “Christ is the end of the law” (Romans 10:4); since [H]e has come, Moses ceases with his law, circumcision, sacrifices, Sabbaths, and indeed all the prophets.

This is how we teach people to distinguish between these two kinds of righteousness, active and passive, so that manners and faith, works and grace, politics and religion should not be confused with each other. Both are necessary, but both must be kept within their rightful place; Christian righteousness belongs to the new nature, and the righteousness of the law belongs to the old nature, which is born of flesh and blood. A burden must be laid on this old nature, as upon an ass; it will press down, and the freedom of the spirit of grace will not be enjoyed unless we first put on the new nature by faith in Christ (though this is not fully done in this life). When we do that, we may enjoy the kingdom and the inestimable gift of grace.
Rod Rosenbladt teaching on Luther's commentary on Galatians from Faith Capistrano:
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7
Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14

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