Jonah 3:1-5, 10
From the Reformer
Long before the time of Moses, God justified men without the Law. He justified many kings of Egypt and Babylonia. He justified Job. Nineveh, that great city, was justified and received the promise of God that He would not destroy the city. Why was Nineveh spared? Not because it fulfilled the Law, but because Nineveh believed the word of God. The Prophet Jonah writes: “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth.” They repented. Nowhere in the Book of Jonah do you read that the Ninevites received the Law of Moses, or that they were circumcised, or that they offered sacrifices.
All this happened long before Christ was born. If the Gentiles were justified without the Law and quietly received the Holy Spirit at a time when the Law was in full force, why should the Law count unto righteousness now, now that Christ has fulfilled the Law?
And yet many devote much time and labor to the Law, to the decrees of the fathers, and to the traditions of the Pope. Many of these specialists have incapacitated themselves for any kind of work, good or bad, by their rigorous attention to rules and laws. All the same, they could not obtain a quiet conscience and peace in Christ. But the moment the Gospel of Christ touches them, certainty comes to them, and joy, and a right judgment.
—Martin Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians
Pulling It Together
Sometimes it seems too easy. What happened to that guy? Why, I remember when he was the worst kind of sinner! It bothers some Christians that the joy of the Spirit is now available to some poor wretch. How could he find peace? Or more to the point, how could God extend it to the likes of him? Such pride! They know they have no cause for astonishment. God has always been in the business of saving lost souls. The grace of God has always been available to those of the changed heart.