Galatians 1:1-5 & 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
From the Reformer
Practice this knowledge and fortify yourself against despair, particularly in the last hour, when the memory of past sins assails the conscience. Say with confidence: “Christ, the Son of God, was given not for the righteous, but for sinners. If I had no sin I should not need Christ. No, Satan, you cannot delude me into thinking I am holy. The truth is, I am all sin. My sins are not imaginary transgressions, but sins against the first table, unbelief, doubt, despair, contempt, hatred, ignorance of God, ingratitude towards Him, misuse of His name, neglect of His Word, etc.; and sins against the second table, dishonor of parents, disobedience of government, coveting of another’s possessions, etc. Granted that I have not committed murder, adultery, theft, and similar sins in deed, nevertheless I have committed them in the heart, and therefore I am a transgressor of all the commandments of God.
“Because my transgressions are multiplied and my own efforts at self-justification rather a hindrance than a furtherance, therefore Christ the Son of God gave Himself into death for my sins.” To believe this is to have eternal life.
—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians
Pulling It Together
What powerful statements by a man who was obviously gifted in the confessional. “I am all sin.” “You cannot delude me into thinking I am holy.” “I am a transgressor of all the commandments of God.” It is then a small wonder that he was convinced he could never work or reason his way to God.
Along with the later Wesley, he understood that Christ died not only for the world but for he himself. “He hath reconciled me, even me, to God.” (John Wesley, Sermon 17, italics mine) Jesus died for Martin the sinner. Ironically, this is the knowledge that leads to holiness. When one truly believes he is all sin, he may then comprehend his need for a Savior because he finally recognizes he cannot be holy in himself.
When one insists on his own holiness, there is no room for Christ who is our only holiness. When one admits he is “all sin” and needs God, the holiness of Jesus permeates the sinner because Jesus becomes the sinner’s holiness. It is a gift from God. Our own attempts at holiness, if relied upon, are actually a hindrance to real holiness. They become religion to us and Christ is pushed out. We love our works more and more and Christ less and less.