Our Ludicrous Works

Daily Reform, Day 99

Galatians 2:13 & Romans 4:13-16

From the Reformer

I mention this to urge all to learn how properly to differentiate between the Law and the Gospel, in order to avoid dissembling. When it comes to the article of justification we must not yield, if we want to retain the truth of the Gospel.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

The article of justification is misunderstood. In fact it is often misunderstood by Protestants. For when we say that we are “justified by faith,” we often forget where such faith originates. We understand that we are not saved by our works, that there is nothing we can do to make up for our sin because the penalty for our sin is death. And we need saving from this death.

All of this is true but we still misunderstand being saved by faith. Faith is the avenue to the grace that actually saves us. Let us come to the point: it is God who saves us from our sin. He does this because he is gracious toward his creation. He loves us and therefore extends grace to us. We must receive his grace by faith because works can never purchase that which is free. That would be ludicrous.

Imagine telling your child that you have a birthday gift for her and delighted, she runs to tidy her room instead of receiving your gift. When she reappears you remind her of the waiting gift and she says she must first do the dishes and mop the kitchen floor. Your child has sullied your loving gift because she has determined she will pay for it. She has turned your gift into something that is not a gift at all. Now she, in effect, has gone to the store and purchased the gift for herself. She has worked for that which was your free gift.

It is ludicrous, I know. But it is what we do. When it comes to the article of justification, yes, “we must not yield, if we want to retain the truth of the Gospel.” Most importantly, we must not yield to our urges to work for God’s free grace. Even seasoned Christians fall for this trap of the devil.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers

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