Daily Reform, Day 112
Galatians 2:16 & James 2:14-17
From the Reformer
The works of the Law, according to Paul, include the whole Law, judicial, ceremonial, moral. Now, if the performance of the moral law cannot justify, how can circumcision justify, when circumcision is part of the ceremonial law?
The demands of the Law may be fulfilled before and after justification. There were many excellent men among the pagans of old, men who never heard of justification. They lived moral lives. But that fact did not justify them. Peter, Paul, all Christians, live up to the Law. But that fact does not justify them. For I know nothing by myself, says Paul, “yet am I not hereby justified.” (I Cor. 4:4.)
The nefarious opinion of the papists, which attributes the merit of grace and the remission of sins to works, must here be emphatically rejected. The papists say that a good work performed before grace has been obtained, is able to secure grace for a person, because it is no more than right that God should reward a good deed. When grace has already been obtained, any good work deserves everlasting life as a due payment and reward for merit. For the first, God is no debtor, they say; but because God is good and just, it is no more than right (they say) that He should reward a good work by granting grace for the service. But when grace has already been obtained, they continue, God is in the position of a debtor, and is in duty bound to reward a good work with the gift of eternal life. This is the wicked teaching of the papacy.
—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians
Pulling It Together
When I said the words, “I do,” to my wife I was bonded to her forever. This was a kind of grace to me. She pledged herself to me and allowed me to do the same to her. She would have me as husband forever, or at least until death do us part. So often since, I have made efforts to show the fact of that “I do.” Remembering birthdays and anniversaries, helping around the house, raising children, and forgiving both trifling and more significant flaws in character have been common acts of submission and love these past thirty-five years. These works of love point back to the gracious words, “I do.” The actions show the love but the love was sure long ago. Nothing can change that grace.
I am not in debt to her, though I work hard each birthday, anniversary, and Christmas to come up with some unique way of displaying my love for her. Time and again, my meager attempts at gifting are met with appreciation and genuine joy as she opens the latest gift. This is the capacity of a woman who learned long ago that the real and lasting gift was in the simple, gracious words, “I do.” The rest is demonstration of that love. The gifts, the works, the restraint of harsh words after tiring days, and the forgiveness when unable to curb them do not put either of us in debt to the other. They do not change the fact of our love for each other. That fact happened on the day we said, “I do.”
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers