Which Came First?


Daily Reform, Day 169

Galatians 2:20 & Philippians 1:6

From the Reformer

Whenever remission of sins is freely proclaimed, people misinterpret it according to Romans 3:8, “Let us do evil, that good may come.” As soon as people hear that we are not justified by the Law, they reason maliciously: “Why, then let us reject the Law. If grace abounds, where sin abounds, let us abound in sin, that grace may all the more abound.” People who reason thus are reckless. They make sport of the scriptures and slander the sayings of the Holy Ghost.

However, there are others who are not malicious, only weak, who may take offense when told that Law and good works are unnecessary for salvation. These must be instructed as to why good works do not justify, and from what motives good works must be done. Good works are not the cause, but the fruit of righteousness. When we have become righteous, then first are we able and willing to do good. The tree makes the apple; the apple does not make the tree.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

You know the old, so-called, philosophical question. Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Biblically and theologically speaking: the chicken. Biblically, because God created animals like chickens, which then “begat” eggs. Theologically, because God must first create persons before they may bear good fruit. He does not create the fruit, or the good works. Instead, he recreates sinful people who are then able to produce righteous fruit. Deeds are righteous or good only because they glorify the one who made them possible, because they spring from God, who made the deed-doer righteous. Such fruits of righteousness do not make the doer righteous. Indeed, they are possible only because God first made the doer righteous and able to admit, God did this in me. He began a good work in you and he will bring it all to fruition on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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

Leave a Reply