Daily Reform, Day 175
Galatians 2:20 & Colossians 3:23-24
From the Reformer
The papists will tell you to do the best you can, and God will give you His grace. They have a rhyme for it: “God will no more require of man, Than of himself perform he can.”
This may hold true in ordinary civic life. But the papists apply it to the spiritual realm where a person can perform nothing but sin, because he is sold under sin.
Our opponents go even further than that. They say, nature is depraved, but the qualities of nature are untainted. Again we say: This may hold true in everyday life, but not in the spiritual life. In spiritual matters a person is by nature full of darkness, error, ignorance, malice, and perverseness in will and in mind.
—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians
Pulling It Together
Do the best that you can do; that’s all God expects. That sounds nice but it is not true. What God expects is actually far simpler than doing your best. God wants you to admit that your best is not good enough and that you need his grace instead of your best efforts. God does not want a moral people or a hard-working people. He wants a holy people. That is why your best will never be good enough. Whatever you do—no matter how fine the effort—will be unholy simply because it originates in you. But if the Spirit of Christ is in you, motivating an action, no matter how botched your attempt, it will be holy because it stems from the Holy God. Depend upon the grace of God, and morality and good works will follow; but it will still be by the grace of God that you are saved from sin and death—and self. Do your best for the Lord but do not count on it for salvation.
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers