Daily Reform, Day 184
Galatians 2:21 & Isaiah 43:1-3
From the Reformer
Paul is now getting ready for the second argument of his Epistle, to the effect that to seek justification by works of the Law, is to reject the grace of God. I ask you, what sin can be more horrible than to reject the grace of God, and to refuse the righteousness of Christ? It is bad enough that we are wicked sinners and transgressors of all the commandments of God; on top of that to refuse the grace of God and the remission of sins offered unto us by Christ, is the worst sin of all, the sin of sins. That is the limit. There is no sin which Paul and the other apostles detested more than when a person despises the grace of God in Christ Jesus. Still there is no sin more common. That is why Paul can get so angry at the Antichrist, because he snubs Christ, rebuffs the grace of God, and refuses the merit of Christ. What else would you call it but spitting in Christ’s face, pushing Christ to the side, usurping Christ’s throne, and to say: “I am going to justify you people; I am going to save you.” By what means? By masses, pilgrimages, pardons, merits, etc. For this is Antichrist’s doctrine: Faith is no good, unless it is reinforced by works. By this abominable doctrine Antichrist has spoiled, darkened, and buried the benefit of Christ, and in place of the grace of Christ and His Kingdom, he has established the doctrine of works and the kingdom of ceremonies.
—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians
Pulling It Together
We have read Paul say it in many ways: God does not need our help. He saves us through his own redeeming work. Nothing we do aids God’s grace. Paul and Luther insist that the belief that our works are also necessary for salvation is to call his grace God’s grace insufficient. The King James calls this frustrating the grace of God. Modern translations commonly refer to this as nullifying God’s grace. The word aqetew, atheteo) means to reject or to refuse to accept the validity of a thing. This is strong wording, no matter the language. To think we must add anything at all to what Christ did for us on the cross is to reject God’s grace.
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers