Daily Reform, Day 214
Galatians 3:2 and Deuteronomy 17:1
From the Reformer
Our opponents come back at us with Cornelius. Cornelius, they point out, was “a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people and prayed God always.” Because of these qualifications, he merited the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. So reason our opponents.
I answer: Cornelius was a Gentile. You cannot deny it. As a Gentile he was uncircumcised. As a Gentile he did not observe the Law. He never gave the Law any thought. For all that, he was justified and received the Holy Ghost. How can the Law avail anything unto righteousness?
—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians
Pulling It Together
Cornelius tried. He tried to be religious. So many do. But is trying to be religious, or in the colloquial, trying to be good, qualification for justification with God? No. One’s striving for perfection can never be worthy of God’s seal of approval. Attempts at perfection still leave one short of perfection. Cornelius, though he tried harder than most, was still blemished. His religiosity would cause him to be the first to admit this fact. That is why God sent Peter to share the Gospel with Cornelius. The good news Peter delivered was that Cornelius’ merit with God did not rely upon his striving for perfection. It depended upon God having become an unblemished man and assigning his perfect perfection to striving but imperfect Cornelius. Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God who took away the sins of Cornelius.
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers