Organ Lutheran Church, Salisbury, NC, erected 1794
Daily Reform, Day 216
Galatians 3:2 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
From the Reformer
As to the contention of our opponents that Cornelius deserved grace and the gift of the Holy Ghost, because he was devout and just, we say that these attributes are the characteristics of a spiritual person who already has faith in Christ, and not the characteristics of a Gentile or of natural man. Luke first praises Cornelius for being a devout and God-fearing man, and then Luke mentions the good works, the alms and prayers of Cornelius. Our opponents ignore the sequence of Luke’s words. They pounce on this one sentence, “which gave much alms to the people,” because it serves their assertion that merit precedes grace. The fact is that Cornelius gave alms and prayed to God because he had faith. And because of his faith in the Christ to come, Peter was delegated to preach unto Cornelius faith in the Christ who had already come. This argument is convincing enough. Cornelius was justified without the Law, therefore the Law cannot justify.
—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians
Pulling It Together
We still preach faith in the Christ to come since he is returning for the faithful—those still alive as well as those who have died in the Lord. This is the Christ whom we believe, not just the social activist Jesus or the healer or the teacher. We proclaim the Anointed God who crosses the threshold from heaven to earth in order to satisfy the death debt of his creation, rises from the dead, and ascends to heaven. Our proclamation does not end with the ascension. Christ will once again leave heaven. With trumpet blast and the shout of an angel, the Lord will appear, and will then do something as great as rising from the dead. He will raise us from our graves. Any believers who are alive will also be raised up with the whole history of faithful people. Together, they will meet the Lord of heaven and earth.
Certainly Peter encouraged Cornelius with similar words of promise. It would have been beyond discouraging if Peter informed him that he needed to work even harder, to do still more good deeds in order to warrant this resurrection. No. We stand firmly on this point. Resurrection is a promise received by faith alone. You do not need to do a thing to rise unto Jesus except believe he will raise you up. That is indeed good news. Be encouraged.
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers