The Obstacle

Daily Reform, Day 220

Galatians 3:2 and Isaiah 40:28-31

From the Reformer

I have good reason for enlarging upon this point. The heart of man finds it difficult to believe that so great a treasure as the Holy Ghost is gotten by the mere hearing of faith. The hearer likes to reason like this: Forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death, the gift of the Holy Ghost, everlasting life are grand things. If you want to obtain these priceless benefits, you must engage in correspondingly great efforts. And the devil says, “Amen.”

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

You are righteous but not because you have made great efforts at doing good deeds. Quite the opposite. You are instead, made righteous by no effort of your own. The one supreme effort of Jesus Christ is the only deed that makes you just. Trying to be virtuous only gets in the way. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery whom he forgave to, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) We know because of our own attempts that, try as she might, she sinned after that encounter with Jesus. Should she have given up, once she sinned again? That is what the devil urges. Rather, she should have turned her attention from sinful self to saving Christ. She should have begun anew with renewed strength provided by an inexhaustible God.

Yes, yes. You are to act righteously. But when you do not act righteously, when you sin, remember that you are righteous. It is hard to believe but you may believe it because Jesus has made you so. So, do not think of it this way: Jesus has forgiven you so you had better not sin any more or his forgiveness will be off the table and you will have to work extra hard to be saved. That is the way the religious reason and it is an obstacle to salvation because it makes redemption dependent upon you. Instead, think this way: Jesus has forgiven you so the proper response is to not sin. But keep in mind that your uprightness is not based on whether or not you sin again but on whether or not you, a sinner, are forgiven. Any other thought will be an hindrance to you.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with Luther in Galatians

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