Daily Reform, Romans 8:14-17
From the Reformer
The substance of the matter is this: When all the commandments have been put together, when their message receives every particle of praise to which it is entitled, it is still a mere letter. That is, teaching not put into practice. By “letter” is signified all manner of law, doctrine and message, which goes no farther than the oral or written word, which consists only of the powerless letter. To illustrate: A law promulgated by a prince or the authorities of a city, if not enforced, remains merely an open letter, which makes a demand indeed, but ineffectually. Similarly, God’s Law, although a teaching of supreme authority and the eternal will of God, must suffer itself to become a mere empty letter or husk. Without a quickening heart, and devoid of fruit, the Law is powerless to effect life and salvation. It may well be called a veritable table of omissions (Lass tafel); that is, it is a written enumeration, not of duties performed but of duties cast aside. In the languages of the world, it is a royal edict which remains unobserved and unperformed. In this light St. Augustine understood the Law. He says, commenting on Psalm 17, “What is Law without grace but a letter without spirit?” Human nature, without the aid of Christ and his grace, cannot keep it.
—Martin Luther, Sermons, “The Twofold Use of the Law & Gospel”
Pulling It Together
It is almost unfathomable to imagine a son who is called into an attorney’s office, set before his desk and read the father’s will, finding out he has inherited a fortune, but then not cashing in. On the other hand, it is altogether imaginable that a child inherits other gifts and squanders them. Health, family, intelligence, home, and love are inheritances that are often thrown away. Christians are all seated around a great table. It is piled with gifts from the Father. They leave the table (lass tafel) and live life unaided—self-orphaned. They essentially revert to the person they once were. They believe in Christ but they have yet to believe on him. They believe he died for them but have yet to discover the gift of the Spirit who comes with being his little brother or sister. When a Christian believes on Christ (instead of simply in Christ) they have cast the old person aside and now depend on God for a new nature. Thanks be to Christ for the gift of his Spirit to aid us in this discovery
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers