Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A bit of Luther by way of Pieper and Pastor Juhl...

Pastor David Juhl put this note on Facebook.  It is a Luther quote which Pieper cites:

A righteous man sins in all his good works.

This article annoys the great saints of work-righteousness, who place their trust not in God’s mercy, but in their own righteousness, that is, on sand. What happened to the house built on sand in Matt. 7[:26] will also happen to them. But a godly Christian ought to learn and know that all his good works are inadequate and insufficient in the sight of God. In the company of all the dear saints he ought to despair of his own works and rely solely on the mercy of God, putting all confidence and trust in him. Therefore we want to establish this article very firmly and see what the dear saints have to say about it.

Isaiah 64[:6] says, “We are all of us unclean, and all our righteousness is as a filthy stinking rag.” You notice that the prophet makes no exceptions. He says, “We are all of us unclean,” yet he himself was a holy prophet. Again, if our righteousness is unclean and stinking before God, what will our unrighteousness be? Moreover, he says “all righteousness,” making no exception. Now, if there is such a thing as a good work without sin, this prophet lies, which God forbid! Is not this passage from Isaiah sufficiently clear? Why then do they condemn my article, which says nothing but what Isaiah says? But we are glad to be condemned along with this holy prophet.

Again, Solomon says in Eccles. 7[:20], “There is no man on earth so righteous that he does good and sins not.” I trust this passage is clear enough, and it corresponds with my article almost word for word. And now, since Solomon is here condemned, look, his father David must also be condemned. He says in Ps. 143[:2], “Lord, enter not into judgment with me, thy servant, for no man living is righteous before thee.” Now, who is God’s servant but the man who does good works? How, then, does it happen that this very man cannot face God’s judgment? Surely God’s judgment is not unjust. If a work were actually altogether good and without sin, it would not flee God’s iust judgment. The defect, then, must of necessity be in the work, which is not pure. It is for this reason that no man living is justified in God’s sight and all men need his mercy, even in their good works. Here you papists have an opportunity to show your learning—not merely by inventing bulls, but by answering such passages of Scripture.

Back in the first two articles I have shown that all the saints struggle against their sinful flesh, and continue to be sinners as long as they live in the flesh which is at war with the spirit. At one and the same time, they serve God according to the spirit, and sin according to the flesh. If, then, a godly man is at the same time justified by reason of the spirit, and sinful by reason of the flesh, his work must certainly be like the person, the fruit like the tree. In so far as the spirit participates in the work, it is good; in so far as the flesh participates in it, it is evil....

But if they say here, as they always do, “Yes, but this impurity is not sin but rather an imperfection, or weakness, or defect,” my reply is that it is indeed a defect and a weakness, but if that is not sin I am prepared to say that murder and adultery are not sins either but only defects and weaknesses. Who has given you papists the power to twist God’s Word and to call the impurity of a good work weakness and not sin? Where is there a single letter of Scripture supporting your side? Must we believe your nightmares, unsubstantiated by Scripture, when you refuse to believe our clear texts?...

If, then, David says that even God’s servants cannot face his judgment and no man living is justified in his sight, then this weakness must certainly be sin, and he who will not allow that any living man is justified in his sight includes most certainly also those who walk in good works. Unless, of course, they are neither “men” nor “living.”

Augustine says in his Confessions IX, “Woe unto every human life, even the most praiseworthy, were it to be judged without mercy.” Look how this great heretic, St. Augustine, speaks brazenly and sacrilegiously against this holy bull. Not only does he attribute sin to a good life, but he condemns even the very best life, which doubtlessly abounds in good works, as though it were nothing but mortal sin, if judged without mercy. O, St. Augustine, are you not afraid of the most holy father pope?

St. Gregory, too, speaks of that holy man Job and says, quoting Job 9[:8], “Job, that holy man, saw that all our good works are nothing but sin, if God should judge them. Therefore he said, ‘If one wished to contend with God, one could not answer him once in a thousand times.’ ” Gregory, how can you say this? How dare you say that all our good works are nothing but sin? Now you are under the pope’s ban, and a heretic far worse than Luther. For he only says that there is sin in all good works; you make them out to be nothing but sin.

If these passages do not help to substantiate my article, then may God help it! I would much rather be condemned with Isaiah, David, Solomon, Paul, Augustine, and Gregory, than praised with the pope and all the bishops and papists, even though all the world were made up of pope, bishops, and papists. Blessed is he who should die for this cause!

LW 32:83-86 (from "Defense and Explanation of All The Articles", 1521). Quoted in Franz Pieper, "Christian Dogmatics", 3:35-37

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