Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Nice Chunk of Luther

 I wish all people would read Luther's Galatians Commentary from 1535 and learn.
"But, as I have said, reason is offended and says: “When you teach men to do nothing at all to obtain such an immense gift except to listen to the Word, this seems to verge on a great contempt for grace and to make men smug, lazy, and sleepy, so that they lose their grip and do not do any good works at all. Therefore it is not good to preach this; nor is it true. Men must be urged to labor, sweat, and exert themselves toward righteousness; then they will obtain this gift.” In former times the Pelagians made the same objection to the Christians. But listen to Paul, who says here: “Not by your own labor and sweat or by the works of the Law but by hearing with faith you have received the Holy Spirit.” Or listen to Christ Himself, who gives the following answer to Martha when she is deeply concerned and finds it almost unbearable that her sister Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to His words, and leaving her to serve alone. “Martha,” He says (Luke 10:41–42), “you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” Therefore a man becomes a Christian, not by working but by listening. And so anyone who wants to exert himself toward righteousness must first exert himself in listening to the Gospel. Now when he has heard and accepted this, let him joyfully give thanks to God, and then let him exert himself in good works that are commanded in the Law; thus the Law and works will follow hearing with faith. Then he will be able to walk safely in the light that is Christ; to be certain about choosing and doing works that are not hypocritical but truly good, pleasing to God, and commanded by, Him; and to reject all the mummery of self-chosen works.
Our opponents regard faith as a matter altogether inconsequential and of no value. But I am experiencing how difficult and arduous a matter it is. So are all those who seriously embrace it with me. It is easy to say that the Spirit is received solely by hearing with faith; but it is not so easy to hear, accept, believe, and keep as it is to speak of it. Therefore if you hear from me that Christ is the Lamb of God, sacrificed for your sins, see that you really listen to this. Paul purposely calls it “the hearing of faith,” not “the Word of faith,” although there is not much difference. He means a Word that you believe when you hear it, so that the Word is not only the sound of my voice but is something that is heard by you, penetrates into your heart, and is believed by you. Then it is truly hearing with faith, through which you receive the Holy Spirit; and after He has been received, you will also mortify your flesh.
Godly people experience how willing they are to hold to the Word with a full faith when it has been heard, and how willing they are to eradicate their opinion about the Law and about their own righteousness; but in their flesh they feel a struggle that resists the Spirit with might and main. Reason and the flesh simply want to work together. This notion, “One must be circumcised and observe the Law,” cannot be completely banished from us; but it remains in the hearts of all godly people. Therefore there is in godly people a perpetual struggle between the hearing of faith and the works of the Law, because the conscience is always murmuring and thinking that when righteousness, the Holy Spirit, and eternal salvation are promised solely on the basis of hearing with faith, this is too easy a way. But try it in earnest, and experience for yourself how easy it is to listen to the Word of faith! Of course, He who is granting this is great, and He grants great things willingly and unreservedly, without reproach to anyone. But your capacity to understand is limited, and your faith is weak, creating such a struggle for you that you cannot accept the gift when it is offered. Just let your conscience murmur, and let this “one must” keep on recurring. But endure it for a while and hold your ground until you conquer this “one must.” Thus, as faith gradually increases, that opinion about the righteousness of the Law will decrease. But this cannot be done without a great conflict."

Luther, M. (1999, c1963). Vol. 26: Luther's works, vol. 26 : Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (26:214). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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