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Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:10-13 KJV

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Galatians 3:10-19.
Luther's Commentary





               Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1535)
                               by Martin Luther
                        Translated by Theodore Graebner
          (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1949)
                            Chapter 3, pp. 106-135
                                   

 VERSE 10. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the  curse.

The curse of God is like a flood that swallows everything that is not of  faith. To avoid the curse we must hold on to the promise of the blessing in  Christ.

The reader is reminded that all this has no bearing upon civil laws,  customs, or political matters. Civil laws and ordinances have their place  and purpose. Let every government enact the best possible laws. But civil  righteousness will never deliver a person from the condemnation of  God's Law.

I have good reason for calling your attention to this. People easily mistake  civil righteousness for spiritual righteousness. In civil life we must, of  course, pay attention to laws and deeds, but in the spiritual life we must  not think to be justified by laws and works, but always keep in mind the
 promise and blessing of Christ, our only Savior.

 According to Paul everything that is not of faith is sin. When our  opponents hear us repeat this statement of Paul, they make it appear as if  we taught that governments should not be honored, as if we favored  rebellion against the constituted authorities, as if we condemned all laws.  Our opponents do us a great wrong, for we make a clear-cut distinction  between civil and spiritual affairs.

 Governmental laws and ordinances are blessings of God for this life only.
 As for everlasting life, temporal blessings are not good enough.
 Unbelievers enjoy more temporal blessings than the Christians. Civil or
 legal righteousness may be good enough for this life but not for the life
 hereafter. Otherwise the infidels would be nearer heaven than the
 Christians, for infidels often excel in civil righteousness.


VERSE 10. For it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

Paul goes on to prove from this quotation out of the Book of  Deuteronomy that all men who are under the Law are under the sentence  of sin, of the wrath of God, and of everlasting death. Paul produces his  proof in a roundabout way. He turns the negative statement, "Cursed is  every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book  of the law to do them," into a positive statement, "As many as are of the  works of the law are under the curse." These two statements, one by Paul  and the other by Moses, appear to conflict. Paul declares, "Whosoever  shall do the works of the Law, is accursed." Moses declares, "Whosoever  shall not do the works of the Law, is accursed." How can these two  contradictory statements be reconciled? How can the one statement prove
 the other? No person can hope to understand Paul unless he understands  the article of justification. These two statements are not at all  inconsistent.

 We must bear in mind that to do the works of the Law does not mean
 only to live up to the superficial requirements of the Law, but to obey the
 spirit of the Law to perfection. But where will you find the person who can
 do that? Let him step forward and we will praise him.

 Our opponents have their answer ready-made. They quote Paul's own
 statement in Romans 2:13, "The doers of the law shall be justified." Very
 well. But let us first find out who the doers of the law are. They call a
 "doer" of the Law one who performs the Law in its literal sense. This is
 not to "do" the Law. This is to sin. When our opponents go about to
 perform the Law they sin against the first, the second, and the third
 commandments, in fact they sin against the whole Law. For God requires
 above all that we worship Him in spirit and in faith. In observing the Law
 for the purpose of obtaining righteousness without faith in Christ these
 law-workers go smack against the Law and against God. They deny the
 righteousness of God, His mercy, and His promises. They deny Christ and
 all His benefits.

 In their ignorance of the true purpose of the Law the exponents of the Law
 abuse the Law, as Paul says, Romans 10:3, "For they, being ignorant of
 God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness,
 have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."

 In their folly our opponents rush into the Scriptures, pick out a sentence
 here and a sentence there about the Law and imagine they know all about
 it. Their work-righteousness is plain idolatry and blasphemy against God.
 No wonder they abide under the curse of God.

 Because God saw that we could not fulfill the Law, He provided a way of
 salvation long before the Law was ever given, a salvation that He
 promised to Abraham, saying, "In thee shall all nations be blessed."

 The very first thing for us to do is to believe in Christ. First, we must
 receive the Holy Spirit, who enlightens and sanctifies us so that we can
 begin to do the Law, i.e., to love God and our neighbor. Now, the Holy  Ghost
 is not obtained by the Law, but by faith in Christ. In the last analysis,  to
 do the Law means to believe in Jesus Christ. The tree comes first, and  then
 come the fruits.

 The scholastics admit that a mere external and superficial performance of
 the Law without sincerity and good will is plain hypocrisy. Judas acted like
 the other disciples. What was wrong with Judas? Mark what Rome
 answers, "Judas was a reprobate. His motives were perverse, therefore his
 works were hypocritical and no good." Well, well. Rome does admit, after
 all, that works in themselves do not justify unless they issue from a
 sincere heart. Why do our opponents not profess the same truth in
 spiritual matters? There, above all, faith must precede everything. The
 heart must be purified by faith before a person can lift a finger to please
 God.

 There are two classes of doers of the Law, true doers and hypocritical doers.
 The true doers of the Law are those who are moved by faith in Christ to do
 the Law. The hypocritical doers of the Law are those who seek to obtain
 righteousness by a mechanical performance of good works while their
 hearts are far removed from God. They act like the foolish carpenter who
 starts with the roof when he builds a house. Instead of doing the Law,
 these law-conscious hypocrites break the Law. They break the very first
 commandment of God by denying His promise in Christ. They do not
 worship God in faith. They worship themselves.

 No wonder Paul was able to foretell the abominations that Antichrist
 would bring into the Church. That Antichrists would come, Christ
 Himself prophesied, Matthew 24:5, "For many shall come in my name,
 saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many." Whoever seeks
 righteousness by works denies God and makes himself God. He is an
 Antichrist because he ascribes to his own works the omnipotent capability
 of conquering sin, death, devil, hell, and the wrath of God. An Antichrist
 lays claim to the honor of Christ. He is an idolater of himself. The law-
 righteous person is the worst kind of infidel.

 Those who intend to obtain righteousness by their own efforts do not say
 in so many words: "I am God; I am Christ." But it amounts to that. They
 usurp the divinity and office of Christ. The effect is the same as if they
 said, "I am Christ; I am a Savior. I save myself and others." This is the
 impression the monks give out.

 The Pope is the Antichrist, because he is against Christ, because he takes
 liberties with the things of God, because he lords it over the temple of God.

 I cannot tell you in words how criminal it is to seek righteousness before
 God without faith in Christ, by the works of the Law. It is the abomination
 standing in the holy place. It deposes the Creator and deifies the creature.

 The real doers of the Law are the true believers. The Holy Spirit enables
 them to love God and their neighbor. But because we have only the first-
 fruits of the Spirit and not the tenth-fruits, we do not observe the Law
 perfectly. This imperfection of ours, however, is not imputed to us, for
 Christ's sake.

 Hence, the statement of Moses, "Cursed is every one that continueth not
 in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them," is not
 contrary to Paul. Moses requires perfect doers of the Law. But where will
 you find them? Nowhere. Moses himself confessed that he was not a
 perfect doer of the Law. He said to the Lord: "Pardon our iniquity and our
 sin." Christ alone can make us innocent of any transgression. How so?
 First, by the forgiveness of our sins and the imputation of His
 righteousness. Secondly, by the gift of the Holy Ghost, who engenders new
 life and activity in us.

                 Objections to the Doctrine of Faith Disproved

 Here we shall take the time to enter upon the objections which our
 opponents raise against the doctrine of faith. There are many passages in
 the Bible that deal with works and the reward of works which our
 opponents cite against us in the belief that these will disprove the doctrine
 of faith which we teach.

 The scholastics grant that according to the reasonable order of nature being
 precedes doing. They grant that any act is faulty unless it proceeds from a
 right motive. They grant that a person must be right before he can do
 right. Why don't they grant that the right inclination of the heart toward
 God through faith in Christ must precede works?

 In the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews we find a catalogue of
 various works and deeds of the saints of the Bible. David, who killed a
 lion and a bear, and defeated Goliath, is mentioned. In the heroic deeds of
 David the scholastic can discover nothing more than outward
 achievement. But the deeds of David must be evaluated according to the
 personality of David. When we understand that David was a man of faith,
 whose heart trusted in the Lord, we shall understand why he could do
 such heroic deeds. David said: "The Lord that delivered me out of the paw
 of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the
 hand of this Philistine." Again: "Thou comest to me with a sword, and
 with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord
 of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day
 will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take
 shine head from thee." (I Samuel 17:37, 45, 46.) Before David could
 achieve a single heroic deed he was already a man beloved of God, strong
 and constant in faith.

 Of Abel it is said in the same Epistle: "By faith Abel offered unto God a
 more excellent sacrifice than Cain." When the scholastics come upon the
 parallel passage in Genesis 4:4 they get no further than the words: "And
 the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering." "Aha!" they cry. "See,
 God has respect to offerings. Works do justify." With mud in their eyes
 they cannot see that the text says in Genesis that the Lord had respect to
 the person of Abel first. Abel pleased the Lord because of his faith. Because
 the person of Abel pleased the Lord, the offering of Abel pleased the Lord
 also. The Epistle to the Hebrews expressly states: "By faith Abel offered
 unto God a more excellent sacrifice."

 In our dealings with God the work is worth nothing without faith, for
 "without faith it is impossible to please him." (Hebrews 11:6.) The sacrifice
 of Abel was better than the sacrifice of Cain, because Abel had faith. As to
 Cain he had no faith or trust in God's grace, but strutted about in his own
 fancied worth. When God refused to recognize Cain's worth, Cain got
 angry at God and at Abel.

 The Holy Spirit speaks of faith in different ways in the Sacred Scriptures.
 Sometimes He speaks of faith independently of other matters. When the
 Scriptures speak of faith in the absolute or abstract, faith refers to
 justification directly. But when the Scripture speaks of rewards and works
 it speaks of compound or relative faith. We will furnish some examples.
 Galatians 5:6, "Faith which worketh by love." Leviticus 18:5, "Which if a
 man do, he shall live in them." Matthew 19:17, "If thou wilt enter into
 life, keep the commandments." Psalm 37:27, "Depart from evil, and do
 good." In these and other passages where mention is made of doing, the
 Scriptures always speak of a faithful doing, a doing inspired by faith. "Do
 this and thou shalt live," means: First have faith in Christ, and Christ will
 enable you to do and to live.

 In the Word of God all things that are attributed to works are attributable
 to faith. Faith is the divinity of works. Faith permeates all the deeds of the
 believer, as Christ's divinity permeated His humanity. Abraham was
 accounted righteous because faith pervaded his whole personality and his
 every action.

 When you read how the fathers, prophets, and kings accomplished great
 deeds, remember to explain them as the Epistle to the Hebrews accounts
 for them: "Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness,
 obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions." (Hebrews 11:33.) In this
 way will we correctly interpret all those passages that seem to support the
 righteousness of works. The Law is truly observed only through faith.
 Hence, every "holy," "moral" law-worker is accursed.

 Supposing that this explanation will not satisfy the scholastics, supposing
 that they should completely wrap me up in their arguments (they cannot
 do it), I would rather be wrong and give all credit to Christ alone. Here is
 Christ. Paul, Christ's apostle, declares that "Christ hath redeemed us from
 the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." (Gal. 3:13.) I hear with my
 own ears that I cannot be saved except by the blood and death of Christ. I
 conclude, therefore, that it is up to Christ to overcome my sins, and not up
 to the Law, or my own efforts. If He is the price of my redemption, if He
 was made sin for my justification, I don't give a care if you quote me a
 thousand Scripture passages for the righteousness of works against the
 righteousness of faith. I have the Author and Lord of the Scriptures on my
 side. I would rather believe Him than all that riffraff of "pious" law-
 workers.


 VERSE 11. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God,
  it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

 The Apostle draws into his argument the testimony of the Prophet
 Habakkuk: "The just shall live by his faith." This passage carries much
 weight because it eliminates the Law and the deeds of the Law as factors in
 the process of our justification.

 The scholastics misconstrue this passage by saying: "The just shall live by
 faith, if it is a working faith, or a faith formed and performed by charitable
 works." Their annotation is a forgery. To speak of formed or unformed
 faith, a sort of double faith, is contrary to the Scriptures. If charitable
 works can form and perfect faith I am forced to say eventually that
 charitable deeds constitute the essential factor in the Christian religion.
 Christ and His benefits would be lost to us.


 VERSE 12. And the law is not of faith.

 In direct opposition to the scholastics Paul declares: "The law is not of
 faith." What is this charity the scholastics talk so much about? Does not
 the Law command charity? The fact is the Law commands nothing but
 charity, as we may gather from the following Scripture passages: "Thou
 shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and
 with all thy might" (Deut. 6:5.) "Strewing mercy unto thousands of them
 that love me, and keep my commandments." (Exodus 20:6.) "On these
 two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matt. 22:40.) If
 the law requires charity, charity is part of the Law and not of faith. Since
 Christ has displaced the Law which commands charity, it follows that
 charity has been abrogated with the Law as a factor in our justification, and
 only faith is left.


 VERSE 12. But, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

 Paul undertakes to explain the difference between the righteousness of the
 Law and the righteousness of faith. The righteousness of the Law is the
 fulfillment of the Law according to the passage: "The man that doeth them
 shall live in them." The righteousness of faith is to believe the Gospel
 according to the passage: "The just shall live by faith." The Law is a
 statement of debit, the Gospel a statement of credit. By this distinction Paul
 explains why charity which is the commandment of the Law cannot
 justify, because the Law contributes nothing to our justification.

 Indeed, works do follow after faith, but faith is not therefore a meritorious
 work. Faith is a gift. The character and limitations of the Law must be
 rigidly maintained.

 When we believe in Christ we live by faith. When we believe in the Law
 we may be active enough but we have no life. The function of the Law is
 not to give life; the function of the Law is to kill. True, the Law says: "The
 man that doeth them shall live in them." But where is the person who
 can do "them," i.e., love God with all his heart, soul, and mind, and his
 neighbor as himself?

 Paul has nothing against those who are justified by faith and therefore are
 true doers of the Law. He opposes those who think they can fulfill the Law
 when in reality they can only sin against the Law by trying to obtain
 righteousness by the Law. The Law demands that we fear, love, and
 worship God with a true faith. The law-workers fail to do this. Instead,
 they invent new modes of worship and new kinds of works which God
 never commanded. They provoke His anger according to the passage: "But
 in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of
 men." (Matthew 15:9.) Hence, the law-righteous workers are downright
 rebels against God, and idolaters who constantly sin against the first
 commandment. In short, they are no good at-all though outwardly they
 seem to be extremely solicitous of the honor of God.

 We who are justified by faith as the saints of old, may be under the Law,
 but we are not under the curse of the Law because sin is not imputed to us
 for Christ's sake. If the Law cannot be fulfilled by the believers, if sin
 continues to cling to them despite their love for God, what can you expect
 of people who are not yet justified by faith, who are still enemies of God
 and His Word, like the unbelieving law-workers? It goes to show how
 impossible it is for those who have not been justified by faith to fulfill the
 Law.


 VERSE 13. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being
 made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth
 on a tree.

 Jerome and his present-day followers rack their miserable brains over this
 comforting passage in an effort to save Christ from the fancied insult of
 being called a curse. They say: "This quotation from Moses does not apply
 to Christ. Paul is taking liberties with Moses by generalizing the statements
 in Deuteronomy 21:23. Moses has 'he that is hanged.' Paul puts it 'every
 one that hangeth.' On the other hand, Paul omits the words 'of God' in
 his quotation from Moses: 'For he that is hanged is accursed of God.'
 Moses speaks of a criminal who is worthy of death." "How," our
 opponents ask, "can this passage be applied to the holy Christ as if He
 were accursed of God and worthy to be hanged?" This piece of exegesis
 may impress the naive as a zealous attempt to defend the honor and
 glory of Christ. Let us see what Paul has in mind.

 Paul does not say that Christ was made a curse for Himself. The accent is
 on the two words "for us." Christ is personally innocent. Personally, He
 did not deserve to be hanged for any crime of His own doing. But because
 Christ took the place of others who were sinners, He was hanged like any
 other transgressor. The Law of Moses leaves no loopholes. It says that a
 transgressor should be hanged. Who are the other sinners? We are. The
 sentence of death and everlasting damnation had long been pronounced
 over us. But Christ took all our sins and died for them on the Cross. "He
 was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and
 made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12.)

 All the prophets of old said that Christ should be the greatest transgressor,
 murderer, adulterer, thief, blasphemer that ever was or ever could be on
 earth. When He took the sins of the whole world upon Himself, Christ
 was no longer an innocent person. He was a sinner burdened with the sins
 of a Paul who was a blasphemer; burdened with the sins of a Peter who
 denied Christ; burdened with the sins of a David who committed adultery
 and murder, and gave the heathen occasion to laugh at the Lord. In short,
 Christ was charged with the sins of all men, that He should pay for them
 with His own blood. The curse struck Him. The Law found Him among
 sinners. He was not only in the company of sinners. He had gone so far as
 to invest Himself with the flesh and blood of sinners. So the Law judged
 and hanged Him for a sinner.

 In separating Christ from us sinners and holding Him up as a holy
 exemplar, errorists rob us of our best comfort. They misrepresent Him as a
 threatening tyrant who is ready to slaughter us at the slightest
 provocation.

 I am told that it is preposterous and wicked to call the Son of God a cursed
 sinner. I answer: If you deny that He is a condemned sinner, you are forced
 to deny that Christ died. It is not less preposterous to say, the Son of God
 died, than to say, the Son of God was a sinner.

 John the Baptist called Him "the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin
 of the world." Being the unspotted Lamb of God, Christ was personally
 innocent. But because He took the sins of the world His sinlessness was
 defiled with the sinfulness of the world. Whatever sins I, you, all of us
 have committed or shall commit, they are Christ's sins as if He had
 committed them Himself. Our sins have to be Christ's sins or we shall
 perish forever.

 Isaiah declares of Christ: "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us
 all." We have no right to minimize the force of this declaration. God does
 not amuse Himself with words. What a relief for a Christian to know that
 Christ is covered all over with my sins, your sins, and the sins of the
 whole world.

 The papists invented their own doctrine of faith. They say charity creates
 and adorns their faith. By stripping Christ of our sins, by making Him
 sinless, they cast our sins back at us, and make Christ absolutely worthless
 to us. What sort of charity is this? If that is a sample of their vaunted
 charity we want none of it.

 Our merciful Father in heaven saw how the Law oppressed us and how
 impossible it was for us to get out from under the curse of the Law. He
 therefore sent His only Son into the world and said to Him: "You are now
 Peter, the liar; Paul, the persecutor; David, the adulterer; Adam, the
 disobedient; the thief on the cross. You, My Son, must pay the world's
 iniquity." The Law growls: "All right. If Your Son is taking the sin of the
 world, I see no sins anywhere else but in Him. He shall die on the Cross."
 And the Law kills Christ. But we go free.

 The argument of the Apostle against the righteousness of the Law is
 impregnable. If Christ bears our sins, we do not bear them. But if Christ is
 innocent of our sins and does not bear them, we must bear them, and we
 shall die in our sins. "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory
 through our Lord Jesus Christ."

 Let us see how Christ was able to gain the victory over our enemies. The
 sins of the whole world, past, present, and future, fastened themselves
 upon Christ and condemned Him. But because Christ is God He had an
 everlasting and unconquerable righteousness. These two, the sin of the
 world and the righteousness of God, met in a death struggle. Furiously the
 sin of the world assailed the righteousness of God. Righteousness is
 immortal and invincible. On the other hand, sin is a mighty tyrant who
 subdues all men. This tyrant pounces on Christ. But Christ's righteousness
 is unconquerable. The result is inevitable. Sin is defeated and
 righteousness triumphs and reigns forever.

 In the same manner was death defeated. Death is emperor of the world.
 He strikes down kings, princes, all men. He has an idea to destroy all life.
 But Christ has immortal life, and life immortal gained the victory over
 death. Through Christ death has lost her sting. Christ is the Death of
 death.

 The curse of God waged a similar battle with the eternal mercy of God in
 Christ. The curse meant to condemn God's mercy. But it could not do it
 because the mercy of God is everlasting. The curse had to give way. If the
 mercy of God in Christ had lost out, God Himself would have lost out,
 which, of course, is impossible.

 "Christ," says Paul, "spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of
 them openly, triumphing over them in it." (Col. 2:15.) They cannot harm
 those who hide in Christ. Sin, death, the wrath of God, hell, the devil are
 mortified in Christ. Where Christ is near the powers of evil must keep
 their distance. St. John says: "And this is the victory that overcometh the
 world, even our faith." (I John 5:4.)

 You may now perceive why it is imperative to believe and confess the
 divinity of Christ. To overcome the sin of a whole world, and death, and
 the wrath of God was no work for any creature. The power of sin and
 death could be broken only by a greater power. God alone could abolish
 sin, destroy death, and take away the curse of the Law. God alone could
 bring righteousness, life, and mercy to light. In attributing these
 achievements to Christ the Scriptures pronounce Christ to be God forever.
 The article of justification is indeed fundamental. If we remain sound in
 this one article, we remain sound in all the other articles of the Christian
 faith. When we teach justification by faith in Christ we confess at the same
 time that Christ is God.

 I cannot get over the blindness of the Pope's theologians. To imagine that
 the mighty forces of sin, death, and the curse can be vanquished by the
 righteousness of man's paltry works, by fasting, pilgrimages, masses, vows,
 and such gewgaws. These blind leaders of the blind turn the poor people
 over to the mercy of sin, death, and the devil. What chance has a
 defenseless human creature against these powers of darkness? They train
 sinners who are ten times worse than any thief, whore, murderer. The
 divine power of God alone can destroy sin and death, and create
 righteousness and life.

 When we hear that Christ was made a curse for us, let us believe it with
 joy and assurance. By faith Christ changes places with us. He gets our sins,
 we get His holiness.

 By faith alone can we become righteous, for faith invests us with the
 sinlessness of Christ. The more fully we believe this, the fuller will be our
 joy. If you believe that sin, death, and the curse are void, why, they are
 null, zero. Whenever sin and death make you nervous write it down as
 an illusion of the devil. There is no sin now, no curse, no death, no devil
 because Christ has done away with them. This fact is sure. There is
 nothing wrong with the fact. The defect lies in our lack of faith.

 In the Apostolic Creed we confess: "I believe in the holy Christian
 Church." That means, I believe that there is no sin, no curse, no evil in
 the Church of God. Faith says: "I believe that." But if you want to believe
 your eyes you will find many shortcomings and offenses in the members
 of the holy Church. You see them succumb to temptation, you see them
 weak in faith, you see them giving way to anger, envy, and other evil
 dispositions. "How can the Church be holy?" you ask. It is with the
 Christian Church as it is with the individual Christian. If I examine myself
 I find enough unholiness to shock me. But when I look at Christ in me I
 find that I am altogether holy. And so it is with the Church.

 Holy Writ does not say that Christ was under the curse. It says directly that
 Christ was made a curse. In II Corinthians 5:21 Paul writes: "For he (God)
 hath made him (Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might
 be made the righteousness of God in him." Although this and similar
 passages may be properly explained by saying that Christ was made a
 sacrifice for the curse and for sin, yet in my judgment it is better to leave
 these passages stand as they read: Christ was made sin itself; Christ was
 made the curse itself. When a sinner gets wise to himself he does not only
 feel miserable, he feels like misery personified; he does not only feel like a
 sinner, he feels like sin itself.

 To finish with this verse: All evils would have overwhelmed us, as they
 shall overwhelm the unbelievers forever, if Christ had not become the
 great transgressor and guilty bearer of all our sins. The sins of the world
 got Him down for a moment. They came around Him like water. Of
 Christ, the Old Testament Prophet complained: "Thy fierce wrath goeth
 over me; thy terrors have cut me off." (Psalm 88 16.) By Christ's salvation
 we have been delivered from the terrors of God to a life of eternal felicity.


 VERSE 14. That the blessing of Abraham might come, on the Gentiles
 through Jesus Christ.

 Paul always keeps this text before him: "In thy seed shall all the nations of
 the earth be blessed." The blessing promised unto Abraham could come
 upon the Gentiles only by Christ, the seed of Abraham. To become a
 blessing unto all nations Christ had to be made a curse to take away the
 curse from the nations of the earth. The merit that we plead, and the work
 that we proffer is Christ who was made a curse for us.

 Let us become expert in the art of transferring our sins, our death, and
 every evil from ourselves to Christ; and Christ's righteousness and
 blessing from Christ to ourselves.


 VERSE 14. That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

 "The promise of the Spirit" is Hebrew for "the promised Spirit." The Spirit
 spells freedom from the Law, sin, death, the curse, hell, and the judgment
 of God. No merits are mentioned in connection with this promise of the
 Spirit and all the blessings that go with Him. This Spirit of many blessings
 is received by faith alone. Faith alone builds on the promises of God, as
 Paul says in this verse.

 Long ago the prophets visualized the happy changes Christ would effect in
 all things. Despite the fact that the Jews had the Law of God they never
 ceased to look longingly for Christ. After Moses no prophet or king added
 a single law to the Book. Any changes or additions were deferred to the
 time of Christ's coming. Moses told the people: "The Lord thy God will
 raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like
 unto me; unto him ye shall hearken." (Deut. 18:15.)

 God's people of old felt that the Law of Moses could not be improved
 upon until the Messiah would bring better things than the Law, i.e., grace
 and remission of sins.


 VERSE 15. Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but
 a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or
  addeth thereto.

 After the preceding, well-taken argument, Paul offers another based on the
 similarity between a man's testament and God's testament. A man's
 testament seems too weak a premise for the Apostle to argue from in
 confirmation of so important a matter as justification. We ought to prove
 earthly things by heavenly things, and not heavenly things by earthly
 things. But where the earthly thing is an ordinance of God we may use it
 to prove divine matters. In Matthew 7:11 Christ Himself argued from
 earthly to heavenly things when He said: "If ye then, being evil, know
 how to give good gifts to your children; how much more shall your Father
 which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"

 To come to Paul's argument. Civil law, which is God's ordinance,
 prohibits tampering with any testament of man. Any person's last will
 and testament must be respected. Paul asks: "Why is it that man's last will
 is scrupulously respected and not God's testament? You would not think
 of breaking faith with a man's testament. Why do you not keep faith with
 God's testament?"

 The Apostle says that he is speaking after the manner of men. He means
 to say: "I will give you an illustration from the customs of men. If a man's
 last will is respected. and it is, how much more ought the testament of
 God be honored: 'In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.'
 When Christ died, this testament was sealed by His blood. After His death
 the testament was opened, it was published to the nations. No man ought
 to alter God's testament as the false apostles do who substitute the Law
 and traditions of men for the testament of God."

 As the false prophets tampered with God's testament in the days of Paul,
 so many do in our day. They will observe human laws punctiliously, but
 the laws of God they transgress without the flicker of an eyelid. But the
 time will come when they will find out that it is no joke to pervert the
 testament of God.


 VERSE 16. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He
 saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed,
 which is Christ.

 The word testament is another name for the promise that God made unto
 Abraham concerning Christ. A testament is not a law, but an inheritance.
 Heirs do not look for laws and assessments when they open a last will;
 they look for grants and favors. The testament which God made out to
 Abraham did not contain laws. It contained promises of great spiritual
 blessings.

 The promises were made in view of Christ, in one seed, not in many
 seeds. The Jews will not accept this interpretation. They insist that the
 singular "seed" is put for the plural "seeds." We prefer the interpretation
 of Paul, who makes a fine case for Christ and for us out of the singular
 "seed," and is after all inspired to do so by the Holy Ghost.


 VERSE 17. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before
 of God in Christ, the law which was four hundred and thirty years
  after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

 The Jews assert that God was not satisfied with His promises, but after four
 hundred and thirty years He gave the Law. "God," they say, "must have
 mistrusted His own promises, and considered them inadequate for
 salvation. Therefore He added to His promises something better, the Law.
 The Law," they say, "canceled the promises."

 Paul answers: "The Law was given four hundred and thirty years after the
 promise was made to Abraham. The Law could not cancel the promise
 because the promise was the testament of God, confirmed by God in Christ
 many years before the Law. What God has once promised He does not take
 back. Every promise of God is a ratified promise."

 Why was the Law added to the promise? Not to serve as a medium by
 which the promise might be obtained. The Law was added for these
 reasons: That there might be in the world a special people, rigidly
 controlled by the Law, a people out of which Christ should be born in due
 time; and that men burdened by many laws might sigh and long for Him,
 their Redeemer, the seed of Abraham. Even the ceremonies prescribed by
 the Law foreshadowed Christ. Therefore the Law was never meant to
 cancel the promise of God. The Law was meant to confirm the promise
 until the time should come when God would open His testament in the
 Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 God did well in giving the promise so many years before the Law, that it
 may never be said that righteousness is granted through the Law and not
 through the promise. If God had meant for us to be justified by the Law,
 He would have given the Law four hundred and thirty years before the
 promise, at least He would have given the Law at the same time He gave
 the promise. But He never breathed a word about the Law until four
 hundred years after. The promise is therefore better than the Law. The
 Law does not cancel the promise, but faith in the promised Christ cancels
 the Law.

 The Apostle is careful to mention the exact number of four hundred and
 thirty years. The wide divergence in the time between the promise and the
 Law helps to clinch Paul's argument that righteousness is not obtained by
 the Law.

 Let me illustrate. A man of great wealth adopts a strange lad for his son.
 Remember, he does not owe the lad anything. In due time he appoints the
 lad heir to his entire fortune. Several years later the old man asks the lad
 to do something for him. And the young lad does it. Can the lad then go
 around and say that he deserved the inheritance by his obedience to the
 old man's request ? How can anybody say that righteousness is obtained by
 obedience to the Law when the Law was given four hundred and thirty
 years after God's promise of the blessing?

 One thing is certain, Abraham was never justified by the Law, for the
 simple reason that the Law was not in his day. If the Law was non-existent
 how could Abraham obtain righteousness by the Law? Abraham had
 nothing else to go by but the promise. This promise he believed and that
 was counted unto him for righteousness. If the father obtained
 righteousness through faith, the children get it the same way.

 We use the argument of time also. We say our sins were taken away by the
 death of Christ fifteen hundred years ago, long before there were any
 religious orders, canons, or rules of penance, merits, etc. What did people
 do about their sins before these new inventions were hatched up?

 Paul finds his arguments for the righteousness of faith everywhere. Even
 the element of time serves to build his case against the false apostles. Let
 us fortify our conscience with similar arguments. They help us in the
 trials of our faith. They turn our attention from the Law to the promises,
 from sin to righteousness; from death to life.

 It is not for nothing that Paul bears down on this argument. He foresaw
 this confusion of the promise and the Law creeping into the Church.
 Accustom yourself to separate Law and Gospel even in regard to time.
 When the Law comes to pay your conscience a visit, say: "Mister Law, you
 come too soon. The four hundred and thirty years aren't up yet. When
 they are up, you come again. Won't you ?"


 VERSE 18. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of
  promise.

 In Romans 4:14, the Apostle writes: "For if they which are made of the
 law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect." It
 cannot be otherwise. That the Law is something entirely different from the
 promise is plain. The Law thunders: "Thou shalt, thou shalt not." The
 promise of the "seed" pleads: "Take this gift of God." If the inheritance of
 the gifts of God were obtained by the Law, God would be a liar. We would
 have the right to ask Him: "Why did you make this promise in the first
 place: 'In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed'? Why did
 you not say: 'In thy works thou shalt be blessed'?"


 VERSE 18. But God gave it to Abraham by promise.

 So much is certain, before the Law ever existed, God gave Abraham the
 inheritance or blessing by the promise. In other words, God granted unto
 Abraham remission of sins, righteousness, salvation, and everlasting life.
 And not only to Abraham but to all believers, because God said: "In thy
 seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." The blessing was given
 unconditionally. The Law had no chance to butt in because Moses was not
 yet born. "How then can you say that righteousness is obtained by the Law?"

 The Apostle now goes to work to explain the province and purpose of the
 Law.


 VERSE 19. Wherefore then serveth the law?

 The question naturally arises: If the Law was not given for righteousness
 or salvation, why was it given? Why did God give the Law in the first
 place if it cannot justify a person?

 The Jews believed if they kept the Law they would be saved. When they
 heard that the Gospel proclaimed a Christ who had come into the world to
 save sinners and not the righteous; when they heard that sinners were to
 enter the kingdom of heaven before the righteous, the Jews were very
 much put out. They murmured: "These last have wrought but one hour,
 and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden
 and heat of the day." (Matthew 20:12.) They complained that the heathen
 who at one time had been worshipers of idols obtained grace without the
 drudgery of the Law that was theirs.

 Today we hear the same complaints. "What was the use of our having
 lived in a cloister, twenty, thirty, forty years; what was the sense of having
 vowed chastity, poverty, obedience; what good are all the masses and
 canonical hours that we read; what profit is there in fasting, praying, etc.,
 if any man or woman, any beggar or scour woman is to be made equal to
 us, or even be considered more acceptable unto God than we?"

 Reason takes offense at the statement of Paul: "The law was added because
 of transgressions." People say that Paul abrogated the Law, that he is a
 radical, that he blasphemed God when he said that. People say: "We might
 as well live like wild people if the Law does not count. Let us abound in
 sin that grace may abound. Let us do evil that good may come of it."

 What are we to do? Such scoffing distresses us, but we cannot stop it.
 Christ Himself was accused of being a blasphemer and rebel. Paul and all
 the other apostles were told the same things. Let the scoffers slander us, let
 them spare us not. But we must not on their account keep silent. We must
 speak frankly in order that afflicted consciences may find surcease. Neither
 are we to pay any attention to the foolish and ungodly people for abusing
 our doctrine. They are the kind that would scoff, Law or no Law. Our first
 consideration must be the comfort of troubled consciences, that they may
 not perish with the multitudes.

 When he saw that some were offended at his doctrine, while others found
 in it encouragement to live after the flesh, Paul comforted himself with
 the thought that it was his duty to preach the Gospel to the elect of God,
 and that for their sake he must endure all things. Like Paul we also do all
 these things for the sake of God's elect. As for the scoffers and skeptics, I
 am so disgusted with them that in all my life I would not open my mouth
 for them once. I wish that they were back there where they belong under
 the iron heel of the Pope.

 People foolish but wise in their conceits jump to the conclusion: If the Law
 does not justify, it is good for nothing. How about that? Because money
 does not justify, would you say that money is good for nothing? Because
 the eyes do not justify, would you have them taken out? Because the Law
 does not justify it does not follow that the Law is without value. We must
 find and define the proper purpose of the Law. We do not offhand
 condemn the Law because we say it does not justify.

 We say with Paul that the Law is good if it is used properly. Within its
 proper sphere the Law is an excellent thing. But if we ascribe to the Law
 functions for which it was never intended, we pervert not only the Law
 but also the Gospel.

 It is the universal impression that righteousness is obtained through the
 deeds of the Law. This impression is instinctive and therefore doubly
 dangerous. Gross sins and vices may be recognized or else repressed by the
 threat of punishment. But this sin, this opinion of man's own
 righteousness refuses to be classified as sin. It wants to be esteemed as
 high-class religion. Hence, it constitutes the mighty influence of the devil
 over the entire world. In order to point out the true office of the Law, and
 thus to stamp out that false impression of the righteousness of the Law,
 Paul answers the question: "Wherefore then serveth the Law?" with the
 words:


 VERSE 19. It was added because of transgressions.

 All things differ. Let everything serve its unique purpose. Let the sun
 shine by day, the moon and the stars by night. Let the sea furnish fish, the
 earth grain, the woods trees, etc. Let the Law also serve its unique purpose.
 It must not step out of character and take the place of anything else. What
 is the function of the Law? "Transgression," answers the Apostle.

                        The Twofold Purpose of the Law

 The Law has a twofold purpose. One purpose is civil. God has ordained
 civil laws to punish crime. Every law is given to restrain sin. Does it not
 then make men righteous? No. In refraining from murder, adultery,
 theft, or other sins, I do so under compulsion because I fear the jail, the
 noose, the electric chair. These restrain me as iron bars restrain a lion and
 a bear. Otherwise they would tear everything to pieces. Such forceful
 restraint cannot be regarded as righteousness, rather as an indication of
 unrighteousness. As a wild beast is tied to keep it from running amuck, so
 the Law bridles mad and furious man to keep him from running wild.
 The need for restraint shows plainly enough that those who need the Law
 are not righteous, but wicked men who are fit to be tied. No, the Law does
 not justify.

 The first purpose of the Law, accordingly, is to restrain the wicked.
 The devil gets people into all kinds of scrapes. Therefore God
 instituted governments, parents, laws, restrictions, and civil
 ordinances. At least they help to tie the devil's hands so that he does
 not rage up and down the earth. This civil restraint by the Law is
 intended by God for the preservation of all things, particularly for the
 good of the Gospel that it should not be hindered too much by the
 tumult of the wicked. But Paul is not now treating of this civil use
 and function of the Law.

 The second purpose of the Law is spiritual and divine. Paul describes
 this spiritual purpose of the Law in the words, "Because of
 transgressions," i.e., to reveal to a person his sin, blindness, misery,
 his ignorance, hatred, and contempt of God, his death, hell, and
 condemnation.

 This is the principal purpose of the Law and its most valuable
 contribution. As long as a person is not a murderer, adulterer, thief, he
 would swear that he is righteous. How is God going to humble such a
 person except by the Law? The Law is the hammer of death, the thunder of
 hell, and the lightning of God's wrath to bring down the proud and
 shameless hypocrites. When the Law was instituted on Mount Sinai it was
 accompanied by lightning, by storms, by the sound of trumpets, to tear to
 pieces that monster called self-righteousness. As long as a person thinks
 he is right he is going to be incomprehensibly proud and presumptuous.
 He is going to hate God, despise His grace and mercy, and ignore the
 promises in Christ. The Gospel of the free forgiveness of sins through
 Christ will never appeal to the self-righteous.

 This monster of self-righteousness, this stiff-necked beast, needs a big axe.
 And that is what the Law is, a big axe. Accordingly, the proper use and
 function of the Law is to threaten until the conscience is scared stiff.

 The awful spectacle at Mount Sinai portrayed the proper use of the Law.  When
 the children of Israel came out of Egypt a feeling of singular  holiness
 possessed them. They boasted: "We are the people of God. All  that the Lord
 hath spoken we will do." (Ex. 19:8) This feeling of holiness  was heightened
 when Moses ordered them to wash their clothes, to refrain  from their wives,
 and to prepare themselves all around. The third day came  and Moses led the
 people out of their tents to the foot of the mountain into  the presence of
 the Lord. What happened? When the children of Israel saw  the whole mountain
 burning and smoking, the black clouds rent by fierce  lightning flashing up
 and down in the inky darkness, when they heard the  sound of the trumpet
 blowing louder and longer, shattered by the roll of  thunder, they were so
 frightened that they begged Moses: "Speak thou with  us, and we will hear: but
 let not God speak with us, lest we die." (Ex. 20:19.)  I ask you, what good
 did their scrubbing, their snow-white clothes, and  their continence do them?
 No good at all. Not a single one could stand in  the presence of the glorious
 Lord. Stricken by the terror of God, they fled  back into their tents, as if
 the devil were after them.

 The Law is meant to produce the same effect today which it produced at
 Mount Sinai long ago. I want to encourage all who fear God, especially
 those who intend to become ministers of the Gospel, to learn from the
 Apostle the proper use of the Law. I fear that after our time the right
 handling of the Law will become a lost art. Even now, although we
 continually explain the separate functions of the Law and the Gospel, we
 have those among us who do not understand how the Law should be
 used. What will it be like when we are dead and gone?

 We want it understood that we do not reject the Law as our opponents
 claim. On the contrary, we uphold the Law. We say the Law is good if it is
 used for the purposes for which it was designed, to check civil
 transgression, and to magnify spiritual transgressions. The Law is also a
 light like the Gospel. But instead of revealing the grace of God,
 righteousness, and life, the Law brings sin, death, and the wrath of God to
 light. This is the business of the Law, and here the business of the Law
 ends, and should go no further.

 The business of the Gospel, on the other hand, is to quicken, to comfort, to
 raise the fallen. The Gospel carries the news that God for Christ's sake is
 merciful to the most unworthy sinners, if they will only believe that
 Christ by His death has delivered them from sin and everlasting death
 unto grace, forgiveness, and everlasting life. By keeping in mind the
 difference between the Law and the Gospel we let each perform its special
 task. Of this difference between the Law and the Gospel nothing can be
 discovered in the writings of the monks or scholastics, nor for that matter
 in the writings of the ancient fathers. Augustine understood the difference
 somewhat. Jerome and others knew nothing of it. The silence in the
 Church concerning the difference between the Law and the Gospel has
 resulted in untold harm. Unless a sharp distinction is maintained between
 the purpose and function of the Law and the Gospel, the Christian
 doctrine cannot be kept free from error.


 VERSE 19. It was added because of transgressions.

 In other words, that transgressions might be recognized as such and thus
 increased. When sin, death, and the wrath of God are revealed to a person
 by the Law, he grows impatient, complains against God, and rebels. Before
 that he was a very holy man; he worshipped and praised God; he bowed
 his knees before God and gave thanks, like the Pharisee. But now that sin
 and death are revealed to him by the Law he wishes there were no God.
 The Law inspires hatred of God. Thus sin is not only revealed by the Law;
 sin is actually increased and magnified by the Law.

 The Law is a mirror to show a person what he is like, a sinner who is
 guilty of death, and worthy of everlasting punishment. What is this
 bruising and beating by the hand of the Law to accomplish? This, that we
 may find the way to grace. The Law is an usher to lead the way to grace.
 God is the God of the humble, the miserable, the afflicted. It is His nature
 to exalt the humble, to comfort the sorrowing, to heal the broken-hearted,
 to justify the sinners, and to save the condemned. The fatuous idea that a
 person can be holy by himself denies God the pleasure of saving sinners.
 God must therefore first take the sledge-hammer of the Law in His fists
 and smash the beast of self-righteousness and its brood of self-confidence,
 self-wisdom, self-righteousness, and self-help. When the conscience has
 been thoroughly frightened by the Law it welcomes the Gospel of grace
 with its message of a Savior who came into the world, not to break the
 bruised reed, nor to quench the smoking flax, but to preach glad tidings to
 the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, and to grant forgiveness of sins to all
 the captives.

 Man's folly, however, is so prodigious that instead of embracing the  message
 of grace with its guarantee of the forgiveness of sin for Christ's  sake, man
 finds himself more laws to satisfy his conscience. "If I live," says  he, "I
 will mend my life. I will do this, I will do that." Man, if you don't do  the
 very opposite, if you don't send Moses with the Law back to Mount  Sinai and
 take the hand of Christ, pierced for your sins, you will never be  saved.

 When the Law drives you to the point of despair, let it drive you a little
 farther, let it drive you straight into the arms of Jesus who says: "Come
 unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."


 VERSE 19. Till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.

 The Law is not to have its say indefinitely. We must know how long the
 Law is to put in its licks. If it hammers away too long, no person would
 and could be saved. The Law has a boundary beyond which it must not go.
 How long ought the Law to hold sway? "Till the seed should come to
 whom the promise was made."

 That may be taken literally to mean until the time of the Gospel. "From
 the days of John the Baptist," says Jesus, "until now the kingdom of
 heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the
 prophets and the law prophesied until John." (Matthew 11:12, 13.) When
 Christ came the Law and the ceremonies of Moses ceased.

 Spiritually, it means that the Law is not to operate on a person after he has
 been humbled and frightened by the exposure of his sins and the wrath of
 God. We must then say to the Law: "Mister Law, lay off him. He has had
 enough. You scared him good and proper." Now it is the Gospel's turn.
 Now let Christ with His gracious lips talk to him of better things, grace,
 peace, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.


 VERSE 19. And it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

 The Apostle digresses a little from his immediate theme. Something
 occurred to him and he throws it in by the way. It occurred to him that the
 Law differs from the Gospel in another respect, in respect to authorship.
 The Law was delivered by the angels, but the Gospel by the Lord Himself.
 Hence, the Gospel is superior to the Law, as the word of a lord is superior
 to the word of his servant.

 The Law was handed down by a being even inferior to the angels, by a
 middleman named Moses. Paul wants us to understand that Christ is the
 mediator of a better testament than mediator Moses of the Law. Moses led
 the people out of their tents to meet God. But they ran away. That is how
 good a mediator Moses was.

 Paul says: "How can the Law justify when that whole sanctified people of
 Israel and even mediator Moses trembled at the voice of God? What kind
 of righteousness do you call that when people run away from it and hate it
 the worst way? If the Law could justify, people would love the Law. But
 look at the children of Israel running away from it."

 The flight of the children of Israel from Mount Sinai indicates how people
 feel about the Law. They don't like it. If this were the only argument to
 prove that salvation is not by the Law, this one Bible history would do the
 work. What kind of righteousness is this law-righteousness when at the
 commencement exercises of the Law Moses and the scrubbed people run
 away from it so fast that an iron mountain, the Red Sea even, could not
 have stopped them until they were back in Egypt once again? If they could
 not hear the Law, how could they ever hope to perform the Law?

 If all the world had stood at the mountain, all the world would have hated
 the Law and fled from it as the children of Israel did. The whole world is
 an enemy of the Law. How, then, can anyone be justified by the Law when
 everybody hates the Law and its divine author?

 All this goes to show how little the scholastics know about the Law. They  do
 not consider its spiritual effect and purpose, which is not to justify or to
 pacify afflicted consciences, but to increase sin, to terrify the conscience,
 and to produce wrath. In their ignorance the papists spout about man's  good
 will and right judgment, and man's capacity to perform the Law of  God. Ask
 the people of Israel who were present at the presentation of the  Law on Mount
 Sinai whether what the scholastics say is true. Ask David,  who often
 complains in the Psalms that he was cast away from God and in  hell, that he
 was frantic about his sin, and sick at the thought of the wrath  and judgment
 of God. No, the Law does not justify.

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                             Rev. Robert E. Smith
                                Walther Library
                        Concordia Theological Seminary

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