VERSE 1. 0 foolish Galatians.
THE Apostle Paul manifests his apostolic care for the Galatians. Sometimes he
entreats them, then again he reproaches them, in accordance with his own
advice to Timothy: "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season;
reprove, rebuke, exhort."
In the midst of his discourse on Christian righteousness Paul breaks off, and
turns to address the Galatians. "O foolish Galatians," he cries. "I have
brought you the true Gospel, and you received it with eagerness and
gratitude. Now all of a sudden you drop the Gospel. What has got into you?"
Paul reproves the Galatians rather sharply when he calls them "fools,
bewitched, and disobedient." Whether he is indignant or sorry, I cannot say.
He may be both. It is the duty of a Christian pastor to reprove the people
committed to his charge. Of course, his anger must not flow from malice, but
from affection and a real zeal for Christ.
There is no question that Paul is disappointed. It hurts him to think that
his Galatians showed so little stability. We can hear him say: "I am sorry to
hear of your troubles, and disappointed in you for the disgraceful part you
played." I say rather much on this point to save Paul from the charge that he
railed upon the churches, contrary to the spirit of the Gospel.
A certain distance and coolness can be noted in the title with which the
Apostle addresses the Galatians. He does not now address them as his
brethren, as he usually does. He addresses them as Galatians in order to
remind them of their national trait to be foolish.
We have here an example of bad traits that often cling to individual
Christians and entire congregations. Grace does not suddenly transform a
Christian into a new and perfect creature. Dregs of the old and natural
corruption remain. The Spirit of God cannot at once overcome human
deficiency. Sanctification takes time.
Although the Galatians had been enlightened by the Holy Spirit through the
preaching of faith, something of their national trait of foolishness plus
their original depravity clung to them. Let no man think that once he has
received faith, he can presently be converted into a faultless creature. The
leavings of old vices will stick to him, be he ever so good a Christian.
VERSE 1. Who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?
Satan is clever. He does not only bewitch men in a crude manner, but also in
a more artful fashion. He bedevils the minds of men with hideous fallacies.
Not only is he able to deceive the self-assured, but even those who profess
the true Christian faith. There is not one among us who is not at times
seduced by Satan into false beliefs.
This accounts for the many new battles we have to wage nowadays. But the
attacks of the old Serpent are not without profit to us, for they confirm our
doctrine and strengthen our faith in Christ. Many a time we were wrestled
down in these conflicts with Satan, but Christ has always triumphed and
always will triumph. Do not think that the Galatians were the only ones to be
bewitched by the devil. Let us realize that we too may be seduced by Satan.
VERSE 1. Who hath bewitched you?
As if he were saying: "I know your defection was not willful. The devil sent
the false apostles to you, and they tallied you into believing that you are
justified by the Law. With this our epistle we endeavor to undo the damage
which the false apostles have inflicted upon you."
Like Paul, we struggle with the Word of God against the fanatical Anabaptists
of our day; and our efforts are not entirely in vain. The trouble is there
are many who refuse to be instructed. They will not listen to reason; they
will not listen to the Scriptures, because they are bewitched by the tricky
devil who can make a lie look like the truth.
Since the devil has this uncanny ability to make us believe a lie until we
would swear a thousand times it were the truth, we must not be proud, but
walk in fear and humility, and call upon the Lord Jesus to save us from
Although I am a doctor of divinity, and have preached Christ and fought His
battles for a long time, I know from personal experience how difficult it is
to hold fast to the truth. I cannot always shake off Satan. I cannot always
apprehend Christ as the Scriptures portray Him. Sometimes the devil distorts
Christ to my vision. But thanks be to God, who keeps us in His Word, in
faith, and in prayer.
The spiritual witchery of the devil creates in the heart a wrong idea of
Christ. Those who share the opinion that a person is justified by the works
of the Law, are simply bewitched. Their belief goes against faith and Christ.
VERSE 1. That ye should not obey the truth.
The apostasy of the Galatians is a fine indorsement of the Law, all right.
You may preach the Law ever so fervently; if the preaching of the Gospel does
not accompany it, the Law will never produce true conversion and heartfelt
repentance. We do not mean to say that the preaching of the Law is without
value, but it only serves to bring home to us the wrath of God. The Law bows
a person down. It takes the Gospel and the preaching of faith in Christ to
raise and save a person.
VERSE 1. Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth.
VERSE 1. Crucifed among you.
It should make any person afraid to hear Paul say that those who seek to be
justified by the Law, not only deny Christ, but also crucify Him anew. If
those who seek to be justified by the Law and its works are crucifiers of
Christ, what are they, I like to know, who seek salvation by the filthy rags
of their own work-righteousness?
Can there be anything more horrible than the papacy, an alliance of people
who crucify Christ in themselves, in the Church, and in the hearts of the
Of all the diseased and vicious doctrines of the papacy the worst is this: "If
you want to serve God you must earn your own remission of sins and
everlasting life, and in addition help others to obtain salvation by giving
them the benefit of your extra work-holiness." Monks, friars, and all the
rest of them brag that besides the ordinary requirements common to all
Christians, they do the works of supererogation, i.e., the performance of
more than is required. This is certainly a fiendish illusion.
No wonder Paul employs such sharp language in his effort to recall the
Galatians from the doctrine of the false apostles. He says to them: "Don't
you realize what you have done? You have crucified Christ anew because you
seek salvation by the Law."
True, Christ can no longer be crucified in person, but He is crucified in us
when we reject grace, faith, free remission of sins and endeavor to be
justified by our own works, or by the works of the Law.
The Apostle is incensed at the presumptuousness of any person who thinks he
can perform the Law of God to his own salvation. He charges that person with
the atrocity of crucifying anew the Son of God.
VERSE 2. This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the
works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
"You cannot say that you received the Holy Spirit by the Law. As long as you
were servants of the Law, you never received the Holy Ghost. Nobody ever
heard of the Holy Ghost being given to anybody, be he doctor or dunce, as a
result of the preaching of the Law. In your own case, you have not only
learned the Law by heart, you have labored with all your might to perform it.
You most of all should have received the Holy Ghost by the Law, if that were
possible. You cannot show me that this ever happened. But as soon as the
Gospel came your way, you received the Holy Ghost by the simple hearing of
faith, before you ever had a chance to do a single good deed." Luke verifies
this statement of Paul in the Book of Acts: "While Peter yet spake these
words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word." (Acts 10:44.)
"And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the
beginning." (Acts 11:15.)
Try to appreciate the force of Paul's argument which is so often repeated in
the Book of Acts. That Book was written for the express purpose of verifying
Paul's assertion, that the Holy Ghost comes upon men, not in response to the
preaching of the Law, but in response to the preaching of the Gospel. When
Peter preached Christ at the first Pentecost, the Holy Ghost fell upon the
hearers, "and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand
souls." Cornelius received the Holy Ghost while Peter was speaking of Christ.
"The Holy Ghost fell on all of them which heard the word." These are actual
experiences that cannot very well be denied. When Paul and Barnabas returned
to Jerusalem and reported what they had been able to accomplish among the
Gentiles, the whole Church was astonished, particularly when it heard that
the uncircumcised Gentiles had received the Holy Ghost by the preaching of
faith in Christ.
Now as God gave the Holy Ghost to the Gentiles without the Law by the simple
preaching of the Gospel, so He gave the Holy Ghost also to the Jews, without
the Law, through faith alone. If the righteousness of the Law were necessary
unto salvation, the Holy Ghost would never have come to the Gentiles, because
they did not bother about the Law. Hence the Law does not justify, but faith
in Christ justifies.
How was it with Cornelius? Cornelius and his friends whom he had invited over
to his house, do nothing but sit and listen. Peter is doing the talking. They
just sit and do nothing. The Law is far removed from their thoughts. They
burn no sacrifices. They are not at all interested in circumcision. All they
do is to sit and listen to Peter. Suddenly the Holy Ghost enters their
hearts. His presence is unmistakable, "for they spoke with tongues and
Right here we have one more difference between the Law and the Gospel. The
Law does not bring on the Holy Ghost. The Gospel, however, brings on the gift
of the Holy Ghost, because it is the nature of the Gospel to convey good
gifts. The Law and the Gospel are contrary ideas. They have contrary
functions and purposes. To endow the Law with any capacity to produce
righteousness is to plagiarize the Gospel. The Gospel brings donations. It
pleads for open hands to take what is being offered. The Law has nothing to
give. It demands, and its demands are impossible.
Our opponents come back at us with Cornelius. Cornelius, they point out, was
"a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much
alms to the people and prayed God always." Because of these qualifications,
he merited the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. So reason
I answer: Cornelius was a Gentile. You cannot deny it. As a Gentile he
was uncircumcised. As a Gentile he did not observe the Law. He never
gave the Law any thought. For all that, he was justified and received
the Holy Ghost. How can the Law avail anything unto righteousness?
Our opponents are not satisfied. They reply: "Granted that Cornelius was a
Gentile and did not receive the Holy Ghost by the Law, yet the text plainly
states that he was a devout man who feared God, gave alms, and prayed. Don't
you think he deserved the gift of the Holy Ghost?"
I answer: Cornelius had the faith of the fathers who were saved by
faith in the Christ to come. If Cornelius had died before Christ, he
would have been saved because he believed in the Christ to come. But
because the Messiah had already come, Cornelius had to be apprized of
the fact. Since Christ has come we cannot be saved by faith in the
Christ to come, but we must believe that he has come. The object of
Peter's visit was to acquaint Cornelius with the fact that Christ was
no longer to be looked for, because He is here.
Take the case of Naaman, the Syrian, who was a Gentile and did not belong to
the race of Moses. Yet his flesh was cleansed, the God of Israel was revealed
unto him, and he received the Holy Ghost. Naaman confessed his faith:
"Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel."
(II Kings 5:15.) Naaman does not do a thing. He does not busy himself with
the Law. He was never circumcised. That does not mean that his faith was
inactive. He said to the Prophet Elisha: "Thy servant will henceforth offer
neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the Lord. In
this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the
house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself
in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the
Lord pardon thy servant in this thing." What did the Prophet tell him?" Go in
peace." The Jews do not like to hear the prophet say this. "What," they
exclaim, "should this heathen be justified without the Law? Should he be made
equal to us who are circumcised?"
Long before the time of Moses, God justified men without the Law. He
justified many kings of Egypt and Babylonia. He justified Job. Nineveh, that
great city, was justified and received the promise of God that He would not
destroy the city. Why was Nineveh spared? Not because it fulfilled the Law,
but because Nineveh believed the word of God. The Prophet Jonah writes: "So
the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on
sackcloth." They repented. Nowhere in the Book of Jonah do you read that the
Ninevites received the Law of Moses, or that they were circumcised, or that
they offered sacrifices.
All this happened long before Christ was born. If the Gentiles were justified
without the Law and quietly received the Holy Spirit at a time when the Law
was in full force, why should the Law count unto righteousness now, now that
Christ has fulfilled the Law?
And yet many devote much time and labor to the Law, to the decrees of the
fathers, and to the traditions of the Pope. Many of these specialists have
incapacitated themselves for any kind of work, good or bad, by their rigorous
attention to rules and laws. All the same, they could not obtain a quiet
conscience and peace in Christ. But the moment the Gospel of Christ touches
them, certainty comes to them, and joy, and a right judgment.
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."
We must learn that forgiveness of sins, Christ, and the Holy Ghost, are
freely granted unto us at the preaching of faith, in spite of our sinfulness.
We are not to waste time thinking how unworthy we are of the blessings of
God. We are to know that it pleased God freely to give us His unspeakable
gifts. If He offers His gifts free of charge, why not take them? Why worry
about our lack of worthiness? Why not accept gifts with joy and thanksgiving?
Right away foolish reason is once more offended. It scolds us. "When you say
that a person can do nothing to obtain the grace of God, you foster carnal
security. People become shiftless and will do no good at all. Better not
preach this doctrine of faith. Rather urge the people to exert and to
exercise themselves in good works, so that the Holy Ghost will feel like
coming to them."
What did Jesus say to Martha when she was very "careful and troubled about
many things" and could hardly stand to see her sister Mary sitting at the
feet of Jesus, just listening? "Martha, Martha," Jesus said, "thou art
careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful; and Mary
hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." A person
becomes a Christian not by working, but by hearing. The first step to being a
Christian is to hear the Gospel. When a person has accepted the Gospel, let
him first give thanks unto God with a glad heart, and then let him get busy
on the good works to strive for, works that really please God, and not
man-made and self-chosen works.
Our opponents regard faith as an easy thing, but I know from personal
experience how hard it is to believe. That the Holy Ghost is received by
faith, is quickly said, but not so quickly done.
All believers experience this difficulty. They would gladly embrace the Word
with a full faith, but the flesh deters them. You see, our reason always
thinks it is too easy and cheap to have righteousness, the Holy Spirit, and
life everlasting by the mere hearing of the Gospel
VERSE 3. Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made
perfect by the flesh?
"Flesh" stands for the righteousness of reason which seeks justification by
the accomplishment of the Law. I am told that I began in the spirit under the
papacy, but am ending up in the flesh because I got married. As though single
life were a spiritual life, and married life a carnal life. They are silly.
All the duties of a Christian husband, e.g., to love his wife, to bring up
his children, to govern his family, etc., are the very fruits of the Spirit.
The righteousness of the Law which Paul also terms the righteousness of the
flesh is so far from justifying a person that those who once had the Holy
Spirit and lost Him, end up in the Law to their complete destruction.
VERSE 4. Have ye suffered so many things in vain?
VERSE 4. If it be yet in vain.
VERSE 5. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh
miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the
hearing of faith?
When the Gospel is preached unto faith, hope, love, and patience, God gives
His wonder-working Spirit. Paul reminds the Galatians of this. "God had not
only brought you to faith by my preaching. He had also sanctified you to
bring forth the fruits of faith. And one of the fruits of your faith was that
you loved me so devotedly that you were willing to pluck out your eyes for
me." To love a fellow-man so devotedly as to be ready to bestow upon him
money, goods, eyes in order to secure his salvation, such love is the fruit
of the Holy Spirit.
"These products of the Spirit you enjoyed before the false apostles misled
you," the Apostle reminds the Galatians. "But you haven't manifested any of
these fruits under the regime of the Law. How does it come that you do not
grow the same fruits now? You no longer teach truly; you do not believe
boldly; you do not live well; you do not work hard; you do not bear things
patiently. Who has spoiled you that you no longer love me; that you are not
now ready to pluck out your eyes for me? What has happened to cool your
personal interest in me?"
The same thing happened to me. When I began to proclaim the Gospel, there
were many, very many who were delighted with our doctrine and had a good
opinion of us. And now? Now they have succeeded in making us so odious to
those who formerly loved us that they now hate us like poison.
Paul argues: "Your experience ought to teach you that the fruits of love do
not grow on the stump of the Law. You had not virtue prior to the preaching
of the Gospel and you have no virtues now under the regime of the false
We, too, may say to those who misname themselves "evangelical" and flout
their new-found liberty: Have you put down the tyranny of the Pope and
obtained liberty in Christ through the Anabaptists and other fanatics? Or
have you obtained your freedom from us who preach faith in Christ Jesus? If
there is any honesty left in them they will have to confess that their
freedom dates from the preaching of the Gospel.
VERSE 6. Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him
Paul places the emphasis upon the two words: Abraham believed. Faith in God
constitutes the highest worship, the prime duty, the first obedience, and the
foremost sacrifice. Without faith God forfeits His glory, wisdom, truth, and
mercy in us. The first duty of man is to believe in God and to honor Him with
his faith. Faith is truly the height of wisdom, the right kind of
righteousness, the only real religion. This will give us an idea of the
excellence of faith.
To believe in God as Abraham did is to be right with God because faith honors
God. Faith says to God: "I believe what you say."
When we pay attention to reason, God seems to propose impossible matters in
the Christian Creed. To reason it seems absurd that Christ should offer His
body and blood in the Lord's Supper; that Baptism should be the washing of
regeneration; that the dead shall rise; that Christ the Son of God was
conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, etc. Reason shouts that all this is
preposterous. Are you surprised that reason thinks little of faith? Reason
thinks it ludicrous that faith should be the foremost service any person can
render unto God.
Let your faith supplant reason. Abraham mastered reason by faith in the Word
of God. Not as though reason ever yields meekly. It put up a fight against
the faith of Abraham. Reason protested that it was absurd to think that Sarah
who was ninety years old and barren by nature, should give birth to a son.
But faith won the victory and routed reason, that ugly beast and enemy of
God. Everyone who by faith slays reason, the world's biggest monster, renders
God a real service, a better service than the religions of all races and all
the drudgery of meritorious monks can render.
Men fast, pray, watch, suffer. They intend to appease the wrath of God and to
deserve God's grace by their exertions. But there is no glory in it for God,
because by their exertions these workers pronounce God an unmerciful slave
driver, an unfaithful and angry Judge. They despise God, make a liar out of
Him, snub Christ and all His benefits; in short they pull God from His throne
and perch themselves on it.
Faith truly honors God. And because faith honors God, God counts faith for
Christian righteousness is the confidence of the heart in God through Christ
Jesus. Such confidence is accounted righteousness for Christ's sake. Two
things make for Christian righteousness: Faith in Christ, which is a gift of
God; and God's acceptance of this imperfect faith of ours for perfect
righteousness. Because of my faith in Christ, God overlooks my distrust, the
unwillingness of my spirit, my many other sins. Because the shadow of
Christ's wing covers me I have no fear that God will cover all my sins and
take my imperfections for perfect righteousness.
God "winks" at my sins and covers them up. God says: "Because you believe in
My Son I will forgive your sins until death shall deliver you from the body
Learn to understand the constitution of your Christian righteousness. Faith
is weak, but it means enough to God that He will not lay sin to our charge.
He will not punish nor condemn us for it. He will forgive our sins as though
they amount to nothing at all. He will do it not because we are worthy of
such mercy. He will do it for Jesus' sake in whom we believe.
Paradoxically, a Christian is both right and wrong, holy and profane, an
enemy of God and a child of God. These contradictions no person can harmonize
who does not understand the true way of salvation. Under the papacy we were
told to toil until the feeling of guilt had left us. But the authors of this
deranged idea were frequently driven to despair in the hour of death. It
would have happened to me, if Christ had not mercifully delivered me from
We comfort the afflicted sinner in this manner: Brother, you can never be
perfect in this life, but you can be holy. He will say: "How can I be holy
when I feel my sins?" I answer: You feel sin? That is a good sign. To realize
that one is ill is a step, and a very necessary step, toward recovery. "But
how will I get rid of my sin?" he will ask. I answer: See the heavenly
Physician, Christ, who heals the broken-hearted. Do not consult that
Quackdoctor, Reason. Believe in Christ and your sins will be pardoned. His
righteousness will become your righteousness, and your sins will become His
On one occasion Jesus said to His disciples: "The Father loveth you." Why?
Not because the disciples were Pharisees, or circumcised, or particularly
attentive to the Law. Jesus said: "The Father loveth you, because ye have
loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. It pleased you to know
that the Father sent me into the world. And because you believed it the
Father loves you." On another occasion Jesus called His disciples evil and
commanded them to ask for forgiveness.
A Christian is beloved of God and a sinner. How can these two contradictions
be harmonized: I am a sinner and deserve God's wrath and punishment, and yet
the Father loves me? Christ alone can harmonize these contradictions. He is
Do you now see how faith justifies without works? Sin lingers in us, and God
hates sin. A transfusion of righteousness therefore becomes vitally
necessary. This transfusion of righteousness we obtain from Christ because
we believe in Him.
VERSE 7. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are
the children of Abraham.
Let us begin with Abraham and learn how this friend of God was justified and
saved. Not because he left his country, his relatives, his father's house;
not because he was circumcised; not because he stood ready to sacrifice his
own son Isaac in whom he had the promise of posterity. Abraham was justified
because he believed. Paul's argumentation runs like this: "Since this is the
unmistakable testimony of Holy Writ, why do you take your stand upon
circumcision and the Law? Was not Abraham, your father, of whom you make so
much, justified and saved without circumcision and the Law by faith alone?"
Paul therefore concludes: "They which are of faith, the same are the children
Abraham was the father of the faithful. In order to be a child of the
believing Abraham you must believe as he did. Otherwise you are merely the
physical offspring of the procreating Abraham, i.e., you were conceived and
born in sin unto wrath and condemnation.
Ishmael and Isaac were both the natural children of Abraham. By rights
Ishmael should have enjoyed the prerogatives of the firstborn, if physical
generation had any special value. Nevertheless he was left out in the cold
while Isaac was called. This goes to prove that the children of faith are the
real children of Abraham.
Some find fault with Paul for applying the term "faith" in Genesis 15:6 to
Christ. They think Paul's use of the term too wide and general. They think
its meaning should be restricted to the context. They claim Abraham's faith
had no more in it than a belief in the promise of God that he should have
We reply: Faith presupposes the assurance of God's mercy. This assurance
takes in the confidence that our sins are forgiven for Christ's sake. Never
will the conscience trust in God unless it can be sure of God's mercy and
promises in Christ. Now all the promises of God lead back to the first
promise concerning Christ: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman,
and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt
bruise his heel." The faith of the fathers in the Old Testament era, and our
faith in the New Testament are one and the same faith in Christ Jesus,
although times and conditions may differ. Peter acknowledged this in the
words: "Which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe
that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as
they." (Acts l5: 10, 11.) And Paul writes: "And did all drink the spiritual
drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that
Rock was Christ." (I Cor. 10 :4.) And Christ Himself declared: "Your father
Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it and was glad." (John 8:56.) The
faith of the fathers was directed at the Christ who was to come, while ours
rests in the Christ who has come. Time does not change the object of true
faith, or the Holy Spirit. There has always been and always will be one mind,
one impression, one faith concerning Christ among true believers whether they
live in times past, now, or in times to come. We too believe in the Christ to
come as the fathers did in the Old Testament, for we look for Christ to come
again on the last day to judge the quick and the dead.
VERSE 7. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are
the children of Abraham.
VERSE 8. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the
heathen through faith.
The false apostles glorified the Law and despised the promise made unto
Abraham, although it antedated the Law by many years. It was after Abraham
was accounted righteous because of his faith that the Scriptures first make
mention of circumcision. "The Scriptures," says Paul, "meant to forestall
your infatuation for the righteousness of the Law by installing the
righteousness of faith before circumcision and the Law ever were ordained."
VERSE 8. Preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall
all nations be blessed.
The Scriptures ascribe no righteousness to Abraham except through faith. The
Scriptures speak of Abraham as he stands before God, a man justified by
faith. Because of his faith God extends to him the promise: "In thee shall
all nations be blessed."
VERSE 9. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful
The blessing is the promise of the Gospel. That all nations are to be blessed
means that all nations are to hear the Gospel. All nations are to be declared
righteous before God through faith in Christ Jesus. To bless simply means to
spread abroad the knowledge of Christ's salvation. This is the office of the
New Testament Church which distributes the promised blessing by preaching
the Gospel, by administering the sacraments, by comforting the broken-
hearted, in short, by dispensing the benefits of Christ.
The Jews exhibited a working Abraham. The Pope exhibits a working Christ, or
an exemplary Christ. The Pope quotes Christ's saying recorded in John 13:15,
"I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." We do
not deny that Christians ought to imitate the example of Christ; but mere
imitation will not satisfy God. And bear in mind that Paul is not now
discussing the example of Christ, but the salvation of Christ.
That Abraham submitted to circumcision at the command of God, that he was
endowed with excellent virtues, that he obeyed God in all things, was
certainly admirable of him. To follow the example of Christ, to love one's
neighbor, to do good to them that persecute you, to pray for one's enemies,
patiently to bear the ingratitude of those who return evil for good, is
certainly praiseworthy. But praiseworthy or not, such virtues do not acquit
us before God. It takes more than that to make us righteous before God. We
need Christ Himself, not His example, to save us. We need a redeeming, not an
exemplary Christ, to save us. Paul is here speaking of the redeeming Christ
and the believing Abraham, not of the model Christ or the sweating Abraham.
The believing Abraham is not to lie buried in the grave. He is to be dusted
off and brought out before the world. He is to be praised to the sky for his
faith. Heaven and earth ought to know about him and about his faith in
Christ. The working Abraham ought to look pretty small next to the believing
Paul's words contain the implication of contrast. When he quotes Scripture to
the effect that all nations that share the faith of faithful Abraham are to
be blessed, Paul means to imply the contrast that all nations are accursed
without faith in Christ.
VERSE 10. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the
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
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.
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
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
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
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
thine 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
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-
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 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.
VERSE 12. But, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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 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.
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 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
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
VERSE 18. But God gave it to Abraham by promise.
The Apostle now goes to work to explain the province and purpose of the
VERSE 19. Wherefore then serveth the law?
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
VERSE 19. It was added because of transgressions.
The Twofold Purpose of the Law
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
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.
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
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.
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 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.
VERSE 20. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one.
Thus covered, the Law no longer spoke to the people in its undisguised
majesty. It became more tolerable to the conscience. This explains why
men fail to understand the Law properly, with the result that they become
secure and presumptuous hypocrites. One of two things has to be done:
Either the Law must be covered with a veil and then it loses its full
effectiveness, or it must be unveiled and then the full blast of its force
kills. Man cannot stand the Law without a veil over it. Hence, we are
forced either to look beyond the Law to Christ, or we go through life as
shameless hypocrites and secure sinners.
Paul says: "A mediator is not a mediator of one." Moses could not be a
mediator of God only, for God needs no mediator. Again, Moses could not be a
mediator of the people only. He was a mediator between God and the people. It
is the office of a mediator to conciliate the party that is offended and to
placate the party that is the offender. However, Moses' mediation consisted
only in changing the tone of the Law to make it more tolerable to the people.
Moses was merely a mediator of the veil. He could not supply the ability to
perform the Law.
What do you suppose would have happened if the Law had been given
without a mediator and the people had been denied the services of a go-
between? The people would have perished, or in case they had escaped
they would have required the services of another mediator to preserve
them alive and to keep the Law in force. Moses came along and he was
made the mediator. He covered his face with a veil. But that is as much as
he could do. He could not deliver men's consciences from the terror of the
Law. The sinner needs a better mediator.
That better mediator is Jesus Christ. He does not change the voice of the
Law, nor does He hide the Law with a veil. He takes the full blast of the
wrath of the Law and fulfills its demands most meticulously.
Of this better Mediator Paul says: "A mediator is not a mediator of one."
We are the offending party; God is the party offended. The offense is of
such a nature that God cannot pardon it. Neither can we render adequate
satisfaction for our offenses. There is discord between God and us. Could
not God revoke His Law? No. How about running away from God? It
cannot be done. It took Christ to come between us and God and to
reconcile God to us. How did Christ do it? "Blotting out the handwriting
of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out
of the way, nailing it to his cross." (Col. 2:14.)
This one word, "mediator," is proof enough that the Law cannot justify.
Otherwise we should not need a mediator.
In Christian theology the Law does not justify. In fact it has the contrary
effect. The Law alarms us, it magnifies our sins until we begin to hate the
Law and its divine Author. Would you call this being justified by the Law?
Can you imagine a more arrant outrage than to hate God and to abhor His
Law? What an excellent Law it is. Listen: "I am the Lord thy God, which
have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other gods. . .showing mercy unto thousands . . .
honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land. . ."
(Ex. 20:2, 3, 6, 12.) Are these not excellent laws, perfect wisdom? "Let
not God speak with us, lest we die," cried the children of Israel. Is it not
amazing that a person should refuse to hear things that are good for him?
Any person would be glad to hear, I should think, that he has a gracious
God who shows mercy unto thousands. Is it not amazing that people hate
the Law that promotes their safety and welfare, e.g., "Thou shalt not kill;
thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal"?
The Law can do nothing for us except to arouse the conscience. Before the
Law comes to me I feel no sin. But when the Law comes, sin, death, and
hell are revealed to me. You would not call this being made righteous.
You would call it being condemned to death and hell-fire.
VERSE 20. But God is one.
VERSE 21. Is the law then against the promises of God?
Paul answers: "Not so. On the contrary, if we pay too much attention to
the Law the promises of God will be slowed up. How can God fulfill His
promises to a people that hates the Law?"
VERSE 21. God forbid.
This is aimed especially at the Jews who think that the promises of God
are impeded by their sins. Paul says: "The Lord is not slack concerning His
promises because of our sins, or hastens His promises because of any merit
on our part." God's promises are not influenced by our attitudes. They rest
in His goodness and mercy.
Just because the Law increases sin, it does not therefore obstruct the
promises of God. The Law confirms the promises, in that it prepares a
person to look for the fulfillment of the promises of God in Christ.
The proverb has it that Hunger is the best cook. The Law makes afflicted
consciences hungry for Christ. Christ tastes good to them. Hungry hearts
appreciate Christ. Thirsty souls are what Christ wants. He invites them:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you
rest." Christ's benefits are so precious that He will dispense them only to
those who need them and really desire them.
VERSE 21. For if there had been a law given which could have given
life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
Despite the intelligibility of Paul's statement, our enemies fail to grasp it.
Otherwise they would not emphasize free will, natural strength, the works
of supererogation, etc. To escape the charge of forgery they always have
their convenient annotation handy, that Paul is referring only to the
ceremonial and not to the moral law. But Paul includes all laws. He
expressly says: "If there had been a law given."
There is no law by which righteousness may be obtained, not a single one.
VERSE 22. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin.
Next, Holy Writ "concludes" all under sin in this passage from Paul: "For
as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse." Again, in the
passage which the Apostle quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26, "Cursed is
every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book
of the law to do them." This passage clearly submits all men to the curse,
not only those who sin openly against the Law, but also those who
sincerely endeavor to perform the Law, inclusive of monks, friars,
The conclusion is inevitable: Faith alone justified without works. If the Law
itself cannot justify, much less can imperfect performance of the Law or the
works of the Law, justify.
VERSE 22. That the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to
them that believe.
VERSE 23. But before faith came.
VERSE 23. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up
unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
The Law enforces good behavior, at least outwardly. We obey the Law
because if we don't we will be punished. Our obedience is inspired by fear.
We obey under duress and we do it resentfully. Now what kind of
righteousness is this when we refrain from evil out of fear of
punishment? Hence, the righteousness of the Law is at bottom nothing
but love of sin and hatred of righteousness.
All the same, the Law accomplishes this much, that it will outwardly at
least and to a certain extent repress vice and crime.
But the Law is also a spiritual prison, a veritable hell. When the Law
begins to threaten a person with death and the eternal wrath of God, a
man just cannot find any comfort at all. He cannot shake off at will the
nightmare of terror which the Law stirs up in his conscience. Of this terror
of the Law the Psalms furnish many glimpses.
The Law is a civil and a spiritual prison. And such it should be. For that
the Law is intended. Only the confinement in the prison of the Law must
not be unduly prolonged. It must come to an end. The freedom of faith
must succeed the imprisonment of the Law.
Happy the person who knows how to utilize the Law so that it serves the
purposes of grace and of faith. Unbelievers are ignorant of this happy
knowledge. When Cain was first shut up in the prison of the Law he felt
no pang at the fratricide he had committed. He thought he could pass it off
as an incident with a shrug of the shoulder. "Am I my brother's keeper?"
he answered God flippantly. But when he heard the ominous words,
"What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me
from the ground," Cain began to feel his imprisonment. Did he know how
to get out of prison? No. He failed to call the Gospel to his aid. He said:
"My punishment is greater than I can bear." He could only think of the
prison. He forgot that he was brought face to face with his crime so that he
should hurry to God for mercy and for pardon. Cain remained in the
prison of the Law and despaired.
As a stone prison proves a physical handicap, so the spiritual prison of the
Law proves a chamber of torture. But this it should only be until faith be
revealed. The silly conscience must be educated to this. Talk to your
conscience. Say: "Sister, you are now in jail all right. But you don't have to
stay there forever. It is written that we are 'shut up unto faith which
should afterwards be revealed.' Christ will lead you to freedom. Do not
despair like Cain, Saul, or Judas. They might have gone free if they had
called Christ to their aid. Just take it easy, Sister Conscience. It's good
for you to be locked up for a while. It will teach you to appreciate Christ."
How anybody can say that he by nature loves the Law is beyond me. The
Law is a prison to be feared and hated. Any unconverted person who says
he loves the Law is a liar. He does not know what he is talking about. We
love the Law about as well as a murderer loves his gloomy cell, his
straight-jacket, and the iron bars in front of him. How then can the Law
VERSE 23. Shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
Accordingly each Christian continues to experience in his heart times of
the Law and times of the Gospel. The times of the Law are discernible by
heaviness of heart, by a lively sense of sin, and a feeling of despair brought
on by the Law. These periods of the Law will come again and again as long
as we live. To mention my own case. There are many times when I find
fault with God and am impatient with Him. The wrath and the judgment
of God displease me, my wrath and impatience displease Him. Then is the
season of the Law, when "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit
against the flesh."
The time of grace returns when the heart is enlivened by the promise of
God's mercy. It soliloquizes: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and
why art thou disquieted within me? Can you see nothing but law, sin,
death, and hell? Is there no grace, no forgiveness, no joy, peace, life,
heaven, no Christ and God? Trouble me no more, my soul. Hope in God
who has not spared His own dear Son but has given Him into death for
thy sins." When the Law carries things too far, say: "Mister Law, you are
not the whole show. There are other and better things than you. They tell
me to trust in the Lord."
There is a time for the Law and a time for grace. Let us study to be good
timekeepers. It is not easy. Law and grace may be miles apart in essence,
but in the heart, they are pretty close together. In the heart fear and trust,
sin and grace, Law and Gospel cross paths continually.
Whether reason hears that justification before God is obtained by grace
alone, it draws the inference that the Law is without value. The doctrine
of the Law must therefore be studied carefully lest we either reject the Law
altogether, or are tempted to attribute to the Law a capacity to save.
There are three ways in which the Law may be abused. First, by the self-
righteous hypocrites who fancy that they can be justified by the Law.
Secondly, by those who claim that Christian liberty exempts a Christian
from the observance of the Law. "These," says Peter, "use their liberty for a
cloak of maliciousness," and bring the name and the Gospel of Christ into
ill repute. Thirdly, the Law is abused by those who do not understand that
the Law is meant to drive us to Christ. When the Law is properly used its
value cannot be too highly appraised. It will take me to Christ every time.
VERSE 24. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto
But how long are the scolding and the whippings of the schoolmaster to
continue? Only for a time, until the boy has been trained to be a worthy
heir of his father. No father wants his son to be whipped all the time. The
discipline is to last until the boy has been trained to be his father's worthy
The Law is such a schoolmaster. Not for always, but until we have been
brought to Christ. The Law is not just another schoolmaster. The Law is a
specialist to bring us to Christ. What would you think of a schoolmaster
who could only torment and beat a child? Yet of such schoolmasters there
were plenty in former times, regular bruisers. The Law is not that kind of a
schoolmaster. It is not to torment us always. With its lashings it is only too
anxious to drive us to Christ. The Law is like the good schoolmaster who
trains his children to find pleasure in doing things they formerly detested.
VERSE 24. That we might be justified by faith.
The Law means to enlarge my sins, to make me small, so that I may be
justified by faith in Christ. Faith is neither law nor word; but confidence in
Christ "who is the end of the law." How so is Christ the end of the Law?
Not in this way that He replaced the old Law with new laws. Nor is Christ
the end of the Law in a way that makes Him a hard judge who has to be
bribed by works as the papists teach. Christ is the end or finish of the Law
to all who believe in Him. The Law can no longer accuse or condemn them.
But what does the Law accomplish for those who have been justified by
Christ? Paul answers this question next.
VERSE 25. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a
As far as the conscience is concerned it may cheerfully ignore the Law. But
because sin continues to dwell in the flesh, the Law waits around to
molest our conscience. More and more, however, Christ increases our
faith and in the measure in which our faith is increased, sin, Law, and
If anybody objects to the Gospel and the sacraments on the ground that
Christ has taken away our sins once and for always, you will know what to
answer. You will answer: Indeed, Christ has taken away my sins. But my
flesh, the world, and the devil interfere with my faith. The little light of
faith in my heart does not shine all over me at once. It is a gradual
diffusion. In the meanwhile I console myself with the thought that
eventually my flesh will be made perfect in the resurrection.
VERSE 26. For we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
VERSE 27. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have
put on Christ.
To put on Christ according to the Gospel means to clothe oneself with the
righteousness, wisdom, power, life, and Spirit of Christ. By nature we are
clad in the garb of Adam. This garb Paul likes to call "the old man." Before
we can become the children of God this old man must be put off, as Paul
says, Ephesians 4:29. The garment of Adam must come off like soiled
clothes. Of course, it is not as simple as changing one's clothes. But God
makes it simple. He clothes us with the righteousness of Christ by means
of Baptism, as the Apostle says in this verse: "As many of you as have
been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." With this change of
garments a new birth, a new life stirs in us. New affections toward God
spring up in the heart. New determinations affect our will. All this is to
put on Christ according to the Gospel. Needless to say, when we have put
on the robe of the righteousness of Christ we must not forget to put on
also the mantle of the imitation of Christ.
VERSE 28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor
free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ
With this statement Paul deals a death blow to the Law. When a person
has put on Christ nothing else matters. Whether a person is a Jew, a
punctilious and circumcised observer of the Law of Moses, or whether a
person is a noble and wise Greek does not matter. Circumstances, personal
worth, character, achievements have no bearing upon justification. Before
God they count for nothing. What counts is that we put on Christ.
Whether a servant performs his duties well; whether those who are in
authority govern wisely; whether a man marries, provides for his family,
and is an honest citizen; whether a woman is chaste, obedient to her
husband, and a good mother: all these advantages do not qualify a person
for salvation. These virtues are commendable, of course; but they do not
count points for justification. All the best laws, ceremonies, religions, and
deeds of the world cannot take away sin guilt, cannot dispatch death,
cannot purchase life.
There is much disparity among men in the world, but there is no such
disparity before God. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of
God." (Romans 3:23.) Let the Jews, let the Greeks, let the whole world keep
silent in the presence of God. Those who are justified are justified by
Christ. Without faith in Christ the Jew with his laws, the monk with his
holy orders, the Greek with his wisdom, the servant with his obedience,
shall perish forever.
VERSE 28. For ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
VERSE 29. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs
according to the promise.