Category Archives: Galatians

“The merciful One” by Martin Luther

“Christ came into the world so that He might take hold of us and so that we, by gazing upon Christ, might be drawn and carried directly to the Father.

As we have warned you before, there is no hope that any saving knowledge of God can come by speculating about the majesty of God; this can come only by taking hold of Christ, who, by the will of the Father, has given Himself into death for our sins.

When you have grasped this, then all wrath stops, and fear and trembling disappear; and God appears as nothing but the merciful One who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all (Rom. 8:32).”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 26; Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 26: 42.

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“It cannot be grasped or held enough or too much” by Martin Luther

“It should not bore you if we repeat here what we teach, preach, sing, and write at other times and places. For if we lose the doctrine of justification, we lose simply everything.

Hence the most necessary and important thing is that we teach and repeat this doctrine daily, as Moses says about his Law (Deut. 6:7). For it cannot be grasped or held enough or too much. In fact, though we may urge and inculcate it vigorously, no one grasps it perfectly or believes it with all his heart.

So frail is our flesh and so disobedient to the Spirit!”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 26; Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 26: 26.

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“Take hold of Him and cling to Him with all your heart” by Martin Luther

“If you want to be safe and out of danger to your conscience and your salvation, put a check on this speculative spirit.

Take hold of God as Scripture instructs you (1 Cor. 1:21, 24): “Since, in wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Therefore begin where Christ began—in the Virgin’s womb, in the manger, and at His mother’s breasts. For this purpose He came down, was born, lived among men, suffered, was crucified, and died, so that in every possible way He might present Himself to our sight. He wanted us to fix the gaze of our hearts upon Himself and thus to prevent us from clambering into heaven and speculating about the Divine Majesty.

Therefore whenever you consider the doctrine of justification and wonder how or where or in what condition to find a God who justifies or accepts sinners, then you must know that there is no other God than this Man Jesus Christ.

Take hold of Him; cling to Him with all your heart, and spurn all speculation about the Divine Majesty; for whoever investigates the majesty of God will be consumed by His glory. I know from experience what I am talking about.

But these fanatics, who deal with God apart from this Man, will not believe me. Christ Himself says: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6).

Outside Christ, the Way, therefore, you will find no other way to the Father; you will find only wandering, not truth, but hypocrisy and lies, not life, but eternal death.

Take note, therefore, in the doctrine of justification or grace that when we all must struggle with the Law, sin, death, and the devil, we must look at no other God than this incarnate and human God.”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 26; Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 26: 29.

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“Christ is truly God by nature” by Martin Luther

“The true deity of Christ is proved by this conclusion: Paul attributes to Him the ability to grant the very same things that the Father does—grace, peace of conscience, the forgiveness of sins, life, and victory over sin, death, the devil, and hell.

This would be illegitimate, in fact, sacrilegious, if Christ were not true God. For no one grants peace unless he himself has it in his hands. But since Christ grants it, He must have it in His hands.

Christ gives grace and peace, not as the apostles did, by preaching the Gospel, but as its Author and Creator. The Father creates and gives life, grace, peace, etc.; the Son creates and gives the very same things.

To give grace, peace, eternal life, the forgiveness of sins, justification, life, and deliverance from death and the devil—these are the works, not of any creature but only of the Divine Majesty.

The angels can neither create these things nor grant them. Therefore these works belong only to the glory of the sovereign Majesty, the Maker of all things.

And since Paul attributes the very same power to create and give all this to Christ just as much as to the Father, it follows necessarily that Christ is truly God by nature.”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 26; Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 26: 31.

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“These words are a veritable thunderbolt from heaven” by Martin Luther

“In a sense Paul treats the argument of this epistle in every word. He has nothing in his mouth but Christ.

Therefore in every word there is a fervor of spirit and life. Note how precisely he speaks.

He does not say: “Who has received our works from us” or “Who has received the sacrifices required by the Law of Moses—acts of worship, monastic orders, Masses, vows, and pilgrimages.”

Instead, he says: “Who has given.” Has given what? Neither gold nor silver nor cattle nor Passover lambs nor an angel, but “Himself.”

For what? Neither for a crown nor for a kingdom nor for our holiness or righteousness, but “for our sins.”

These words are a veritable thunderbolt from heaven against every kind of righteousness, as is the statement (John 1:29): “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Therefore we must pay careful attention to every word and not look at it casually or pass over it lightly; for these words are filled with comfort, and they give great encouragement to timid consciences.”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 26; Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 26: 32.

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“If the doctrine of justification is lost” by Martin Luther

“In this epistle, therefore, Paul is concerned to instruct, comfort, and sustain us diligently in a perfect knowledge of this most excellent and Christian righteousness. For if the doctrine of justification is lost, the whole of Christian doctrine is lost.”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 26; Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 26: 9.

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“On His shoulders, not on mine, lie all my sins” by Martin Luther

“The main knowledge and true wisdom of Christians, then, is this: to regard as very serious and true these words of Paul, that Christ was given over to death, not for our righteousness or holiness but for our sins, which are real sins—great, many, in fact, infinite and invincible.

Therefore you must not think of them as minor or suppose that your own works can remove them. Nor must you despair on account of their gravity if you feel them oppressing you either in life or in death. But you must learn from Paul here to believe that Christ was given, not for sham or counterfeit sins, nor yet for small sins, but for great and huge sins; not for one or two sins but for all sins; not for sins that have been overcome—for neither man nor angel is able to overcome even the tiniest sin—but for invincible sins. And unless you are part of the company of those who say “our sins,” that is, who have this doctrine of faith and who teach, hear, learn, love, and believe it, there is no salvation for you.

Therefore you must make thorough preparations not only for the time of temptation but also for the time and struggle of death. Then your conscience will be terrified by the recollection of your past sins. The devil will attack you vigorously and will try to swamp you with piles, floods, and whole oceans of sins, in order to frighten you, draw you away from Christ, and plunge you into despair.

Then you must be able to say with confident assurance:

“Christ, the Son of God, was given, not for righteousness and for saints but for unrighteousness and for sinners. If I were righteous and without sin, I would have no need of Christ as my Propitiator. Satan, you cantankerous saint, why do you try to make me feel holy and look for righteousness in myself, when in fact there is nothing in me but sins, and real and serious sins at that? These are not counterfeit or trivial sins; they are sins against the First Table, namely, infidelity, doubt, despair, contempt for God, hatred, ignorance, blasphemy, ingratitude, the abuse of the name of God, neglect, loathing, and contempt for the Word of God, and the like. In addition, there are sins of the flesh against the Second Table: failure to honor my parents, disobedience to rulers, coveting another man’s property, wife, etc., although these vices are less grave than those against the First Table. Of course, I have not been guilty of murder, adultery, theft, and other sins like those against the Second Table. Nevertheless, I have committed them in my heart; therefore I have broken every one of God’s Commandments, and the number of my sins is so great that an ox’s hide would not hold them; they are innumerable. For the sins I have committed are more in number than the sands of the sea.”

The devil is such a clever trickster that he can make great sins out of my righteousness and good works. Because my sins are so grave, so real, so great, so infinite, so horrible, and so invincible that my righteousness does me no good but rather puts me at a disadvantage before God, therefore Christ, the Son of God, was given into death for my sins, to abolish them and thus to save all men who believe.

The meaning of eternal salvation, then, consists in taking these words to be serious and true. I am not speaking empty words. I have often experienced, and still do every day, how difficult it is to believe, especially amid struggles of conscience, that Christ was given, not for the holy, righteous, and deserving, or for those who were His friends, but for the godless, sinful, and undeserving, for those who were His enemies, who deserved the wrath of God and eternal death.

Therefore let us fortify ourselves with these and similar statements of Paul. When the devil accuses us and says: “You are a sinner; therefore you are damned,” then we can answer him and say: “Because you say that I am a sinner, therefore I shall be righteous and be saved.”

“No,” says the devil, “you will be damned.”

“No,” I say, “for I take refuge in Christ, who has given Himself for my sins. Therefore, Satan, you will not prevail against me as you try to frighten me by showing me the magnitude of my sins and to plunge me into anguish, loss of faith, despair, hatred, contempt of God, and blasphemy. In fact, when you say that I am a sinner, you provide me with armor and weapons against yourself, so that I may slit your throat with your own sword and trample you underfoot. You yourself are preaching the glory of God to me; for you are reminding me, a miserable and condemned sinner, of the fatherly love of God, who ‘so loved the world that He gave His only Son, etc.’ (John 3:16). You are reminding me of the blessing of Christ my Redeemer. On His shoulders, not on mine, lie all my sins. For ‘the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all,’ and ‘for the transgressions of His people He was stricken’ (Is. 53:6, 8). Therefore when you say that I am a sinner, you do not frighten me; but you bring me immense consolation.”

Anyone who understands this strategy can easily avoid all the tricks of the devil, who kills a man and leads him to hell by reminding him of his sin unless the man resists him with this strategy and Christian wisdom, by which alone sin, death, and the devil are vanquished.

But anyone who does not get rid of the memory of his sin but holds on to it and tortures himself with his own thoughts, supposing either that he can help himself by his own strength or that he can wait until his conscience has been pacified, falls into Satan’s trap, which Satan has set to ensnare men, destroys himself with sorrow, and is finally overcome completely. For the devil never stops accusing his conscience. This sly serpent really knows how to present Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Savior, as a lawgiver, judge, and condemner.

Against this temptation we must use these words of Paul in which he gives this very good and true definition of Christ: “Christ is the Son of God and of the Virgin; He was delivered and put to death for our sins.”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 26; Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 26: 35-37.

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