Martin Luther: Christ’s Duel with Sin

20 12 2011

What a wonderful excerpt from Luther’s 1535 commentary on Galatians.  Below Luther outlines a duel between Christ’s eternal righteousness and sin’s most powerful destructive force.  It is edifying and fascinating to see how he works it out.  Enjoy!

This is the most joyous of all doctrines and the one that contains the most comfort. It teaches that we have the indescribable and inestimable mercy and love of God. When the merciful Father saw that we were being oppressed through teh Law, that we were being held under a curse, and that we could not be liberated from it by anything, He sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all men upon Him, and said to Him: “Be Peter the denier, Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who at the apple in Paradise; the thief on teh cross. In short, be the person of all men, the one who has committed the sins of all men. And see to it that You pay and make satisfaction for them.” Now the Law comes and says: “I find HIm a sinner, who takes upon Himself the sins of all men. I do not see any other sins than those in Him. Therefore let Him die on the cross!” And so it attacks Him and kills Him. By this deed the whole world is purged and expiated from all sins, and thus it is set free from death and from every evil. But when sin and death have been abolished by this one man, God does not want to see anything else in the whole world, especially if it were to believe, except the sheer cleansing and righteousness. And if any remnants of sin were to remain, still for the sake of Christ, the shining Sun, God would not notice them.

This is how we must magnify the doctrine of Christian righteousness in opposition to the righteousness of teh Law and of works, even though there is no voice or eloquence that can properly understand, much less express its greatness. Therefore the argument that Paul presents here is the most powerful and the highest of all against all righteousness of the flesh; for it contains the invinncible and irrefutable antithesis: If the sins of teh entire world are on that one man, Jesus Christ, then they are not on the world. But if they are not on Him, then they are still on the world. Again, if Christ Himself is made guilty of all the sins that we have all committed, then we are absolved from all sins, not through ourselves or through our own works or merits but through Him. But if He is innocent and does not carry our sins, then we carry them and shall die and be damned in them. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.” (1 Cor 15.57)

Now let us see how two such etremely contrary things come together in this Person. Not only my sins and yours, but the sins of the entire world, past, present, and future attack Him, try to damn Him, and do in fact damn Him. But because in the same Person, who is the highest, the greatest, and the only sinner, there is also eternal and invincible righteousness, therefore these two converge: the highest, the greatest, and the only sin; and the highest, the greatest, and the only righteousness. Here oneof them must yield and be conquered, since they come together and collide with such a powerful impact. Thus the sin of the entire world attacks righteousness with the greatest possible impact and fury. What happens? Righteousness is eternal, immortal, and invincible. Sin, too, is a very powerful and cruel tyrant, dominating and ruling over the whole world, capturing and enslaving all men. In short, sin is a great and powerful god who devours the whole human race, all the learned, holy, powerful, wise, and the unlearned as well. He, I say, attacks Christ and wants to devour Him as he has devoured all the rest. But he does not see that He is a Person of invincible and eternal righteousness. In this duel, therefore, it is necessary for sin to be conquered and killed, and for righeousness to prevail and live. Thus in Christ all sin is conquered, killed, and buried; and righteousness remains the victor and the ruler eternally.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians 1535, American Edition, pg 280-281


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1 04 2013
'Penal Substitution', anyone? - Page 11 - Christian Forums

[…] work", present only in the realm of the Law. Jesus did take all sin and die for it. See Martin Luther: Christ’s Duel with Sin | Awakening Grace (a quotation from his commentary on Galatians). However the usual form of penal satisfaction […]

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