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Author: Subject: 002.000 Sermon: About the Justification of people, [CHI, Serbin Collection] 19 Mar 1865
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[*] posted on 5-13-2015 at 10:49 PM
002.000 Sermon: About the Justification of people, [CHI, Serbin Collection] 19 Mar 1865


[This sermon is the same as 087.300 in Texas Wends: Letter and Documents.]

[Note: The German text provided to this translator has been left intact, except for adjustments to reflect the wording of Luther’s translation of the Bible into German, even though it contains some terms and expressions which do not suit the context or subject matter. The translator has used his best judgment to infer what would be more appropriate. The number in the body of the sermon represent the 20 pages of the original handwritten in Wendish sermon document. The sermon was first transliterated into Wendish and translated into German by Martin Strauch. It was then translated into English by Ray Martens.]

Read in the church on Dom Oculi [third Sunday in Lent], March 19, 1865

Sermon on the Epistle for the Sunday after Christmas: Galatians 4:1-7:

What I am saying is that so long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

What an Epistle lesson from Paul this is! For that reason it will not be understood by many, not because it is too vague or difficult, but because the teaching about this article of faith has disappeared from the world so completely, one without which it is impossible to understand Paul, who with full power and clarity insists on this article of faith in all his letters. Therefore, we shall need some words to throw light upon it and to speak in an altogether open way about it. So let this be a preface and introduction to this matter.

About the Justification of People

We must know that it is one thing where the subject is good works and another where justification is being taught, just as the being or personhood of someone is something different from his deed or work. Justification surely refers to the person and not to his deeds, because it is the person and not his deeds which are declared holy or condemned. Thus it is also sure that no deed makes a person just, but the person must first be just through something else without any deeds.

This is what Moses says in Genesis [4:4]: “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering.” First he looked at Abel, the person, and afterward at his offering, so that it is the person who first is just and approved, and that applies to the offering because of the person, and not to the person because of the offering. “But on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.” First he did not look with favor on Cain and then also not on his offering.

From this point on it counts as certain that it is not possible for a deed to be good before God unless the person is good and accepted already beforehand. And, furthermore, it is also impossible that a deed would be evil before God unless the person is evil and not accepted already beforehand. So now we have said enough about the fact that there are two kinds of good deeds—some before being justified and others after. Those which precede exist merely as glitter and display nothing significant. Those, however, which follow are truly good.

This is the dispute between God and those who are proudly “holy.” Here one’s nature fights against and is angry with the Holy Spirit—one reads that throughout the Bible. God concludes in the Bible that all deeds which occurred before justification are evil and ineffectual. First he wishes that the person be just and good. Secondly, he concluded that all people by nature and by birth are unjust and evil, as it says in Psalm 116[:11], “All men are liars.” And in Genesis 6[:5], that all the thoughts and inclinations of the human heart are always only evil and that, for this reason, a person can accomplish no good deeds. What things he does of his own accord are all merely deeds like those of Cain.

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Here one’s nature enters and trusts itself to approach God and say that good works exist also before justification and that they are not like those of Cain, as God says, and that they are so good that a person becomes good through them because, as Aristotle taught, whoever does much good by way of that becomes good. One’s nature holds tight to this and disagrees with the Bible and says that God must first look at the good works and only afterward at the person.

Secondly, because one’s nature builds only on deeds and does not pay attention to the person and to justification, it goes even further and ascribes also the deeds after justification to one’s service and righteousness and says, “Faith without works is nothing,” as St. James says. But they misunderstand this and assign little meaning to faith and cling firmly to deeds by which they wish to ingratiate themselves to God so that he might also value them highly on their account.

And so both positions oppose each other steadfastly. God looks at the person, Cain at the deeds. God would like to give the [evil] deeds of men their due, and Cain put crowns on the heads of people because of their deeds. But God does not forsake his point of view, which is right, but those who think like Cain also do not ever wish to be moved from their erroneous opinions. Their “good” deeds should not receive their due, their reason should not be despised, and their free will should not be denied, unless they get angry with God and kill their brother on that account, as one can hear everywhere and always.

Then you say, “What shall I do then? How shall I become good and pleasing? How do I achieve righteousness?” About that the Gospel says, “You should listen to God and believe in him and doubt yourself and think about how Cain might have become like Abel and then made his offering.” In this way faith is proclaimed without all your deeds and all your merit, and in this way faith is granted without your service out of pure grace.

Yes, this very thing makes people into real people and is itself righteousness. God makes a gift of it and forgives all sins, even the Old Adam and Cain as well, for the sake of Christ, his beloved Son, whose name is in this faith. He also gives him his Holy Spirit and changes the person into a new person who has a different understanding and a new will, one which would like to do good with enthusiasm. Such a person, where such a one is, accomplishes only good deeds, and what he does is good.

So, it is sufficient for achieving righteousness to listen to and to believe in Christ, our Redeemer. Neither, however, is the work of one’s nature, but of faith. Whoever believes, however, that he can achieve righteousness with deeds, impedes the Gospel, faith, Christ, God, and everything.

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On the other hand, nothing other than righteousness attaches to good deeds. For whoever is righteous does good, no one else; and whatever right he does is always right without any allocation of deeds, so that the salvation of people works like this: First and before everything else, listen to and believe the Word of God, then do what you do, and you will be saved. Whoever reverses this order [in his teaching] does not come from God.

Paul describes this order of events in Romans 10[:13-15a]: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?”

For this reason Christ teaches us that we should pray to the Lord that he send laborers into his harvest. These are the true preachers. If they come, they preach the correct word of God. If the people hear it, they can believe it. This faith, however, makes the person righteous and pious. Such a one is called to God and does only what is good. In this way the person is saved. And, on the other hand, one who does what is “good” without faith is condemned, as Christ says, “Whoever does not believe will be condemned.” No accomplishment of deeds will help. Now take a look at the habits and the words among people who often say, “Well, I would still like to be pious,” “Well, we must be pious,” etc. If you were to ask them, “My dear friends, how should we start to become pious and to be pious?” they would begin to explain, “Well, we must pray, fast, go to church, forsake our sins, etc.” Yes, those are people like Cain with deeds like Cain’s. [Translator’s note: Kilian apparently coined a term which one can find in no Wendish or German dictionary, and one which people would hardly understand had he not begun his sermon by characterizing Cain as one who was angered that God looked at the heart of a person rather than at his deed. Die Kainischen here and throughout his sermon apparently refers to people who think the same way.] For these people remain as they were, and no righteousness is to be found in them, only outward changes in their behavior, clothes, places, and shapes.

About such people Christ says in the Gospel [Luke 13:24], “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Well, why not? Because they do know which is the door that leads to glory. Faith makes a person small, nothing, in fact, so that a person must despair of all his deeds and cling only to the grace of God himself and give up on everything else. But religious people who think like Cain suppose that the door to glory is accessible through good deeds and therefore do not submit themselves nor despair of their own good deeds. Yes, they gather together around their own kind and wish with their help to push themselves in and so cross through the door, as a camel with its great hump would like to go through the eye of a needle.

If you now inform them about faith, they only laugh and wonder whether you perhaps take them to be Turks or unbelievers who must first acquire faith. Who does not know what to believe? Even obvious sinners know that. Therefore, because they claim to be full of faith, they believe that one now

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recognizes them by their deeds and with that forget about faith. For they do not know and do not teach about the only one who makes people righteous.

What they call faith is that they have heard about Christ and say that it all true—just like believing in the devil—and, nevertheless, do not become pious. But that is not Christian faith, in fact, more like fear than faith. It is of no value to a person, if he wishes to be a Christian, to believe that everything said about Christ is true, as religious people in the tradition of Cain believe. A person should not, however, doubt or be unsure about the fact that he is one of those who has been given grace and mercy and that he has received these with certainty through Baptism and the Sacrament [of the Altar].

If he believes that, he should say freely of his own accord that he is holy, righteous, and a child of God, and that his salvation is sure, without any doubt, and not because of himself or his service and deeds. Much more he should believe in God’s love and mercy which he has received through Christ. He counts these so important, as indeed they are, that he does not doubt that they make him holy and a child of God. And should he doubt them, he is denying Baptism and the Sacrament [of the Altar].

Here there dare be neither fear nor wavering about whether he is pious and a child of God, but only the concern that he might forever stay that way. That should be his concern because here is where salvation is to be found. Lack of surety and fear attach to whether he will persist and secure it. On this account must we have our misgivings. For such faith is not proud of its deeds nor of itself, but of God and his grace.

I can also not abandon these as long as pride is attached to this grace. How long that may be true one does not know, nor whether some temptation could dissuade him from believing it any longer. Then faith would stop.

If those who think like Cain hear of this faith, they defend themselves with hands and feet and say, “Well, God help me, am I to say that I am pious and holy? How should I be so proud and courageous? No, no, I am a poor sinner.” Yes, in this way this belief finally must be seen by you as heresy by which the entire Gospel is corrupted.

These are the people who deny the Christian faith and drive it from the whole world, people about whom St. Paul reported as he said, I Timothy 4[:1], that in later times some will abandon the faith. But you reply to them, “The prophet says in Psalm 86[:1]: Guard my soul, for I am holy. And St. Paul in Romans 8[:16]: The Holy Spirit

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himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Then they will answer, “Yes, the prophet and the apostle say that as a teaching and an example, but they were enlightened and it was revealed to them that they were saints.” And so they change the entire Scriptures, which teach this, suggesting that these are not teachings but several special miracles and signs which do not belong to all believers and the interpretation of which they prepare in their own heads. For, if they do not believe and also do not look for the Spirit, then they believe that no one needs to believe in or call on him, from which they become known clearly as the product of something within themselves, that they are thorns and thistles, not Christians, but enemies and the ruination of all Christians and followers of the Christian faith.

On the other hand, they have a belief of the kind that they think that they become pious and holy through their deeds and that God should grant them salvation on account of their deeds.
Yes, and it is supposed to be Christian to become pious through your deeds, but that you are and become pious through the grace of God is supposed to be heretical. Their deeds are supposed to be more, accomplish more, and be able to do more than the grace of God. Their faith may be proud about their deeds, but they do not want to take pride in the grace of God, and it serves them right that they are building on sand because they despise the rock and sink into their deeds and torment themselves to the credit of the devil because they do not believe in the grace of God and do not wish to serve God with enthusiasm.

For all who possess the Christian faith must through it live freely and peacefully in God and his grace, as through it they also become ready to accomplish good deeds. Good deeds, however, are those that are of use to the neighbor. Yes, they will be happy and ready to bear everything. For they do not doubt that God is with them, and they understand the grace of God.

For what is the law useful and necessary?

You might ask: If it is true that deeds do not make you a righteous person, but rather faith and hearing God’s Word, which should be preserved by us, for what, then, are the commandments useful and necessary? Why has God taught these so persistently? The answer: Now we come to this Epistle Lesson which wants to tell us why the commandments exist. The Galatians had learned the Christian teaching from St. Paul and then were alienated from it by some false preachers and fell back into their work-righteousness and believed that they would become pious through works. Therefore, Paul calls them back from works to faith and establishes in clear words that there are two kinds of works, and he says that those deeds which come before being justified and before faith are no good and make a person a slave. Faith, however,

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creates a child of God, after which come right and good works.

We must learn, however, from the Apostle and his words what it is that separates a slave from a child. He identifies as slaves those religious people who preach works, as children, however, the believing Christians who become and are righteous without works with no assistance but their faith. And this because the work-righteous person does not serve as a child and heir on the estate, but as a hired worker on an estate not his own. And, although the works of both are similar, the two are distinctly different in heart, conviction, and faith. The child has the conviction which thinks that he will remain an heir of the estate. But the slave thinks that finally he will have to go away and does not expect the inheritance, as Christ says, John 8[:35], “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” So it is with religious people like Cain, because, as they themselves recognize, they have no Christian faith by which to consider themselves children of God, nevertheless, they defend themselves with groundless boldness and yet remain caught up in doubt, and it happens to them just as they believe, namely, that they are neither children of God nor will they be saved. Even though they accomplish, practice, and are enthusiastic about works of the law, since they are slaves they remain slaves and receive for their efforts nothing more than a earthly wage to have enough on earth for their peace, honor, and good days. This is their pay; they are slaves and not children. On that account they will in death be cast out of the eternal inheritance, in which they never yet believed nor ever received it through faith in this life. Yes, in this way the deeds of the two are similar, but their hearts and faith are different.

Now the Apostle would like to say, as is also true, that commandments without this faith make only slaves out of all works. Only faith produces children. Neither commandments, nor deeds, nor one’s nature can produce this faith. Only the Gospel, if you listen to it, produces it. The message of grace and the Holy Spirit arrive subsequently if you quietly listen to the preaching, as happened with Cornelius (Acts 10), who received the Holy Spirit only after listening to St. Peter.

Commandments exist only so that a person may recognize through them that without grace he has the heart of a slave, not of a child, that he serves God without such faith and trust, and not even willingly. For they themselves recognize that they are without this trust. And once they understand this, they would also have to say that they would rather exist without commandments and that their will does not submit to them. So, everything with them is a forced matter without faith, and they have to recognize that they will progress no farther with the commandments. They should learn and recognize from the commandments that they are not children, but slaves, and that they must give up being slaves in order to be children and so attain righteousness through the grace of God and faith.

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That would be the right understanding and the right use of the commandments, even if they produced nothing other than that all those who live by them without faith would be converted by them and brought to the realization that they are slaves, that they are trying to be of use without determination and without faith in grace. The commandments wish that they examine themselves and learn how spineless they are without faith and then seek help elsewhere and not risk becoming righteous alone from within themselves. For the commandments would like for a person to become righteous willingly and as a child of God and to oppose the slaves and spineless people with hostility.

However, now they recognize that they do not believe, yes, that they even oppose that faith which makes a person a child of God, and they also sense how spineless they are. They would rather be free of commandments, but they risk trying to become pious through works. They would like to remain slaves and not become children and yet remain on the estate. That is why they do everything they do. They use the commandments, from which they should learn what kind of spineless slaves they are so that they would doubt themselves and grasp faith, which brings grace and makes them children of God, only to live by works and risk that they might become righteous in that way. With that they intentionally distort the purpose of the Law and in addition attack grace and faith and point to, drive, and push the commandments besides. In that way they remain forever blind, foolish, and working slaves. This is what St. Paul wishes, believes, and says confidently, Romans 3[:20], “No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the law.” Why not? He answers, “Through the law we merely become conscious of sin.” My dear friends, how does that happen? Take a look at one like Cain and you will find the answer.

First, he accomplishes all his deeds of the law with much effort and work and, yet, recognizes that he does not believe that he is a child of God and holy. Yes, he condemns such faith as a most atrocious audacity and as heresy. Beyond that, he would like to doubt and to wait and see whether he might become such a child with his works alone.

Yes, here you see very clearly that this person is neither good nor righteous because he does not have faith; indeed, he is even an enemy of such faith. Along with that he is an opponent of decency and righteousness. That means that his deeds are also not righteous, even though they might always appear to be in accord with the law. And now you understand that Paul is right, “No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the law.” For before God the person must be righteous in advance, before the deeds. In the view of people who judge by deeds and not by their thoughts or hearts, however, they are righteous through their deeds. People judge one another by their deeds; God judges deeds by the person.

The first command of the law demands that we honor God, that is, that we abandon ourselves to him, build on him, and entrust ourselves to him. What is true faith, that which produces children of God, allows you to recognize the sins in this person like Cain on the basis of the commandments, namely, his unbelief. You feel this way within yourself, whether you have faith or not, for without these commandments you will

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neither sense nor recognize it. Indeed, St. Paul is thinking of this when he says that sins are recognized through the law.

But now you cannot help yourself out of such unbelief; the commandments also do not make that possible. For that reason, all works with which you would like to become righteous with respect to the law must remain works of the law. They cannot make you righteous before God, who only values those who believe in him and are his children. Only they fulfill the law and cling to him as the true God.

For, even if you torment yourself with your works, nevertheless, your heart cannot create such faith, and you do not know what he is demanding in the law. Consequently, such a demonic, work-righteous person remains a pursuer of such faith and of the law precisely through his works, by which he risks that he would come to himself and recognize himself, despair of his self and his works, give God the honor, and with that take the stance that he is a nobody and can survive only by the grace of God, to which God has driven him through his law.

Then faith and grace come and fill those who ask by feeding them. After that, true good works follow, none of which are coerced by the law, but works of the Spirit and of grace, which the Bible calls the works of God which he allows us to do. For everything which God does not allow us to do through grace or whatever we may do out of ourselves without grace is certainly a work of the law which is of no value for achieving righteousness, but, because of unbelief, is directed against God and is therefore evil.

Secondly, he never does his works willingly and with a free and happy heart, unless you in advance allow him to do as he wishes and give him what he demands. He is just like a slave who does not do what he should unless you pursue him or allow him to do as he wishes. Such a household is more than annoying if you must always push and beg. In the same way, all people like Cain are irksome and unseemly before God because they do no works of the law except out of fear of hell and are driven and forced under the threat of punishment or because they are left to their own choices as God gives them enough freedom to allow them to do as they would like.

So you see again that they have neither heart nor enthusiasm for the law. They merely bargain to their own advantage or out of fear of punishment. There one recognizes how in the depths of their hearts they are enemies of the law and would rather not have it. When, therefore, the person is not good, his deeds are also not good, because they are forced and done out of fear, performed out of greed and left to their own choices.

Therefore, the law teaches one to recognize and to sense such base motives.

Now, certainly, all of this is sin before God. For what kind of holiness is it if

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you perform a deed with your hand and yet in your heart do not trust the law nor the Lawgiver? It is surely a sin if you do not trust the law.

Yes, Paul is saying that one should recognize sin with help from the law, that a person must recognize it and feel and discover in his heart his reluctance [to obey] and, because of that, must be afraid and despair of himself and avidly seek grace, which would take away this reluctance and create a willing and ready spirit within him, one which deals with the law faithfully and performs deeds willingly and does not suppose that law itself promises him anything, does not strive for any reward, and does not fear any punishment. Here is where the slave becomes the child and heir. Nothing other than faith in Christ brings and bestows this spirit.

Now let us look at the Epistle Lesson: “As long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate.”

He is comparing people with an analogy. For we see that it is like the way a little child and heir to whom the parents have left or bequeathed an estate through a will is brought up and treated like a slave on this estate. He is not the master and does have the estate freely at his disposal, but lives in fear, and, like one imprisoned in a fortress, receives only food and clothes, even though the estate is his. That is, he is like a stranger on his own estate, like a slave. It is the same way with spiritual estates. The Lord made his covenant as he spoke to Abraham, Genesis 22[:18], “Through your seed all nations on earth will be blessed.” This covenant was then empowered through Christ’s death and spread by the Gospel after his resurrection, which means nothing other than the announcement and publication of this covenant shared with the whole world, as in Abraham’s Seed, Christ, every person is blessed and bequeathed grace, which everyone who merely wishes to believe in it can receive.

Before this covenant now was opened and proclaimed, they were children of God under the law who struggled with works of the law and allowed themselves to be forced, although they would not become righteous through them. Their works, however, were just like those of a slave and so worthless. But because they were predestined to believe in a future which would make them into children of God, they are rightly heirs of grace and of blessing, although as yet they neither had nor used either of them and so, like the others, occupied themselves with works and in fact were slaves.

It is the same as it is today and always has been that many people now believe and recognize the faith who had previously been lost in works, recognized nothing about faith, and did not take up the inheritance, even though they surely were already heirs and chosen by God, although they knew nothing about it at that time and, therefore, were also slaves, work-righteous people, and people like Cain.

Even today there are still religious people who are work-righteous and like Cain while the other people like Cain are future heirs and children, because in the future they will also come to faith and, with that, throw off their slavery, stop doing works, and receive the estate and the inheritance of righteousness through which they will become righteous

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and blissful and then accomplish all their works voluntarily to honor God and benefit the neighbor without searching and striving for wages and righteousness. For they already possess this righteousness in this inheritance and the estate through their faith, which Christ bestowed on them in his covenant and then opened, announced, activated, and transferred it to them through the Gospel out of pure grace and mercy.

Yes, Abraham and all the forefathers recognized this covenant which God made. It was also allocated and given to them, just as to us and all others, although at their time probably not read aloud and proclaimed as at the time of Christ’s ascension. Yet, they all received the same covenant through exactly the same faith as all we children of God receive it. That is all the same grace, the same blessing, the same covenant, the same faith, just as the Father is one and one Lord of all.

Yes, so you see that, as Paul teaches it everywhere, righteousness does not come into being through works, but only through faith and without works, not after works, but simultaneously. For this covenant encompasses everything; a person has everything at his disposal with his faith: righteousness, blessedness, the inheritance, and the estate, and all at one time, not parts of it. One should already know that no kind of work but only faith brings such a gift, that is, righteousness and blessedness, and, indeed, all at one time and not in parts makes children and heirs, who later out of free will and without any slavish thoughts accomplish various works without thinking that they are earning anything and wishing to become pious. Here no earning is necessary; faith gives everything without cost and more than one could earn. But they do their works for no reason because they already own everything which people like Cain are seeking but never able to find with works, namely, righteousness and the inheritance from God and his grace.

“He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.”

This speaks of those people who attach themselves to the inheritance and hold fast to the Father’s estate so that they neither run wild nor get lost. And although they do not give the estate into his hand, yet they are necessary and useful to him in many ways. First, as was said, in that they keep him at home on the estate so that he will become better prepared. And second, in that his yearning for the inheritance may grow if he sees how closely and strictly he is being held. For, if he becomes sensible, he will recognize the freedoms and become annoyed that he is living under foreign rule. That is how it is, and so it must happen to each person who still lives as a work righteous person according to the law and is a slave. The law is his guardian and officer under whose rule he lives as under foreign rule. And what is allotted to him is, first, that he remain under it and be raised in such a way that he forego evil deeds in his outward behavior through fear of punishment and not run entirely wild and forfeit everything so that he does not fully give up God and his blessedness, as those do who give themselves entirely over to sin.

Second, so that he recognize himself based on the law and come to his senses with the result that he look around himself and find out with what unwillingness he is subject to the law and does not one thing as a devoted child. He does all of that as a slave in bondage and then recognizes what he is missing, namely, a willing, new spirit which the law

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and his deeds cannot give him. Yes, the more deeds he does, the more unwilling and unmotivated he becomes, and, indeed, for the reason that he is not disposed to a willing spirit.

If he discovers that for himself, he sees that he is fulfilling the law through his deeds only outwardly, while inwardly in his heart he is an enemy of the law with his heart full of reluctance and resentment. In this way he is surely inwardly an enemy of the law without interruption while only outwardly holy according to the law, which is to say, a regular Cain but a big hypocrite. And so he recognizes that his deeds are merely works of the law while his heart is one of sin, for his heart is directed against the law and only his hand is forced to act according to the law.

For this reason Paul named such works “works of the law.” For the law forces them, and nothing more is gained beyond the works themselves. But now the commandments want the heart also to be involved and to be willingly obedient, so that not only “works of the law” remain, but that the heart also is in it, not only the hand of the law, but also the will, the thoughts, and the full strength of the law, as is written in the first Psalm [vv. 1-2], “Blessed is the man . . . whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” Now the law requires such a heart, but a person cannot bring it about, as neither can one’s nature from within itself. Then the law directs itself at this situation and condemns the heart to hell as one which ignores God’s law. Now a longing and a bad conscience arise, and yet there is no help.

Now comes the time set by his father at which one’s nature receives grace and help, and he recognizes his own wretchedness, inability, and guilt. Now his brave deeds are revealed, and he hates even them. For he recognizes that no distinction exists between him and an open sinner, except merely in external works. In his heart he places himself in opposition to the law, just as do all other sinners.

Yes, it can even happen that such a heart feels a greater hatred for the law than any other sinner because he feels less desire to sin and is angry about sinning because he has no desire or, because of the damage or what arises with it, does not feel like living in sin. But this heart, because the law or a guardian stands in his way, defends itself and will be burned by it and is moved by it to commit a sin.

But he is not allowed to do it and must, therefore, with his heart be more pious or in his heart be worse than another. Now, certainly, one can understand very well that this is an unequal distribution if you dedicate to the law only your hand, but your heart to sin. The heart is certainly much more than a deed or a hand. How is that different from your giving the chaff to the law and the grain to sin, the peelings to God and the fruit to the devil. It happens in this way, therefore, as the Gospel says, that sin convicts the open sinner and that sin is a major problem.

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If the misfortune now still arises that Cain does not learn from this barrier and does not want to understand himself in accordance with law, but remains blind and hardened with his works, cannot control himself, and comes inside in his boots, the world judges him to be a cocky, despised sinner just like the Pharisees in the Gospels. It seems to him that he is not like other people, claims to be pious. And if you wish to punish or despise what he does, as should be done, then he expresses outrage and protests and strikes down Abel and all his friends and then says that he is doing all of the good works so that through them he might honor God and by this would like to earn very, very much as the one who is hunting down the persecutors of God, heretics, lunatics, and evil people who want to entice him and prevent him from doing good works.

Yes, everything is happening just as the Bible says about such poisoned religious people. Christ calls such people vipers and snakes. That is Cain, and he stays that way; those are slaves, and they too stay that way. But those who are successors and children of Abel learn to understand themselves with help from the law, what kind of an indifferent heart they have toward the law. If they reach this conclusion, they lose their exuberance, give free rein to their hands and legs, and suppose that they are becoming totally useless.

Here now comes the Gospel, here God is gracious toward their servility. They understand the bequest and believe and grasp in faith the Holy Spirit, who gives them a new heart, which gives them desire for the law and hatred for sin, and they begin voluntarily to do good. These are not deeds of the law, but a heart for the law. That is the time which the father set for the inheritance so that he need no longer be a slave and under guardianship. That is what Paul intends with the following words:

“So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic regulations of the world.”

What he here calls “regulations” is the script, that is, the letters of the law. So he says in Colossians 2[:8], “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic regulations of this world, rather than on Christ.” Also in Galatians 4[:9b], “How is it that you are turning back to these weak and miserable regulations?”

Here he is referring to the law with contempt as mere “letters of the law,” which are weak and poor, and that because they cannot help us. Besides, they also make people weak and poor, for the law requires heart and understanding, neither of which is available. What makes his awareness weak and poor is that he knows he must have something which he does not have and can never have. Paul wrote this in II Corinthians 3[:6], “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

Some people recognize in the commandments neither the letters nor the law, but the ceremonies

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and the externals in worship and in a good life, things suitable to the beginning of life, things that we go over at first with our children, as though the law were the kind of thing that is understandable to children in their own way.

Paul calls them regulations in this world, but for the reason that all work-righteous people do not accomplish deeds of the law at all unless they are tied to real temporal things like days, foods, clothing, places, persons, vessels, or similar things. These are all things of this world, and, furthermore, everything that is done has to with corresponding deeds. That is why we call them outward rules.

But faith is tied not to the outward world but to God, to the Word of God, and to divine mercy, and he makes a person righteous neither through works nor through earthly things, but through the eternal and invisible grace of God. In faith, one day is like another; all foods, all places, persons, clothing, and everything else are alike. For all of this is of no help, nor does any of it prevent the kind of sanctity and righteousness characteristic of Cain and the work-righteous. Therefore, faith is no earthly law but the totality of eternal possessions.

Therefore, even though faith for the time being does external deeds, yet, it does not know anything about worldly things. For faith accomplishes its work in freedom. It makes no difference to faith how the person, the place, the time, the food, the drink, and the like appear. He imagines nothing special. Whatever arises, there he involves himself and causes to happen whatever is possible. In short, his earthly existence has no name and makes no difference.

Cain, however, needs names and distinctions. He does not eat meat, does not dress in black, does not pray outdoors, and observes special days. He is tied to this and that, but it remains entirely a temporal and worldly matter which passes away. Therefore, they are all slaves to the laws of this world and call them good decrees and habits and the right way to salvation.

About this, Paul says in Colossians 2[:20-23]: Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules, “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility, etc.

When we were children, we were made to be slaves under external rules, that is, when faith had not yet been given to us and we still moved about under the regulations, it was as slaves that we accomplished (even if with displeasure) deeds which attached to temporal things. And we believed that through them we would become pious and blessed. These thoughts, however, were false and did not make us into children, but into slaves. Otherwise, such deeds would have been harmless if these thoughts had not existed, thoughts which corrupt faith, which teaches us that only by grace do we become pious and

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to leave everything temporal to the choice and freedom of each person.

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive full rights of sons.”

Because the law can convey no righteousness and no faith and one’s nature can accomplish nothing with everything that it does, now comes Paul with the one who acquires faith for us and is the Master of righteousness. For righteousness was not given to us without a cost. It cost very much, namely, the Son of God himself. He says, “When the time had fully come,” which means, as the time in which we were children and slaves came to an end. For Paul is speaking here in the manner of the Bible, which often says when a time is over, “the time is fulfilled,” like the time of the Apostles and the time of the saints were fulfilled. Also in Exodus, “I wish to fulfill my days,” which means, I do not wish to shorten them.

As the time was fulfilled for the Jews with the appearance of Christ as a man, so it is further fulfilled if a person is enlightened through faith that his time as a slave and as a keeper of laws has come to an end. For Christ’s appearance as a man would do no good if it did not also cause a spiritual arrival.

He became a man also in order to cause such a spiritual arrival. For he is a friend to all who earlier or at his time believed in such an arrival. Therefore, because of their faith he came to the fathers again and again, but never to this day to the Jews because they do not believe.

Everything from the beginning of the world until its end must hang on this appearance as a man, through which slavery also comes to an end when and where such a need always exists. Therefore, the time is fulfilled for each person if he begins to believe in Christ as in one who might have come into the world already at an earlier time, but now has come to him.

What and how should we believe in Christ?

This question is profound, and I do not know whether we can speak about thoroughly and with appeal. It is not enough to believe that Christ appeared, but that he came as Paul reports here, namely, that he was sent by God and that he is the Son of God. And that he is true man. And then that his mother is a virgin. And, furthermore, that only he fulfilled the law. And, furthermore, that he did not do that for himself but for our good and for the sake of grace. We wish to look at these statements in order.

First of all, the baptism of John makes clear what is declared again and again, that Christ is the Son of God and was sent by the Father. For whoever does not believe that he is true God is already lost, as he says in John 8[:21], “[If you do not believe that to know me is to know my Father also,] you will die in your sins.” Also in John 1[:4], “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” And also in John 14[:6], “I am the way and the truth and the life.” The soul can never be free until it recognizes the source of life and salvation as the highest good which the soul can have. Therefore, God himself wanted to be the one to which the soul attaches and in whom it believes. No one else deserves the glory that a creature might believe in him except God alone. Therefore, God himself came and became man, proceeded to be active among them,

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drew them to him, and made an appeal to them so that they would believe in him. It was not necessary on God’s account that he come and become a man, but it was necessary and useful for us.

If Christ were not true God and we were not attached to him with our faith, God would be robbed of his high honor and we of our life and salvation. For it is right to believe only God, who is himself the truth, for without God we can neither live nor be blessed.

When the Apostle says, “God sent his Son,” it must be true that he had been there with him beforehand. Consequently, he existed before he came and became a man. And if he is the Son, he is more than a mere angel, which is the highest created thing, and must be the true God. For being God’s Son means more than being an angel. And if he was sent by God and is his Son, he must be a distinct person. And so Paul is teaching here that there is one God and two persons: the Father and the Son.

Secondly, we must also believe that he is a person who really was born and the child of a human being, as Paul here says, namely, that he was born of a woman. Whoever is born of a woman is a person who really was born. For a woman gives birth only to real people. He also says, John 6[:53], “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” Eating and drinking means nothing other than believing that he, the Son of God, is flesh and blood like other people. That is also God’s covenant, when he said to Abraham, Genesis 22[:18], “Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.” If he is Abraham’s offspring, he really has Abraham’s body and blood and is a true child.

No one should claim that he trying to find his way to God on his own with his own determination and his deeds. And it does not help that you are called to God as the Jews and Turks do this. You must come to him through Abraham’s Seed and be blessed by him in accord with the godly covenant. He will do nothing special for you nor break such a covenant on account of your deeds or your accomplishments. You must give up what is your own and attach yourself to the Seed of flesh and blood, or else you are lost, along with all art and wisdom which you know about God. For so it says in John 14[:6], “No one comes to the Father, except through me.” The nature of God with regard to faith is for us vast and incomprehensible. Therefore, he came to us in the form we could best recognize as our own. It also matters to him . . . , he would like to be revealed in you and not differently. Whoever calls to God here will soon be heard. Here is the throne of grace, where no one who comes is shut out. The others, who do not observe him here, but want to serve God and want to call out to him in a different way, already have received their answer: . . . . [?] 18, where he says about them, “They call upon the Lord, but there is no one to help, and he does not answer them.”

Thirdly, we should believe that his mother is a virgin. The Apostle shows this when he says, “The Son of God was born of a woman.” This unique person among all persons comes from the natural order, but “a woman” is the name and status of her nature. To this apostle, more than the virginity of Mary is to be found in this birth. Therefore, he is silent about her virginity, which is only a unique quality of a person, and names her womanhood. She is the chosen virgin on account of Christ, so that he would have such a woman as his mother, one from whom he could be born without sin.

So we are told also in God’s covenant: all nations must be blessed in the Seed of Abraham. If they are blessed, this is a sign that previously they were cursed on account of their physical birth, which took place in sin, a part of the world of Adam. If all others were to be blessed through the Seed, he could not be cursed. So he certainly did not

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come from Adam’s birth, which is cursed through and through.

On the other hand, he is Abraham’s real child, his flesh and blood, in order to bring into existence God’s covenant, which cannot lie. How should that be done? Here a middle way was found in that no man, only a woman, can achieve giving birth to a real child. He was the Seed of Abraham, and yet, not born in sin, fully blessed so that those who are cursed by their birth might be blessed through him. In this way God’s bequest was satisfied and his physical birth was achieved spiritually.

Fourthly, we believe that only Christ has fulfilled the law. As he says in Matthew [5:17], “I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.” That also conveys the thought of the covenant, which says that the entire world is cursed and must be blessed by the Seed of Abraham. That means that everyone now is cursed and without blessing. As a result, a person is not good and is a Cain. For the same reason, works also cannot be good, as was said earlier, since God does not look at works, but first looks at the person of Cain and Abel, and that deeds of the law make no one pious and righteous.

Because Christ rejects all works of the law and first blesses the persons and extends kindnesses, it seems that he rejects all works and wishes to discard all laws, although he does teach that good works be done. Therefore, he corrects such an illusion: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, that I am abolishing works of the law? Through faith in me I will cause you to be more righteous as I first make the person good and then real good deeds follow.

Just as Paul, after he rejected works of the law and affirmed only faith, says [Romans 3:31]. “What then? Do we nullify the law by this faith? God forbid! Rather, we uphold the law.” It is the same as when people say that we wish to discard good works if we reject articles of law and monasteries with all their works, if, on the other hand, we rather only wished to believe in advance what is right, that one’s person would be good and blessed in Christ, the Seed of Abraham, and that afterward we bring forth good works which would be of benefit to the life and needs of the neighbor.

It should be noted, however, that no one can fulfill a commandment unless he is not subject to it anymore. Therefore, as Paul here speaks about life under the law, we learn from him again to know who lives under the law and who does not. All who do good because it is prescribed, people who act out of fear of punishment and look for merit, live under commandments. They must be pious and do good, even if involuntarily. Therefore, the law is their master and pursuer, and they are slaves and prisoners. All people without Christ and faith are like that, people without the blessing which comes through the Seed of Abraham, who substantiates the experience and awareness of everyone.

If there were no driving commandments, as well as no punishment or merit, but it were left to everyone’s free will that he could act without punishment or payment, then he would do what is evil and not what is good, above all, if the temptation and the opportunity were there. But, because the law with its threats and promises stands in the way, he puts aside what is bad and does what is good, not out of love for doing good, not out of hatred for doing evil, but out of fear or longing for reward. Therefore, they live under law and are constrained as slaves. These are religious people like Cain.

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But those who are not under the law do good and forsake evil without looking at threats or promises, punishment or remuneration, but with ready and willing spirits and out of love for what is good and hatred for what is evil, as if they were pleased with the law of God, even if it did not exist at all. In that way they would still wish that it would be no different and that, nevertheless, they would do what is good and avoid what is evil. These are the real children. One’s nature is not capable of this, but the Seed of Abraham is. Christ through his blessing creates such people through his grace and through his Spirit.

So not being under the law does not mean that you are dismissed and have the freedom to do what is bad as it suits you and not to do what is good. What is being said is only that you, apart from a blessedness based on compulsion and constraint on account of the commandments, but out of a pure, free love and choice do what is good and forsake what is evil, as though no law at all existed, and that all that you do takes place as though from within yourself, just as the body eats, drinks, sleeps, walks, stands, sits, and does other natural things; it requires no law, no incentive. It does everything of itself, everything in its time as opportunity arises without fear of punishment or striving for a reward. And one can well say that the body is under no law, and, yet, not without deeds done freely and by one’s own choice.

Yes, such a free choice arising from within oneself must also be in us in order for us to do good and forsake evil. That is what spiritual freedom is, the freeing from the law. That is what Paul says in I Timothy 1[:9], “The law is not made for good men.” He does good and forsakes evil from within himself and without compulsion, without fear of punishment and greed for remuneration. Also in Romans 6[:14], “You are not under law, but under grace,” that is, you are children and not slaves, you do good without urging and compulsion, voluntarily. Then, too, Romans 8[:15], “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of son ship.” The law makes you fearful, slavish, with a spirit like Cain’s, but grace gives you a spirit which is free, childlike, and like that of Abel through Christ, the Seed of Abraham. Psalm 51[:10] says about this, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” In Psalm 110 the people of Christ are pictured as willing and holy.

So Christ has fulfilled the law and done everything with free will, without hardship or compulsion through the law, and apart from him there was no one nor would there be anyone who did it that way, unless he would have received it from him and through him. Therefore, Paul says here that he was under the law to redeem those who were under the law.

That is now the fifth point, that we believe that this was done for our benefit so that we are made children out of slaves. What is meant when it says, “He redeemed those who were under the law”? Surely, that he freed us from the law. But how did he free us from the law? As said, not that he broke or denounced the law, but that he gave us the willingness to do everything without urging, without compulsion, without regard to the law and its threats, as though there were no law and we do everything as though from within ourselves, as Adam and Eve did before the fall.

But how does it happen that he gives us such a spirit and frees us from the law? In no other way than through faith. For whoever believes that Christ came for his benefit and did all this to free us, he certainly is freed. As we believe, so it happens for us. The same faith brings with it the Holy Spirit, who makes him into a child, as here the Apostle himself also explains and

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says that Christ has freed us from the law in such a way that we have the status of children full of grace. All of that must happen in view of faith, as he says.

How is Christ subject to the law?

There remains yet one question, however, how it can happen that Christ is under the law if this means that one must obey the law under compulsion and necessity and that no one fulfills the law unless he is not under it because God wants people who do good willingly. The answer: The apostle here makes a distinction and says that Christ is subject to the law, that is, that he subjected himself to it willingly, although he really was not under it. We, however, do not subject ourselves to the law willingly. He says we were subordinated to it by nature and by birth and not by our own choice. His situation is the opposite of ours, for we lived under it by nature, and not by our own choice.

That is to say, there is a major difference between being subject to the law and living under it, as also there is a major difference between one’s choice and one’s nature. What you do voluntarily and what you do by nature are altogether different. What you do voluntarily, you may also leave undone, and you are not forced to do it. But what you do by nature you must do, and it is not subject to your choice. You can go to the River Rhine or not, but eating, drinking, sleeping, growing, and getting old you must do, whether you want to or not.

So Christ willingly proceeded under the law, which he could have avoided, but we had to place ourselves under the law by nature. It could have happened in no other way, that is, we would have had to place ourselves under the law through free will and would have needed to be able to fulfill it, as though there were no law. But Christ, although he did not have to keep it or fulfill it, yet freely and willingly did keep it and fulfill it, and he did as though there were no law.

Consider a comparison with Peter, Acts 12, who sat in Herod’s prison, bound with two chains, between two soldiers and with guards in front of the doors. An angel came into the prison with a bright light, awoke Peter, and led him out, right past all the guards and doors, leaving the chains in the prison. This story shows how Christ frees us from the law, at which we now wish to take a look.

Peter was not in prison by his choice, nor did he know how he could escape. The angel also entered the prison, but voluntarily, for he did not have to be there. He did not enter the prison for anything that he had done, but voluntarily, and he knew very well how they could escape. Peter followed him and attached himself to him, and so he also escaped.

This prison portrays the law, in which our consciousness is locked up, and that willingly. For no one does willingly either the good things which the law demands or the bad things which it forbids. He does what he does out of fear of punishment or for the sake of reward. This fear, on the one hand, or the threat or the reward or the hope of reward on the other, are the two chains which keep us under the law and in prison.

The guards are the teachers of the law who explain to us and teach us. Yes, in that way we are under the law without wanting to be, Christ is the angel who also goes into the prison willingly to us who are under the law, does all of this voluntarily, different from what we do unwillingly without any choice. For he does it for our good, to attach us to him and to lead us out. He knows how to reach the outside, for he was already outside by his choice. Yes, if we now hang on to him and go with him, we also reach freedom. But how does that happen?

Being with him and going with him is faith in him, faith that he does all of this in your

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best interest. The Holy Spirit gives this faith to you so that hereafter you may accomplish all works by choice and not by constraint. And you have left the prison of the law and the two chains, fear and the search for reward, no longer control you, and you do all your works voluntarily with desire and love.

But in order to understand still better how Christ was under the law we must see and understand that he was under it in two ways. First, under the works of the law. He allowed himself to be circumcised, then to be consecrated and purified in the temple. He devoted himself to his mother and father, and other things like that, and he was obligated to do none of this, for he was Lord over all commandments. But he did it voluntarily, was not afraid, and sought no reward. In all of his outward deeds he resembled all others, who acted unwillingly and as prisoners.

Therefore, his freedom and his choice remained hidden from people, as imprisonment and reluctance also remain hidden. So he proceeded following the law, but, nevertheless, was not subject to it. He acted just like those who are subject to it, although he was not. He has freedom of choice and, therefore, is not subject to it. With his deeds, however, he placed himself under it voluntarily. We, however, are under the law both with regard to our choice and our deeds, for we live under constraint in our choices and in our deeds of the law.

Secondly, he subjected himself also to the punishment through the law. Not only did he act where he did not have to act, but he also bore the punishment willingly and without any of the guilt that the law threatens and declares for those who break the law. Now the law condemns everyone who does not keep it to death, to dangation, as Paul says quoting Moses in Galatians 3[:10], “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

This is now enough for the preface to the fact that no person keeps the law without Christ and that all are subject to the law as slaves and constrained prisoners. Along with that, one recognizes that whoever does not obey the law is subject to judgment and his punishment. Therefore, whoever is subject to the law in the first way, through his deeds, is also subject to it in the second way, through punishment. The first way indicates that all our deeds are sin because they are not done by our choice. The second way declares us to be cursed, to be sentenced to death and dangation.

Christ now steps forward before this court judgment reaches us, steps in the middle, takes our place under the judgment of the court and suffers death, is cursed and condemned as though he himself had broken the law and had become guilty by law, as was intended for him in behalf of the guilty, although he did nothing to make him guilty and, at the same time, his innocence was doubly verifiable. First, he should not have had to suffer even if he had not kept the law, a choice within his power to exercise. Second, he did keep the law out of good will and, for that reason, would not have had to suffer. Our guilt likewise is also a two-part thing. First, that we had to keep the law and did not. As a result, we had to endure everything evil at the same time. Second, that we, even if we had kept it, yet at the same time would suffer, as God would have wanted.

That means that the Son of God became subject to the law so that we, who were subject to the law, might be free. He did it for us, yes, for our benefit, not for himself. He wanted to show full love, goodness, and mercy, as Paul says in Galatians 3[:13], “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.”

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It is as though he wanted to say, “He moved himself under the law and its curse for us so that all who believe may become free from the law and its curse.”

Here now you recognize what a treasure the Christian faith bears within itself, one through which all these deeds along with the suffering of Christ are given as an inheritance on which one can rely as though you yourself had produced it and as if it were your possession. For, as was said, Christ did all this not for himself, but for us. He did not have to do anything of the kind. He gathered this treasure for us so that we hold on to it, believe in it, with that faith which the Holy Spirit brings with him.

What more should God do? How can one hold back his heart and not freely, willingly, and gladly be in God and in Christ? What task or what sorrow would one not endure and not take on with love and praise, singing and jumping? If that does not happen, faith is lacking. For, the more faith there is, the more freedom and joy there is. The less faith, the less joy.

Yes, this is the real Christian liberation and freedom from the law and its sentence, that is, from sin and death. Not that the law and death do not exist anymore, but that both, law and death remain as though they do not exist. Faith rises above everything—to righteousness and everlasting life.
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