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´╗┐Title: Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians
Author: Luther, Martin, 1483-1546
Language: English
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By Martin Luther

Translated by Theodore Graebner


The preparation of this edition of Luther's Commentary on Galatians was
first suggested to me by Mr. P. J. Zondervan, of the firm of publishers,
in March, 1937. The consultation had the twofold merit of definiteness
and brevity.

"Luther is still the greatest name in Protestantism. We want you to
help us publish some leading work of Luther's for the general American
market. Will you do it?"

"I will, on one condition."

"And what is that?"

"The condition is that I will be permitted to make Luther talk American,
'streamline' him, so to speak--because you will never get people,
whether in or outside the Lutheran Church, actually to read Luther
unless we make him talk as he would talk today to Americans."

I illustrated the point by reading to Mr. Zondervan a few sentences from
an English translation lately reprinted by an American publisher, of one
of Luther's outstanding reformatory essays.

The demonstration seemed to prove convincing for it was agreed that one
may as well offer Luther in the original German or Latin as expect the
American church-member to read any translations that would adhere to
Luther's German or Latin constructions and employ the Mid-Victorian type
of English characteristic of the translations now on the market.

"And what book would be your choice?"

"There is one book that Luther himself likes better than any other. Let
us begin with that: his Commentary on Galatians..."

The undertaking, which seemed so attractive when viewed as a literary
task, proved a most difficult one, and at times became oppressive.
The Letter to the Galatians consists of six short chapters. Luther's
commentary fills seven hundred and thirty-three octavo pages in the
Weidman Edition of his works. It was written in Latin. We were resolved
not to present this entire mass of exegesis. It would have run to more
than fifteen hundred pages, ordinary octavo (like this), since it
is impossible to use the compressed structure of sentences which is
characteristic of Latin, and particularly of Luther's Latin. The work
had to be condensed. German and English translations are available,
but the most acceptable English version, besides laboring under the
handicaps of an archaic style, had to be condensed into half its volume
in order to accomplish the "streamlining" of the book. Whatever merit
the translation now presented to the reader may possess should be
written to the credit of Rev. Gerhardt Mahler of Geneva, N.Y., who came
to my assistance in a very busy season by making a rough draft of the
translation and later preparing a revision of it, which forms the basis
of the final draft submitted to the printer. A word should now be said
about the origin of Luther's Commentary on Galatians.

The Reformer had lectured on this Epistle of St. Paul's in 1519 and
again in 1523. It was his favorite among all the Biblical books. In his
table talks the saying is recorded: "The Epistle to the Galatians is
my epistle. To it I am as it were in wedlock. It is my Katherine." Much
later when a friend of his was preparing an edition of all his Latin
works, he remarked to his home circle: "If I had my way about it
they would republish only those of my books which have doctrine. My
Galatians, for instance." The lectures which are preserved in the works
herewith submitted to the American public were delivered in 1531. They
were taken down by George Roerer, who held something of a deanship
at Wittenberg University and who was one of Luther's aids in the
translation of the Bible. Roerer took down Luther's lectures and this
manuscript has been preserved to the present day, in a copy which
contains also additions by Veit Dietrich and by Cruciger, friends of
Roerer's, who with him attended Luther's lectures. In other words, these
three men took down the lectures which Luther addressed to his students
in the course of Galatians, and Roerer prepared the manuscript for
the printer. A German translation by Justus Menius appeared in the
Wittenberg Edition of Luther's writings, published in 1539.

The importance of this Commentary on Galatians for the history of
Protestantism is very great. It presents like no other of Luther's
writings the central thought of Christianity, the justification of the
sinner for the sake of Christ's merits alone. We have permitted in the
final revision of the manuscript many a passage to stand which seemed
weak and ineffectual when compared with the trumpet tones of the Latin
original. But the essence of Luther's lectures is there. May the reader
accept with indulgence where in this translation we have gone too far in
modernizing Luther's expression--making him "talk American."

At the end of his lectures in 1531, Luther uttered a brief prayer and
then dictated two Scriptural texts, which we shall inscribe at the end
of these introductory remarks:

"The Lord who has given us power to teach and to hear, let Him also give
us the power to serve and to do."

                 LUKE 2

          Glory to God in the highest,
          And on earth peace,
          Good will to men.

                    ISAIAH 40

         The Word of our God shall stand forever.


St. Louis, Missouri


  In my heart reigns this one article, faith in my dear Lord Christ,
  the beginning, middle and end of whatever spiritual and divine
  thoughts I may have, whether by day or by night.


  VERSE 1. Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus
  Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead).

St. Paul wrote this epistle because, after his departure from the
Galatian churches, Jewish-Christian fanatics moved in, who perverted
Paul's Gospel of man's free justification by faith in Christ Jesus.

The world bears the Gospel a grudge because the Gospel condemns the
religious wisdom of the world. Jealous for its own religious views, the
world in turn charges the Gospel with being a subversive and licentious
doctrine, offensive to God and man, a doctrine to be persecuted as the
worst plague on earth.

As a result we have this paradoxical situation: The Gospel supplies the
world with the salvation of Jesus Christ, peace of conscience, and every
blessing. Just for that the world abhors the Gospel.

These Jewish-Christian fanatics who pushed themselves into the Galatian
churches after Paul's departure, boasted that they were the descendants
of Abraham, true ministers of Christ, having been trained by the
apostles themselves, that they were able to perform miracles.

In every way they sought to undermine the authority of St. Paul. They
said to the Galatians: "You have no right to think highly of Paul. He
was the last to turn to Christ. But we have seen Christ. We heard Him
preach. Paul came later and is beneath us. It is possible for us to be
in error--we who have received the Holy Ghost? Paul stands alone. He has
not seen Christ, nor has he had much contact with the other apostles.
Indeed, he persecuted the Church of Christ for a long time."

When men claiming such credentials come along, they deceive not only the
naive, but also those who seemingly are well-established in the faith.
This same argument is used by the papacy. "Do you suppose that God for
the sake of a few Lutheran heretics would disown His entire Church? Or
do you suppose that God would have left His Church floundering in error
all these centuries?" The Galatians were taken in by such arguments with
the result that Paul's authority and doctrine were drawn in question.

Against these boasting, false apostles, Paul boldly defends his
apostolic authority and ministry. Humble man that he was, he will not
now take a back seat. He reminds them of the time when he opposed Peter
to his face and reproved the chief of the apostles.

Paul devotes the first two chapters to a defense of his office and his
Gospel, affirming that he received it, not from men, but from the Lord
Jesus Christ by special revelation, and that if he or an angel from
heaven preach any other gospel than the one he had preached, he shall be

                        The Certainty of Our Calling

Every minister should make much of his calling and impress upon others
the fact that he has been delegated by God to preach the Gospel. As the
ambassador of a government is honored for his office and not for his
private person, so the minister of Christ should exalt his office in
order to gain authority among men. This is not vain glory, but needful

Paul takes pride in his ministry, not to his own praise but to the
praise of God. Writing to the Romans, he declares, "Inasmuch as I am
the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office," i.e., I want to be
received not as Paul of Tarsus, but as Paul the apostle and ambassador
of Jesus Christ, in order that people might be more eager to hear. Paul
exalts his ministry out of the desire to make known the name, the grace,
and the mercy of God.

  VERSE 1. Paul, an apostle, (not of men, etc.)

Paul loses no time in defending himself against the charge that he had
thrust himself into the ministry. He says to the Galatians: "My call may
seem inferior to you. But those who have come to you are either called
of men or by man. My call is the highest possible, for it is by Jesus
Christ, and God the Father."

When Paul speaks of those called "by men," I take it he means those whom
neither God nor man sent, but who go wherever they like and speak for

When Paul speaks of those called "by man" I take it he means those who
have a divine call extended to them through other persons. God calls
in two ways. Either He calls ministers through the agency of men, or
He calls them directly as He called the prophets and apostles. Paul
declares that the false apostles were called or sent neither by men, nor
by man. The most they could claim is that they were sent by others. "But
as for me I was called neither of men, nor by man, but directly by Jesus
Christ. My call is in every respect like the call of the apostles. In
fact I am an apostle."

Elsewhere Paul draws a sharp distinction between an apostleship and
lesser functions, as in I Corinthians 12:28: "And God hath set some in
the church; first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers."
He mentions the apostles first because they were appointed directly by

Matthias was called in this manner. The apostles chose two candidates
and then cast lots, praying that God would indicate which one He would
have. To be an apostle he had to have his appointment from God. In the
same manner Paul was called as the apostle of the Gentiles.

The call is not to be taken lightly. For a person to possess knowledge
is not enough. He must be sure that he is properly called. Those who
operate without a proper call seek no good purpose. God does not bless
their labors. They may be good preachers, but they do not edify. Many of
the fanatics of our day pronounce words of faith, but they bear no good
fruit, because their purpose is to turn men to their perverse opinions.
On the other hand, those who have a divine call must suffer a good
deal of opposition in order that they may become fortified against the
running attacks of the devil and the world.

This is our comfort in the ministry, that ours is a divine office to
which we have been divinely called. Reversely, what an awful thing it
must be for the conscience if one is not properly called. It spoils
one's best work. When I was a young man I thought Paul was making too
much of his call. I did not understand his purpose. I did not then
realize the importance of the ministry. I knew nothing of the doctrine
of faith because we were taught sophistry instead of certainty, and
nobody understood spiritual boasting. We exalt our calling, not to gain
glory among men, or money, or satisfaction, or favor, but because people
need to be assured that the words we speak are the words of God. This is
no sinful pride. It is holy pride.

  VERSE 1. And God the Father, who raised him from the dead.

Paul is so eager to come to the subject matter of his epistle, the
righteousness of faith in opposition to the righteousness of works, that
already in the title he must speak his mind. He did not think it quite
enough to say that he was an apostle "by Jesus Christ"; he adds, "and
God the Father, who raised him from the dead."

The clause seems superfluous on first sight. Yet Paul had a good reason
for adding it. He had to deal with Satan and his agents who endeavored
to deprive him of the righteousness of Christ, who was raised by God the
Father from the dead. These perverters of the righteousness of Christ
resist the Father and the Son, and the works of them both.

In this whole epistle Paul treats of the resurrection of Christ. By His
resurrection Christ won the victory over law, sin, flesh, world, devil,
death, hell, and every evil. And this His victory He donated unto us.
These many tyrants and enemies of ours may accuse and frighten us, but
they dare not condemn us, for Christ, whom God the Father has raised
from the dead is our righteousness and our victory.

Do you notice how well suited to his purpose Paul writes? He does not
say, "By God who made heaven and earth, who is Lord of the angels," but
Paul has in mind the righteousness of Christ, and speaks to the point,
saying, "I am an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus
Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead."

  VERSE 2. And all the brethren which are with me.

This should go far in shutting the mouths of the false apostles. Paul's
intention is to exalt his own ministry while discrediting theirs. He
adds for good measure the argument that he does not stand alone, but
that all the brethren with him attest to the fact that his doctrine
is divinely true. "Although the brethren with me are not apostles like
myself, yet they are all of one mind with me, think, write, and teach as
I do."

  VERSE 2. Unto the churches of Galatia.

Paul had preached the Gospel throughout Galatia, founding many churches
which after his departure were invaded by the false apostles. The
Anabaptists in our time imitate the false apostles. They do not go where
the enemies of the Gospel predominate. They go where the Christians are.
Why do they not invade the Catholic provinces and preach their doctrine
to godless princes, bishops, and doctors, as we have done by the help of
God? These soft martyrs take no chances. They go where the Gospel has
a hold, so that they may not endanger their lives. The false apostles
would not go to Jerusalem of Caiaphas, or to the Rome of the Emperor,
or to any other place where no man had preached before as Paul and the
other apostles did. But they came to the churches of Galatia, knowing
that where men profess the name of Christ they may feel secure.

It is the lot of God's ministers not only to suffer opposition at the
hand of a wicked world, but also to see the patient indoctrination of
many years quickly undone by such religious fanatics. This hurts more
than the persecution of tyrants. We are treated shabbily on the outside
by tyrants, on the inside by those whom we have restored to the liberty
of the Gospel, and also by false brethren. But this is our comfort and
our glory, that being called of God we have the promise of everlasting
life. We look for that reward which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,
neither hath entered into the heart of man."

Jerome raises the question why Paul called them churches that were no
churches, inasmuch as the Galatians had forsaken the grace of Christ
for the law of Moses. The proper answer is: Although the Galatians had
fallen away from the doctrine of Paul, baptism, the Gospel, and the
name of Christ continued among them. Not all the Galatians had become
perverted. There were some who clung to the right view of the Word and
the Sacraments. These means cannot be contaminated. They remain divine
regardless of men's opinion. Wherever the means of grace are found,
there is the Holy Church, even though Antichrist reigns there. So much
for the title of the epistle. Now follows the greeting of the apostle.

  VERSE 3. Grace be to you, and peace, from God the Father, and from our
  Lord Jesus Christ.

The terms of grace and peace are common terms with Paul and are now
pretty well understood. But since we are explaining this epistle, you
will not mind if we repeat what we have so often explained elsewhere.
The article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly
because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it
perfectly and to believe it with all our heart.

The greeting of the Apostle is refreshing. Grace remits sin, and peace
quiets the conscience. Sin and conscience torment us, but Christ has
overcome these fiends now and forever. Only Christians possess this
victorious knowledge given from above. These two terms, grace and peace,
constitute Christianity. Grace involves the remission of sins, peace,
and a happy conscience. Sin is not canceled by lawful living, for no
person is able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills the
conscience with terror, and drives men to despair. Much less is sin
taken away by man-invented endeavors. The fact is, the more a person
seeks credit for himself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into
debt. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God. In actual
living, however, it is not so easy to persuade oneself that by grace
alone, in opposition to every other means, we obtain the forgiveness of
our sins and peace with God.

The world brands this a pernicious doctrine. The world advances free
will, the rational and natural approach of good works, as the means of
obtaining the forgiveness of sin. But it is impossible to gain peace
of conscience by the methods and means of the world. Experience proves
this. Various holy orders have been launched for the purpose of securing
peace of conscience through religious exercises, but they proved
failures because such devices only increase doubt and despair. We find
no rest for our weary bones unless we cling to the word of grace.

The Apostle does not wish the Galatians grace and peace from the
emperor, or from kings, or from governors, but from God the Father. He
wishes them heavenly peace, the kind of which Jesus spoke when He
said, "Peace I leave unto you: my peace I give unto you." Worldly peace
provides quiet enjoyment of life and possessions. But in affliction,
particularly in the hour of death, the grace and peace of the world will
not deliver us. However, the grace and peace of God will. They make a
person strong and courageous to bear and to overcome all difficulties,
even death itself, because we have the victory of Christ's death and the
assurance of the forgiveness of our sins.

              Men Should Not Speculate About the Nature of God

The Apostle adds to the salutation the words, "and from our Lord Jesus
Christ." Was it not enough to say, "from God the Father"?

It is a principle of the Bible that we are not to inquire curiously into
the nature of God. "There shall no man see me, and live," Exodus 33:20.
All who trust in their own merits to save them disregard this principle
and lose sight of the Mediator, Jesus Christ.

True Christian theology does not inquire into the nature of God, but
into God's purpose and will in Christ, whom God incorporated in our
flesh to live and to die for our sins. There is nothing more dangerous
than to speculate about the incomprehensible power, wisdom, and majesty
of God when the conscience is in turmoil over sin. To do so is to lose
God altogether because God becomes intolerable when we seek to measure
and to comprehend His infinite majesty.

We are to seek God as Paul tells us in I Corinthians 1:23, 24: "We
preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto
the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and
Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." Begin with
Christ. He came down to earth, lived among men, suffered, was crucified,
and then He died, standing clearly before us, so that our hearts and
eyes may fasten upon Him. Thus we shall be kept from climbing into
heaven in a curious and futile search after the nature of God.

If you ask how God may be found, who justifies sinners, know that there
is no other God besides this man Christ Jesus. Embrace Him, and forget
about the nature of God. But these fanatics who exclude our Mediator in
their dealings with God, do not believe me. Did not Christ Himself
say: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the
Father, but by me"? Without Christ there is no access to the Father, but
futile rambling; no truth, but hypocrisy; no life, but eternal death.

When you argue about the nature of God apart from the question of
justification, you may be as profound as you like. But when you deal
with conscience and with righteousness over against the law, sin, death,
and the devil, you must close your mind to all inquiries into the nature
of God, and concentrate upon Jesus Christ, who says, "Come unto me,
all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Doing
this, you will recognize the power, and majesty condescending to your
condition according to Paul's statement to the Colossians, "In Christ
are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," and, "In him
dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Paul in wishing grace
and peace not alone from God the Father, but also from Jesus Christ,
wants to warn us against the curious incursions into the nature of
God. We are to hear Christ, who has been appointed by the Father as our
divine Teacher.

                           Christ is God by Nature

At the same time, Paul confirms our creed, "that Christ is very God." We
need such frequent confirmation of our faith, for Satan will not fail
to attack it. He hates our faith. He knows that it is the victory which
overcometh him and the world. That Christ is very God is apparent in
that Paul ascribes to Him divine powers equally with the Father, as for
instance, the power to dispense grace and peace. This Jesus could not do
unless He were God.

To bestow peace and grace lies in the province of God, who alone can
create these blessings. The angels cannot. The apostles could
only distribute these blessings by the preaching of the Gospel. In
attributing to Christ the divine power of creating and giving grace,
peace, everlasting life, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins, the
conclusion is inevitable that Christ is truly God. Similarly, St. John
concludes from the works attributed to the Father and the Son that they
are divinely One. Hence, the gifts which we receive from the Father and
from the Son are one and the same. Otherwise Paul should have written:
"Grace from God the Father, and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ." In
combining them he ascribes them equally to the Father and the Son. I
stress this on account of the many errors emanating from the sects.

The Arians were sharp fellows. Admitting that Christ had two natures,
and that He is called "very God of very God," they were yet able to deny
His divinity. The Arians took Christ for a noble and perfect creature,
superior even to the angels, because by Him God created heaven and
earth. Mohammed also speaks highly of Christ. But all their praise is
mere palaver to deceive men. Paul's language is different. To paraphrase
him: "You are established in this belief that Christ is very God because
He gives grace and peace, gifts which only God can create and bestow."

  VERSE 4. Who gave himself for our sins.

Paul sticks to his theme. He never loses sight of the purpose of his
epistle. He does not say, "Who received our works," but "who gave." Gave
what? Not gold, or silver, or paschal lambs, or an angel, but Himself.
What for? Not for a crown, or a kingdom, or our goodness, but for our
sins. These words are like so many thunderclaps of protest from heaven
against every kind and type of self-merit. Underscore these words, for
they are full of comfort for sore consciences.

How may we obtain remission of our sins? Paul answers: "The man who is
named Jesus Christ and the Son of God gave himself for our sins."
The heavy artillery of these words explodes papacy, works, merits,
superstitions. For if our sins could be removed by our own efforts, what
need was there for the Son of God to be given for them? Since Christ was
given for our sins it stands to reason that they cannot be put away by
our own efforts.

This sentence also defines our sins as great, so great, in fact, that
the whole world could not make amends for a single sin. The greatness
of the ransom, Christ, the Son of God, indicates this. The vicious
character of sin is brought out by the words "who gave himself for our
sins." So vicious is sin that only the sacrifice of Christ could atone
for sin. When we reflect that the one little word "sin" embraces
the whole kingdom of Satan, and that it includes everything that is
horrible, we have reason to tremble. But we are careless. We make light
of sin. We think that by some little work or merit we can dismiss sin.

This passage, then, bears out the fact that all men are sold under sin.
Sin is an exacting despot who can be vanquished by no created power, but
by the sovereign power of Jesus Christ alone.

All this is of wonderful comfort to a conscience troubled by the
enormity of sin. Sin cannot harm those who believe in Christ, because
He has overcome sin by His death. Armed with this conviction, we
are enlightened and may pass judgment upon the papists, monks, nuns,
priests, Mohammedans, Anabaptists, and all who trust in their own
merits, as wicked and destructive sects that rob God and Christ of the
honor that belongs to them alone.

Note especially the pronoun "our" and its significance. You will readily
grant that Christ gave Himself for the sins of Peter, Paul, and others
who were worthy of such grace. But feeling low, you find it hard to
believe that Christ gave Himself for your sins. Our feelings shy at
a personal application of the pronoun "our" and we refuse to have
anything to do with God until we have made ourselves worthy by good

This attitude springs from a false conception of sin, the conception
that sin is a small matter, easily taken care of by good works; that
we must present ourselves unto God with a good conscience; that we must
feel no sin before we may feel that Christ was given for our sins.

This attitude is universal and particularly developed in those who
consider themselves better than others. Such readily confess that
they are frequent sinners, but they regard their sins as of no such
importance that they cannot easily be dissolved by some good action, or
that they may not appear before the tribunal of Christ and demand the
reward of eternal life for their righteousness. Meantime they pretend
great humility and acknowledge a certain degree of sinfulness for which
they soulfully join in the publican's prayer, "God be merciful to me
a sinner." But the real significance and comfort of the words "for our
sins" is lost upon them.

The genius of Christianity takes the words of Paul "who gave himself for
our sins" as true and efficacious. We are not to look upon our sins as
insignificant trifles. On the other hand, we are not to regard them
as so terrible that we must despair. Learn to believe that Christ
was given, not for picayune and imaginary transgressions, but for
mountainous sins; not for one or two, but for all; not for sins that can
be discarded, but for sins that are stubbornly ingrained.

Practice this knowledge and fortify yourself against despair,
particularly in the last hour, when the memory of past sins assails the
conscience. Say with confidence: "Christ, the Son of God, was given not
for the righteous, but for sinners. If I had no sin I should not need
Christ. No, Satan, you cannot delude me into thinking I am holy. The
truth is, I am all sin. My sins are not imaginary transgressions,
but sins against the first table, unbelief, doubt, despair, contempt,
hatred, ignorance of God, ingratitude towards Him, misuse of His name,
neglect of His Word, etc.; and sins against the second table,
dishonor of parents, disobedience of government, coveting of another's
possessions, etc. Granted that I have not committed murder, adultery,
theft, and similar sins in deed, nevertheless I have committed them in
the heart, and therefore I am a transgressor of all the commandments of

"Because my transgressions are multiplied and my own efforts at
self-justification rather a hindrance than a furtherance, therefore
Christ the Son of God gave Himself into death for my sins." To believe
this is to have eternal life.

Let us equip ourselves against the accusations of Satan with this and
similar passages of Holy Scripture. If he says, "Thou shalt be damned,"
you tell him: "No, for I fly to Christ who gave Himself for my sins. In
accusing me of being a damnable sinner, you are cutting your own throat,
Satan. You are reminding me of God's fatherly goodness toward me, that
He so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever
believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. In
calling me a sinner, Satan, you really comfort me above measure." With
such heavenly cunning we are to meet the devil's craft and put from us
the memory of sin.

St. Paul also presents a true picture of Christ as the virgin-born
Son of God, delivered into death for our sins. To entertain a true
conception of Christ is important, for the devil describes Christ as an
exacting and cruel judge who condemns and punishes men. Tell him that
his definition of Christ is wrong, that Christ has given Himself for
our sins, that by His sacrifice He has taken away the sins of the whole

Make ample use of this pronoun "our" Be assured that Christ has
canceled the sins, not of certain persons only, but your sins. Do not
permit yourself to be robbed of this lovely conception of Christ. Christ
is no Moses, no law-giver, no tyrant, but the Mediator for sins, the
Giver of grace and life.

We know this. Yet in the actual conflict with the devil, when he scares
us with the Law, when he frightens us with the very person of the
Mediator, when he misquotes the words of Christ, and distorts for us our
Savior, we so easily lose sight of our sweet High-Priest.

For this reason I am so anxious for you to gain a true picture of Christ
out of the words of Paul "who gave himself for our sins." Obviously,
Christ is no judge to condemn us, for He gave Himself for our sins.
He does not trample the fallen but raises them. He comforts the
broken-hearted. Otherwise Paul should lie when he writes "who gave
himself for our sins."

I do not bother my head with speculations about the nature of God. I
simply attach myself to the human Christ, and I find joy and peace, and
the wisdom of God in Him. These are not new truths. I am repeating what
the apostles and all teachers of God have taught long ago. Would to God
we could impregnate our hearts with these truths.

  VERSE 4. That he might deliver us from this present evil world.

Paul calls this present world evil because everything in it is subject
to the malice of the devil, who reigns over the whole world as
his domain and fills the air with ignorance, contempt, hatred, and
disobedience of God. In this devil's kingdom we live.

As long as a person is in the world he cannot by his own efforts rid
himself of sin, because the world is bent upon evil. The people of
the world are the slaves of the devil. If we are not in the Kingdom
of Christ, it is certain we belong to the kingdom of Satan and we are
pressed into his service with every talent we possess.

Take the talents of wisdom and integrity. Without Christ, wisdom is
double foolishness and integrity double sin, because they not only
fail to perceive the wisdom and righteousness of Christ, but hinder
and blaspheme the salvation of Christ. Paul justly calls it the evil
or wicked world, for when the world is at its best the world is at its
worst. The grossest vices are small faults in comparison with the wisdom
and righteousness of the world. These prevent men from accepting the
Gospel of the righteousness of Christ. The white devil of spiritual sin
is far more dangerous than the black devil of carnal sin because the
wiser, the better men are without Christ, the more they are likely to
ignore and oppose the Gospel.

With the words, "that he might deliver us," Paul argues that we stand in
need of Christ. No other being can possibly deliver us from this present
evil world. Do not let the fact disturb you that a great many people
enjoy excellent reputations without Christ. Remember what Paul says,
that the world with all its wisdom, might, and righteousness is the
devil's own. God alone is able to deliver us from the world.

Let us praise and thank God for His mercy in delivering us from the
captivity of Satan, when we were unable to do so by our own strength.
Let us confess with Paul that all our work-righteousness is loss and
dung. Let us condemn as filthy rags all talk about free will, all
religious orders, masses, ceremonies, vows, fastings, and the like.

In branding the world the devil's kingdom of iniquity, ignorance, error,
sin, death, and everlasting despair, Paul at the same time declares the
Kingdom of Christ to be a kingdom of equity, light, grace, remission
of sin, peace, saving health, and everlasting life into which we are
translated by our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever.

In this passage Paul contends against the false apostles for the article
of Justification. Christ, says Paul, has delivered us from this wicked
kingdom of the devil and the world according to the good will, the
pleasure and commandment of the Father. Hence we are not delivered by
our own will, or shrewdness, or wisdom, but by the mercy and love of
God, as it is written, I John 4:10, "Herein is love, not that we loved
God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for
our sins."

Another reason why Paul, like John, emphasizes the Father's will is
Christ's habit of directing attention to the Father. For Christ came
into the world to reconcile God with us and to draw us to the Father.

Not by curious inquiries into the nature of God shall we know God
and His purpose for our salvation, but by taking hold of Christ, who
according to the will of the Father has given Himself into death for our
sins. When we understand this to be the will of the Father in Christ,
then shall we know God to be merciful, and not angry. We shall realize
that He loved us wretched sinners so much indeed that He gave us His
only-begotten Son into death for us.

The pronoun "our" refers to both God and Father. He is our God and
our Father. Christ's Father and our Father are one and the same. Hence
Christ said to Mary Magdalene: "Go to my brethren, and say unto them,
I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God."
God is our Father and our God, but only in Christ Jesus.

  VERSE 5. To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrew writing is interspersed with expressions of praise and gratitude.
This peculiarity can be traced in the apostolic writings, particularly
in those of Paul. The name of the Lord is to be mentioned with great
reverence and thanksgiving.

  VERSE 6. I marvel.

How patiently Paul deals with his seduced Galatians! He does not pounce
on them but, like a father, he fairly excuses their error. With motherly
affection he talks to them yet he does it in a way that at the same time
he also reproves them. On the other hand, he is highly indignant at the
seducers whom he blames for the apostasy of the Galatians. His anger
bursts forth in elemental fury at the beginning of his epistle. "If
any may," he cries, "preach any other gospel unto you than that ye
have received, let him be accursed." Later on, in the fifth chapter,
he threatens the false apostles with damnation. "He that troubleth you
shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be." He pronounces a curse upon
them. "I would they were even cut off which trouble you."

He might have addressed the Galatians after this fashion: "I am ashamed
of you. Your ingratitude grieves me. I am angry with you." But his
purpose was to call them back to the Gospel. With this purpose in his
mind he speaks very gently to them. He could not have chosen a milder
expression than this, "I marvel." It indicates his sorrow and his

Paul minds the rule which he himself lays down in a later chapter where
he says: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are
spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering
thyself, lest thou also be tempted." Toward those who have been misled
we are to show ourselves parentally affectionate, so that they may
perceive that we seek not their destruction but their salvation. Over
against the devil and his missionaries, the authors of false doctrines
and sects, we ought to be like the Apostle, impatient, and rigorously
condemnatory, as parents are with the dog that bites their little one,
but the weeping child itself they soothe.

The right spirit in Paul supplies him with an extraordinary facility
in handling the afflicted consciences of the fallen. The Pope and his
bishops, inspired by the desire to lord it over men's souls, crack out
thunders and curses upon miserable consciences. They have no care for
the saving of men's souls. They are interested only in maintaining their

  VERSE 6. That ye are so soon.

Paul deplores the fact that it is difficult for the mind to retain a
sound and steadfast faith. A man labors for a decade before he succeeds
in training his little church into orderly religion, and then some
ignorant and vicious poltroon comes along to overthrow in a minute the
patient labor of years. By the grace of God we have effected here in
Wittenberg the form of a Christian church. The Word of God is taught
as it should be, the Sacraments are administered, and everything is
prosperous. This happy condition, secured by many years of arduous
labors, some lunatic might spoil in a moment. This happened in the
churches of Galatia which Paul had brought into life in spiritual
travail. Soon after his departure, however, these Galatian churches were
thrown into confusion by the false apostles.

The church is a tender plant. It must be watched. People hear a couple
of sermons, scan a few pages of Holy Writ, and think they know it all.
They are bold because they have never gone through any trials of faith.
Void of the Holy Spirit, they teach what they please as long as it
sounds good to the common people who are ever ready to join something

We have to watch out for the devil lest he sow tares among the wheat
while we sleep. No sooner had Paul turned his back on the churches of
Galatia, than the false apostles went to work. Therefore, let us watch
over ourselves and over the whole church.

  VERSE 6. I marvel that ye are so soon removed.

Again the Apostle puts in a gentle word. He does not berate the
Galatians, "I marvel that ye are so unsteady, unfaithful." He says,
"I marvel that ye are so soon removed." He does not address them as
evildoers. He speaks to them as people who have suffered great loss. He
condemns those who removed them rather than the Galatians. At the same
time he gently reproves them for permitting themselves to be removed.
The criticism is implied that they should have been rather a little more
settled in their beliefs. If they had taken better hold of the Word they
could not have been removed so easily.

Jerome thinks that Paul is playing upon the name Galatians, deriving
it from the Hebrew word Galath, which means fallen or carried away, as
though Paul wanted to say, "You are true Galatians, i.e., fallen away in
name and in fact." Some believe that the Germans are descended from
the Galatians. There may be something to that. For the Germans are not
unlike the Galatians in their lack of constancy. At first we Germans are
very enthusiastic, but presently our emotions cool and we become slack.
When the light of the Gospel first came to us many were zealous, heard
sermons greedily, and held the ministry of God's Word in high esteem.
But now that religion has been reformed, many who formerly were
such earnest disciples have discarded the Word of God, have become
sow-bellies like the foolish and inconsistent Galatians.

  VERSE 6. From him that called you into the grace of Christ.

The reading is a little doubtful. The sentence may be construed to read:
"From that Christ that called you into grace"; or it may be construed to
read: "From God that called you into the grace of Christ." I prefer the
former for it seems to me that Paul's purpose is to impress upon us the
benefits of Christ. This reading also preserves the implied criticism
that the Galatians withdrew themselves from that Christ who had called
them not unto the law, but unto grace. With Paul we decry the blindness
and perverseness of men in that they will not receive the message of
grace and salvation, or having received it they quickly let go of it,
in spite of the fact that the Gospel bestows all good things spiritual:
forgiveness of sins, true righteousness, peace of conscience,
everlasting life; and all good things temporal: good judgment, good
government and peace.

Why does the world abhor the glad tidings of the Gospel and the
blessings that go with it? Because the world is the devil's. Under his
direction the world persecutes the Gospel and would if it could nail
again Christ, the Son of God, to the Cross although He gave Himself into
death for the sins of the world. The world dwells in darkness. The world
is darkness.

Paul accentuates the point that the Galatians had been called by Christ
unto grace. "I taught you the doctrine of grace and of liberty from
the Law, from sin and wrath, that you should be free in Christ, and
not slaves to the hard laws of Moses. Will you allow yourselves to be
carried away so easily from the living fountain of grace and life?"

  VERSE 6. Unto another gospel.

Note the resourcefulness of the devil. Heretics do not advertise their
errors. Murderers, adulterers, thieves disguise themselves. So the devil
masquerades all his devices and activities. He puts on white to make
himself look like an angel of light. He is astoundingly clever to sell
his patent poison for the Gospel of Christ. Knowing Satan's guile, Paul
sardonically calls the doctrine of the false apostles "another gospel,"
as if he would say, "You Galatians have now another gospel, while my
Gospel is no longer esteemed by you."

We infer from this that the false apostles had depreciated the Gospel
of Paul among the Galatians on the plea that it was incomplete.
Their objection to Paul's Gospel is identical to that recorded in the
fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts to the effect that it was not
enough for the Galatians to believe in Christ, or to be baptized, but
that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the
law of Moses, for "except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses,
ye cannot be saved." As though Christ were a workman who had begun a
building and left it for Moses to finish.

Today the Anabaptists and others, finding it difficult to condemn us,
accuse us Lutherans of timidity in professing the whole truth. They
grant that we have laid the foundation in Christ, but claim that we
have failed to go through with the building. In this way these perverse
fanatics parade their cursed doctrine as the Word of God, and, flying
the flag of God's name, they deceive many. The devil knows better
than to appear ugly and black. He prefers to carry on his nefarious
activities in the name of God. Hence the German proverb: "All mischief
begins in the name of God."

When the devil sees that he cannot hurt the cause of the Gospel by
destructive methods, he does it under the guise of correcting and
advancing the cause of the Gospel. He would like best of all to
persecute us with fire and sword, but this method has availed him little
because through the blood of martyrs the church has been watered. Unable
to prevail by force, he engages wicked and ungodly teachers who at first
make common cause with us, then claim that they are particularly called
to teach the hidden mysteries of the Scriptures to superimpose upon the
first principles of Christian doctrine that we teach. This sort of thing
brings the Gospel into trouble. May we all cling to the Word of Christ
against the wiles of the devil, "for we wrestle not against flesh and
blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers
of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high

  VERSE 7. Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you.

Here again the apostle excuses the Galatians, while he blames the false
apostles for disturbing their consciences and for stealing them out
of his hand. How angry he gets at these deceivers! He calls them
troublemakers, seducers of poor consciences.

This passage adduces further evidence that the false apostles defamed
Paul as an imperfect apostle and a weak and erroneous preacher. They
condemn Paul, Paul condemns them. Such warfare of condemnation is always
going on in the church. The papists and the fanatics hate us, condemn
our doctrine, and want to kill us. We in turn hate and condemn their
cursed doctrine. In the meanwhile the people are uncertain whom to
follow and which way to turn, for it is not given to everybody to
judge these matters. But the truth will win out. So much is certain,
we persecute no man, neither does our doctrine trouble men. On the
contrary, we have the testimony of many good men who thank God on their
knees for the consolation that our doctrine has brought them. Like Paul,
we are not to blame that the churches have trouble. The fault lies with
the Anabaptists and other fanatics.

Every teacher of work-righteousness is a trouble-maker. Has it never
occurred to you that the pope, cardinals, bishops, monks, and that the
whole synagogue of Satan are trouble-makers? The truth is, they are
worse than false apostles. The false apostles taught that in addition
to faith in Christ the works of the Law of God were necessary unto
salvation. But the papists omit faith altogether and teach self-devised
traditions and works that are not commanded of God, indeed are contrary
to the Word of God, and for these traditions they demand preferred
attention and obedience.

Paul calls the false apostles troublers of the church because they
taught circumcision and the keeping of the Law as needful unto
salvation. They insisted that the Law must be observed in every detail.
They were supporters in this contention by the Jews, with the result
that those who were not firmly established in faith were easily
persuaded that Paul was not a sincere teacher of God because he ignored
the Law. The Jews were offended at the idea that the Law of God
should be entirely ignored by Paul and that the Gentiles, former
idol-worshippers, should gratuitously attain to the station of God's
people without circumcision, without the penitentiary performance of the
law, by grace alone through faith in Christ Jesus.

These criticisms were amplified by the false apostles. They accused
Paul of designs to abolish the law of God and the Jewish dispensation,
contrary to the law of God, contrary to their Jewish heritage, contrary
to apostolic example, contrary to Paul's own example. They demanded that
Paul be shunned as a blasphemer and a rebel, while they were to be heard
as true teachers of the Gospel and authentic disciples of the apostles.
Thus Paul stood defamed among the Galatians. He was forced to attack the
false apostles. He did so without hesitation.

  VERSE 7. And would pervert the gospel of Christ.
To paraphrase this sentence: "These false apostles do not merely trouble
you, they abolish Christ's Gospel. They act as if they were the only
true Gospel-preachers. For all that they muddle Law and Gospel. As a
result they pervert the Gospel. Either Christ must live and the Law
perish, or the Law remains and Christ must perish; Christ and the Law
cannot dwell side by side in the conscience. It is either grace or law.
To muddle the two is to eliminate the Gospel of Christ entirely."

It seems a small matter to mingle the Law and Gospel, faith and works,
but it creates more mischief than man's brain can conceive. To mix Law
and Gospel not only clouds the knowledge of grace, it cuts out Christ

The words of Paul, "and would pervert the gospel of Christ," also
indicate how arrogant these false apostles were. They were shameless
boasters. Paul simply had to exalt his own ministry and Gospel.

  VERSE 8. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other
  gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him
  be accursed.

Paul's zeal for the Gospel becomes so fervent that it almost leads him
to curse angels. "I would rather that I, my brethren, yes, the angels of
heaven be anathematized than that my gospel be overthrown."

The Greek word _anathema_, Hebrew _herem_, means to accurse, execrate,
to damn. Paul first (hypothetically) curses himself. Knowing persons
first find fault with themselves in order that they may all the more
earnestly reprove others.

Paul maintains that there is no other gospel besides the one he
had preached to the Galatians. He preached, not a gospel of his own
invention, but the very same Gospel God had long ago prescribed in the
Sacred Scriptures. No wonder Paul pronounces curses upon himself and
upon others, upon the angels of heaven, if anyone should dare to preach
any other gospel than Christ's own.

  VERSE 9. As we said before, so say I now again. If any man preach
  any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be

Paul repeats the curse, directing it now upon other persons. Before, he
cursed himself, his brethren, and an angel from heaven. "Now," he says,
"if there are any others who preach a gospel different from that you
have received from us, let them also be accursed." Paul herewith curses
and excommunicates all false teachers including his opponents. He is so
worked up that he dares to curse all who pervert his Gospel. Would to
God that this terrible pronouncement of the Apostle might strike fear
into the hearts of all who pervert the Gospel of Paul.

The Galatians might say: "Paul, we do not pervert the Gospel you have
brought unto us. We did not quite understand it. That is all. Now these
teachers who came after you have explained everything so beautifully."
This explanation the Apostle refuses to accept. They must add nothing;
they must correct nothing. "What you received from me is the genuine
Gospel of God. Let it stand. If any man brings any other gospel than the
one I brought you, or promises to deliver better things than you have
received from me, let him be accursed."

In spite of this emphatic denunciation so many accept the pope as the
supreme judge of the Scriptures. "The Church," they say, "chose only
four gospels. The Church might have chosen more. Ergo the Church is
above the Gospel." With equal force one might argue: "I approve the
Scriptures. Ergo I am above the Scriptures. John the Baptist confessed
Christ. Hence he is above Christ." Paul subordinates himself, all
preachers, all the angels of heaven, everybody to the Sacred Scriptures.
We are not the masters, judges, or arbiters, but witnesses, disciples,
and confessors of the Scriptures, whether we be pope, Luther, Augustine,
Paul, or an angel from heaven.

  VERSE 10. For do I now persuade men, or God?

With the same vehemence Paul continues: "You Galatians ought to be able
to tell from my preaching and from the many afflictions which I have
endured, whether I serve men or God. Everybody can see that my preaching
has stirred up persecution against me everywhere, and has earned for me
the cruel hatred of my own people, in fact the hatred of all men. This
should convince you that by my preaching I do not seek the favor and
praise of men, but the glory of God."

No man can say that we are seeking the favor and praise of men with our
doctrine. We teach that all men are naturally depraved. We condemn
man's free will, his strength, wisdom, and righteousness. We say that we
obtain grace by the free mercy of God alone for Christ's sake. This is
no preaching to please men. This sort of preaching procures for us
the hatred and disfavor of the world, persecutions, excommunications,
murders, and curses.

"Can't you see that I seek no man's favor by my doctrine?" asks Paul.
"If I were anxious for the favor of men I would flatter them. But what
do I do? I condemn their works. I teach things only that I have been
commanded to teach from above. For that I bring down upon my head
the wrath of Jews and Gentiles. My doctrine must be right. It must
be divine. Any other doctrine cannot be better than mine. Any other
doctrine must be false and wicked."

With Paul we boldly pronounce a curse upon every doctrine that does not
agree with ours. We do not preach for the praise of men, or the favor of
princes. We preach for the favor of God alone whose grace and mercy we
proclaim. Whosoever teaches a gospel contrary to ours, or different from
ours, let us be bold to say that he is sent of the devil.

  VERSE 10. Or do I seek to please men?

"Do I serve men or God?" Paul keeps an eye on the false apostles, those
flatterers of men. They taught circumcision to avoid the hatred and
persecution of men.

To this day you will find many who seek to please men in order that they
may live in peace and security. They teach whatever is agreeable to men,
no matter whether it is contrary to God's Word or their own conscience.
But we who endeavor to please God and not men, stir up hell itself. We
must suffer reproach, slanders, death.

For those who go about to please men we have a word from Christ recorded
in the fifth chapter of St. John: "How can ye believe, which receive
honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God

  VERSE 10. For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of

Observe the consummate cleverness with which the false apostles went
about to bring Paul into disrepute. They combed Paul's writings for
contradictions (our opponents do the same) to accuse him of teaching
contradictory things. They found that Paul had circumcised Timothy
according to the Law, that Paul had purified himself with four other men
in the Temple at Jerusalem, that Paul had shaven his head at Cenchrea.
The false apostles slyly suggested that Paul had been constrained by
the other apostles to observe these ceremonial laws. We know that Paul
observed these _decora_ out of charitable regard for the weak brethren.
He did not want to offend them. But the false apostles turned Paul's
charitable regard to his disadvantage. If Paul had preached the Law and
circumcision, if he had commended the strength and free will of man, he
would not have been so obnoxious to the Jews. On the contrary they would
have praised his every action.

  VERSES 11, 12. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which
  was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of
  man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

This passage constitutes Paul's chief defense against the accusations of
his opponents. He maintains under oath that he received his Gospel not
from men, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

In declaring that his Gospel is not after man, Paul does not merely wish
to state that his Gospel is not mundane. The false apostles made the
same claim for their gospel. Paul means to say that he learned his
Gospel not in the usual and accepted manner through the agency of men
by hearing, reading, or writing. He received the Gospel by special
revelation directly from Jesus Christ.

Paul received his Gospel on the way to Damascus when Christ appeared to
him. St. Luke furnishes an account of the incident in the ninth chapter
of the Book of Acts. "Arise," said Christ to Paul, "and go into the
city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." Christ did not send
Paul into the city to learn the Gospel from Ananias. Ananias was only
to baptize Paul, to lay his hands on Paul, to commit the ministry of the
Word unto Paul, and to recommend him to the Church. Ananias recognized
his limited assignment when he said to Paul: "Brother Saul, the Lord,
even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent
me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy
Ghost." Paul did not receive instruction from Ananias. Paul had already
been called, enlightened, and taught by Christ in the road. His contact
with Ananias was merely a testimonial to the fact that Paul had been
called by Christ to preach the Gospel.

Paul was forced to speak of his conversion to combat the slanderous
contention of the false apostles to the effect that this apostleship was
inferior to that of the other apostles.

If it were not for the example of the Galatian churches I would never
have thought it possible that anybody who had received the Word of God
with such eagerness as they had, could so quickly let go of it. Good
Lord, what terrible mischief one single false statement can create.

The article of justification is fragile. Not in itself, of course, but
in us. I know how quickly a person can forfeit the joy of the Gospel.
I know in what slippery places even those stand who seem to have a good
footing in the matters of faith. In the midst of the conflict when we
should be consoling ourselves with the Gospel, the Law rears up and
begins to rage all over our conscience. I say the Gospel is frail
because we are frail.

What makes matters worse is that one-half of ourselves, our own reason,
stands against us. The flesh resists the spirit, or as Paul puts it,
"The flesh lusteth against the Spirit." Therefore we teach that to know
Christ and to believe in Him is no achievement of man, but the gift of
God. God alone can create and preserve faith in us. God creates faith in
us through the Word. He increases, strengthens and confirms faith in us
through His word. Hence the best service that anybody can render God is
diligently to hear and read God's Word. On the other hand, nothing is
more perilous than to be weary of the Word of God. Thinking he knows
enough, a person begins little by little to despise the Word until he
has lost Christ and the Gospel altogether.

Let every believer carefully learn the Gospel. Let him continue in
humble prayer. We are molested not by puny foes, but by mighty ones,
foes who never grow tired of warring against us. These, our enemies,
are many: Our own flesh, the world, the Law, sin, death, the wrath and
judgment of God, and the devil himself.

The arguments which the false apostles advanced impress people to this
day. "Who are you to dissent from the fathers and the entire Church, and
to bring a contradictory doctrine? Are you wiser than so many holy men,
wiser than the whole Church?" When Satan, abetted by our own reason,
advances these arguments against us, we lose heart, unless we keep
on saying to ourselves: "I don't care if Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine,
Peter, Paul, John, or an angel from heaven, teaches so and so. I know
that I teach the truth of God in Christ Jesus."

When I first took over the defense of the Gospel, I remembered what
Doctor Staupitz said to me. "I like it well," he said, "that the
doctrine which you proclaim gives glory to God alone and none to man.
For never can too much glory, goodness, and mercy be ascribed unto God."
These words of the worthy Doctor comforted and confirmed me. The Gospel
is true because it deprives men of all glory, wisdom, and righteousness
and turns over all honor to the Creator alone. It is safer to attribute
too much glory unto God than unto man.

You may argue that the Church and the fathers are holy. Yet the Church
is compelled to pray: "Forgive us our trespasses," I am not to be
believed, nor is the Church to be believed, or the fathers, or the
apostles, or an angel from heaven, if they teach anything contrary to
the Word of God. Let the Word of God abide forever.

Peter erred in life and in doctrine. Paul might have dismissed Peter's
error as a matter of no consequence. But Paul saw that Peter's error
would lead to the damage of the whole Church unless it were corrected.
Therefore he withstood Peter to his face. The Church, Peter, the
apostles, angels from heaven, are not to be heard unless they teach the
genuine Word of God.

This argument is not always to our advantage. People ask: "Whom then
shall we believe?" Our opponents maintain that they teach the pure Word
of God. We do not believe them. They in turn hate and persecute us for
vile heretics. What can we do about it? With Paul we glory in the Gospel
of Jesus Christ. What do we gain? We are told that our glorying is idle
vanity and unadulterated blasphemy. The moment we abase ourselves and
give in to the rage of our opponents, Papists and Anabaptists grow
arrogant. The Anabaptists hatch out some new monstrosity. The Papists
revive their old abominations. What to do? Let everybody become sure of
his calling and doctrine, that he may boldly say with Paul: "But though
we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than ye
have received, let him be accursed."

  VERSES 13, 14. For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in
  the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church
  of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many
  my equals in mine own nation.

This passage does not contain doctrine. Paul adduces his own case for an
example. "I have," he says, "at one time defended the traditions of the
Pharisees more fiercely than any of your false apostles. Now, if the
righteousness of the Law had been worth anything I would never have
forsaken it. So carefully did I live up to the Law that I excelled many
of my companions. So zealous was I in defense of the Law that I wasted
the church of God."

  VERSE 14. Being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my

Speaking now of the Mosaic Law, Paul declares that he was wrapped up
in it. To the Philippians he wrote: "As touching the law, a Pharisee;
concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness
which is in the law, blameless." He means to say, "I can compare myself
with the best and holiest of all those who are of the circumcision. Let
them show me if they can, a more earnest defender of the Mosaic Law than
I was at one time. This fact, O Galatians, should have put you on your
guard against these deceivers who make so much of the Law. If anybody
ever had reason to glory in the righteousness of the Law, it was I."
I too may say that before I was enlightened by the Gospel, I was as
zealous for the papistical laws and traditions of the fathers as ever
a man was. I tried hard to live up to every law as best I could. I
punished myself with fasting, watching, praying, and other exercises
more than all those who today hate and persecute me. I was so much in
earnest that I imposed upon my body more than it could stand. I honored
the pope as a matter of conscience. Whatever I did, I did with a single
heart to the glory of God. But our opponents, well-fed idlers that they
are, will not believe what I and many others have endured.

  VERSES 15, 16, 17. But when it pleased God, who separated me from
  my mother's womb, and called me by his grace. To reveal his Son in
  me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I
  conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to
  them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and
  returned again unto Damascus.

Here Paul relates that immediately upon being called by God to preach
the Gospel to the Gentiles, he went into Arabia without consulting a
single person. "When it had pleased God," he writes, "I did not deserve
it. I had been an enemy of Christ. I had blasphemed His Gospel. I had
shed innocent blood. In the midst of my frenzy I was called. Why? On
account of my outrageous cruelty? Indeed not. My gracious God who shows
mercy unto whom He will, pardoned all mine iniquities. He bestowed His
grace upon me, and called me for an apostle."

We also have come to the knowledge of the truth by the same kindness of
God. I crucified Christ daily in my cloistered life, and blasphemed God
by my wrong faith. Outwardly I kept myself chaste, poor, and obedient. I
was much given to fasting, watching, praying, saying of masses, and the
like. Yet under the cloak of my outward respectability I continually
mistrusted, doubted, feared, hated, and blasphemed God. My righteousness
was a filthy puddle. Satan loves such saints. They are his darlings,
for they quickly destroy their body and soul by depriving them of the
blessings of God's generous gifts.

I tell you I stood in awe of the pope's authority. To dissent from him I
considered a crime worthy of eternal death. I thought of John Huss as a
cursed heretic. I counted it a sin even to think of him. I would gladly
have furnished the wood to burn him. I would have felt I had done God a
real service.

In comparison with these sanctimonious hypocrites of the papacy,
publicans and harlots are not bad. They at least feel remorse. They
at least do not try to justify their wicked deeds. But these pretended
saints, so far from acknowledging their errors, justify them and regard
them as acceptable sacrifices unto God.

  VERSE 15. When it pleased God.

"By the favor of God I, a wicked and cursed wretch, a blasphemer,
persecutor, and rebel, was spared. Not content to spare me, God granted
unto me the knowledge of His salvation, His Spirit, His Son, the office
of an apostle, everlasting life." Paul speaking.

God not only pardoned our iniquities, but in addition overwhelmed us
with blessings and spiritual gifts. Many, however, are ungrateful.
Worse, by opening again a window to the devil many begin to loathe God's
Word, and end by perverting the Gospel.

  VERSE 15. Who separated me from my mother's womb.

This is a Hebrew expression, meaning to sanctify, ordain, prepare. Paul
is saying, "When I was not yet born God ordained me to be an apostle,
and in due time confirmed my apostleship before the world. Every gift,
be it small or great, spiritual or temporal, and every good thing I
should ever do, God has ordained while I was yet in my mother's womb
where I could neither think nor perform any good thing. After I was born
God supported me. Heaping mercy upon mercy, He freely forgave my sins,
replenishing me with His grace to enable me to learn what great things
are ours in Christ. To crown it all, He called me to preach the Gospel
to others."

  VERSE 15. And called me by his grace.

"Did God call me on account of my holy life? Or on account of my
pharisaical religion? Or on account of my prayers, fastings, and works?
Never. Well, then, it is certain God did not call me on account of my
blasphemies, persecutions, oppressions. What prompted Him to call me?
His grace alone."

  VERSE 16. To reveal his Son to me.

We now hear what kind of doctrine was committed to Paul: The doctrine
of the Gospel, the doctrine of the revelation of the Son of God.
This doctrine differs greatly from the Law. The Law terrorizes the
conscience. The Law reveals the wrath and judgment of God. The Gospel
does not threaten. The Gospel announces that Christ is come to forgive
the sins of the world. The Gospel conveys to us the inestimable
treasures of God.

  VERSE 16. That I might preach him among the heathen.

"It pleased God," says the Apostle, "to reveal himself in me. Why? For a
twofold purpose. That I personally should believe in the Son of God, and
that I should reveal Him to the Gentiles."

Paul does not mention the Jews, for the simple reason that he was the
called and acknowledged apostle of the Gentiles, although he preached
Christ also to the Jews.

We can hear the Apostle saying to himself: "I will not burden the
Gentiles with the Law, because I am their apostle and not their
lawgiver. Not once did you Galatians hear me speak of the righteousness
of the Law or of works. My job was to bring you the Gospel. Therefore
you ought to listen to no teachers of the Law, but the Gospel: not
Moses, but the Son of God; not the righteousness of works, but the
righteousness of faith must be proclaimed to the Gentiles. That is the
right kind of preaching for Gentiles."

  VERSE 16. Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.

Once Paul had received the Gospel from Christ, he conferred with nobody
in Damascus. He asked no man to teach him. He did not go up to Jerusalem
to sit at the feet of Peter and the other apostles. At once he preached
Jesus Christ in Damascus.

  VERSE 17. Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were
  apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto

"I went to Arabia before I saw any of the apostles. I took it upon
myself to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles without delay, because
Christ had called me for that purpose." This statement refutes the
assertion of the false apostles that Paul had been a pupil of the
apostles, from which the false apostles inferred that Paul had been
instructed in the obedience of the Law, that therefore the Gentiles also
ought to keep the Law and submit to circumcision.

  VERSES 18, 19. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see
  Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles
  saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.

Paul minutely recounts his personal history to stop the cavil of the
false apostles. Paul does not deny that he had been with some of the
apostles. He went to Jerusalem uninvited, not to be instructed, but to
visit with Peter. Luke reports the occasion in the ninth chapter of the
Book of Acts. Barnabas introduced Paul to the apostles and related to
them how Paul had met the Lord Jesus on the way to Damascus, also how
Paul had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Paul says
that he saw Peter and James, but he denies that he learned anything from

Why does Paul harp on this seemingly unimportant fact? To convince the
churches of Galatia that his Gospel was the true Word of Christ which he
learned from Christ Himself and from no man. Paul was forced to affirm
and re-affirm this fact. His usefulness to all the churches that had
used him as their pastor and teacher was at stake.

  VERSE 20. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God,
  I lie not.

Was it necessary for Paul to go under oath? Yes. Paul is reporting
personal history. How else would the churches believe him? The false
apostles might say, "Who knows whether Paul is telling the truth?"
Paul, the elect vessel of God, was held in so little esteem by his own
Galatians to whom he had preached Christ that it was necessary for him
to swear an oath that he spoke the truth. If this happened to Paul, what
business have we to complain when people doubt our words, or hold us
in little regard, we who cannot begin to compare ourselves with the

  VERSE 21. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.

Syria and Cilicia are adjacent countries. Paul traces his movements
carefully in order to convince the Galatians that he had never been the
disciple of any apostle.

  VERSES 22, 23, 24. And was unknown by face unto the churches of
  Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, that he which
  persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he
  destroyed. And they glorified God in me.

In Syria and Cilicia Paul won the indorsement of all the churches of
Judea, by his preaching. All the churches everywhere, even those of
Judea, could testify that he had preached the same faith everywhere.
"And," Paul adds, "these churches glorified God in me, not because I
taught that circumcision and the law of Moses should be observed, but
because I urged upon all faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."


  VERSE 1. Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem.

Paul taught justification by faith in Christ Jesus, without the deeds
of the Law. He reported this to the disciples at Antioch. Among the
disciples were some that had been brought up in the ancient customs of
the Jews. These rose against Paul in quick indignation, accusing him of
propagating a gospel of lawlessness.

Great dissension followed. Paul and Barnabas stood up for the truth.
They testified: "Wherever we preached to the Gentiles, the Holy Ghost
came upon those who received the Word. This happened everywhere. We
preached not circumcision, we did not require observance of the Law. We
preached faith in Jesus Christ. At our preaching of faith, God gave to
the hearers the Holy Ghost." From this fact Paul and Barnabas inferred
that the Holy Ghost approved the faith of the Gentiles without the Law
and circumcision. If the faith of the Gentiles had not pleased the Holy
Ghost, He would not have manifested His presence in the uncircumcised
hearers of the Word.

Unconvinced, the Jews fiercely opposed Paul, asserting that the Law
ought to be kept and that the Gentiles ought to be circumcised, or else
they could not be saved.

When we consider the obstinacy with which Romanists cling to their
traditions, we can very well understand the zealous devotion of the
Jews for the Law. After all, they had received the Law from God. We
can understand how impossible it was for recent converts from Judaism
suddenly to break with the Law. For that matter, God did bear with them,
as He bore with the infirmity of Israel when the people halted
between two religions. Was not God patient with us also while we were
blindfolded by the papacy? God is longsuffering and full of mercy. But
we dare not abuse the patience of the Lord. We dare no longer continue
in error now that the truth has been revealed in the Gospel. The
opponents of Paul had his own example to prefer against him. Paul had
circumcised Timothy. Paul defended his action on the ground that he had
circumcised Timothy, not from compulsion, but from Christian love, lest
the weak in faith should be offended. His opponents would not accept
Paul's explanation.

When Paul saw that the quarrel was getting out of hand he obeyed the
direction of God and left for Jerusalem, there to confer with the other
apostles. He did this not for his own sake, but for the sake of the

  VERSE 1. With Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.

Paul chose two witnesses, Barnabas and Titus. Barnabas had been Paul's
preaching companion to the Gentiles. Barnabas was an eye-witness of the
fact that the Holy Ghost had come upon the Gentiles in response to the
simple preaching of faith in Jesus Christ. Barnabas stuck to Paul on
this point, that it was not necessary for the Gentiles to be bothered
with the Law as long as they believed in Christ.

Titus was superintendent of the churches in Crete, having been placed in
charge of the churches by Paul. Titus was a former Gentile.

  VERSE 2. And I went up by revelation.

If God had not ordered Paul to Jerusalem, Paul would never have gone

  VERSE 2. And communicated unto them that gospel.

After an absence of fourteen years, respectively eighteen years, Paul
returned to Jerusalem to confer with the other apostles.

  VERSE 2. Which I preach among the Gentiles.

Among the Jews Paul allowed Law and circumcision to stand for the time
being. So did all the apostles. Nevertheless Paul held fast to the
liberty of the Gospel. On one occasion he said to the Jews: "Through
this man (Christ) is preached unto you forgiveness of sins; and by him
all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not
be justified by the law of Moses." (Acts 13:39.) Always remembering the
weak, Paul did not insist that they break at once with the Law.

Paul admits that he conferred with the apostles concerning his Gospel.
But he denies that the conference benefited or taught him anything. The
fact is he resisted those who wanted to force the practice of the Law
upon the Gentiles. They did not overcome him, he overcame them. "Your
false apostles lie, when they say that I circumcised Timothy, shaved
my head in Cenchrea, and went up to Jerusalem, at the request of the
apostles. I went to Jerusalem at the request of God. What is more, I won
the indorsement of the apostles. My opponents lost out."

The matter upon which the apostles deliberated in conference was
this: Is the observance of the Law requisite unto justification? Paul
answered: "I have preached faith in Christ to the Gentiles, and not the
Law. If the Jews want to keep the Law and be circumcised, very well, as
long as they do so from a right motive."

  VERSE 2. But privately to them which were of reputation.

This is to say, "I conferred not only with the brethren, but with the
leaders among them."

  VERSE 2. Lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.

Not that Paul himself ever thought he had run in vain. However, many
did think that Paul had preached the Gospel in vain, because he kept the
Gentiles free from the yoke of the Law. The opinion that obedience to
the Law was mandatory unto salvation was gaining ground. Paul meant to
remedy this evil. By this conference he hoped to establish the identity
of his Gospel with that of the other apostles, to stop the talk of his
opponents that he had been running around in vain.

  VERSE 3. But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was
  compelled to be circumcised.

The word "compelled" acquaints us with the outcome of the conference.
It was resolved that the Gentiles should not be compelled to be

Paul did not condemn circumcision in itself. Neither by word nor deed
did he ever inveigh against circumcision. But he did protest against
circumcision being made a condition for salvation. He cited the case of
the Fathers. "The fathers were not justified by circumcision. It was to
them a sign and seal of righteousness. They looked upon circumcision as
a confession of their faith."

The believing Jews, however, could not get it through their heads that
circumcision was not necessary for salvation. They were encouraged in
their wrong attitude by the false apostles. The result was that the
people were up in arms against Paul and his doctrine.

Paul did not condemn circumcision as if it were a sin to receive it.
But he insisted, and the conference upheld him, that circumcision had
no bearing upon salvation and was therefore not to be forced upon the
Gentiles. The conference agreed that the Jews should be permitted to
keep their ancient customs for the time being, so long as they did not
regard those customs as conveying God's justification of the sinner.

The false apostles were dissatisfied with the verdict of the conference.
They did not want to rest circumcision and the practice of the Law in
Christian liberty. They insisted that circumcision was obligatory unto

As the opponents of Paul, so our own adversaries [Luther's, the enemies
of the Reformation] contend that the traditions of the Fathers dare not
be neglected without loss of salvation. Our opponents will not agree
with us on anything. They defend their blasphemies. They go as far to
enforce them with the sword.

Paul's victory was complete. Titus, who was with Paul, was not compelled
to be circumcised, although he stood in the midst of the apostles when
this question of circumcision was debated. This was a blow to the
false apostles. With the living fact that Titus was not compelled to be
circumcised Paul was able to squelch his adversaries.

  VERSES 4,5. And that because of false brethren unawares brought in,
  who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ
  Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: To whom we gave place by
  subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might
  continue with you.

Paul here explains his motive for going up to Jerusalem. He did not go
to Jerusalem to be instructed or confirmed in his Gospel by the other
apostles. He went to Jerusalem in order to preserve the true Gospel for
the Galatian churches and for all the churches of the Gentiles.

When Paul speaks of the truth of the Gospel he implies by contrast a
false gospel. The false apostles also had a gospel, but it was an untrue
gospel. "In holding out against them," says Paul, "I conserved the truth
of the pure Gospel."

Now the true Gospel has it that we are justified by faith alone, without
the deeds of the Law. The false gospel has it that we are justified by
faith, but not without the deeds of the Law. The false apostles preached
a conditional gospel.

So do the papists. They admit that faith is the foundation of salvation.
But they add the conditional clause that faith can save only when it is
furnished with good works. This is wrong. The true Gospel declares that
good works are the embellishment of faith, but that faith itself is the
gift and work of God in our hearts. Faith is able to justify, because it
apprehends Christ, the Redeemer.

Human reason can think only in terms of the Law. It mumbles: "This I
have done, this I have not done." But faith looks to Jesus Christ, the
Son of God, given into death for the sins of the whole world. To turn
one's eyes away from Jesus means to turn them to the Law.

True faith lays hold of Christ and leans on Him alone. Our opponents
cannot understand this. In their blindness they cast away the precious
pearl, Christ, and hang onto their stubborn works. They have no idea
what faith is. How can they teach faith to others?

Not satisfied with teaching an untrue gospel, the false apostles tried
to entangle Paul. "They went about," says Paul, "to spy out our liberty
which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage."

When Paul saw through their scheme, he attacked the false apostles. He
says, "We did not let go of the liberty which we have in Christ Jesus.
We routed them by the judgment of the apostles, and we would not give in
to them, no, not an inch."

We too were willing to make all kinds of concessions to the papists.
Yes, we are willing to offer them more than we should. But we will not
give up the liberty of conscience which we have in Christ Jesus. We
refuse to have our conscience bound by any work or law, so that by doing
this or that we should be righteous, or leaving this or that undone we
should be damned.

Since our opponents will not let it stand that only faith in Christ
justifies, we will not yield to them. On the question of justification
we must remain adamant, or else we shall lose the truth of the Gospel.
It is a matter of life and death. It involves the death of the Son
of God, who died for the sins of the world. If we surrender faith
in Christ, as the only thing that can justify us, the death and
resurrection of Jesus are without meaning; that Christ is the Savior
of the world would be a myth. God would be a liar, because He would not
have fulfilled His promises. Our stubbornness is right, because we want
to preserve the liberty which we have in Christ. Only by preserving our
liberty shall we be able to retain the truth of the Gospel inviolate.

Some will object that the Law is divine and holy. Let it be divine and
holy. The Law has no right to tell me that I must be justified by it.
The Law has the right to tell me that I should love God and my neighbor,
that I should live in chastity, temperance, patience, etc. The Law has
no right to tell me how I may be delivered from sin, death, and hell. It
is the Gospel's business to tell me that. I must listen to the Gospel.
It tells me, not what I must do, but what Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
has done for me.

To conclude, Paul refused to circumcise Titus for the reason that the
false apostles wanted to compel him to circumcise Titus. Paul refused to
accede to their demands. If they had asked it on the plea of brotherly
love, Paul would not have denied them. But because they demanded it on
the ground that it was necessary for salvation, Paul defied them, and
prevailed. Titus was not circumcised.

  VERSE 6. But of those who seemed to be somewhat, whatsoever they
  were, it maketh no matter to me.

This is a good point in Paul's refutation. Paul disparages the authority
and dignity of the true apostles. He says of them, "Which seemed to be
somewhat." The authority of the apostles was indeed great in all the
churches. Paul did not want to detract from their authority, but he had
to speak disparagingly of their authority in order to conserve the truth
of the Gospel, and the liberty of conscience.

The false apostles used this argument against Paul: "The apostles lived
with Christ for three years. They heard His sermons. They witnessed His
miracles. They themselves preached and performed miracles while Christ
was on earth. Paul never saw Jesus in the flesh. Now, whom ought you to
believe: Paul, who stands alone, a mere disciple of the apostles, one
of the last and least; or will you believe those grand apostles who were
sent and confirmed by Christ Himself long before Paul?"

What could Paul say to that? He answered: "What they say has no bearing
on the argument. If the apostles were angels from heaven, that would not
impress me. We are not now discussing the excellency of the apostles. We
are talking about the Word of God now, and the truth of the Gospel. That
Gospel is more excellent than all apostles."

  VERSE 6. God accepteth no man's person.

Paul is quoting Moses: "Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor,
nor honor the person of the mighty." (Lev. 19:15) This quotation from
Moses ought to shut the mouths of the false apostles. "Don't you
know that God is no respecter of persons?" cries Paul. The dignity
or authority of men means nothing to God. The fact is that God often
rejects just such who stand in the odor of sanctity and in the aura
of importance. In doing so God seems unjust and harsh. But men need
deterring examples. For it is a vice with us to esteem personality more
highly than the Word of God. God wants us to exalt His Word and not men.

There must be people in high office, of course. But we are not to deify
them. The governor, the mayor, the preacher, the teacher, the scholar,
father, mother, are persons whom we are to love and revere, but not to
the extent that we forget God. Least we attach too much importance
to the person, God leaves with important persons offenses and sins,
sometimes astounding shortcomings, to show us that there is a lot of
difference between any person and God. David was a good king. But when
the people began to think too well of him, down he fell into horrible
sins, adultery and murder. Peter, excellent apostle that he was, denied
Christ. Such examples of which the Scriptures are full, ought to warn
us not to repose our trust in men. In the papacy appearance counts for
everything. Indeed, the whole papacy amounts to nothing more than a mere
kowtowing of persons and outward mummery. But God alone is to be feared
and honored.

I would honor the Pope, I would love his person, if he would leave my
conscience alone, and not compel me to sin against God. But the Pope
wants to be adored himself, and that cannot be done without offending
God. Since we must choose between one or the other, let us choose God.
The truth is we are commissioned by God to resist the Pope, for it is
written, "We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)

We have seen how Paul refutes the argument of the false apostles
concerning the authority of the apostles. In order that the truth of the
Gospel may continue; in order that the Word of God and the righteousness
of faith may be kept pure and undefiled, let the apostles, let an angel
from heaven, let Peter, let Paul, let them all perish.

  VERSE 6. For they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added
  nothing to me.

The Apostle repeats: "I did not so confer with the apostles that they
taught me anything. What could they possibly teach me since Christ by
His revelation had taught me all things? It was but a conference, and
no disputation. I learned nothing, neither did I defend my cause. I only
stated what I had done, that I had preached to the Gentiles faith in
Christ, without the Law, and that in response to my preaching the Holy
Ghost came down upon the Gentiles. When the apostles heard this, they
were glad that I had taught the truth."

If Paul would not give in to the false apostles, much less ought we to
give in to our opponents. I know that a Christian should be humble, but
against the Pope I am going to be proud and say to him: "You, Pope,
I will not have you for my boss, for I am sure that my doctrine is
divine." Such pride against the Pope is imperative, for if we are not
stout and proud we shall never succeed in defending the article of the
righteousness of faith.

If the Pope would concede that God alone by His grace through Christ
justifies sinners, we would carry him in our arms, we would kiss his
feet. But since we cannot obtain this concession, we will give in to
nobody, not to all the angels in heaven, not to Peter, not to Paul, not
to a hundred emperors, not to a thousand popes, not to the whole world.
If in this matter we were to humble ourselves, they would take from
us the God who created us, and Jesus Christ who has redeemed us by His
blood. Let this be our resolution, that we will suffer the loss of all
things, the loss of our good name, of life itself, but the Gospel and
our faith in Jesus Christ--we will not stand for it that anybody take
them from us.

  VERSES 7, 8. But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the
  uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision
  was unto Peter; [For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the
  apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the

Here the Apostle claims for himself the same authority which the false
apostles attributed to the true apostles. Paul simply inverts their
argument. "To bolster their evil cause," says he, "the false apostles
quote the authority of the great apostles against me. I can quote the
same authority against them, for the apostles are on my side. They
gave me the right hand of fellowship. They approved my ministry. O my
Galatians, do not believe the counterfeit apostles!"

What does Paul mean by saying that the gospel of the uncircumcision was
committed unto him, and that of the circumcision to Peter? Did not Paul
preach to the Jews, while Peter preached to the Gentiles also? Peter
converted the Centurion. Paul's custom was to enter into the synagogues
of the Jews, there to preach the Gospel. Why then should he call himself
the apostle of the Gentiles, while he calls Peter the apostle of the

Paul refers to the fact that the other apostles remained in Jerusalem
until the destruction of the city became imminent. But Paul was
especially called the apostle of the Gentiles. Even before the
destruction of Jerusalem Jews dwelt here and there in the cities of the
Gentiles. Coming to a city, Paul customarily entered the synagogues of
the Jews and first brought to them as the children of the kingdom, the
glad tidings that the promises made unto the fathers were fulfilled in
Jesus Christ. When the Jews refused to hear these glad tidings, Paul
turned to the Gentiles. He was the apostle of the Gentiles in a special
sense, as Peter was the apostle of the Jews.

Paul reiterates that Peter, James, and John, the accepted pillars of the
Church, taught him nothing, nor did they commit unto him the office of
preaching the Gospel unto the Gentiles. Both the knowledge of the Gospel
and the commandment to preach it to the Gentiles, Paul received directly
from God. His case was parallel to that of Peter's, who was particularly
commissioned to preach the Gospel to the Jews.

The apostles had the same charge, the identical Gospel. Peter did not
proclaim a different Gospel, nor had he appointed his fellow apostles.
They were equals. They were all taught of God. None was greater than the
other, none could point to prerogatives above the other. To justify his
usurped primacy in the Church the Pope claims that Peter was the chief
of the apostles. This is an impudent falsehood.

  VERSE 8. For he that wrought effectually in Peter.

With these words Paul refutes another argument of the false apostles.
"What reason have the false apostles to boast that the Gospel of Peter
was mighty, that he converted many, that he wrought great miracles, and
that his very shadow healed the sick? These reports are true enough. But
where did Peter acquire this power? God gave him the power. I have the
same power. I received my power, not from Peter, but from the same God,
the same Spirit who was mighty in Peter was mighty in me also." Luke
corroborates Paul's statement in the words: "And God wrought special
miracles by the hands of Paul, so that from his body were brought unto
the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them,
and the evil spirits went out of them." (Acts 19:11, 12.)

To conclude, Paul is not going to be inferior to the rest of the
apostles. Some secular writers put Paul's boasting down as carnal pride.
But Paul had no personal interest in his boasting. It was with him a
matter of faith and doctrine. The controversy was not about the glory
of Paul, but the glory of God, the Word of God, the true worship of God,
true religion, and the righteousness of faith.

  VERSE 9. And when James, Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars,
  perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and
  Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the
  heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

"The fact is, when the apostles heard that I had received the charge to
preach the Gospel to the Gentiles from Christ; when they heard that God
had wrought many miracles through me; that great numbers of the Gentiles
had come to the knowledge of Christ through my ministry; when they
heard that the Gentiles had received the Holy Ghost without Law and
circumcision, by the simple preaching of faith; when they heard all this
they glorified God for His grace in me." Hence, Paul was justified in
concluding that the apostles were for him, and not against him.

  VERSE 9. The right hands of fellowship.

As if the apostles had said to him: "We, Paul, do agree with you in all
things. We are companions in doctrine. We have the same Gospel with this
difference, that to you is committed the Gospel for the uncircumcised,
while the Gospel for the circumcision is committed unto us. But this
difference ought not to hinder our friendship, since we preach one and
the same Gospel."

  VERSE 10. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same
  which I also was forward to do.

Next to the preaching of the Gospel, a true and faithful pastor will
take care of the poor. Where the Church is, there must be the poor,
for the world and the devil persecute the Church and impoverish many
faithful Christians.

Speaking of money, nobody wants to contribute nowadays to the
maintenance of the ministry, and the erection of schools. When it comes
to establishing false worship and idolatry, no cost is spared. True
religion is ever in need of money, while false religions are backed by

  VERSE 11. But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the
  face, because he was to be blamed.

Paul goes on in his refutation of the false apostles by saying that in
Antioch he withstood Peter in the presence of the whole congregation.
As he stated before, Paul had no small matter in hand, but the chief
article of the Christian religion. When this article is endangered, we
must not hesitate to resist Peter, or an angel from heaven. Paul paid no
regard to the dignity and position of Peter, when he saw this article in
danger. It is written: "He that loveth father or mother or his own life,
more than me, is not worthy of me." (Matt. 10:37.)

For defending the truth in our day, we are called proud and obstinate
hypocrites. We are not ashamed of these titles. The cause we are called
to defend, is not Peter's cause, or the cause of our parents, or that of
the government, or that of the world, but the cause of God. In defense
of that cause we must be firm and unyielding.

When he says, "to his face," Paul accuses the false apostles of
slandering him behind his back. In his presence they dared not to open
their mouths. He tells them, "I did not speak evil of Peter behind his
back, but I withstood him frankly and openly."

Others may debate here whether an apostle might sin. I claim that we
ought not to make Peter out as faultless. Prophets have erred. Nathan
told David that he should go ahead and build the Temple of the Lord. But
his prophecy was afterwards corrected by the Lord. The apostles erred
in thinking of the Kingdom of Christ as a worldly state. Peter had heard
the command of Christ, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel
to every creature." But if it had not been for the heavenly vision and
the special command of Christ, Peter would never have gone to the home
of Cornelius. Peter also erred in this matter of circumcision. If Paul
had not publicly censured him, all the believing Gentiles would have
been compelled to receive circumcision and accept the Jewish law. We are
not to attribute perfection to any man.

Luke reports "that the contention between Paul and Barnabas was so
sharp that they departed asunder one from the other." The cause of their
disagreement could hardly have been small since it separated these
two, who had been joined together for years in a holy partnership. Such
incidents are recorded for our consolation. After all, it is a comfort
to know that even saints might and do sin.

Samson, David, and many other excellent men, fell into grievous sins.
Job and Jeremiah cursed the day of their birth. Elijah and Jonah became
weary of life and prayed for death. Such offenses on the part of the
saints, the Scriptures record for the comfort of those who are near
despair. No person has ever sunk so low that he cannot rise again. On
the other hand, no man's standing is so secure that he may not fall. If
Peter fell, I may fall. If he rose again, I may rise again. We have the
same gifts that they had, the same Christ, the same baptism and the
same Gospel, the same forgiveness of sins. They needed these saving
ordinances just as much as we do.

  VERSE 12. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the

The Gentiles who had been converted to faith in Christ, ate meats
forbidden by the Law. Peter, visiting some of these Gentiles, ate
meat and drank wine with them, although he knew that these things were
forbidden in the Law. Paul declared that he did likewise, that he became
as a Jew to the Jews, and to them that were without law, as without law.
He ate and drank with the Gentiles unconcerned about the Jewish Law.
When he was with the Jews, however, he abstained from all things
forbidden in the Law, for he labored to serve all men, that he "might by
all means save some." Paul does not reprove Peter for transgressing the
Law, but for disguising his attitude to the Law.

  VERSE 12. But when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself,
  fearing them which were of the circumcision.

Paul does not accuse Peter of malice or ignorance, but of lack of
principle, in that he abstained from meats, because he feared the Jews
that came from James. Peter's weak attitude endangered the principle of
Christian liberty. It is the deduction rather than the fact which Paul
reproves. To eat and to drink, or not to eat and drink, is immaterial.
But to make the deduction "If you eat, you sin; if you abstain you are
righteous"--this is wrong.

Meats may be refused for two reasons. First, they may be refused for the
sake of Christian love. There is no danger connected with a refusal of
meats for the sake of charity. To bear with the infirmity of a
brother is a good thing. Paul himself taught and exemplified such
thoughtfulness. Secondly, meats may be refused in the mistaken hope of
thereby obtaining righteousness. When this is the purpose of abstaining
from meats, we say, let charity go. To refrain from meats for this
latter reason amounts to a denial of Christ. If we must lose one or the
other, let us lose a friend and brother, rather than God, our Father.

Jerome, who understood not this passage, nor the whole epistle for
that matter, excuses Peter's action on the ground "that it was done
in ignorance." But Peter offended by giving the impression that he was
indorsing the Law. By his example he encouraged Gentiles and Jews to
forsake the truth of the Gospel. If Paul had not reproved him, there
would have been a sliding back of Christians into the Jewish religion,
and a return to the burdens of the Law.

It is surprising that Peter, excellent apostle that he was, should have
been guilty of such vacillation. In a former council at Jerusalem he
practically stood alone in defense of the truth that salvation is
by faith, without the Law. Peter at that time valiantly defended the
liberty of the Gospel. But now by abstaining from meats forbidden in the
Law, he went against his better judgment. You have no idea what danger
there is in customs and ceremonies. They so easily tend to error in

  VERSE 13. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch
  that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.

It is marvelous how God preserved the Church by one single person. Paul
alone stood up for the truth, for Barnabas, his companion, was lost to
him, and Peter was against him. Sometimes one lone person can do more in
a conference than the whole assembly.

I mention this to urge all to learn how properly to differentiate
between the Law and the Gospel, in order to avoid dissembling. When it
come to the article of justification we must not yield, if we want to
retain the truth of the Gospel.

When the conscience is disturbed, do not seek advice from reason or from
the Law, but rest your conscience in the grace of God and in His Word,
and proceed as if you had never heard of the Law. The Law has its place
and its own good time. While Moses was in the mountain where he talked
with God face to face, he had no law, he made no law, he administered
no law. But when he came down from the mountain, he was a lawgiver. The
conscience must be kept above the Law, the body under the Law.

Paul reproved Peter for no trifle, but for the chief article of
Christian doctrine, which Peter's hypocrisy had endangered. For Barnabas
and other Jews followed Peter's example. It is surprising that such good
men as Peter, Barnabas, and others should fall into unexpected error,
especially in a matter which they knew so well. To trust in our own
strength, our own goodness, our own wisdom, is a perilous thing. Let us
search the Scriptures with humility, praying that we may never lose the
light of the Gospel. "Lord, increase our faith."

  VERSE 14. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to
  the truth of the gospel.

No one except Paul had his eyes open. Consequently it was his duty
to reprove Peter and his followers for swerving from the truth of the
Gospel. It was no easy task for Paul to reprimand Peter. To the honor of
Peter it must be said that he took the correction. No doubt, he freely
acknowledged his fault.

The person who can rightly divide Law and Gospel has reason to thank
God. He is a true theologian. I must confess that in times of temptation
I do not always know how to do it. To divide Law and Gospel means to
place the Gospel in heaven, and to keep the Law on earth; to call the
righteousness of the Gospel heavenly, and the righteousness of the Law
earthly; to put as much difference between the righteousness of the
Gospel and that of the Law, as there is difference between day and
night. If it is a question of faith or conscience, ignore the Law
entirely. If it is a question of works, then lift high the lantern of
works and the righteousness of the Law. If your conscience is oppressed
with a sense of sin, talk to your conscience. Say: "You are now
groveling in the dirt. You are now a laboring ass. Go ahead, and carry
your burden. But why don't you mount up to heaven? There the Law cannot
follow you!" Leave the ass burdened with laws behind in the valley. But
your conscience, let it ascend with Isaac into the mountain.

In civil life obedience to the law is severely required. In civil life
Gospel, conscience, grace, remission of sins, Christ Himself, do
not count, but only Moses with the lawbooks. If we bear in mind this
distinction, neither Gospel nor Law shall trespass upon each other. The
moment Law and sin cross into heaven, i.e., your conscience, kick them
out. On the other hand, when grace wanders unto the earth, i.e., into
the body, tell grace: "You have no business to be around the dreg and
dung of this bodily life. You belong in heaven."

By his compromising attitude Peter confused the separation of Law and
Gospel. Paul had to do something about it. He reproved Peter, not to
embarrass him, but to conserve the difference between the Gospel which
justifies in heaven, and the Law which justifies on earth.

The right separation between Law and Gospel is very important to know.
Christian doctrine is impossible without it. Let all who love and fear
God, diligently learn the difference, not only in theory but also in

When your conscience gets into trouble, say to yourself: "There is a
time to die, and a time to live; a time to learn the Law, and a time
to unlearn the Law; a time to hear the Gospel, and a time to ignore the
Gospel. Let the Law now depart, and let the Gospel enter, for now is
the right time to hear the Gospel, and not the Law." However, when the
conflict of conscience is over and external duties must be performed,
close your ears to the Gospel, and open them wide to the Law.

  VERSE 14. I said unto Peter before them all, If thou being a Jew, livest
  after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest
  thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews

To live as a Jew is nothing bad. To eat or not to eat pork, what
difference does it make? But to play the Jew, and for conscience' sake
to abstain from certain meats, is a denial of Christ. When Paul saw that
Peter's attitude tended to this, he withstood Peter and said to
him: "You know that the observance of the Law is not needed unto
righteousness. You know that we are justified by faith in Christ.
You know that we may eat all kinds of meats. Yet by your example you
obligate the Gentiles to forsake Christ, and to return to the Law. You
give them reason to think that faith is not sufficient unto salvation."

Peter did not say so, but his example said quite plainly that the
observance of the Law must be added to faith in Christ, if men are to
be saved. From Peter's example the Gentiles could not help but draw the
conclusion that the Law was necessary unto salvation. If this error
had been permitted to pass unchallenged, Christ would have lost out

The controversy involved the preservation of pure doctrine. In such a
controversy Paul did not mind if anybody took offense.

  VERSE 15. We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles.

"When we Jews compare ourselves with the Gentiles, we look pretty good.
We have the Law, we have good works. Our rectitude dates from our birth,
because the Jewish religion is natural to us. But all this does not
make us righteous before God." Peter and the others lived up to the
requirements of the Law. They had circumcision, the covenant, the
promises, the apostleship. But because of these advantages they were
not to think themselves righteous before God. None of these prerogatives
spell faith in Christ, which alone can justify a person. We do not mean
to imply that the Law is bad. We do not condemn the Law, circumcision,
etc., for their failure to justify us. Paul spoke disparagingly of these
ordinances, because the false apostles asserted that mankind is saved by
them without faith. Paul could not let this assertion stand, for without
faith all things are deadly.

  VERSE 16. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law,
  but by the faith of Jesus Christ.

For the sake of argument let us suppose that you could fulfill the Law
in the spirit of the first commandment of God: "Thou shalt love the
Lord, thy God, with all thy heart." It would do you no good. A person
simply is not justified by the works of the Law.

The works of the Law, according to Paul, include the whole Law,
judicial, ceremonial, moral. Now, if the performance of the moral law
cannot justify, how can circumcision justify, when circumcision is part
of the ceremonial law?

The demands of the Law may be fulfilled before and after justification.
There were many excellent men among the pagans of old, men who never
heard of justification. They lived moral lives. But that fact did not
justify them. Peter, Paul, all Christians, live up to the Law. But that
fact does not justify them. "For I know nothing by myself," says Paul,
"yet am I not hereby justified." (I Cor. 4:4.)

The nefarious opinion of the papists, which attributes the merit of
grace and the remission of sins to works, must here be emphatically
rejected. The papists say that a good work performed before grace has
been obtained, is able to secure grace for a person, because it is
no more than right that God should reward a good deed. When grace has
already been obtained, any good work deserves everlasting life as a due
payment and reward for merit. For the first, God is no debtor, they say;
but because God is good and just, it is no more than right (they say)
that He should reward a good work by granting grace for the service.
But when grace has already been obtained, they continue, God is in the
position of a debtor, and is in duty bound to reward a good work with
the gift of eternal life. This is the wicked teaching of the papacy.

Now, if I could perform any work acceptable to God and deserving of
grace, and once having obtained grace my good works would continue to
earn for me the right and reward of eternal life, why should I stand in
need of the grace of God and the suffering and death of Christ? Christ
would be of no benefit to me. Christ's mercy would be of no use to me.

This shows how little insight the pope and the whole of his religious
coterie have into spiritual matters, and how little they concern
themselves with the spiritual health of their forlorn flocks. They
cannot believe that the flesh is unable to think, speak, or do anything
except against God. If they could see evil rooted in the nature of
man, they would never entertain such silly dreams about man's merit or

With Paul we absolutely deny the possibility of self merit. God never
yet gave to any person grace and everlasting life as a reward for merit.
The opinions of the papists are the intellectual pipe-dreams of idle
pates, that serve no other purpose but to draw men away from the true
worship of God. The papacy is founded upon hallucinations.

The true way of salvation is this. First, a person must realize that he
is a sinner, the kind of a sinner who is congenitally unable to do any
good thing. "Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin." Those who seek to
earn the grace of God by their own efforts are trying to please God with
sins. They mock God, and provoke His anger. The first step on the way to
salvation is to repent.

The second part is this. God sent His only-begotten Son into the world
that we may live through His merit. He was crucified and killed for us.
By sacrificing His Son for us God revealed Himself to us as a
merciful Father who donates remission of sins, righteousness, and life
everlasting for Christ's sake. God hands out His gifts freely unto all
men. That is the praise and glory of His mercy.

The scholastics explain the way of salvation in this manner. When a
person happens to perform a good deed, God accepts it and as a reward
for the good deed God pours charity into that person. They call it
"charity infused." This charity is supposed to remain in the heart.
They get wild when they are told that this quality of the heart cannot
justify a person.

They also claim that we are able to love God by our own natural
strength, to love God above all things, at least to the extent that we
deserve grace. And, say the scholastics, because God is not satisfied
with a literal performance of the Law, but expects us to fulfill the
Law according to the mind of the Lawgiver, therefore we must obtain
from above a quality above nature, a quality which they call "formal

We say, faith apprehends Jesus Christ. Christian faith is not an
inactive quality in the heart. If it is true faith it will surely take
Christ for its object. Christ, apprehended by faith and dwelling in the
heart, constitutes Christian righteousness, for which God gives eternal

In contrast to the doting dreams of the scholastics, we teach this:
First a person must learn to know himself from the Law. With the prophet
he will then confess: "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of
God." And, "there is none that doeth good, no, not one." And, "against
thee, thee only, have I sinned."

Having been humbled by the Law, and having been brought to a right
estimate of himself, a man will repent. He finds out that he is so
depraved, that no strength, no works, no merits of his own will ever
deliver him from his guilt. He will then understand the meaning of
Paul's words: "I am sold under sin"; and "they are all under sin."

At this state a person begins to lament: "Who is going to help me?"
In due time comes the Word of the Gospel, and says: "Son, thy sins are
forgiven thee. Believe in Jesus Christ who was crucified for your sins.
Remember, your sins have been imposed upon Christ."

In this way are we delivered from sin. In this way are we justified and
made heirs of everlasting life.

In order to have faith you must paint a true portrait of Christ. The
scholastics caricature Christ into a judge and tormentor. But Christ is
no law giver. He is the Lifegiver. He is the Forgiver of sins. You must
believe that Christ might have atoned for the sins of the world with one
single drop of His blood. Instead, He shed His blood abundantly in order
that He might give abundant satisfaction for our sins.

Here let me say, that these three things, faith, Christ, and imputation
of righteousness, are to be joined together. Faith takes hold of Christ.
God accounts this faith for righteousness.

This imputation of righteousness we need very much, because we are far
from perfect. As long as we have this body, sin will dwell in our flesh.
Then, too, we sometimes drive away the Holy Spirit; we fall into sin,
like Peter, David, and other holy men. Nevertheless we may always take
recourse to this fact, "that our sins are covered," and that "God will
not lay them to our charge." Sin is not held against us for Christ's
sake. Where Christ and faith are lacking, there is no remission or
covering of sins, but only condemnation.

After we have taught faith in Christ, we teach good works. "Since you
have found Christ by faith," we say, "begin now to work and do well.
Love God and your neighbor. Call upon God, give thanks unto Him, praise
Him, confess Him. These are good works. Let them flow from a cheerful
heart, because you have remission of sin in Christ."

When crosses and afflictions come our way, we bear them patiently.
"For Christ's yoke is easy, and His burden is light." When sin has been
pardoned, and the conscience has been eased of its dreadful load, a
Christian can endure all things in Christ.

To give a short definition of a Christian: A Christian is not somebody
who chalks(sp) sin, because of his faith in Christ. This doctrine brings
comfort to consciences in serious trouble. When a person is a Christian
he is above law and sin. When the Law accuses him, and sin wants to
drive the wits out of him, a Christian looks to Christ. A Christian is
free. He has no master except Christ. A Christian is greater than the
whole world.

  VERSE 16. Even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be

The true way of becoming a Christian is to be justified by faith in
Jesus Christ, and not by the works of the Law.

We know that we must also teach good works, but they must be taught in
their proper turn, when the discussion is concerning works and not the
article of justification.

Here the question arises by what means are we justified? We answer with
Paul, "By faith only in Christ are we pronounced righteous, and not
by works." Not that we reject good works. Far from it. But we will not
allow ourselves to be removed from the anchorage of our salvation.

The Law is a good thing. But when the discussion is about justification,
then is no time to drag in the Law. When we discuss justification we
ought to speak of Christ and the benefits He has brought us.

Christ is no sheriff. He is "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin
of the world." (John 1:29.)

  VERSE 16. That we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by
  the works of the Law.

We do not mean to say that the Law is bad. Only it is not able to
justify us. To be at peace with God, we have need of a far better
mediator than Moses or the Law. We must know that we are nothing. We
must understand that we are merely beneficiaries and recipients of the
treasures of Christ.

So far, the words of Paul were addressed to Peter. Now Paul turns to the
Galatians and makes this summary statement:

  VERSE 16. For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

By the term "flesh" Paul does not understand manifest vices. Such sins
he usually calls by their proper names, as adultery, fornication, etc.
By "flesh" Paul understands what Jesus meant in the third chapter of
John, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh". (John 3:6.) "Flesh"
here means the whole nature of man, inclusive of reason and instincts.
"This flesh," says Paul, "is not justified by the works of the law."

The papists do not believe this. They say, "A person who performs this
good deed or that, deserves the forgiveness of his sins. A person who
joins this or that holy order, has the promise of everlasting life."

To me it is a miracle that the Church, so long surrounded by vicious
sects, has been able to survive at all. God must have been able to call
a few who in their failure to discover any good in themselves to cite
against the wrath and judgment of God, simply took to the suffering and
death of Christ, and were saved by this simple faith.

Nevertheless God has punished the contempt of the Gospel and of Christ
on the part of the papists, by turning them over to a reprobate state
of mind in which they reject the Gospel, and receive with gusto the
abominable rules, ordinances, and traditions of men in preference to the
Word of God, until they went so far as to forbid marriage. God punished
them justly, because they blasphemed the only Son of God.

This is, then, our general conclusion: "By the works of the law shall no
flesh be justified."

  VERSE 17. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves
  also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God

Either we are not justified by Christ, or we are not justified by
the Law. The fact is, we are justified by Christ. Hence, we are not
justified by the Law. If we observe the Law in order to be justified,
or after having been justified by Christ, we think we must further be
justified by the Law, we convert Christ into a legislator and a minister
of sin.

"What are these false apostles doing?" Paul cries. "They are turning Law
into grace, and grace into Law. They are changing Moses into Christ, and
Christ into Moses. By teaching that besides Christ and His righteousness
the performance of the Law is necessary unto salvation, they put the Law
in the place of Christ, they attribute to the Law the power to save, a
power that belongs to Christ only."

The papists quote the words of Christ: "If thou wilt enter into life,
keep the commandments." (Matt. 19:17.) With His own words they deny
Christ and abolish faith in Him. Christ is made to lose His good
name, His office, and His glory, and is demoted to the status of a law
enforcer, reproving, terrifying, and chasing poor sinners around.

The proper office of Christ is to raise the sinner, and extricate him
from his sins.

Papists and Anabaptists deride us because we so earnestly require faith.
"Faith," they say, "makes men reckless." What do these law-workers know
about faith, when they are so busy calling people back from baptism,
from faith, from the promises of Christ to the Law?

With their doctrine these lying sects of perdition deface the benefits
of Christ to this day. They rob Christ of His glory as the Justifier of
mankind and cast Him into the role of a minister of sin. They are like
the false apostles. There is not a single one among them who knows the
difference between law and grace.

We can tell the difference. We do not here and now argue whether we
ought to do good works, or whether the Law is any good, or whether the
Law ought to be kept at all. We will discuss these questions some other
time. We are now concerned with justification. Our opponents refuse
to make this distinction. All they can do is to bellow that good works
ought to be done. We know that. We know that good works ought to be
done, but we will talk about that when the proper time comes. Now we are
dealing with justification, and here good works should not be so much as

Paul's argument has often comforted me. He argues: "If we who have been
justified by Christ are counted unrighteous, why seek justification in
Christ at all? If we are justified by the Law, tell me, what has Christ
achieved by His death, by His preaching, by His victory over sin and
death? Either we are justified by Christ, or we are made worse sinners
by Him."

The Sacred Scriptures, particularly those of the New Testament, make
frequent mention of faith in Christ. "Whosoever believeth in him is
saved, shall not perish, shall have everlasting life, is not judged,"
etc. In open contradiction to the Scriptures, our opponents misquote,
"He that believeth in Christ is condemned, because he has faith without
works." Our opponents turn everything topsy-turvy. They make Christ
over into a murderer, and Moses into a savior. Is not this horrible

  VERSE 17. Is therefore Christ the minister of sin?

This is Hebrew phraseology, also used by Paul in II Corinthians, chapter
3. There Paul speaks of two ministers: The minister of the letter, and
the minister of the spirit; the minister of the Law, and the minister
of grace; the minister of death, and the minister of life. "Moses,"
says Paul, "is the minister of the Law, of sin, wrath, death, and

Whoever teaches that good works are indispensable unto salvation, that
to gain heaven a person must suffer afflictions and follow the example
of Christ and of the saints, is a minister of the Law, of sin, wrath,
and of death, for the conscience knows how impossible it is for a person
to fulfill the Law. Why, the Law makes trouble even for those who have
the Holy Spirit. What will not the Law do in the case of the wicked who
do not even have the Holy Spirit?

The Law requires perfect obedience. It condemns all who do not
accomplish the will of God. But show me a person who is able to render
perfect obedience. The Law cannot justify. It can only condemn according
to the passage: "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things
which are written in the book of the law to do them."

Paul has good reason for calling the minister of the Law the minister of
sin, for the Law reveals our sinfulness. The realization of sin in turn
frightens the heart and drives it to despair. Therefore all exponents of
the Law and of works deserve to be called tyrants and oppressors.

The purpose of the Law is to reveal sin. That this is the purpose of the
Law can be seen from the account of the giving of the Law as reported
in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of Exodus. Moses brought the
people out of their tents to have God speak to them personally from a
cloud. But the people trembled with fear, fled, and standing aloof they
begged Moses: "Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God
speak with us, lest we die." The proper office of the Law is to lead us
out of our tents, in other words, out of the security of our self-trust,
into the presence of God, that we may perceive His anger at our

All who say that faith alone in Christ does not justify a person,
convert Christ into a minister of sin, a teacher of the Law, and a cruel
tyrant who requires the impossible. All merit-seekers take Christ for a
new lawgiver.

In conclusion, if the Law is the minister of sin, it is at the same
time the minister of wrath and death. As the Law reveals sin it fills
a person with the fear of death and condemnation. Eventually the
conscience wakes up to the fact that God is angry. If God is angry
with you, He will destroy and condemn you forever. Unable to stand the
thought of the wrath and judgment of God, many a person commits suicide.

  VERSE 17. God forbid.

Christ is not the minister of sin, but the Dispenser of righteousness
and the Giver of life. Christ is Lord over law, sin and death. All who
believe in Him are delivered from law, sin and death.

The Law drives us away from God, but Christ reconciles God unto us, for
"He is the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world." Now if
the sin of the world is taken away, it is taken away from me. If sin is
taken away, the wrath of God and His condemnation are also taken away.
Let us practice this blessed conviction.

  VERSE 18. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make
  myself a transgressor.

"I have not preached to the end that I build again the things which I
destroyed. If I should do so, I would not only be laboring in vain,
but I would make myself guilty of a great wrong. By the ministry of the
Gospel I have destroyed sin, heaviness of heart, wrath, and death. I
have abolished the Law, so that it should not bother your conscience any
more. Should I now once again establish the Law, and set up the rule
of Moses? This is exactly what I should be doing, if I would urge
circumcision and the performance of the Law as necessary unto salvation.
Instead of righteousness and life, I would restore sin and death."

By the grace of God we know that we are justified through faith in
Christ alone. We do not mingle law and grace, faith and works. We keep
them far apart. Let every true Christian mark the distinction between
law and grace, and mark it well.

We must not drag good works into the article of justification as the
monks do who maintain that not only good works, but also the punishment
which evildoers suffer for their wicked deeds, deserve everlasting life.
When a criminal is brought to the place of execution, the monks try to
comfort him in this manner: "You want to die willingly and patiently,
and then you will merit remission of your sins and eternal life." What
cruelty is this, that a wretched thief, murderer, robber should be so
miserably misguided in his extreme distress, that at the very point of
death he should be denied the sweet promises of Christ, and directed to
hope for pardon of his sins in the willingness and patience with which
he is about to suffer death for his crimes? The monks are showing him
the paved way to hell.

These hypocrites do not know the first thing about grace, the Gospel,
or Christ. They retain the appearance and the name of the Gospel and
of Christ for a decoy only. In their confessional writings faith or the
merit of Christ are never mentioned. In their writings they play up
the merits of man, as can readily be seen from the following form of
absolution used among the monks.

  "God forgive thee, brother. The merit of the passion of our Lord Jesus
  Christ, and of the blessed Saint Mary, always a virgin, and of all the
  saints; the merit of thy order, the strictness of thy religion, the
  humility of thy profession, the contrition of thy heart, the good works
  thou hast done and shalt do for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, be
  available unto thee for the remission of thy sins, the increase of thy
  worth and grace, and the reward of everlasting life. Amen."

True, the merit of Christ is mentioned in this formula of absolution.
But if you look closer you will notice that Christ's merit is belittled,
while monkish merits are aggrandized. They confess Christ with their
lips, and at the same time deny His power to save. I myself was at one
time entangled in this error. I thought Christ was a judge and had to be
pacified by a strict adherence to the rules of my order. But now I give
thanks unto God, the Father of all mercies, who has called me out of
darkness into the light of His glorious Gospel, and has granted unto me
the saving knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord.

We conclude with Paul, that we are justified by faith in Christ, without
the Law. Once a person has been justified by Christ, he will not be
unproductive of good, but as a good tree he will bring forth good fruit.
A believer has the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will not permit a
person to remain idle, but will put him to work and stir him up to
the love of God, to patient suffering in affliction, to prayer,
thanksgiving, to the habit of charity towards all men.

  VERSE 19. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live
  unto God.

This cheering form of speech is frequently met with in the Scriptures,
particularly in the writings of St. Paul, when the Law is set against
the Law, and sin is made to oppose sin, and death is arrayed against
death, and hell is turned loose against hell, as in the following
quotations: "Thou hast led captivity captive," Psalm 68:18. "O death, I
will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction," Hosea 13:14.
"And for sin, condemned sin in the flesh," Romans 8:3.

Here Paul plays the Law against the Law, as if to say: "The Law of Moses
condemns me; but I have another law, the law of grace and liberty which
condemns the accusing Law of Moses."

On first sight Paul seems to be advancing a strange and ugly heresy.
He says, "I am dead to the law, that I might live unto God." The false
apostles said the very opposite. They said, "If you do not live to the
law, you are dead unto God."

The doctrine of our opponents is similar to that of the false apostles
in Paul's day. Our opponents teach, "If you want to live unto God,
you must live after the Law, for it is written, Do this and thou shalt
live." Paul, on the other hand, teaches, "We cannot live unto God unless
we are dead unto the Law." If we are dead unto the Law, the Law can have
no power over us.

Paul does not only refer to the Ceremonial Law, but to the whole Law.
We are not to think that the Law is wiped out. It stays. It continues to
operate in the wicked. But a Christian is dead to the Law. For example,
Christ by His resurrection became free from the grave, and yet the grave
remains. Peter was delivered from prison, yet the prison remains. The
Law is abolished as far as I am concerned, when it has driven me into
the arms of Christ. Yet the Law continues to exist and to function. But
it no longer exists for me.

"I have nothing to do with the Law," cries Paul. He could not have
uttered anything more devastating to the prestige of the Law. He
declares that he does not care for the Law, that he does not intend ever
to be justified by the Law.

To be dead to the Law means to be free of the Law. What right, then,
has the Law to accuse me, or to hold anything against me? When you see
a person squirming in the clutches of the Law, say to him: "Brother, get
things straight. You let the Law talk to your conscience. Make it talk
to your flesh. Wake up, and believe in Jesus Christ, the Conqueror of
Law and sin. Faith in Christ will lift you high above the Law into the
heaven of grace. Though Law and sin remain, they no longer concern you,
because you are dead to the Law and dead to sin."

Blessed is the person who knows how to use this truth in times of
distress. He can talk. He can say: "Mr. Law, go ahead and accuse me as
much as you like. I know I have committed many sins, and I continue to
sin daily. But that does not bother me. You have got to shout louder,
Mr. Law. I am deaf, you know. Talk as much as you like, I am dead to
you. If you want to talk to me about my sins, go and talk to my flesh.
Belabor that, but don't talk to my conscience. My conscience is a lady
and a queen, and has nothing to do with the likes of you, because my
conscience lives to Christ under another law, a new and better law, the
law of grace."

We have two propositions: To live unto the Law, is to die unto God. To
die unto the Law, is to live unto God. These two propositions go against
reason. No law-worker can ever understand them. But see to it that you
understand them. The Law can never justify and save a sinner. The Law
can only accuse, terrify, and kill him. Therefore to live unto the Law
is to die unto God. Vice versa, to die unto the Law is to live unto God.
If you want to live unto God, bury the Law, and find life through faith
in Christ Jesus.

We have enough arguments right here to conclude that justification is
by faith alone. How can the Law effect our justification, when Paul so
plainly states that we must be dead to the Law if we want to live unto
God? If we are dead to the Law and the Law is dead to us, how can it
possibly contribute anything to our justification? There is nothing left
for us but to be justified by faith alone.

This nineteenth verse is loaded with consolation. It fortifies a person
against every danger. It allows you to argue like this:

  "I confess I have sinned."
  "Then God will punish you."
  "No, He will not do that."
  "Why not? Does not the Law say so?"
  "I have nothing to do with the Law."
  "How so?"
  "I have another law, the law of liberty."
  "What do you mean--'liberty'?"
  "The liberty of Christ, for Christ has made me free from the Law that
  held me down. That Law is now in prison itself, held captive by grace
  and liberty."

By faith in Christ a person may gain such sure and sound comfort, that
he need not fear the devil, sin, death, or any evil. "Sir Devil," he
may say, "I am not afraid of you. I have a Friend whose name is Jesus
Christ, in whom I believe. He has abolished the Law, condemned sin,
vanquished death, and destroyed hell for me. He is bigger than you,
Satan. He has licked you, and holds you down. You cannot hurt me." This
is the faith that overcomes the devil.

Paul manhandles the Law. He treats the Law as if it were a thief and
a robber He treats the Law as contemptible to the conscience, in order
that those who believe in Christ may take courage to defy the Law, and
say: "Mr. Law, I am a sinner. What are you going to do about it?"

Or take death. Christ is risen from death. Why should we now fear the
grave? Against my death I set another death, or rather life, my life in

Oh, the sweet names of Jesus! He is called my law against the Law, my
sin against sin, my death against death. Translated, it means that He is
my righteousness, my life, my everlasting salvation. For this reason was
He made the law of the Law, the sin of sin, the death of death, that
He might redeem me from the curse of the Law. He permitted the Law to
accuse Him, sin to condemn Him, and death to take Him, to abolish the
Law, to condemn sin, and to destroy death for me.

This peculiar form of speech sounds much sweeter than if Paul had said:
"I through liberty am dead to the law." By putting it in this way, "I
through the law am dead to the law," he opposes one law with another
law, and has them fight it out.

In this masterly fashion Paul draws our attention away from the Law,
sin, death, and every evil, and centers it upon Christ.

  VERSE 20. I am crucified with Christ.

Christ is Lord over the Law, because He was crucified unto the Law. I
also am lord over the Law, because by faith I am crucified with Christ.

Paul does not here speak of crucifying the flesh, but he speaks of that
higher crucifying wherein sin, devil, and death are crucified in Christ
and in me. By my faith in Christ I am crucified with Christ. Hence these
evils are crucified and dead unto me.

  VERSE 20. Nevertheless I live.

"I do not mean to create the impression as though I did not live before
this. But in reality I first live now, now that I have been delivered
from the Law, from sin, and death. Being crucified with Christ and dead
unto the Law, I may now rise unto a new and better life."

We must pay close attention to Paul's way of speaking. He says that we
are crucified and dead unto the Law. The fact is, the Law is crucified
and dead unto us. Paul purposely speaks that way in order to increase
the portion of our comfort.

  VERSE 20. Yet not I.

Paul explains what constitutes true Christian righteousness. True
Christian righteousness is the righteousness of Christ who lives in us.
We must look away from our own person. Christ and my conscience must
become one, so that I can see nothing else but Christ crucified and
raised from the dead for me. If I keep on looking at myself, I am gone.

If we lose sight of Christ and begin to consider our past, we simply
go to pieces. We must turn our eyes to the brazen serpent, Christ
crucified, and believe with all our heart that He is our righteousness
and our life. For Christ, on whom our eyes are fixed, in whom we live,
who lives in us, is Lord over Law, sin, death, and all evil.

  VERSE 20. But Christ liveth in me.

"Thus I live," the Apostle starts out. But presently he corrects
himself, saying, "Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." He is the form of
my perfection. He embellishes my faith.

Since Christ is now living in me, He abolishes the Law, condemns sin,
and destroys death in me. These foes vanish in His presence. Christ
abiding in me drives out every evil. This union with Christ delivers me
from the demands of the Law, and separates me from my sinful self. As
long as I abide in Christ, nothing can hurt me.

Christ domiciling in me, the old Adam has to stay outside and remain
subject to the Law. Think what grace, righteousness, life, peace, and
salvation there is in me, thanks to that inseparable conjunction between
Christ and me through faith!

Paul has a peculiar style, a celestial way of speaking. "I live," he
says, "I live not; I am dead, I am not dead; I am a sinner, I am not
a sinner; I have the Law, I have no Law." When we look at ourselves we
find plenty of sin. But when we look at Christ, we have no sin. Whenever
we separate the person of Christ from our own person, we live under the
Law and not in Christ; we are condemned by the Law, dead before God.

Faith connects you so intimately with Christ, that He and you become
as it were one person. As such you may boldly say: "I am now one with
Christ. Therefore Christ's righteousness, victory, and life are mine."
On the other hand, Christ may say: "I am that big sinner. His sins and
his death are mine, because he is joined to me, and I to him."

Whenever remission of sins is freely proclaimed, people misinterpret it
according to Romans 3:8, "Let us do evil, that good may come." As
soon as people hear that we are not justified by the Law, they reason
maliciously: "Why, then let us reject the Law. If grace abounds, where
sin abounds, let us abound in sin, that grace may all the more abound."
People who reason thus are reckless. They make sport of the Scriptures
and slander the sayings of the Holy Ghost.

However, there are others who are not malicious, only weak, who may take
offense when told that Law and good works are unnecessary for salvation.
These must be instructed as to why good works do not justify, and from
what motives good works must be done. Good works are not the cause, but
the fruit of righteousness. When we have become righteous, then first
are we able and willing to do good. The tree makes the apple; the apple
does not make the tree.

  VERSE 20. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the
  faith of the Son of God.

Paul does not deny the fact that he is living in the flesh. He performs
the natural functions of the flesh. But he says that this is not his
real life. His life in the flesh is not a life after the flesh.

"I live by the faith of the Son of God," he says. "My speech is no
longer directed by the flesh, but by the Holy Ghost. My sight is no
longer governed by the flesh, but by the Holy Ghost. My hearing is no
longer determined by the flesh, but by the Holy Ghost. I cannot teach,
write, pray, or give thanks without the instrumentality of the flesh;
yet these activities do not proceed from the flesh, but from God."

A Christian uses earthly means like any unbeliever. Outwardly they look
alike. Nevertheless there is a great difference between them. I may live
in the flesh, but I do not live after the flesh. I do my living now "by
the faith of the Son of God." Paul had the same voice, the same tongue,
before and after his conversion. Before his conversion his tongue
uttered blasphemies. But after his conversion his tongue spoke a
spiritual, heavenly language.

We may now understand how spiritual life originates. It enters the heart
by faith. Christ reigns in the heart with His Holy Spirit, who sees,
hears, speaks, works, suffers, and does all things in and through us
over the protest and the resistance of the flesh.

  VERSE 20. Who loved me, and gave himself for me.

The sophistical papists assert that a person is able by natural strength
to love God long before grace has entered his heart, and to perform
works of real merit. They believe they are able to fulfill the
commandments of God. They believe they are able to do more than
God expects of them, so that they are in a position to sell their
superfluous merits to laymen, thereby saving themselves and others.
They are saving nobody. On the contrary, they abolish the Gospel, they
deride, deny, and blaspheme Christ, and call upon themselves the wrath
of God. This is what they get for living in their own righteousness, and
not in the faith of the Son of God.

The papists will tell you to do the best you can, and God will give you
His grace. They have a rhyme for it:

  "God will no more require of man, Than of himself perform he can."

This may hold true in ordinary civic life. But the papists apply it to
the spiritual realm where a person can perform nothing but sin, because
he is sold under sin.

Our opponents go even further than that. They say, nature is depraved,
but the qualities of nature are untainted. Again we say: This may hold
true in everyday life, but not in the spiritual life. In spiritual
matters a person is by nature full of darkness, error, ignorance,
malice, and perverseness in will and in mind. In view of this, Paul
declares that Christ began and not we. "He loved me, and gave Himself
for me. He found in me no right mind and no good will. But the good Lord
had mercy upon me. Out of pure kindness He loved me, loved me so that
He gave Himself for me, that I should be free from the Law, from sin,
devil, and death."

The words, "The Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me," are
so many thunderclaps and lightning bolts of protest from heaven against
the righteousness of the Law. The wickedness, error, darkness, ignorance
in my mind and my will were so great, that it was quite impossible
for me to be saved by any other means than by the inestimable price of
Christ's death.

Let us count the price. When you hear that such an enormous price was
paid for you, will you still come along with your cowl, your shaven
pate, your chastity, your obedience, your poverty, your works, your
merits? What do you want with all these trappings? What good are the
works of all men, and all the pains of the martyrs, in comparison with
the pains of the Son of God dying on the Cross, so that there was not
a drop of His precious blood, but it was all shed for your sins. If you
could properly evaluate this incomparable price, you would throw all
your ceremonies, vows, works, and merits into the ash can. What awful
presumption to imagine that there is any work good enough to pacify God,
when to pacify God required the invaluable price of the death and blood
of His own and only Son?

  VERSE 20. For me.

Who is this "me"? I, wretched and damnable sinner, dearly beloved of the
Son of God. If I could by work or merit love the Son of God and come to
Him, why should He have sacrificed Himself for me? This shows how the
papists ignore the Scriptures, particularly the doctrine of faith.
If they had paid any attention at all to these words, that it was
absolutely necessary for the Son of God to be given into death for me,
they would never have invented so many hideous heresies.

I always say, there is no remedy against the sects, no power to resist
them, except this article of Christian righteousness. If we lose this
article we shall never be able to combat errors or sects. What business
have they to make such a fuss about works or merits? If I, a condemned
sinner, could have been purchased and redeemed by any other price, why
should the Son of God have given Himself for me? Just because there
was no other price in heaven and on earth big and good enough, was it
necessary for the Son of God to be delivered for me. This He did out of
His great love for me, for the Apostle says, "Who loved me."

Did the Law ever love me? Did the Law ever sacrifice itself for me? Did
the Law ever die for me? On the contrary, it accuses me, it frightens
me, it drives me crazy. Somebody else saved me from the Law, from sin
and death unto eternal life. That Somebody is the Son of God, to whom be
praise and glory forever.

Hence, Christ is no Moses, no tyrant, no lawgiver, but the Giver of
grace, the Savior, full of mercy. In short, He is no less than infinite
mercy and ineffable goodness, bountifully giving Himself for us.
Visualize Christ in these His true colors. I do not say that it is easy.
Even in the present diffusion of the Gospel light, I have much trouble
to see Christ as Paul portrays Him. So deeply has the diseased opinion
that Christ is a lawgiver sunk into my bones. You younger men are a good
deal better off than we who are old. You have never become infected
with the nefarious errors on which I suckled all my youth, until at the
mention of the name of Christ I shivered with fear. You, I say, who are
young may learn to know Christ in all His sweetness.

For Christ is Joy and Sweetness to a broken heart. Christ is a Lover of
poor sinners, and such a Lover that He gave Himself for us. Now if
this is true, and it is true, then are we never justified by our own

Read the words "me" and "for me" with great emphasis. Print this "me"
with capital letters in your heart, and do not ever doubt that you
belong to the number of those who are meant by this "me." Christ did not
only love Peter and Paul. The same love He felt for them He feels for
us. If we cannot deny that we are sinners, we cannot deny that Christ
died for our sins.

  VERSE 21. I do not frustrate the grace of God.

Paul is now getting ready for the second argument of his Epistle, to the
effect that to seek justification by works of the Law, is to reject the
grace of God. I ask you, what sin can be more horrible than to reject
the grace of God, and to refuse the righteousness of Christ? It is
bad enough that we are wicked sinners and transgressors of all the
commandments of God; on top of that to refuse the grace of God and the
remission of sins offered unto us by Christ, is the worst sin of all,
the sin of sins. That is the limit. There is no sin which Paul and the
other apostles detested more than when a person despises the grace of
God in Christ Jesus. Still there is no sin more common. That is why Paul
can get so angry at the Antichrist, because he snubs Christ, rebuffs the
grace of God, and refuses the merit of Christ. What else would you call
it but spitting in Christ's face, pushing Christ to the side, usurping
Christ's throne, and to say: "I am going to justify you people; I am
going to save you." By what means? By masses, pilgrimages, pardons,
merits, etc. For this is Antichrist's doctrine: Faith is no good, unless
it is reinforced by works. By this abominable doctrine Antichrist has
spoiled, darkened, and buried the benefit of Christ, and in place of
the grace of Christ and His Kingdom, he has established the doctrine of
works and the kingdom of ceremonies.

We despise the grace of God when we observe the Law for the purpose of
being justified. The Law is good, holy, and profitable, but it does not
justify. To keep the Law in order to be justified means to reject grace,
to deny Christ, to despise His sacrifice, and to be lost.

  VERSE 21. For if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead
  in vain.

Did Christ die, or did He not die? Was His death worth while, or was it
not? If His death was worth while, it follows that righteousness does
not come by the Law. Why was Christ born anyway? Why was He crucified?
Why did He suffer? Why did He love me and give Himself for me? It was
all done to no purpose if righteousness is to be had by the Law.

Or do you think that God spared not His Son, but delivered Him for us
all, for the fun of it? Before I would admit anything like that, I would
consign the holiness of the saints and of the angels to hell.

To reject the grace of God is a common sin, of which everybody is guilty
who sees any righteousness in himself or in his deeds. And the Pope is
the sole author of this iniquity. Not content to spoil the Gospel of
Christ, he has filled the world with his cursed traditions, e.g., his
bulls and indulgences.

We will always affirm with Paul that either Christ died in vain, or else
the Law cannot justify us. But Christ did not suffer and die in vain.
Hence, the Law does not justify.

If my salvation was so difficult to accomplish that it necessitated the
death of Christ, then all my works, all the righteousness of the Law,
are good for nothing. How can I buy for a penny what cost a million
dollars? The Law is a penny's worth when you compare it with Christ.
Should I be so stupid as to reject the righteousness of Christ which
cost me nothing, and slave like a fool to achieve the righteousness of
the Law which God disdains?

Man's own righteousness is in the last analysis a despising and
rejecting of the grace of God. No combination of words can do justice to
such an outrage. It is an insult to say that any man died in vain. But
to say that Christ died in vain is a deadly insult. To say that Christ
died in vain is to make His resurrection, His victory, His glory, His
kingdom, heaven, earth, God Himself, of no purpose and benefit whatever.

That is enough to set any person against the righteousness of the Law
and all the trimmings of men's own righteousness, the orders of monks
and friars, and their superstitions.

Who would not detest his own vows, his cowls, his shaven crown, his
bearded traditions, yes, the very Law of Moses, when he hears that for
such things he rejected the grace of God and the death of Christ. It
seems that such a horrible wickedness could not enter a man's heart,
that he should reject the grace of God, and despise the death of Christ.
And yet this atrocity is all too common. Let us be warned. Everyone
who seeks righteousness without Christ, either by works, merits,
satisfactions, actions, or by the Law, rejects the grace of God, and
despises the death of Christ.


  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?

Paul calls the Galatians foolish and bewitched. In the fifth chapter he
mentions sorcery among the works of the flesh, declaring that witchcraft
and sorcery are real manifestations and legitimate activities of the
devil. We are all exposed to the influence of the devil, because he is
the prince and god of the world in which we live.

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?

In this sentence Paul excuses the Galatians, while he blames the false
apostles for the apostasy of the Galatians.

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

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 temptation.

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.

Paul incriminates the Galatians in worse failure. "You are so bewitched
that you no longer obey the truth. I fear many of you have strayed so
far that you will never return to 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.

Paul's increasing severity becomes apparent as he reminds the Galatians
that they disobeyed the truth in defiance of the vivid description he
had given them of Christ. So vividly had he described Christ to them
that they could almost see and handle Him. As if Paul were to say: "No
artist with all his colors could have pictured Christ to you as vividly
as I have pictured Him to you by my preaching. Yet you permitted
yourselves to be seduced to the extent that you disobeyed the truth of

  VERSE 1. Crucified among you.

"You have not only rejected the grace of God, you have shamefully
crucified Christ among you." Paul employs the same phraseology in
Hebrews 6:6: "Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh,
and put him to an open shame."

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 believers?

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

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?

There is a touch of irony in these words of the Apostle. "Come on now,
my smart Galatians, you who all of a sudden have become doctors, while
I seem to be your pupil: Received ye the Holy Ghost by the works of
the Law, or by the preaching of the Gospel?" This question gave them
something to think about, because their own experience contradicted

"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 magnified God."

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 our opponents.

  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.

As to the contention of our opponents that Cornelius deserved grace and
the gift of the Holy Ghost, because he was devout and just, we say
that these attributes are the characteristics of a spiritual person who
already has faith in Christ, and not the characteristics of a Gentile
or of natural man. Luke first praises Cornelius for being a devout and
God-fearing man, and then Luke mentions the good works, the alms and
prayers of Cornelius. Our opponents ignore the sequence of Luke's words.
They pounce on this one sentence, "which gave much alms to the people,"
because it serves their assertion that merit precedes grace. The fact
is that Cornelius gave alms and prayed to God because he had faith.
And because of his faith in the Christ to come, Peter was delegated to
preach unto Cornelius faith in the Christ who had already come. This
argument is convincing enough. Cornelius was justified without the Law,
therefore the Law cannot justify.

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

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?

Paul now begins to warn the Galatians against a twofold danger. The
first danger is: "Are ye so foolish, that after ye have begun in the
Spirit, ye would now end in 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

  VERSE 4. Have ye suffered so many things in vain?

The other danger against which the Apostle warns the Galatians is this:
"Have ye suffered so many things in vain?" Paul wants to say: "Consider
not only the good start you had and lost, but consider also the many
things you have suffered for the sake of the Gospel and for the name of
Christ. You have suffered the loss of your possessions, you have borne
reproaches, you have passed through many dangers of body and life. You
endured much for the name of Christ and you endured it faithfully.
But now you have lost everything, the Gospel, faith, and the spiritual
benefit of your sufferings for Christ's sake. What a miserable thing to
endure so many afflictions for nothing."

  VERSE 4. If it be yet in vain.

The Apostle adds the afterthought: "If it be yet in vain. I do not
despair of all hope for you. But if you continue to look to the Law
for righteousness, I think you should be told that all your past
true worship of God and all the afflictions that you have endured
for Christ's sake are going to help you not at all. I do not mean to
discourage you altogether. I do hope you will repent and amend."

  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?

This argument based on the experience of the Galatians, pleased the
Apostle so well that he returns to it after he had warned them against
their twofold danger. "You have not only received the Spirit by the
preaching of the Gospel, but by the same Gospel you were enabled to do
things." "What things?" we ask. Miracles. At least the Galatians had
manifested the striking fruits of faith which true disciples of the
Gospel manifested in those days. On one occasion the Apostle wrote:
"The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." This "power" revealed
itself not only in readiness of speech, but in demonstrations of the
supernatural ability of the Holy Spirit.

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 apostles."

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
  for righteousness.

The Apostle next adduces the example of Abraham and reviews the
testimony of the Scriptures concerning faith. The first passage is taken
from Genesis 16:6: "And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to
him for righteousness." The Apostle makes the most of this passage.
Abraham may have enjoyed a good standing with men for his upright life,
but not with God. In the sight of God, Abraham was a condemned sinner.
That he was justified before God was not due to his own exertions, but
due to his faith. The Scriptures expressly state: "Abraham believed in
the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness."

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 righteousness.

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

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 of sin."

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 this error.

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 sins.

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 the Mediator.

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.

This is the main point of Paul's argument against the Jews: The children
of Abraham are those who believe and not those who are born of Abraham's
flesh and blood. This point Paul drives home with all his might because
the Jews attached saving value to the genealogical fact: "We are the
seed and 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 of Abraham."

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 seed.

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.

Paul is saying: "You know from the example of Abraham and from the plain
testimony of the Scriptures that they are the children of Abraham, who
have faith in Christ, regardless of their nationality, regardless of the
Law, regardless of works, regardless of their parentage. The promise was
made unto Abraham, 'Thou shalt be a father of many nations'; again, 'And
in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.'" To prevent the
Jews from misinterpreting the word "nations," the Scriptures are careful
to say "many nations." The true children of Abraham are the believers in
Christ from all nations.

  VERSE 8. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the
  heathen through faith.

"Your boasting does not get you anywhere," says Paul to the Galatians,
"because the Sacred Scriptures foresaw and foretold long before the
Law was ever given, that the heathen should be justified by the blessed
'seed' of Abraham and not by the Law. This promise was made four hundred
and thirty years before the Law was given. Because the Law was given so
many years after Abraham, it could not abolish the promised blessing."
This argument is strong because it is based on the exact factor of time.
"Why should you boast of the Law, my Galatians, when the Law came four
hundred and thirty years after the promise?"

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 Jews misconstrue this passage. They want the term "to bless" to
mean "to praise." They want the passage to read: In thee shall all the
nations of the earth be praised. But this is a perversion of the
words of Holy Writ. With the words "Abraham believed" Paul describes a
spiritual Abraham, renewed by faith and regenerated by the Holy Ghost,
that he should be the spiritual father of many nations. In that way all
the Gentiles could be given to him for an inheritance.

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 emphasis lies on the words "with faithful Abraham." Paul
distinguishes between Abraham and Abraham. There is a working and there
is a believing Abraham. With the working Abraham we have nothing to do.
Let the Jews glory in the generating Abraham; we glory in the believing
Abraham of whom the Scriptures say that he received the blessing of
righteousness by faith, not only for himself but for all who believe as
he did. The world was promised to Abraham because he believed. The whole
world is blessed if it believes as Abraham believed.

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 Abraham.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                Objections to the Doctrine of Faith Disproved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  VERSE 12. And the law is not of faith.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  VERSE 19. Wherefore then serveth the law?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We say with Paul that the Law is good if it is used properly. Within its
proper sphere the Law is an excellent thing. But if we ascribe to the
Law functions for which it was never intended, we pervert not only
the Law but also the Gospel. It is the universal impression that
righteousness is obtained through the deeds of the Law. This impression
is instinctive and therefore doubly dangerous. Gross sins and vices may
be recognized or else repressed by the threat of punishment. But this
sin, this opinion of man's own righteousness refuses to be classified
as sin. It wants to be esteemed as high-class religion. Hence, it
constitutes the mighty influence of the devil over the entire world.
In order to point out the true office of the Law, and thus to stamp out
that false impression of the righteousness of the Law, Paul answers the
question: "Wherefore then serveth the Law?" with the words:

  VERSE 19. It was added because of transgressions.

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

                       The Twofold Purpose of the Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

  VERSE 19. It was added because of transgressions.

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

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

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

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

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

The Law is not to have its say indefinitely. We must know how long the
Law is to put in its licks. If it hammers away too long, no person would
and could be saved. The Law has a boundary beyond which it must not go.
How long ought the Law to hold sway? "Till the seed should come to whom
the promise was made." That may be taken literally to mean until the
time of the Gospel. "From the days of John the Baptist," says Jesus,
"until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent
take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until
John." (Matthew 11:12, 13.) When Christ came the Law and the ceremonies
of Moses ceased.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  VERSE 20. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one.

Here the Apostle briefly compares the two mediators: Moses and Christ.
"A mediator," says Paul, "is not a mediator of one." He is necessarily
a mediator of two: The offender and the offended. Moses was such a
mediator between the Law and the people who were offended at the Law.
They were offended at the Law because they did not understand its
purpose. That was the veil which Moses put over his face. The people
were also offended at the Law because they could not look at the bare
face of Moses. It shone with the glory of God. When Moses addressed the
people he had to cover his face with that veil of his. They could not
listen to their mediator Moses without another mediator, the veil. The
Law had to change its face and voice. In other words, the Law had to be
made tolerable to the people.

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.

God does not offend anybody, therefore He needs no mediator. But we
offend God, therefore we need a mediator. And we need a better mediator
than Moses. We need Christ.

  VERSE 21. Is the law then against the promises of God?

Before he digressed Paul stated that the Law does not justify. Shall we
then discard the Law? No, no. It supplies a certain need. It supplies
men with a needed realization of their sinfulness. Now arises another
question: If the Law does no more than to reveal sin, does it not
oppose the promises of God? The Jews believed that by the restraint and
discipline of the Law the promises of God would be hastened, in fact
earned by them.

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.

God never said to Abraham: "In thee shall all the nations of the earth
be blessed because thou hast kept the Law." When Abraham was still
uncircumcised and without the Law or any law, indeed, when he was still
an idol worshiper, God said to him: "Get thee out of thy country, etc.;
I am thy shield, etc.; In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth
be blessed." These are unconditional promises which God freely made to
Abraham without respect to works.

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.

The Law cannot give life. It kills. The Law does not justify a person
before God; it increases sin. The Law does not secure righteousness; it
hinders righteousness. The Apostle declares emphatically that the Law of
itself cannot save.

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. Why not?

  VERSE 22. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin.

Where? First in the promises concerning Christ in Genesis 3:15 and in
Genesis 22:18, which speak of the seed of the woman and the seed
of Abraham. The fact that these promises were made unto the fathers
concerning Christ implies that the fathers were subject to the curse of
sin and eternal death. Otherwise why the need of promises?

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,
hermits, etc.

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.

The Apostle stated before that "the Scripture hath concluded all under
sin." Forever? No, only until the promise should be fulfilled. The
promise, you will recall, is the inheritance itself or the blessing
promised to Abraham, deliverance from the Law, sin, death, and the
devil, and the free gift of grace, righteousness, salvation, and eternal
life. This promise, says Paul, is not obtained by any merit, by any law,
or by any work. This promise is given. To whom? To those who believe. In
whom? In Jesus Christ.

  VERSE 23. But before faith came.

The Apostle proceeds to explain the service which the Law is to render.
Previously Paul had said that the Law was given to reveal the wrath and
death of God upon all sinners. Although the Law kills, God brings good
out of evil. He uses the Law to bring life. God saw that the universal
illusion of self-righteousness could not be put down in any other way
but by the Law. The Law dispels all self-illusions. It puts the fear of
God in a man. Without this fear there can be no thirst for God's mercy.
God accordingly uses the Law for a hammer to break up the illusion
of self-righteousness, that we should despair of our own strength and
efforts at self-justification.

  VERSE 23. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up
  unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

The Law is a prison to those who have not as yet obtained grace. No
prisoner enjoys the confinement. He hates it. If he could he would smash
the prison and find his freedom at all cost. As long as he stays in
prison he refrains from evil deeds. Not because he wants to, but because
he has to. The bars and the chains restrain him. He does not regret the
crime that put him in jail. On the contrary, he is mighty sore that he
cannot rob and kill as before. If he could escape he would go right back
to robbing and killing.

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
justify us?

  VERSE 23. Shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

We know that Paul has reference to the time of Christ's coming. It was
then that faith and the object of faith were fully revealed. But we
may apply the historical fact to our inner life. When Christ came
He abolished the Law and brought liberty and life to light. This He
continues to do in the hearts of the believers. The Christian has a body
in whose members, as Paul says, sin dwells and wars. I take sin to
mean not only the deed but root, tree, fruit, and all. A Christian may
perhaps not fall into the gross sins of murder, adultery, theft, but he
is not free from impatience, complaints, hatreds, and blasphemy of God.
As carnal lust is strong in a young man, in a man of full age the desire
for glory, and in an old man covetousness, so impatience, doubt,
and hatred of God often prevail in the hearts of sincere Christians.
Examples of these sins may be garnered from the Psalms, Job, Jeremiah,
and all the Sacred Scriptures.

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

This simile of the schoolmaster is striking. Schoolmasters are
indispensable. But show me a pupil who loves his schoolmaster. How
little love is lost upon them the Jews showed by their attitude toward
Moses. They would have been glad to stone Moses to death. (Ex. 17:4.)
You cannot expect anything else. How can a pupil love a teacher who
frustrates his desires? And if the pupil disobeys, the schoolmaster
whips him, and the pupil has to like it and even kiss the rod with which
he was beaten. Do you think the schoolboy feels good about it? As soon
as the teacher turns his back, the pupil breaks the rod and throws it
into the fire. And if he were stronger than the teacher he would not
take the beatings, but beat up the teacher. All the same, teachers are
indispensable, otherwise the children would grow up without discipline,
instruction, and training.

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 successor.

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 is not to teach us another Law. When a person feels the full
force of the Law he is likely to think: I have transgressed all the
commandments of God; I am guilty of eternal death. If God will spare
me I will change and live right from now on. This natural but entirely
wrong reaction to the Law has bred the many ceremonies and works devised
to earn grace and remission of sins.

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

The Apostle declares that we are free from the Law. Christ fulfilled the
Law for us. We may live in joy and safety under Christ. The trouble
is, our flesh will not let us believe in Christ with all our heart. The
fault lies not with Christ, but with us. Sin clings to us as long as we
live and spoils our happiness in Christ. Hence, we are only partly free
from the Law. "With the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the
flesh the law of sin." (Romans 7:25.)

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
flesh subside.

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.

Paul as a true apostle of faith always has the word "faith" on the tip
of his tongue. By faith, says he, we are the children of God. The Law
cannot beget children of God. It cannot regenerate us. It can only
remind us of the old birth by which we were born into the kingdom of the
devil. The best the Law can do for us is to prepare us for a new birth
through faith in Christ Jesus. Faith in Christ regenerates us into the
children of God. St. John bears witness to this in his Gospel: "As many
as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even
to them that believe on his name." (John 1:12.) What tongue of man or
angel can adequately extol the mercy of God toward us miserable sinners
in that He adopted us for His own children and fellow-heirs with His Son
by the simple means of 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" may be understood in two ways, according to the Law
and according to the Gospel. According to the Law as in Romans 13:14,
"Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ," which means to follow the example of

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
The list might be extended indefinitely: There is neither preacher nor
hearer, neither teacher nor scholar, neither master nor servant, etc. In
the matter of salvation, rank, learning, righteousness, influence count
for nothing.

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.

There is much imparity among men in the world. And it is a good thing.
If the woman would change places with the man, if the son would change
places with the father, the servant with the master, nothing but
confusion would result. In Christ, however, all are equal. We all have
one and the same Gospel, "one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of
all," one Christ and Savior of all. The Christ of Peter, Paul, and all
the saints is our Christ. Paul can always be depended on to add the
conditional clause, "In Christ Jesus." If we lose sight of Christ, we
lose out.

  VERSE 29. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs
  according to the promise.

"If ye be Christ's" means, if you believe in Christ. If you believe in
Christ, then are you the children of Abraham indeed. Through our faith
in Christ Abraham gains paternity over us and over the nations of the
earth according to the promise: "In thy seed shall all the nations of
the earth be blessed." Through faith we belong to Christ and Christ to


  VERSE 1. Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth
  nothing from a servant, though he be Lord of all;

  VERSE 2. But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed
  of the father.

THE Apostle had apparently finished his discourse on justification when
this illustration of the youthful heir occurred to him. He throws it in
for good measure. He knows that plain people are sooner impressed by an
apt illustration than by learned discussion.

"I want to give you another illustration from everyday life," he writes
to the Galatians. "As long as an heir is under age he is treated very
much like a servant. He is not permitted to order his own affairs. He
is kept under constant surveillance. Such discipline is good for him,
otherwise he would waste his inheritance in no time. This discipline,
however, is not to last forever. It is to last only until 'the time
appointed of the father.'"

  VERSE 3. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage
  under the elements of the world.

As children of the Law we were treated like servants and prisoners. We
were oppressed and condemned by the Law. But the tyranny of the Law is
not to last forever. It is to last only until "the time appointed of the
father," until Christ came and redeemed us.

  VERSE 3. Under the elements of the world.

By the elements of the world the Apostle does not understand the
physical elements, as some have thought. In calling the Law "the
elements of the world" Paul means to say that the Law is something
material, mundane, earthly. It may restrain evil, but it does not
deliver from sin. The Law does not justify; it does not bring a person
to heaven. I do not obtain eternal life because I do not kill, commit
adultery, steal, etc. Such mere outward decency does not constitute
Christianity. The heathen observe the same restraints to avoid
punishment or to secure the advantages of a good reputation. In the last
analysis such restraint is simple hypocrisy. When the Law exercises
its higher function it accuses and condemns the conscience. All these
effects of the Law cannot be called divine or heavenly. These effects
are elements of the world.

In calling the Law the elements of the world Paul refers to the whole
Law, principally to the ceremonial law which dealt with external
matters, as meat, drink, dress, places, times, feasts, cleansings,
sacrifices, etc. These are mundane matters which cannot save the sinner.
Ceremonial laws are like the statutes of governments dealing with purely
civil matters, as commerce, inheritance, etc. As for the pope's church
laws forbidding marriage and meats, Paul calls them elsewhere the
doctrines of devils. You would not call such laws elements of heaven.

The Law of Moses deals with mundane matters. It holds the mirror to
the evil which is in the world. By revealing the evil that is in us it
creates a longing in the heart for the better things of God. The Law
forces us into the arms of Christ, "who is the end of the law for
righteousness to every one that believeth." (Romans 1:4.) Christ
relieves the conscience of the Law. In so far as the Law impels us to
Christ it renders excellent service.

I do not mean to give the impression that the Law should be despised.
Neither does Paul intend to leave that impression. The Law ought to be
honored. But when it is a matter of justification before God, Paul had
to speak disparagingly of the Law, because the Law has nothing to
do with justification. If it thrusts its nose into the business of
justification we must talk harshly to the Law to keep it in its place.
The conscience ought not to be on speaking terms with the Law. The
conscience ought to know only Christ. To say this is easy, but in times
of trial, when the conscience writhes in the presence of God, it is not
so easy to do. As such times we are to believe in Christ as if there
were no Law or sin anywhere, but only Christ. We ought to say to the
Law: "Mister Law, I do not get you. You stutter so much. I don't think
that you have anything to say to me."

When it is not a question of salvation or justification with us, we are
to think highly of the Law and call it "holy, just, and good." (Romans
7:12) The Law is of no comfort to a stricken conscience. Therefore it
should not be allowed to rule in our conscience, particularly in view
of the fact that Christ paid so great a price to deliver the conscience
from the tyranny of the Law. Let us understand that the Law and Christ
are impossible bedfellows. The Law must leave the bed of the conscience,
which is so narrow that it cannot hold two, as Isaiah says, chapter 28,
verse 20.

Only Paul among the apostles calls the Law "the elements of the world,
weak and beggarly elements, the strength of sin, the letter that
killeth," etc. The other apostles do not speak so slightingly of the
Law. Those who want to be first-class scholars in the school of Christ
want to pick up the language of Paul. Christ called him a chosen vessel
and equipped with a facility of expression far above that of the other
apostles, that he as the chosen vessel should establish the doctrine of
justification in clear-cut words.

  VERSES 4, 5. But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent
  forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them
  that were under the law.

"The fullness of the time" means when the time of the Law was fulfilled
and Christ was revealed. Note how Paul explains Christ. "Christ," says
he, "is the Son of God and the son of a woman. He submitted Himself
under the Law to redeem us who were under the Law." In these words the
Apostle explains the person and office of Christ. His person is divine
and human. "God sent forth His Son, made of a woman." Christ therefore
is true God and true man. Christ's office the Apostle describes in the
words: "Made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law."

Paul calls the Virgin Mary a woman. This has been frequently deplored
even by some of the ancient fathers who felt that Paul should have
written "virgin" instead of woman. But Paul is now treating of faith and
Christian righteousness, of the person and office of Christ, not of
the virginity of Mary. The inestimable mercy of God is sufficiently set
forth by the fact that His Son was born of a woman. The more general
term "woman" indicates that Christ was born a true man. Paul does not
say that Christ was born of man and woman, but only of woman. That he
has a virgin in mind is obvious.

This passage furthermore declares that Christ's purpose in coming was
the abolition of the Law, not with the intention of laying down new
laws, but "to redeem them that were under the law." Christ himself
declared: "I judge no man." (John 8:15.) Again, "I came not to judge the
world, but to save the world." (John 12:47.) In other words: "I came
not to bring more laws, or to judge men according to the existing Law. I
have a higher and better office. I came to judge and to condemn the Law,
so that it may no more judge and condemn the world."

How did Christ manage to redeem us? "He was made under the law." When
Christ came He found us all in prison. What did He do about it? Although
He was the Lord of the Law, He voluntarily placed Himself under the Law
and permitted it to exercise dominion over Him, indeed to accuse and to
condemn Him. When the Law takes us into judgment it has a perfect right
to do so. "For we are by nature the children of wrath, even as others."
(Eph. 2:3.) Christ, however, "did no sin, neither was guile found in his
mouth." (I Pet. 2:22.) Hence the Law had no jurisdiction over Him. Yet
the Law treated this innocent, just, and blessed Lamb of God as cruelly
as it treated us. It accused Him of blasphemy and treason. It made Him
guilty of the sins of the whole world. It overwhelmed him with such
anguish of soul that His sweat was as blood. The Law condemned Him to
the shameful death on the Cross.

It is truly amazing that the Law had the effrontery to turn upon its
divine Author, and that without a show of right. For its insolence the
Law in turn was arraigned before the judgment seat of God and condemned.
Christ might have overcome the Law by an exercise of His omnipotent
authority over the Law. Instead, He humbled Himself under the Law for
and together with them that were under the Law. He gave the Law license
to accuse and condemn Him. His present mastery over the Law was obtained
by virtue of His Sonship and His substitutionary victory.

Thus Christ banished the Law from the conscience. It dare no longer
banish us from God. For that matter,--the Law continues to reveal sin.
It still raises its voice in condemnation. But the conscience finds
quick relief in the words of the Apostle: "Christ has redeemed us from
the law." The conscience can now hold its head high and say to the Law:
"You are not so holy yourself. You crucified the Son of God. That was an
awful thing for you to do. You have lost your influence forever."

The words, "Christ was made under the law," are worth all the attention
we can bestow on them. They declare that the Son of God did not only
fulfill one or two easy requirements of the Law, but that He endured
all the tortures of the Law. The Law brought all its fright to bear upon
Christ until He experienced anguish and terror such as nobody else
ever experienced. His bloody sweat. His need of angelic comfort, His
tremulous prayer in the garden, His lamentation on the Cross, "My God,
my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" bear eloquent witness to the sting
of the Law. He suffered "to redeem them that were under the law."

The Roman conception of Christ as a mere lawgiver more stringent than
Moses, is quite contrary to Paul's teaching. Christ, according to Paul,
was not an agent of the Law but a patient of the Law. He was not a
law-giver, but a law-taker.

True enough, Christ also taught and expounded the Law. But it was
incidental. It was a sideline with Him. He did not come into the world
for the purpose of teaching the Law, as little as it was the purpose of
His coming to perform miracles. Teaching the Law and performing miracles
did not constitute His unique mission to the world. The prophets also
taught the Law and performed miracles. In fact, according to the promise
of Christ, the apostles performed greater miracles than Christ Himself.
(John 14:12.) The true purpose of Christ's coming was the abolition of
the Law, of sin, and of death.

If we think of Christ as Paul here depicts Him, we shall never go wrong.
We shall never be in danger of misconstruing the meaning of the Law. We
shall understand that the Law does not justify. We shall understand why
a Christian observes laws: For the peace of the world, out of gratitude
to God, and for a good example that others may be attracted to the

  VERSE 5. That we might receive the adoption of sons.

Paul still has for his text Genesis 22:18, "In thy seed shall all the
nations of the earth be blessed." In the course of his Epistle he calls
this promise of the blessing righteousness, life, deliverance from the
Law, the testament, etc. Now he also calls the promise of blessing "the
adoption of sons," the inheritance of everlasting life.

What ever induced God to adopt us for His children and heirs? What claim
can men who are subservient to sin, subject to the curse of the Law,
and worthy of everlasting death, have on God and eternal life? That
God adopted us is due to the merit of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who
humbled Himself under the Law and redeemed us law-ridden sinners.

  VERSE 6. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his
  Son into your hearts.

In the early Church the Holy Spirit was sent forth in visible form. He
descended upon Christ in the form of a dove (Matt. 3:16), and in the
likeness of fire upon the apostles and other believers. (Acts 2:3.) This
visible outpouring of the Holy Spirit was necessary to the establishment
of the early Church, as were also the miracles that accompanied the gift
of the Holy Ghost. Paul explained the purpose of these miraculous gifts
of the Spirit in I Corinthians 14:22, "Tongues are for a sign, not to
them that believe, but to them that believe not." Once the Church had
been established and properly advertised by these miracles, the visible
appearance of the Holy Ghost ceased.

Next, the Holy Ghost is sent forth into the hearts of the believers,
as here stated, "God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts." This
sending is accomplished by the preaching of the Gospel through which the
Holy Spirit inspires us with fervor and light, with new judgment, new
desires, and new motives. This happy innovation is not a derivative of
reason or personal development, but solely the gift and operation of the
Holy Ghost.

This renewal by the Holy Spirit may not be conspicuous to the world, but
it is patent to us by our better judgment, our improved speech, and our
unashamed confession of Christ. Formerly we did not confess Christ to
be our only merit, as we do now in the light of the Gospel. Why, then,
should we feel bad if the world looks upon us as ravagers of religion
and insurgents against constituted authority? We confess Christ and our
conscience approves of it. Then, too, we live in the fear of God. If we
sin, we sin not on purpose, but unwittingly, and we are sorry for it.
Sin sticks in our flesh, and the flesh gets us into sin even after
we have been imbued by the Holy Ghost. Outwardly there is no great
difference between a Christian and any honest man. The activities of
a Christian are not sensational. He performs his duty according to his
vocation. He takes good care of his family, and is kind and helpful to
others. Such homely, everyday performances are not much admired. But the
setting-up exercises of the monks draw great applause. Holy works, you
know. Only the acts of a Christian are truly good and acceptable to God,
because they are done in faith, with a cheerful heart, out of gratitude
to Christ.

We ought to have no misgivings about whether the Holy Ghost dwells in
us. We are "the temple of the Holy Ghost." (I Cor. 3:16.) When we have
a love for the Word of God, and gladly hear, talk, write, and think of
Christ, we are to know that this inclination toward Christ is the gift
and work of the Holy Ghost. Where you come across contempt for the Word
of God, there is the devil. We meet with such contempt for the Word of
God mostly among the common people. They act as though the Word of God
does not concern them. Wherever you find a love for the Word, thank God
for the Holy Spirit who infuses this love into the hearts of men. We
never come by this love naturally, neither can it be enforced by laws.
It is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Roman theologians teach that no man can know for a certainty whether
he stands in the favor of God or not. This teaching forms one of the
chief articles of their faith. With this teaching they tormented men's
consciences, excommunicated Christ from the Church, and limited the
operations of the Holy Ghost.

St. Augustine observed that "every man is certain of his faith, if he
has faith." This the Romanists deny. "God forbid," they exclaim piously,
"that I should ever be so arrogant as to think that I stand in grace,
that I am holy, or that I have the Holy Ghost." We ought to feel sure
that we stand in the grace of God, not in view of our own worthiness,
but through the good services of Christ. As certain as we are that
Christ pleases God, so sure ought we to be that we also please God,
because Christ is in us. And although we daily offend God by our sins,
yet as often as we sin, God's mercy bends over us. Therefore sin cannot
get us to doubt the grace of God. Our certainty is of Christ, that
mighty Hero who overcame the Law, sin, death, and all evils. So long as
He sits at the right hand of God to intercede for us, we have nothing to
fear from the anger of God.

This inner assurance of the grace of God is accompanied by outward
indications such as gladly to hear, preach, praise, and to confess
Christ, to do one's duty in the station in which God has placed us, to
aid the needy, and to comfort the sorrowing. These are the affidavits of
the Holy Spirit testifying to our favorable standing with God.

If we could be fully persuaded that we are in the good grace of God,
that our sins are forgiven, that we have the Spirit of Christ, that we
are the beloved children of God, we would be ever so happy and grateful
to God. But because we often feel fear and doubt we cannot come to that
happy certainty.

Train your conscience to believe that God approves of you. Fight it out
with doubt. Gain assurance through the Word of God. Say: "I am all right
with God. I have the Holy Ghost. Christ, in whom I do believe, makes
me worthy. I gladly hear, read, sing, and write of Him. I would like
nothing better than that Christ's Gospel be known throughout the world
and that many, many be brought to faith in Him."

  VERSE 6. Crying, Abba, Father.

Paul might have written, "God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into
your hearts, calling Abba, Father." Instead, he wrote, "Crying, Abba,
Father." In the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans the Apostle
describes this crying of the Spirit as "groanings which cannot be
uttered." He writes in the 26th verse: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth
our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought:
but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which
cannot be uttered."

The fact that the Spirit of Christ in our hearts cries unto God and
makes intercession for us with groanings should reassure us greatly.
However, there are many factors that prevent such full reassurance on
our part. We are born in sin. To doubt the good will of God is an inborn
suspicion of God with all of us. Besides, the devil, our adversary,
goeth about seeking to devour us by roaring: "God is angry at you and
is going to destroy you forever." In all these difficulties we have only
one support, the Gospel of Christ. To hold on to it, that is the trick.
Christ cannot be perceived with the senses. We cannot see Him. The heart
does not feel His helpful presence. Especially in times of trials
a Christian feels the power of sin, the infirmity of his flesh, the
goading darts of the devil, the agues of death, the scowl and judgment
of God. All these things cry out against us. The Law scolds us, sin
screams at us, death thunders at us, the devil roars at us. In the midst
of the clamor the Spirit of Christ cries in our hearts: "Abba, Father."
And this little cry of the Spirit transcends the hullabaloo of the Law,
sin, death, and the devil, and finds a hearing with God.

The Spirit cries in us because of our weakness. Because of our infirmity
the Holy Ghost is sent forth into our hearts to pray for us according to
the will of God and to assure us of the grace of God.

Let the Law, sin, and the devil cry out against us until their outcry
fills heaven and earth. The Spirit of God outcries them all. Our feeble
groans, "Abba, Father," will be heard of God sooner than the combined
racket of hell, sin, and the Law.

We do not think of our groanings as a crying. It is so faint we do not
know we are groaning. "But he," says Paul, "that searcheth the hearts
knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit." (Romans 8:27.) To this Searcher
of hearts our feeble groaning, as it seems to us, is a loud shout for
help in comparison with which the howls of hell, the din of the devil,
the yells of the Law, the shouts of sin are like so many whispers.

In the fourteenth chapter of Exodus the Lord addresses Moses at the Red
Sea: "Wherefore criest thou unto me?" Moses had not cried unto the Lord.
He trembled so he could hardly talk. His faith was at low ebb. He saw
the people of Israel wedged between the Sea and the approaching armies
of Pharaoh. How were they to escape? Moses did not know what to say. How
then could God say that Moses was crying to Him? God heard the groaning
heart of Moses and the groans to Him sounded like loud shouts for help.
God is quick to catch the sigh of the heart.

Some have claimed that the saints are without infirmities. But Paul
says: "The Spirit helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession for
us with groanings which cannot be uttered." We need the help of the
Holy Spirit because we are weak and infirm. And the Holy Spirit never
disappoints us. Confronted by the armies of Pharaoh, retreat cut off by
the waters of the Red Sea, Moses was in a bad spot. He felt himself to
blame. The devil accused him: "These people will all perish, for they
cannot escape. And you are to blame because you led the people out of
Egypt. You started all this." And then the people started in on Moses.
"Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die
in the wilderness? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians,
than that we should die in the wilderness." (Ex. 14:11, 12.) But the
Holy Ghost was in Moses and made intercession for him with unutterable
groanings, sighings unto the Lord: "O Lord, at Thy commandment have I
led forth this people. So help me now."

The Spirit intercedes for us not in many words or long prayers, but with
groanings, with little sounds like "Abba." Small as this word is, it
says ever so much. It says: "My Father, I am in great trouble and you
seem so far away. But I know I am your child, because you are my Father
for Christ's sake. I am loved by you because of the Beloved." This
one little word "Abba" surpasses the eloquence of a Demosthenes and a

I have spent much time on this verse in order to combat the cruel
teaching of the Roman church, that a person ought to be kept in a state
of uncertainty concerning his status with God. The monasteries recruit
the youth on the plea that their "holy" orders will assuredly recruit
them for heaven. But once inside the monastery the recruits are told to
doubt the promises of God.

In support of their error the papists quote the saying of Solomon: "The
righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no
man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them." (Eccles.
9:1.) They take this hatred to mean the wrath of God to come. Others
take it to mean God's present anger. None of them seem to understand
this passage from Solomon. On every page the Scriptures urge us to
believe that God is merciful, loving, and patient; that He is faithful
and true, and that He keeps His promises. All the promises of God
were fulfilled in the gift of His only-begotten Son, that "whosoever
believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The
Gospel is reassurance for sinners. Yet this one saying from Solomon,
misinterpreted at that, is made to count for more than all the many
promises of all the Scriptures.

If our opponents are so uncertain about their status with God, and even
go so far as to say that the conscience ought to be kept in a state of
doubt, why is it that they persecute us as vile heretics? When it comes
to persecuting us they do not seem to be in doubt and uncertainty one

Let us not fail to thank God for delivering us from the doctrine of
doubt. The Gospel commands us to look away from our own good works to
the promises of God in Christ, the Mediator. The pope commands us to
look away from the promises of God in Christ to our own merit. No wonder
they are the eternal prey of doubt and despair. We depend upon God for
salvation. No wonder that our doctrine is certified, because it does not
rest in our own strength, our own conscience, our own feelings, our own
person, our own works. It is built on a better foundation. It is built
on the promises and truth of God.

Besides, the passage from Solomon does not treat of the hatred and love
of God towards men. It merely rebukes the ingratitude of men. The more
deserving a person is, the less he is appreciated. Often those who
should be his best friends, are his worst enemies. Those who least
deserve the praise of the world, get most. David was a holy man and
a good king. Nevertheless he was chased from his own country. The
prophets, Christ, the apostles, were slain. Solomon in this passage does
not speak of the love and hatred of God, but of love and hatred among
men. As though Solomon wanted to say: "There are many good and wise men
whom God uses for the advancement of mankind. Seldom, if ever, are their
efforts crowned with gratitude. They are usually repaid with hatred and

We are being treated that way. We thought we would find favor with men
for bringing them the Gospel of peace, life, and eternal salvation.
Instead of favor, we found fury. At first, yes, many were delighted with
our doctrine and received it gladly. We counted them as our friends and
brethren, and were happy to think that they would help us in sowing the
seed of the Gospel. But they revealed themselves as false brethren and
deadly enemies of the Gospel. If you experience the ingratitude of
men, don't let it get you down. Say with Christ: "They hated me without
cause." And, "For my love they are my adversaries; but I give myself
unto prayer." (Ps. 109:4.)

Let us never doubt the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, but make up our
minds that God is pleased with us, that He looks after us, and that we
have the Holy Spirit who prays for us.

  VERSE 7. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son.

This sentence clinches Paul's argument. He says: "With the Holy Spirit
in our hearts crying, 'Abba, Father,' there can be no doubt that God has
adopted us for His children and that our subjection to the Law has come
to an end." We are now the free children of God. We may now say to the
Law: "Mister Law, you have lost your throne to Christ. I am free now and
a son of God. You cannot curse me any more." Do not permit the Law to
lie in your conscience. Your conscience belongs to Christ. Let Christ be
in it and not the Law.

As the children of God we are the heirs of His eternal heaven. What
a wonderful gift heaven is, man's heart cannot conceive, much less
describe. Until we enter upon our heavenly inheritance we are only to
have our little faith to go by. To man's reason our faith looks rather
forlorn. But because our faith rests on the promises of the infinite
God, His promises are also infinite, so much so that nothing can accuse
or condemn us.

  VERSE 7. And if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

A son is an heir, not by virtue of high accomplishments, but by virtue
of his birth. He is a mere recipient. His birth makes him an heir,
not his labors. In exactly the same way we obtain the eternal gifts of
righteousness, resurrection, and everlasting life. We obtain them not
as agents, but as beneficiaries. We are the children and heirs of God
through faith in Christ. We have Christ to thank for everything.

We are not the heirs of some rich and mighty man, but heirs of God, the
almighty Creator of all things. If a person could fully appreciate what
it means to be a son and heir of God, he would rate the might and wealth
of nations small change in comparison with his heavenly inheritance.
What is the world to him who has heaven? No wonder Paul greatly desired
to depart and to be with Christ. Nothing would be more welcome to
us than early death, knowing that it would spell the end of all our
miseries and the beginning of all our happiness. Yes, if a person could
perfectly believe this he would not long remain alive. The anticipation
of his joy would kill him.

But the law of the members strives against the law of the mind, and
makes perfect joy and faith impossible. We need the continued help and
comfort of the Holy Spirit. We need His prayers. Paul himself cried out:
"O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this
death?" The body of this death spoiled the joy of his spirit. He did
not always entertain the sweet and glad expectation of his heavenly
inheritance. He often felt miserable.

This goes to show how hard it is to believe. Faith is feeble, because
the flesh wars against the spirit. If we could have perfect faith, our
loathing for this life in the world would be complete. We would not be
so careful about this life. We would not be so attached to the world and
the things of the world. We would not feel so good when we have them; we
would not feel so bad when we lose them. We would be far more humble and
patient and kind. But our faith is weak, because our spirit is weak. In
this life we can have only the first-fruits of the Spirit, as Paul says.

  VERSE 7. Through Christ.

The Apostle always has Christ on the tip of his tongue. He foresaw that
nothing would be less known in the world some day than the Gospel of
Christ. Therefore he talks of Christ continually. As often as he speaks
of righteousness, grace, the promise, the adoption, and the inheritance
of heaven, he adds the words, "In Christ," or "Through Christ," to show
that these blessings are not to be had by the Law, or the deeds of
the Law, much less by our own exertions, or by the observance of human
traditions, but only by and through and in Christ.

  VERSES 8 and 9. Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service
  unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have
  known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak
  and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?

This concludes Paul's discourse on justification. From now to the end of
the Epistle the Apostle writes mostly of Christian conduct. But before
he follows up his doctrinal discourse with practical precepts he once
more reproves the Galatians. He is deeply displeased with them for
relinquishing their divine doctrine. He tells them: "You have taken on
teachers who intend to recommit you to the Law. By my doctrine I called
you out of the darkness of ignorance into the wonderful light of the
knowledge of God. I led you out of bondage into the freedom of the sons
of God, not by the prescription of laws, but by the gift of heavenly and
eternal blessings through Christ Jesus. How could you so soon forsake
the light and return to darkness? How could you so quickly stray from
grace into the Law, from freedom into bondage?"

The example of the Galatians, of Anabaptists, and other sectarians in
our day bears testimony to the ease with which faith may be lost. We
take great pains in setting forth the doctrine of faith by preaching
and by writing. We are careful to apply the Gospel and the Law in their
proper turn. Yet we make little headway because the devil seduces people
into misbelief by taking Christ out of their sight and focusing their
eyes upon the Law.

But why does Paul accuse the Galatians of reverting to the weak and
beggarly elements of the Law when they never had the Law? Why does he
not say to them: "At one time you Galatians did not know God. You then
served idols that were no gods. But now that you have come to know the
true God, why do you go back to the worship of idols?" Paul seems to
identify their defection from the Gospel to the Law with their former
idolatry. Indeed he does. Whoever gives up the article of justification
does not know the true God. It is one and the same thing whether a
person reverts to the Law or to the worship of idols. When the article
of justification is lost, nothing remains except error, hypocrisy,
godlessness, and idolatry.

God will and can be known in no other way than in and through Christ
according to the statement of John 1:18, "The only begotten Son, which
is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Christ is the only
means whereby we can know God and His will. In Christ we perceive that
God is not a cruel judge, but a most loving and merciful Father who to
bless and to save us "spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us
all." This is truly to know God.

Those who do not know God in Christ arrive at this erroneous conclusion:
"I will serve God in such and such a way. I will join this or that
order. I will be active in this or that charitable endeavor. God will
sanction my good intentions and reward me with everlasting life. For is
He not a merciful and generous Father who gives good things even to the
unworthy and ungrateful? How much more will He grant unto me everlasting
life as a due payment in return for my many good deeds and merits." This
is the religion of reason. This is the natural religion of the world.
"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God." (I Cor.
2:14.) "There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh
after God." (Romans 3:11.) Hence, there is really no difference between
a Jew, a Mohammedan, and any other old or new heretic. There may be a
difference of persons, places, rites, religions, ceremonies, but as far
as their fundamental beliefs are concerned they are all alike.

Is it therefore not extreme folly for Rome and the Mohammedans to fight
each other about religion? How about the monks? Why should one monk
want to be accounted more holy than another monk because of some silly
ceremony, when all the time their basic beliefs are asnmuch alike as one
egg is like the other? They all imagine, if we do this or that work, God
will have mercy on us; if not, God will be angry.

God never promised to save anybody for his religious observance of
ceremonies and ordinances. Those who rely upon such things do serve a
god, but it is their own invention of a god, and not the true God. The
true God has this to say: No religion pleases Me whereby the Father is
not glorified through His Son Jesus. All who give their faith to this
Son of Mine, to them I am God and Father. I accept, justify, and save
them. All others abide under My curse because they worship creatures
instead of Me.

Without the doctrine of justification there can be only ignorance of
God. Those who refuse to be justified by Christ are idolaters. They
remain under the Law, sin, death, and the power of the devil. Everything
they do is wrong.

Nowadays there are many such idolaters who want to be counted among
the true confessors of the Gospel. They may even teach that men are
delivered from their sins by the death of Christ. But because they
attach more importance to charity than to faith in Christ they dishonor
Him and pervert His Word. They do not serve the true God, but an idol of
their own invention. The true God has never yet smiled upon a person for
his charity or virtues, but only for the sake of Christ's merits.

The objection is frequently raised that the Bible commands that we
should love God with all our heart. True enough. But because God
commands it, it does not follow that we do it. If we could love God with
all our heart we should undoubtedly be justified by our obedience, for
it is written, "Which if a man do, he shall live in them." (Lev. 18:5.)
But now comes the Gospel and says: "Because you do not do these things,
you cannot live in them." The words, "Thou shalt love the Lord, thy
God," require perfect obedience, perfect fear, perfect trust, and
perfect love. But where are the people who can render perfection? Hence,
this commandment, instead of justifying men, only accuses and condemns
them. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that
believeth" (Romans 10:1.)

How may these two contradictory statements of the Apostle, "Ye knew not
God," and "Ye worshipped God," be reconciled? I answer: By nature all
men know that there is a God, "because that which may be known of God
is manifest in them, for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible
things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen." (Romans
1:19, 20.) Furthermore, the different religions to be found among
all nations at all times bear witness to the fact that all men have a
certain intuitive knowledge of God.

If all men know God how can Paul say that the Galatians did not know
God prior to the hearing of the Gospel? I answer: There is a twofold
knowledge of God, general and particular. All men have the general
and instinctive recognition that there is a God who created heaven and
earth, who is just and holy, and who punishes the wicked. How God feels
about us, what His intentions are, what He will do for us, or how He
will save us, that men cannot know instinctively. It must be revealed to
them. I may know a person by sight, and still not know him, because I do
not know how he feels about me. Men know instinctively that there is a
God. But what His will is toward them, they do not know. It is written:
"There is none that understandeth God." (Romans 3:11.) Again, "No man
hath seen God." (John 1:18.) Now, what good does it do you if you know
that there is a God, if you do not know how He feels about you, or
what He wants of you? People have done a good deal of guessing. The Jew
imagines he is doing the will of God if he concentrates on the Law of
Moses. The Mohammedan thinks his Koran is the will of God. The monk
fancies he is doing the will of God if he performs his vows. But they
deceive themselves and become "vain in their imaginations," as Paul
says, Romans 1:21. Instead of worshipping the true God, they worship the
vain imaginations of their foolish hearts.

What Paul means by saying to the Galatians, "When ye knew not God," is
simply this: "There was a time when you did not know the will of God in
Christ, but you worshipped gods of your own invention, thinking that you
had to perform this or that labor." Whether you understand the "elements
of the world" to mean the Law of Moses, or the religions of the heathen
nations, it makes no difference. Those who lapse from the Gospel to the
Law are no better off than those who lapse from grace into idolatry.
Without Christ all religion is idolatry. Without Christ men will
entertain false ideas about God, call their ideas what you like, the
laws of Moses, the ordinances of the Pope, the Koran of the Mohammedans,
or what have you.

  VERSE 9. But now, after that ye have known God.

"Is it not amazing," cries Paul, "that you Galatians who knew God
intimately by the hearing of the Gospel, should all of a sudden
revert from the true knowledge of His will in which I thought you were
confirmed, to the weak and beggarly elements of the Law which can only
enslave you again?"

  VERSE 9. Or rather are known of God.

The Apostle turns the foregoing sentence around. He fears the Galatians
have lost God altogether. "Alas," he cries, "have you come to this, that
you no longer know God? What else am I to think? Nevertheless, God knows
you." Our knowledge of God is rather passive than active. God knows us
better than we know God. "Ye are known of God" means that God brings His
Gospel to our attention, and endows us with faith and the Holy Spirit.
Even in these words the Apostle denies the possibility of our knowing
God by the performance of the Law. "No man knoweth who the Father is,
but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." (Luke 10:22.) "By
his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear
their iniquities." (Isaiah 53:11.)

The Apostle frankly expresses his surprise to the Galatians that they
who had known God intimately through the Gospel, should so easily be
persuaded by the false apostles to return to the weak and beggarly
elements of the Law. I would not be surprised to see my church perverted
by some fanatic through one or two sermons. We are no better than the
apostles who had to witness the subversion of the churches which they
had planted with their own hands. Nevertheless, Christ will reign to the
end of the world, and that miraculously, as He did during the Dark Ages.

Paul seems to think rather ill of the Law. He calls it the elements
of the world, the weak and beggarly elements of the world. Was it not
irreverent for him to speak that way about the holy Law of God? The Law
ought to prepare the way of Christ into the hearts of men. That is the
true purpose and function of the Law. But if the Law presumes to usurp
the place and function of the Gospel, it is no longer the holy Law of
God, but a pseudo-Gospel.

If you care to amplify this matter you may add the observation that
the Law is a weak and beggarly element because it makes people weak and
beggarly. The Law has no power and affluence to make men strong and rich
before God. To seek to be justified by the Law amounts to the same
thing as if a person who is already weak and feeble should try to find
strength in weakness, or as if a person with the dropsy should seek a
cure by exposing himself to the pestilence, or as if a leper should go
to a leper, and a beggar to a beggar to find health and wealth.

Those who seek to be justified by the Law grow weaker and more destitute
right along. They are weak and bankrupt to begin with. They are by
nature the children of wrath. Yet for salvation they grasp at the straw
of the Law. The Law can only aggravate their weakness and poverty. The
Law makes them ten times weaker and poorer than they were before.

I and many others have experienced the truth of this. I have known monks
who zealously labored to please God for salvation, but the more they
labored the more impatient, miserable, uncertain, and fearful they
became. What else can you expect? You cannot grow strong through
weakness and rich through poverty. People who prefer the Law to the
Gospel are like Aesop's dog who let go of the meat to snatch at
the shadow of the water. There is no satisfaction in the Law. What
satisfaction can there be in collecting laws with which to torment
oneself and others? One law breeds ten more until their number is

Who would have thought it possible that the Galatians, taught as they
were by that efficient apostle and teacher, Paul, could so quickly be
led astray by the false apostles? To fall away from the Gospel is an
easy matter because few people appreciate what an excellent treasure the
knowledge of Christ really is. People are not sufficiently exercised in
their faith by afflictions. They do not wrestle against sin. They live
in security without conflict. Because they have never been tried in the
furnace of affliction they are not properly equipped with the armor of
God and know not how to use the sword of the Spirit. As long as they
are being shepherded by faithful pastors, all is well. But when their
faithful shepherds are gone and wolves disguised as sheep break into the
fold, back they go to the weak and beggarly elements of the Law.

Whoever goes back to the Law loses the knowledge of the truth, fails in
the recognition of his sinfulness, does not know God, nor the devil,
nor himself, and does not understand the meaning and purpose of the Law.
Without the knowledge of Christ a man will always argue that the Law is
necessary for salvation, that it will strengthen the weak and enrich the
poor. Wherever this opinion holds sway the promises of God are denied,
Christ is demoted, hypocrisy and idolatry are established.

  VERSE 9. Whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage.

The Apostle pointedly asks the Galatians whether they desire to be in
bondage again to the Law. The Law is weak and poor, the sinner is weak
and poor--two feeble beggars trying to help each other. They cannot do
it. They only wear each other out. But through Christ a weak and poor
sinner is revived and enriched unto eternal life.

  VERSE 10. Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.

The Apostle Paul knew what the false apostles were teaching the
Galatians: The observance of days, and months, and times, and years. The
Jews had been obliged to keep holy the Sabbath Day, the new moons, the
feast of the passover, the feast of tabernacles, and other feasts. The
false apostles constrained the Galatians to observe these Jewish feasts
under threat of damnation. Paul hastens to tell the Galatians that
they were exchanging their Christian liberty for the weak and beggarly
elements of the world.

  VERSE 11. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in

It grieves the Apostle to think that he might have preached the Gospel
to the Galatians in vain. But this statement expresses more than grief.
Behind his apparent disappointment at their failure lurks the sharp
reprimand that they had forsaken Christ and that they were proving
themselves to be obstinate unbelievers. But he does not openly condemn
them for fear that oversharp criticism might alienate them altogether.
He therefore changes the tone of his voice and speaks kindly to them.

  VERSE 12. Be as I am; for I am as ye are.

Up to this point Paul has been occupied with the doctrinal aspect of
the apostasy of the Galatians. He did not conceal his disappointment at
their lack of stability. He had rebuked them. He had called them fools,
crucifiers of Christ, etc. Now that the more important part of his
Epistle has been finished, he realizes that he has handled the Galatians
too roughly. Anxious lest he should do more harm than good, he is
careful to let them see that his criticism proceeds from affection and
a true apostolic concern for their welfare. He is eager to mitigate his
sharp words with gentle sentiments in order to win them again.

Like Paul, all pastors and ministers ought to have much sympathy for
their poor straying sheep, and instruct them in the spirit of meekness.
They cannot be straightened out in any other way. Oversharp criticism
provokes anger and despair, but no repentance. And here let us note, by
the way, that true doctrine always produces concord. When men embrace
errors, the tie of Christian love is broken.

At the beginning of the Reformation we were honored as the true
ministers of Christ. Suddenly certain false brethren began to hate us.
We had given them no offense, no occasion to hate us. They knew then as
they know now that ours is the singular desire to publish the Gospel
of Christ everywhere. What changed their attitude toward us? False
doctrine. Seduced into error by the false apostles, the Galatians
refused to acknowledge St. Paul as their pastor. The name and doctrine
of Paul became obnoxious to them. I fear this Epistle recalled very few
from their error.

Paul knew that the false apostles would misconstrue his censure of the
Galatians to their own advantage and say: "So this is your Paul whom you
praise so much. What sweet names he is calling you in his letter.
When he was with you he acted like a father, but now he acts like a
dictator." Paul knew what to expect of the false apostles and therefore
he is worried. He does not know what to say. It is hard for a man to
defend his cause at a distance, especially when he has reason to think
that he personally has fallen into disfavor.

  VERSE 12. Be as I am; for I am as ye are.

In beseeching the Galatians to be as he is, Paul expresses the hope
that they might hold the same affection for him that he holds for them.
"Perhaps I have been a little hard with you. Forgive it. Do not judge my
heart according to my words."

We request the same consideration for ourselves. Our way of writing is
incisive and straightforward. But there is no bitterness in our heart.
We seek the honor of Christ and the welfare of men. We do not hate
the Pope as to wish him ill. We do not desire the death of our false
brethren. We desire that they may turn from their evil ways to Christ
and be saved with us. A teacher chastises the pupil to reform him.
The rod hurts, but correction is necessary. A father punishes his son
because he loves his son. If he did not love the lad he would not punish
him but let him have his own way in everything until he comes to harm.
Paul beseeches the Galatians to look upon his correction as a sign that
he really cared for them. "Now no chastening for the present seemeth
to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the
peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
(Heb. 12:11.)

Although Paul seeks to soften the effect of his reproachful words, he
does not take them back. When a physician administers a bitter potion to
a patient, he does it to cure the patient. The fact that the medicine
is bitter is no fault of the physician. The malady calls for a bitter
medicine. Paul wants the Galatians to judge his words according to the
situation that made them necessary.

  VERSE 12. Brethren, I beseech you...Ye have not injured me at all.

Would you call it beseeching the Galatians to call them "bewitched,"
"disobedient," "crucifiers of Christ"? The Apostle calls it an earnest
beseeching. And so it is. When a father corrects his son it means as if
he were saying, "My son, I beseech you, be a good boy."

  VERSE 12. Ye have not injured me at all.

"I am not angry with you," says Paul. "Why should I be angry with you,
since you have done me no injury at all?"

To this the Galatians reply: "Why, then, do you say that we are
perverted, that we have forsaken the true doctrine, that we are foolish,
bewitched, etc., if you are not angry? We must have offended you

Paul answers: "You Galatians have not injured me. You have injured
yourselves. I chide you not because I wish you ill. I have no reason
to wish you ill. God is my witness, you have done me no wrong. On the
contrary, you have been very good to me. The reason I write to you is
because I love you."

The bitter potion must be sweetened with honey and sugar to make it
palatable. When parents have punished their children they give them
apples, pears, and other good things to show them that they mean well.

  VERSES 13, 14. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the
gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye
despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as
Christ Jesus.

"You Galatians were very good to me. When I began to preach the Gospel
to you in the infirmity of my flesh and in great temptation you were
not at all offended. On the contrary, you were so loving, so kind, so
friendly towards me, you received me like an angel, like Jesus Himself."

Indeed, the Galatians are to be commended for receiving the Gospel from
a man as unimposing and afflicted all around as Paul was. Wherever
he preached the Gospel, Jews and Gentiles raved against him. All the
influential and religious people of his day denounced him. But the
Galatians did not mind it. That was greatly to their honor. And Paul
does not neglect to praise them for it. This praise Paul bestows on none
of the other churches to which he wrote.

St. Jerome and others of the ancient fathers allege this infirmity of
Paul's to have been some physical defect, or concupiscence. Jerome and
the other diagnosticians lived at a time when the Church enjoyed peace
and prosperity, when the bishops increased in wealth and standing, when
pastors and bishops no longer sat over the Word of God. No wonder they
failed to understand Paul.

When Paul speaks of the infirmity of his flesh he does not mean some
physical defect or carnal lust, but the sufferings and afflictions which
he endured in his body. What these infirmities were he himself explains
in II Corinthians 12:9, 10: "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory
in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore
I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in
persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak,
then am I strong." And in the eleventh chapter of the same Epistle the
Apostle writes: "In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in
prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received
I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I
stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck," etc. (II Cor. 11:23-25.) By the
infirmity of his flesh Paul meant these afflictions and not some chronic
disease. He reminds the Galatians how he was always in peril at the
hands of the Jews, Gentiles, and false brethren, how he suffered hunger
and want.

Now, the afflictions of the believers always offend people. Paul knew it
and therefore has high praise for the Galatians because they overlooked
his afflictions and received him like an angel. Christ forewarned the
faithful against the offense of the Cross, saying: "Blessed is he,
whosoever shall not be offended in me." (Matt. 11:6.) Surely it is no
easy thing to confess Him Lord of all and Savior of the world who was a
reproach of men, and despised of the people, and the laughing stock of
the world. (Ps. 22:7.) I say, to value this poor Christ, so spitefully
scorned, spit upon, scourged, and crucified, more than the riches of
the richest, the strength of the strongest, the wisdom of the wisest, is
something. It is worth being called blessed.

Paul not only had outward afflictions but also inner, spiritual
afflictions. He refers to these in II Corinthians 7:6, "Without were
fightings, within were fears." In his letter to the Philippians Paul
makes mention of the restoration of Epaphroditus as a special act of
mercy on the part of God, "lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow."

Considering the many afflictions of Paul, we are not surprised to hear
him loudly praising the Galatians for not being offended at him as
others were. The world thinks us mad because we go about to comfort, to
help, to save others while we ourselves are in distress. People tell us:
"Physician, heal thyself." (Luke 4:23.)

The Apostle tells the Galatians that he will keep their kindness in
perpetual remembrance. Indirectly, he also reminds them how much they
had loved him before the invasion of the false apostles, and gives them
a hint that they should return to their first love for him.

  VERSE 15. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of?

"How much happier you used to be. And how you Galatians used to tell
me that you were blessed. And how much did I not praise and commend you
formerly." Paul reminds them of former and better times in an effort to
mitigate his sharp reproaches, lest the false apostles should slander
him and misconstrue his letter to his disadvantage and to their own
advantage. Such snakes in the grass are equal to anything. They will
pervert words spoken from a sincere heart and twist them to mean just
the opposite of what they were intended to convey. They are like spiders
that suck venom out of sweet and fragrant flowers. The poison is not in
the flowers, but it is the nature of the spider to turn what is good and
wholesome into poison.

  VERSE 15. For I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye
  would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.

The Apostle continues his praise of the Galatians. "You did not only
treat me very courteously. If it had been necessary you would have
plucked out your eyes and sacrificed your lives for me." And in very
fact the Galatians sacrificed their lives for Paul. By receiving and
maintaining Paul they called upon their own heads the hatred and malice
of all the Jews and Gentiles.

Nowadays the name of Luther carries the same stigma. Whoever praises
Luther is a worse sinner than an idolater, perjurer, or thief.

  VERSE 16. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the

Paul's reason for praising the Galatians is to avoid giving them the
impression as if he were their enemy because he had reprimanded them.

A true friend will admonish his erring brother, and if the erring
brother has any sense at all he will thank his friend. In the world
truth produces hatred. Whoever speaks the truth is counted an enemy.
But among friends it is not so, much less among Christians. The Apostle
wants his Galatians to know that just because he had told them the
truth they are not to think that he dislikes them. "I told you the truth
because I love you."

  VERSE 17. They zealously affect you, but not well.

Paul takes the false apostles to task for their flattery. Satan's
satellites softsoap the people. Paul calls it "by good words and fair
speeches to deceive the hearts of the simple." (Romans 16:18.)

They tell me that by my stubbornness in this doctrine of the Sacrament I
am destroying the harmony of the church. They say it would be better if
we would make some slight concession rather than cause such commotion
and controversy in the Church regarding an article which is not even one
of the fundamental doctrines. My reply is, cursed be any love or harmony
which demands for its preservation that we place the Word of God in

  VERSE 17. Yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.

"Do you Galatians know why the false apostles are so zealous about you?
They expect you to reciprocate. And that would leave me out. If their
zeal were right they would not mind your loving me. But they hate my
doctrine and want to stamp it out. In order to bring this to pass they
go about to alienate your hearts from me and to make me obnoxious to
you." In this way Paul brings the false apostles into suspicion. He
questions their motives. He maintains that their zeal is mere pretense
to deceive the Galatians. Our Savior Christ also warned us, saying:
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing."
(Matt. 7:15.)

Paul was considerably disturbed by the commissions and changes that
followed in the wake of his preaching. He was accused of being "a
pestilent fellow, a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the
world." (Acts 24:5.) In Philippi the townspeople cried that he troubled
their city and taught customs which were not lawful for them to receive.
(Acts 16:20, 21.)

All troubles, calamities, famines, wars were laid to the charge of the
Gospel of the apostles. However, the apostles were not deterred by such
calumnies from preaching the Gospel. They knew that they "ought to obey
God rather than men," and that it was better for the world to be upset
than to be ignorant of Christ.

Do you think for a moment that these reactions did not worry the
apostles? They were not made of iron. They foresaw the revolutionary
character of the Gospel. They also foresaw the dissensions that would
creep into the Church. It was bad news for Paul when he heard that the
Corinthians were denying the resurrection of the dead, that the churches
he had planted were experiencing all kinds of difficulties, and that the
Gospel was being supplanted by false doctrines.

But Paul also knew that the Gospel was not to blame. He did not resign
his office because he knew that the Gospel he preached was the power of
God unto salvation to every one that believes.

The same criticism which was leveled at the apostles is leveled at us.
The doctrine of the Gospel, we are told, is the cause of all the present
unrest in the world. There is no wrong that is not laid to our charge.
But why? We do not spread wicked lies. We preach the glad tidings of
Christ. Our opponents will bear us out when we say that we never fail to
urge respect for the constituted authorities, because that is the will
of God.

All of these vilifications cannot discourage us. We know that there is
nothing the devil hates worse than the Gospel. It is one of his little
tricks to blame the Gospel for every evil in the world. Formerly, when
the traditions of the fathers were taught in the Church, the devil was
not excited as he is now. It goes to show that our doctrine is of God,
else "behemoth would lie under shady trees, in the covert of the reed,
and fens." The fact that he is again walking about as a roaring lion to
stir up riots and disorders is a sure sign that he has begun to feel the
effect of our preaching.

  VERSE 18. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good
  thing, and not only when I am present with you.

"When I was present with you, you loved me, although I preached the
Gospel to you in the infirmity of my flesh. The fact that I am now
absent from you ought not to change your attitude towards me. Although I
am absent in the flesh, I am with you in spirit and in my doctrine which
you ought to retain by all means because through it you received the
Holy Spirit."

  VERSE 19. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until
  Christ be formed in you.

With every single word the Apostle seeks to regain the confidence of the
Galatians. He now calls them lovingly his little children. He adds the
simile: "Of whom I travail in birth again." As parents reproduce their
physical characteristics in their children, so the apostles reproduced
their faith in the hearts of the hearers, until Christ was formed in
them. A person has the form of Christ when he believes in Christ to the
exclusion of everything else. This faith in Christ is engendered by the
Gospel as the Apostle declares in I Corinthians 4:15: "In Christ Jesus
I have begotten you through the Gospel"; and in II Corinthians 3:3, "Ye
are the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but
with the Spirit of the living God." The Word of God falling from the
lips of the apostle or minister enters into the heart of the hearer.
The Holy Ghost impregnates the Word so that it brings forth the fruit of
faith. In this manner every Christian pastor is a spiritual father who
forms Christ in the hearts of his hearers.

At the same time Paul indicts the false apostles. He says: "I have
begotten you Galatians through the Gospel, giving you the form of
Christ. But these false apostles are giving you a new form, the form of
Moses." Note the Apostle does not say, "Of whom I travail in birth again
until I be formed in you," but "until Christ be formed in you." The
false apostles had torn the form of Christ out of the hearts of the
Galatians and substituted their own form. Paul endeavors to reform them,
or rather reform Christ in them.

  VERSE 20. I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice.

A common saying has it that a letter is a dead messenger. Something is
lacking in all writing. You can never be sure how the written page will
affect the reader, because his mood, his circumstances, his affections
are so changeable. It is different with the spoken word. If it is
harsh and ill-timed it can always be remodeled. No wonder the Apostle
expresses the wish that he could speak to the Galatians in person. He
could change his voice according to their attitude. If he saw that they
were repentant he could soften the tone of his voice. If he saw that
they were stubborn he could speak to them more earnestly. This way he
did not know how to deal with them by letter. If his Epistle is too
severe it will do more damage than good. If it is too gentle, it will
not correct conditions. But if he could be with them in person he could
change his voice as the occasion demanded.

  VERSE 20. For I stand in doubt of you.

"I do not know how to take you. I do not know how to approach you by
letter." In order to make sure that he leaves no stone unturned in his
effort to recall them to the Gospel of Christ, he chides, entreats,
praises, and blames the Galatians, trying every way to hit the right
note and tone of voice.

  VERSE 21. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear
  the law?

Here Paul would have closed his Epistle because he did not know
what else to say. He wishes he could see the Galatians in person and
straighten out their difficulties. But he is not sure whether the
Galatians have fully understood the difference between the Gospel and
the Law. To make sure, he introduces another illustration. He knows
people like illustrations and stories. He knows that Christ Himself made
ample use of parables.

Paul is an expert at allegories. They are dangerous things. Unless a
person has a thorough knowledge of Christian doctrine he had better
leave allegories alone.

The allegory which Paul is about to bring is taken from the Book of
Genesis which he calls the Law. True, that book contains no mention of
the Law. Paul simply follows the custom of the Jews who included the
first book of Moses in the collective term, "Law." Jesus even included
the Psalms.

  VERSES 22, 23. For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one
  by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the
  bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was
  by promise.

This is Paul's allegory. Abraham had two sons: Ishmael by Hagar, and
Isaac by Sarah. They were both the true sons of Abraham, with this
difference, that Ishmael was born after the flesh, i.e., without the
commandment and promise of God, while Isaac was born according to the

With the permission of Sarah, Abraham took Hagar, Sarah's bondwoman, to
wife. Sarah knew that God had promised to make her husband Abraham the
father of a nation, and she hoped that she would be the mother of this
promised nation. But with the passage of the years her hope died out. In
order that the promise of God should not be annulled by her barrenness
this holy woman resigned her right and honor to her maid. This was no
easy thing for her to do. She abased herself. She thought: "God is no
liar. What He has promised He will perform. But perhaps God does not
want me to be the mother of Abraham's posterity. Perhaps He prefers
Hagar for the honor."

Ishmael was thus born without a special word or promise of God, at the
mere request of Sarah. God did not command Abraham to take Hagar, nor
did God promise to bless the coalition. It is evident that Ishmael was
the son of Abraham after the flesh, and not after the promise.

In the ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans St. Paul advances
the same argument which he amplifies into an allegory in writing to the
Galatians. There he argues that all the children of Abraham are not the
children of God. For Abraham had two kinds of children, children born of
the promise, like Isaac, and other children born without the promise,
as Ishmael. With this argument Paul squelched the proud Jews who gloried
that they were the children of God because they were the seed and the
children of Abraham. Paul makes it clear enough that it takes more
than an Abrahamic pedigree to be a child of God. To be a child of God
requires faith in Christ.

  VERSE 24. Which things are an allegory.

Allegories are not very convincing, but like pictures they visualize a
matter. If Paul had not brought in advance indisputable arguments for
the righteousness of faith over against the righteousness of works this
allegory would do little good. Having first fortified his case with
invincible arguments, he can afford to inject this allegory to add
impressiveness and beauty to his presentation.

  VERSES 24, 25. For these are the two covenants; the one from the mount
  Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount
  Sinai in Arabia.

In this allegory Abraham represents God. Abraham had two sons, born
respectively of Hagar and Sarah. The two women represent the two
Testaments. The Old Testament is Mount Sinai, the bondwoman, Hagar. The
Arabians call Mount Sinai Agar. It may be that the similarity of these
two names gave Paul his idea for this allegory. As Hagar bore Abraham
a son who was not an heir but a servant, so Sinai, the Law, the
allegorical Hagar, bore God a carnal and servile people of the Law
without promise. The Law has a promise but it is a conditional promise,
depending upon whether people fulfill the Law.

The Jews regarded the conditional promises of the Law as if they were
unconditional. When the prophets foretold the destruction of Jerusalem,
the Jews stoned them as blasphemers of God. They never gave it any
thought that there was a condition attached to the Law which reads: "If
you keep the commandments it shall be well with thee."

  VERSE 25. And answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage
  with her children.

A little while ago Paul called Mount Sinai, Hagar. He would now gladly
make Jerusalem the Sarah of the New Testament, but he cannot. The
earthly Jerusalem is not Sarah, but a part of Hagar. Hagar lives there
in the home of the Law, the Temple, the priesthood, the ceremonies, and
whatever else was ordained in the Law at Mount Sinai.

I would have been tempted to call Jerusalem, Sarah, or the New
Testament. I would have been pleased with this turn of the allegory. It
goes to show that not everybody has the gift of allegory. Would you not
think it perfectly proper to call Sinai Hagar and Jerusalem Sarah? True,
Paul does call Sarah Jerusalem. But he has the spiritual and heavenly
Jerusalem in mind, not the earthly Jerusalem. Sarah represents that
spiritual Jerusalem where there is no Law but only the promise, and
where the inhabitants are free.

To show that the Law has been quite abolished, the earthly Jerusalem was
completely destroyed with all her ornaments, temples, and ceremonies.

  VERSE 26. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of
  us all.

The earthly Jerusalem with its ordinances and laws represents Hagar
and her offspring. They are slaves to the Law, sin and death. But the
heavenly Jerusalem is Sarah, the free woman. This heavenly Jerusalem is
the Church, that is to say the number of all believers throughout the
world, having one and the same Gospel, one and the same faith in Christ,
one and the same Holy Ghost, and the same sacraments.

Do not mistake this one word "above" to refer to the triumphant Church
in heaven, but to the militant Church on earth. In Philippians 3:20, the
Apostle uses the phrase: "Our conversation is in heaven," not locally in
heaven, but in spirit. When a believer accepts the heavenly gifts of the
Gospel he is in heaven. So also in Ephesians 1:3, "Who hath blessed us
with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Jerusalem
here means the universal Christian Church on earth.

Sarah, the Church, as the bride of Christ bears free children who are
not subject to the Law.

  VERSE 27. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not;
  break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath
  many more children than she which hath an husband.

Paul quotes the allegorical prophecy of Isaiah to the effect that the
mother of many children must die desolately, while the barren woman
shall have an abundance of children. (Isaiah 54:1.) He applies this
prophecy to Hagar and Sarah, to the Law and the Gospel. The Law as the
husband of the fruitful woman procreates many children. For men of all
ages have had the idea that they are right when they follow after the
Law and outwardly perform its requirements.

Although the Law has many children, they are not free. They are slaves.
As servants they cannot have a share in the inheritance, but are driven
from the house as Ishmael was cast out of the house of Abraham. In fact
the servants of the Law are even now barred from the kingdom of light
and liberty, for "he that believeth not, is condemned already." (John
3:18.) As the servants of the Law they remain under the curse of the
Law, under sin and death, under the power of the devil, and under the
wrath and judgment of God.

On the other hand, Sarah, the free Church, seems barren. The Gospel of
the Cross which the Church proclaims does not have the appeal that the
Law has for men, and therefore it does not find many adherents. The
Church does not look prosperous. Unbelievers have always predicted the
death of the Church. The Jews were quite certain that the Church would
not long endure. They said to Paul: "As concerning this sect, we know
that everywhere it is spoken against." (Acts 28:22.) No matter how
barren and forsaken, how weak and desolate the Church may seem, she
alone is really fruitful before God. By the Gospel she procreates an
infinite number of children that are free heirs of everlasting life.

The Law, "the old husband," is really dead. But not all people know it,
or want to know it. They labor and bear the burden and the heat of the
day, and bring forth many children, children that are bastards like
themselves, children born to be put out of the house like Ishmael to
perish forever. Accursed be that doctrine, life, and religion which
endeavors to obtain righteousness before God by the Law and its creeds.

The scholastics think that the judicial and ceremonial laws of Moses
were abolished by the coming of Christ, but not the moral law. They are
blind. When Paul declares that we are delivered from the curse of the
Law he means the whole Law, particularly the moral law which more than
the other laws accuses, curses, and condemns the conscience. The Ten
Commandments have no right to condemn that conscience in which Jesus
dwells, for Jesus has taken from the Ten Commandments the right and
power to curse us.

Not as if the conscience is now insensitive to the terrors of the Law,
but the Law cannot drive the conscience to despair. "There is now no
condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1.) "If the
Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:36.)

You will complain: "But I am not doing anything." That is right. You
cannot do a thing to be delivered from the tyranny of the Law. But
listen to the glad tidings which the Holy Ghost brings to you in the
words of the prophet: "Rejoice, thou barren." As Christ is greater than
the Law, so much more excellent is the righteousness of Christ than the
righteousness of the Law.

In one more respect the Law has been abolished. The civil laws of Moses
do not concern us, and should not be put back in force. That does not
mean that we are exempt from obedience to the civil laws under which we
live. On the contrary, the Gospel commands Christians to obey government
"not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake." (Romans 13:5.)

Neither do the ordinances of Moses or those of the Pope concern us. But
because life cannot go on without some ordinances, the Gospel permits
regulations to be made in the Church in regard to special days, times,
places, etc., in order that the people may know upon what day, at what
hour, and in what place to assemble for the Word of God. Such directions
are desirable that "all things be done decently and in order." (I Cor.
14:40.) These directions may be changed or omitted altogether, as long
as no offense is given to the weak.

Paul, however, refers particularly to the abolition of the moral law. If
faith alone in Christ justifies, then the whole Law is abolished without
exception. And this the Apostle proves by the testimony of Isaiah, who
bids the barren to rejoice because she will have many children, whereas
she that has a husband and many children will be forsaken.

Isaiah calls the Church barren because her children are born without
effort by the Word of faith through the Spirit of God. It is a matter of
birth, not of exertion. The believer too works, but not in an effort to
become a son and an heir of God. He is that before he goes to work. He
is born a son and an heir. He works for the glory of God and the welfare
of his fellowmen.

  VERSE 28. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

The Jews claimed to be the children of God because they were the
children of Abraham. Jesus answered them, John 8:39, 40, "If ye were
Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to
kill me, a man that hath told you the truth." And in verse 42: "If God
were your Father, ye would love me." In other words: "You are not the
children of God. If you were, you would know and love me. Brothers born
and living together in the same house recognize each other. You do not
recognize me. You are of your father, the devil."

We are not like these Jews, the children of the bondwoman, the Law, who
were cast out of the house by Jesus. We are children of the promise like
Isaac, born of grace and faith unto an everlasting inheritance.

  VERSE 29. But as that he that was born after the flesh persecuted him
  that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

This is a cheering thought. We who are born of the Gospel, and live in
Christ, and rejoice in our inheritance, have Ishmael for our enemy. The
children of the Law will always persecute the children of the Gospel.
This is our daily experience. Our opponents tell us that everything was
at peace before the Gospel was revived by us. Since then the whole world
has been upset. People blame us and the Gospel for everything, for
the disobedience of subjects to their rulers, for wars, plagues, and
famines, for revolutions, and every other evil that can be imagined.
No wonder our opponents think they are doing God a favor by hating and
persecuting us. Ishmael will persecute Isaac.

We invite our opponents to tell us what good things attended the
preaching of the Gospel by the apostles. Did not the destruction of
Jerusalem follow on the heels of the Gospel? And how about the overthrow
of the Roman Empire? Did not the whole world seethe with unrest as the
Gospel was preached in the whole world? We do not say that the Gospel
instigated these upheavals. The iniquity of man did it.

Our opponents blame our doctrine for the present turmoil. But ours is a
doctrine of grace and peace. It does not stir up trouble. Trouble starts
when the people, the nations and their rulers of the earth rage and take
counsel together against the Lord, and against His anointed. (Psalm 2.)
But all their counsels shall be brought to naught. "He that sitteth in
the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision." (Psalm
2:4.) Let them cry out against us as much as they like. We know that
they are the cause of all their own troubles.

As long as we preach Christ and confess Him to be our Savior, we must be
content to be called vicious trouble makers. "These that have turned the
world upside down are come hither also; and these all do contrary to the
decrees of Caesar," so said the Jews of Paul and Silas. (Acts 17:6, 7.)
Of Paul they said: "We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and
a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a
ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." The Gentiles uttered similar
complaints: "These men do exceedingly trouble our city."

This man Luther is also accused of being a pestilent fellow who troubles
the papacy and the Roman empire. If I would keep silent, all would be
well, and the Pope would no more persecute me. The moment I open my
mouth the Pope begins to fume and to rage. It seems we must choose
between Christ and the Pope. Let the Pope perish.

Christ foresaw the reaction of the world to the Gospel. He said: "I
am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I, if it be already
kindled?" (Luke 12:49.)

Do not take the statement of our opponents seriously, that no good can
come of the preaching of the Gospel. What do they know? They would not
recognize the fruits of the Gospel if they saw them.

At any rate, our opponents cannot accuse us of adultery, murder, theft,
and such crimes. The worst they can say about us is that we have the
Gospel. What is wrong with the Gospel? We teach that Christ, the Son
of God, has redeemed us from sin and everlasting death. This is not our
doctrine. It belongs to Christ. If there is anything wrong with it, it
is not our fault. If they want to condemn Christ for being our Savior
and Redeemer, that is their lookout. We are mere onlookers, watching to
see who will win the victory, Christ or His opponents.

On one occasion Jesus remarked: "If ye were of the world, the world
would love his own, but because ye are not of the world, but I have
chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." (John
15:19.) In other words: "I am the cause of all your troubles. I am the
one for whose sake you are killed. If you did not confess my name, the
world would not hate you. The servant is not greater than his lord. If
they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you."

Christ takes all the blame. He says: "You have not incurred the hatred
and persecutions of the world. I have. But be of good cheer; I have
overcome the world."

  VERSE 30. Nevertheless what saith the Scripture? Cast out the
  bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir
  with the son of the free woman.

Sarah's demand that the bondwoman and her son be cast out of the house
was undoubtedly a blow to Abraham. He felt sorry for his son Ishmael.
The Scripture explicitly states Abraham's grief in the words: "And the
thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight, because of his son." (Gen.
21:11.) But God approved Sarah's action and said to Abraham: "Let it
not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy
bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her
voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called." (Gen. 21:12.)

The Holy Ghost contemptuously calls the admirers of the Law the children
of the bondwoman. "If you do not know your mother, I will tell you what
kind of a woman she is. She is a slave. And you are slaves. You are
slaves of the Law and therefore slaves of sin, death, and everlasting
damnation. You are not fit to be heirs. You are put out of the house."

This is the sentence which God pronounces upon the Ishmaelites, the
papists, and all others who trust in their own merits, and persecute
the Church of Christ. Because they are slaves and persecutors of the
children of the free woman, they shall be cast out of the house of
God forever. They shall have no inheritance with the children of the
promise. This sentence stands forever.

This sentence affects not only those popes, cardinals bishops, and
monks who were notoriously wicked and made their bellies their Gods.
It strikes, also, those who lived in all sincerity to please God and to
merit the forgiveness of their sins through a life of self-denial. Even
these will be cast out, because they are children of the bondwoman.

Our opponents do not defend their own moral delinquency. The better ones
deplore and abhor it. But they defend and uphold their doctrine of
works which is of the devil. Our quarrel is not with those who live in
manifest sins. Our quarrel is with those among them who think they live
like angels, claiming that they do not only perform the Ten Commandments
of God, but also the sayings of Christ, and many good works that God
does not expect of them. We quarrel with them because they refuse to
have Jesus' merit count alone for righteousness.

St. Bernard was one of the best of the medieval saints. He lived a
chaste and holy life. But when it came to dying he did not trust in his
chaste life for salvation. He prayed: "I have lived a wicked life. But
Thou, Lord Jesus, hast a heaven to give unto me. First, because Thou art
the Son of God. Secondly, because Thou hast purchased heaven for me by
Thy suffering and death. Thou givest heaven to me, not because I earned
it, but because Thou hast earned it for me." If any of the Romanists
are saved it is because they forget their good deeds and merits and feel
like Paul: "Not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but
that which is through the faith of Christ." (Phil. 3:9.)

  VERSE 31. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but
  of the free.

With this sentence the Apostle Paul concludes his allegory of the barren
Church. This sentence forms a clear rejection of the righteousness of
the Law and a confirmation of the doctrine of justification. In the next
chapter Paul lays special stress upon the freedom which the children of
the free woman enjoy. He treats of Christian liberty, the knowledge of
which is very necessary. The liberty which Christ purchased for us is a
bulwark to us in our battle against spiritual tyranny. Therefore we must
carefully study this doctrine of Christian liberty, not only for the
confirmation of the doctrine of justification, but also for the comfort
and encouragement of those who are weak in faith.


IN this chapter the Apostle Paul presents the doctrine of Christian
liberty in a final effort to persuade the Galatians to give up the
nefarious doctrine of the false apostles. To accomplish his purpose he
adduces threats and promises, trying in every way possible to keep them
in the liberty which Christ purchased for them.

  VERSE 1. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made
  us free.

"Be steadfast, not careless. Lie not down and sleep, but stand up. Be
watchful. Hold fast the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free."
Those who loll cannot keep this liberty. Satan hates the light of the
Gospel. When it begins to shine a little he fights against it with might
and main.

What liberty does Paul mean? Not civil liberty (for which we have the
government to thank), but the liberty which Christ has procured for us.

At one time the emperor was compelled to grant to the bishop of Rome
certain immunities and privileges. This is civil liberty. That liberty
exempts the clergy from certain public charges. Then there is also
another kind of "liberty," when people obey neither the laws of God nor
the laws of men, but do as they please. This carnal liberty the people
want in our day. We are not now speaking of this liberty. Neither are we
speaking of civil liberty.

Paul is speaking of a far better liberty, the liberty "wherewith Christ
hath made us free," not from material bonds, not from the Babylonian
captivity, not from the tyranny of the Turks, but from the eternal wrath
of God.

Where is this liberty?

In the conscience.

Our conscience is free and quiet because it no longer has to fear the
wrath of God. This is real liberty, compared with which every other kind
of liberty is not worth mentioning. Who can adequately express the boon
that comes to a person when he has the heart-assurance that God will
nevermore be angry with him, but will forever be merciful to him for
Christ's sake? This is indeed a marvelous liberty, to have the sovereign
God for our Friend and Father who will defend, maintain, and save us in
this life and in the life to come.

As an outgrowth of this liberty, we are at the same time free from the
Law, sin, death, the power of the devil, hell, etc. Since the wrath of
God has been assuaged by Christ no Law, sin, or death may now accuse and
condemn us. These foes of ours will continue to frighten us, but not too
much. The worth of our Christian liberty cannot be exaggerated.

Our conscience must be trained to fall back on the freedom purchased
for us by Christ. Though the fears of the Law, the terrors of sin, the
horror of death assail us occasionally, we know that these feelings
shall not endure, because the prophet quotes God as saying: "In a
little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment: but with everlasting
kindness will I have mercy on thee." (Isa. 54:8.)

We shall appreciate this liberty all the more when we bear in mind
that it was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who purchased it with His own
blood. Hence, Christ's liberty is given us not by the Law, or for our
own righteousness, but freely for Christ's sake. In the eighth chapter
of the Gospel of St. John, Jesus declares: "If the Son shall make you
free, ye shall be free indeed." He only stands between us and the evils
which trouble and afflict us and which He has overcome for us.

Reason cannot properly evaluate this gift. Who can fully appreciate
the blessing of the forgiveness of sins and of everlasting life? Our
opponents claim that they also possess this liberty. But they do not.
When they are put to the test all their self-confidence slips from them.
What else can they expect when they trust in works and not in the Word
of God?

Our liberty is founded on Christ Himself, who sits at the right hand of
God and intercedes for us. Therefore our liberty is sure and valid
as long as we believe in Christ. As long as we cling to Him with a
steadfast faith we possess His priceless gifts. But if we are careless
and indifferent we shall lose them. It is not without good reason
that Paul urges us to watch and to stand fast. He knew that the devil
delights in taking this liberty away from us.

  VERSE 1. And be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Because reason prefers the righteousness of the Law to the righteousness
of faith, Paul calls the Law a yoke, a yoke of bondage. Peter also
calls it a yoke. "Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the
disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" (Acts

In this passage Paul again disparages the pernicious notion that the
Law is able to make men righteous before God, a notion deeply rooted in
man's reason. All mankind is so wrapped up in this idea that it is hard
to drag it out of people. Paul compares those who seek to be justified
by the Law to oxen that are hitched to the yoke. Like oxen that toil in
the yoke all day, and in the evening are turned out to graze along the
dusty road, and at last are marked for slaughter when they no longer
can draw the burden, so those who seek to be justified by the Law are
"entangled with the yoke of bondage," and when they have grown old
and broken-down in the service of the Law they have earned for their
perpetual reward God's wrath and everlasting torment.

We are not now treating of an unimportant matter. It is a matter that
involves everlasting liberty or everlasting slavery. For as a liberation
from God's wrath through the kind office of Christ is not a passing
boon, but a permanent blessing, so also the yoke of the Law is not a
temporary but an everlasting affliction.

Rightly are the doers of the Law called devil's martyrs. They take more
pains to earn hell than the martyrs of Christ to obtain heaven. Theirs
is a double misfortune. First they torture themselves on earth with
self-inflicted penances and finally when they die they gain the reward
of eternal damnation.

  VERSE 2. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ
  shall profit you nothing.

Paul is incensed at the thought of the tyranny of the Law. His
antagonism to the Law is a personal matter with him. "Behold, I, Paul,"
he says, "I who have received the Gospel not from men, but by the
revelation of Jesus Christ: I who have been commissioned from above
to preach the Gospel to you: I Paul say to you, If you submit to
circumcision Christ will profit you nothing." Paul emphatically declares
that for the Galatians to be circumcised would mean for them to lose the
benefits of Christ's suffering and death. This passage may well serve as
a criterion for all the religions. To teach that besides faith in Christ
other devices like works, or the observance of rules, traditions,
or ceremonies are necessary for the attainment of righteousness and
everlasting life, is to make Christ and His salvation of no benefit to

This passage is an indictment of the whole papacy. All priests, monks,
and nuns--and I am now speaking of the best of them--who repose their
hope for salvation in their own works, and not in Christ, whom they
imagine to be an angry judge, hear this sentence pronounced against them
that Christ shall profit them nothing. If one can earn the forgiveness
of sins and everlasting life through one's own efforts to what purpose
was Christ born? What was the purpose of His suffering and death, His
resurrection, His victory over sin, death, and the devil, if men may
overcome these evils by their own endeavor? Tongue cannot express, nor
heart conceive what a terrible thing it is to make Christ worthless.

The person who is not moved by these considerations to leave the Law and
the confidence in his own righteousness for the liberty in Christ, has a
heart that is harder than stone and iron.

Paul does not condemn circumcision in itself. Circumcision is not
injurious to the person who does not ascribe any particular importance
to it. Neither are works injurious provided a person does not attach
any saving value to them. The Apostle does not say that works are
objectionable, but to build one's hopes for righteousness on works is
disastrous, for that makes Christ good for nothing.

Let us bear this in mind when the devil accuses our conscience. When
that dragon accuses us of having done no good at all, but only evil, say
to him: "You trouble me with the remembrance of my past sins; you remind
me that I have done no good. But this does not bother me, because if I
were to trust in my own good deeds, or despair because I have done no
good deeds, Christ would profit me neither way. I am not going to make
him unprofitable to me. This I would do, if I should presume to purchase
for myself the favor of God and everlasting life by my good deeds, or if
I should despair of my salvation because of my sins."

  VERSE 3. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he
  is a debtor to do the whole law.

The first fault with circumcision is that it makes Christ unprofitable.
The second fault is that it obligates those who are circumcised to
observe the whole Law. Paul is so very much in earnest about this matter
that he confirms it with an oath. "I testify," he says, "I swear by the
living God." Paul's statement may be explained negatively to mean: "I
testify to every man who is being circumcised that he cannot perform
the Law in any point. In the very act of circumcision he is not being
circumcised, and in the very act of fulfilling the Law he fulfills it
not." This seems to be the simple meaning of Paul's statement. Later on
in the sixth chapter he explicitly states, "They themselves which are
circumcised keep not the law. The fact that you are circumcised does
not mean you are righteous and free from the Law. The truth is that by
circumcision you have become debtors and servants of the Law. The more
you endeavor to perform the Law, the more you will become tangled up in
the yoke of the Law."

The truth of this I have experienced in myself and in others. I have
seen many work themselves down to the bones in their hungry effort to
obtain peace of conscience. But the harder they tried the more they
worried. Especially in the presence of death they were so uneasy that I
have seen murderers die with better grace and courage.

This holds true also in regard to the church regulations. When I was a
monk I tried ever so hard to live up to the strict rules of my order.
I used to make a list of my sins, and I was always on the way to
confession, and whatever penances were enjoined upon me I performed
religiously. In spite of it all, my conscience was always in a fever of
doubt. The more I sought to help my poor stricken conscience the
worse it got. The more I paid attention to the regulations the more I
transgressed them.

Hence those that seek to be justified by the Law are much further away
from the righteousness of life than the publicans, sinners, and harlots.
They know better than to trust in their own works. They know that they
cannot ever hope to obtain forgiveness by their sins.

Paul's statement in this verse may be taken to mean that those who
submit to circumcision are thereby submitting to the whole Law. To obey
Moses in one point requires obedience to him in all points. It does no
good to say that only circumcision is necessary, and not the rest
of Moses' laws. The same reasons that obligate a person to accept
circumcision also obligate a person to accept the whole Law. Thus to
acknowledge the Law is tantamount to declaring that Christ is not yet
come. And if Christ is not yet come, then all the Jewish ceremonies and
laws concerning meats, places, and times are still in force, and Christ
must be awaited as one who is still to come. The whole Scripture,
however, testifies that Christ has come, that by His death He has
abolished the Law, and that He has fulfilled all things which the
prophets have foretold about Him.

Some would like to subjugate us to certain parts of the Mosaic Law. But
this is not to be permitted under any circumstances. If we permit Moses
to rule over us in one thing, we must obey him in all things.

  VERSE 4. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are
  justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

Paul in this verse discloses that he is not speaking so much of
circumcision as the trust which men repose in the outward act. We can
hear him say: "I do not condemn the Law in itself; what I condemn is
that men seek to be justified by the Law, as if Christ were still to
come, or as if He alone were unable to justify sinners. It is this that
I condemn, because it makes Christ of no effect. It makes you void of
Christ so that Christ is not in you, nor can you be partakers of the
knowledge, the spirit, the fellowship, the liberty, the life, or the
achievements of Christ. You are completely separated from Him, so much
so that He has nothing to do with you any more, or for that matter you
with Him." Can anything worse be said against the Law? If you think
Christ and the Law can dwell together in your heart, you may be sure
that Christ dwells not in your heart. For if Christ is in your heart He
neither condemns you, nor does He ever bid you to trust in your own good
works. If you know Christ at all, you know that good works do not serve
unto righteousness, nor evil works unto condemnation. I do not want to
withhold from good works their due praise, nor do I wish to encourage
evil works. But when it comes to justification, I say, we must
concentrate upon Christ alone, or else we make Him non-effective. You
must choose between Christ and the righteousness of the Law. If you
choose Christ you are righteous before God. If you stick to the Law,
Christ is of no use to you.

  VERSE 4. Ye are fallen from grace.

That means you are no longer in the kingdom or condition of grace. When
a person on board ship falls into the sea and is drowned it makes no
difference from which end or side of the ship he falls into the water.
Those who fall from grace perish no matter how they go about it. Those
who seek to be justified by the Law are fallen from grace and are in
grave danger of eternal death. If this holds true in the case of those
who seek to be justified by the moral Law, what will become of those,
I should like to know, who endeavor to be justified by their own
regulations and vows? They will fall to the very bottom of hell. "Oh,
no," they say, "we will fly straight into heaven. If you live according
to the rules of Saint Francis, Saint Dominick, Saint Benedict, you will
obtain the peace and mercy of God. If you perform the vows of chastity,
obedience, etc., you will be rewarded with everlasting life." Let these
playthings of the devil go to the place where they came from and listen
to what Paul has to say in this verse in accordance with Christ's own
teaching: "He that believeth in the Son of God, hath everlasting life;
but he that believeth not in the Son shall not see life, but the wrath
of God abideth in him."

The words, "Ye are fallen from grace," must not be taken lightly. They
are important. To fall from grace means to lose the atonement, the
forgiveness of sins, the righteousness, liberty, and life which Jesus
has merited for us by His death and resurrection. To lose the grace of
God means to gain the wrath and judgment of God, death, the bondage of
the devil, and everlasting condemnation.

  VERSE 6. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness
  by faith.

Paul concludes the whole matter with the above statement. "You want to
be justified by the Law, by circumcision, and by works. We cannot see
it. To be justified by such means would make Christ of no value to us.
We would be obliged to perform the whole law. We rather through the
Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness." The Apostle is not satisfied
to say "justified by faith." He adds hope to faith.

Holy Writ speaks of hope in two ways: as the object of the emotion, and
hope as the emotion itself. In the first chapter of the Epistle to the
Colossians we have an instance of its first use: "For the hope which is
laid up for you in heaven," i.e., the thing hoped for. In the sense of
emotion we quote the passage from the eighth chapter of the Epistle to
the Romans: "For we are saved by hope." As Paul uses the term "hope"
here in writing to the Galatians, we may take it in either of its two
meanings. We may understand Paul to say, "We wait in spirit, through
faith, for the righteousness that we hope for, which in due time will be
revealed to us." Or we may understand Paul to say: "We wait in Spirit,
by faith for righteousness with great hope and desire." True, we are
righteous, but our righteousness is not yet revealed; as long as we live
here sin stays with us, not to forget the law in our members striving
against the law of our mind. When sin rages in our body and we through
the Spirit wrestle against it, then we have cause for hope. We are not
yet perfectly righteous. Perfect righteousness is still to be attained.
Hence we hope for it.

This is sweet comfort for us. And we are to make use of it in comforting
the afflicted. We are to say to them: "Brother, you would like to feel
God's favor as you feel your sin. But you are asking too much. Your
righteousness rests on something much better than feelings. Wait and
hope until it will be revealed to you in the Lord's own time. Don't go
by your feelings, but go by the doctrine of faith, which pledges Christ
to you."

The question occurs to us, What difference is there between faith and
hope? We find it difficult to see any difference. Faith and hope are
so closely linked that they cannot be separated. Still there is a
difference between them.

  First, hope and faith differ in regard to their sources. Faith
  originates in the understanding, while hope rises in the will.

  Secondly, they differ in regard to their functions. Faith says what is
  to be done. Faith teaches, describes, directs. Hope exhorts the mind
  to be strong and courageous.

  Thirdly, they differ in regard to their objectives. Faith concentrates
  on the truth. Hope looks to the goodness of God.

  Fourthly, they differ in sequence. Faith is the beginning of life before
  tribulation. (Hebrews 11.) Hope comes later and is born of tribulation.
  (Romans 5.)

  Fifthly, they differ in regard to their effects. Faith is a judge. It
  judges errors. Hope is a soldier. It fights against tribulations, the
  Cross, despondency, despair, and waits for better things to come in the
  midst of evil.
Without hope faith cannot endure. On the other hand, hope without faith
is blind rashness and arrogance because it lacks knowledge. Before
anything else a Christian must have the insight of faith, so that the
intellect may know its directions in the day of trouble and the heart
may hope for better things. By faith we begin, by hope we continue.

This passage contains excellent doctrine and much comfort. It declares
that we are justified not by works, sacrifices, or ceremonies, but by
Christ alone. The world may judge certain things to be ever so good;
without Christ they are all wrong. Circumcision and the law and good
works are carnal. "We," says Paul, "are above such things. We possess
Christ by faith and in the midst of our afflictions we hopefully wait
for the consummation of our righteousness."

You may say, "The trouble is I don't feel as if I am righteous." You
must not feel, but believe. Unless you believe that you are righteous,
you do Christ a great wrong, for He has cleansed you by the washing
of regeneration, He died for you so that through Him you may obtain
righteousness and everlasting life.

  VERSE 6. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing,
  nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.

Faith must of course be sincere. It must be a faith that performs good
works through love. If faith lacks love it is not true faith. Thus
the Apostle bars the way of hypocrites to the kingdom of Christ on
all sides. He declares on the one hand, "In Christ Jesus circumcision
availeth nothing," i.e., works avail nothing, but faith alone, and that
without any merit whatever, avails before God. On the other hand, the
Apostle declares that without fruits faith serves no purpose. To think,
"If faith justifies without works, let us work nothing," is to despise
the grace of God. Idle faith is not justifying faith. In this terse
manner Paul presents the whole life of a Christian. Inwardly it consists
in faith towards God, outwardly in love towards our fellow-men.

  VERSE 7. Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey
  the truth?

This is plain speaking. Paul asserts that he teaches the same truth now
which he has always taught, and that the Galatians ran well as long as
they obeyed the truth. But now, misled by the false apostles, they no
longer run. He compares the Christian life to a race. When everything
runs along smoothly the Hebrews spoke of it as a race. "Ye did run
well," means that everything went along smoothly and happily with the
Galatians. They lived a Christian life and were on the right way to
everlasting life. The words, "Ye did run well," are encouraging indeed.
Often our lives seem to creep rather than to run. But if we abide in the
true doctrine and walk in the spirit, we have nothing to worry about.
God judges our lives differently. What may seem to us a life slow in
Christian development may seem to God a life of rapid progression in

  VERSE 7. Who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
The Galatians were hindered in the Christian life when they turned
from faith and grace to the Law. Covertly the Apostle blames the false
apostles for impeding the Christian progress of the Galatians. The false
apostles persuaded the Galatians to believe that they were in error and
that they had made little or no progress under the influence of Paul.
Under the baneful influence of the false apostles the Galatians thought
they were well off and advancing rapidly in Christian knowledge and

  VERSE 8. This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.

Paul explains how those who had been deceived by false teachers may be
restored to spiritual health. The false apostles were amiable fellows.
Apparently they surpassed Paul in learning and godliness. The Galatians
were easily deceived by outward appearances. They supposed they were
being taught by Christ Himself. Paul proved to them that their new
doctrine was not of Christ, but of the devil. In this way he succeeded
in regaining many. We also are able to win back many from the errors
into which they were seduced by showing that their beliefs are
imaginary, wicked, and contrary to the Word of God.

The devil is a cunning persuader. He knows how to enlarge the smallest
sin into a mountain until we think we have committed the worst crime
ever committed on earth. Such stricken consciences must be comforted and
set straight as Paul corrected the Galatians by showing them that their
opinion is not of Christ because it runs counter to the Gospel, which
describes Christ as a meek and merciful Savior.

Satan will circumvent the Gospel and explain Christ in this his own
diabolical way: "Indeed Christ is meek, gentle, and merciful, but only
to those who are holy and righteous. If you are a sinner you stand no
chance. Did not Christ say that unbelievers are already damned? And did
not Christ perform many good deeds, and suffer many evils patiently,
bidding us to follow His example? You do not mean to say that your life
is in accord with Christ's precepts or example? You are a sinner. You
are no good at all."

Satan is to be answered in this way: The Scriptures present Christ in a
twofold aspect. First, as a gift. "He of God is made unto us wisdom, and
righteousness, and sanctification and redemption." (I Cor. 1:30.) Hence
my many and grievous sins are nullified if I believe in Him. Secondly,
the Scriptures present Christ for our example. As an exemplar He is to
be placed before me only at certain times. In times of joy and gladness
that I may have Him as a mirror to reflect upon my shortcomings. But in
the day of trouble I will have Christ only as a gift. I will not listen
to anything else, except that Christ died for my sins.

To those that are cast down on account of their sins Christ must be
introduced as a Savior and Gift, and not as an example. But to sinners
who live in a false assurance, Christ must be introduced as an example.
The hard sayings of Scripture and the awful judgments of God upon sin
must be impressed upon them. Defy Satan in times of despair. Say: "O
cursed Satan, you choose a nice time to talk to me about doing and
working when you know very well that I am in trouble over my sins. I
will not listen to you. I will listen to Christ, who says that He came
into the world to save sinners. This is the true Christ and there is
none other. I can find plenty of examples for a holy life in Abraham,
Isaiah, John the Baptist, Paul, and other saints. But they cannot
forgive my sins. They cannot save me. They cannot procure for me
everlasting life. Therefore I will not have you for my teacher, O

  VERSE 9. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

Paul's concern for them meant nothing to some of the Galatians. Many had
disowned him as their teacher and gone over to the false apostles.
No doubt the false apostles took every occasion to defame Paul as a
stubborn and contemptuous fellow who thought nothing of disrupting the
unity of the churches for no other reason than his selfish pride and

Others of the Galatians perhaps saw no harm in deviating a trifle from
the doctrine of justification and faith. When they noticed that Paul
made so much ado about a matter that seemed of no particular importance
to them they raised their eyebrows and thought within themselves: "What
if we did deviate a little from the doctrine of Paul? What if we are
a little to blame? He ought to overlook the whole matter, and not make
such an issue out of it, lest the unity of the churches be disturbed."
To this Paul replies: "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."

Our opponents record the same complaints about us. They put us down as
contentious, ill-tempered faultfinders. But these are the crafty passes
of the devil, with which he seeks to overthrow our faith. We answer with
Paul: "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."

Small faults grow into big faults. To tolerate a trifling error
inevitably leads to crass heresy. The doctrine of the Bible is not ours
to take or to allow liberties with. We have no right to change even a
tittle of it. When it comes to life we are ready to do, to suffer, to
forgive anything our opponents demand as long as faith and doctrine
remain pure and uncorrupt. The Apostle James says, "For whosoever shall
keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."
This passage supports us over against our critics who claim that we
disregard all charity to the great injury of the churches. We protest we
desire nothing more than peace with all men. If they would only permit
us to keep our doctrine of faith! The pure doctrine takes precedence
before charity, apostles, or an angel from heaven.

Let others praise charity and concord to the skies; we magnify the
authority of the Word and faith. Charity may be neglected at times
without peril, but not the Word and faith. Charity suffers all things,
it gives in. Faith suffers nothing; it never yields. Charity is often
deceived but is never put out because it has nothing to lose; it
continues to do well even to the ungrateful. When it comes to faith
and salvation in the midst of lies and errors that parade as truth and
deceive many, charity has no voice or vote. Let us not be influenced
by the popular cry for charity and unity. If we do not love God and His
Word what difference does it make if we love anything at all?

Paul, therefore, admonishes both teachers and hearers not to esteem
lightly the doctrine of faith as if it were a toy with which to amuse
oneself in idle hours.

  VERSE 10. l have confidence in you through the Lord.

"I have taught, admonished, and reproved you enough. I hope the best for

The question occurs to us whether Paul did well to trust the Galatians.
Does not Holy Writ forbid us to trust in men? Faith trusts in God and is
never wrong. Charity trusts in men and is often wrong. This charitable
trust in man is necessary to life. Without it life would be impossible
in the world. What kind of life would ours be if nobody could trust
anybody else? True Christians are more ready to believe in men than the
children of this world. Such charitable confidence is the fruit of the
Spirit. Paul had such trust in the Galatians although they had forsaken
his doctrine. He trusts them "through the Lord," insofar as they were in
Christ and Christ in them. Once they had forsaken Christ altogether, the
Apostle will trust the Galatians no longer.

  VERSE 10. That ye will be none otherwise minded.

"Not minded otherwise than I have taught you. In other words, I have
confidence that you will accept no doctrine that is contrary to the one
you have learned from me."

  VERSE 10. But he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever
  he be.

Paul assumes the role of a judge and condemns the false apostles as
troublers of the Galatians. He wants to frighten the Galatians with his
severe judgments of the false apostles into avoiding false doctrine like
a contagious disease. We can hear him say to the Galatians: "Why do you
give these pestilent fellows a hearing in the first place? They only
trouble you. The doctrine they bring causes your conscience only

The clause, "whosoever he be," seems to indicate that the false apostles
in outward appearance at least were very good and devout men. It may be
that among them was some outstanding disciple of the apostles, a man
of fame and authority. The Apostle must have been faced by this very
situation, otherwise his vehemence would have been uncalled for. No
doubt many of the Galatians were taken back with the vehemency of the
Apostle. They perhaps thought: why should he be so stubborn in such
small matters? Why is he so quick to pronounce damnation upon his
brethren in the ministry?

I cannot say it often enough, that we must carefully differentiate
between doctrine and life. Doctrine is a piece of heaven, life is a
piece of earth. Life is sin, error, uncleanness, misery, and charity
must forbear, believe, hope, and suffer all things. Forgiveness of
sins must be continuous so that sin and error may not be defended and
sustained. But with doctrine there must be no error, no need of pardon.
There can be no comparison between doctrine and life. The least little
point of doctrine is of greater importance than heaven and earth.
Therefore we cannot allow the least jot of doctrine to be corrupted.
We may overlook the offenses and errors of life, for we daily sin much.
Even the saints sin, as they themselves confess in the Lord's Prayer and
in the Creed. But our doctrine, God be praised, is pure, because all the
articles of our faith are grounded on the Holy Scriptures.

  VERSE 11. And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet
  suffer persecution? then is the offense of the cross ceased.

In his great desire to recall the Galatians, Paul draws himself into
the argument. He says: "Because I refuse to recognize circumcision as
a factor in our salvation, I have brought upon myself the hatred and
persecution of my whole nation. If I were to acknowledge circumcision
the Jews would cease to persecute me; in fact they would love and praise
me. But because I preach the Gospel of Christ and the righteousness of
faith I must suffer persecution. The false apostles know how to avoid
the Cross and the deadly hatred of the Jewish nation. They preach
circumcision and thus retain the favor of the Jews. If they had their
way they would ignore all differences in doctrine and preserve unity at
all cost. But their unionistic dreams cannot be realized without loss
to the pure doctrine of the Cross. It would be too bad if the offense
of the Cross were to cease." To the Corinthians he expressed the same
conviction: "Christ sent me...to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of
words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." (I Cor.

Here someone may be tempted to call the Christians crazy. Deliberately
to court danger by preaching and confessing the truth, and thus to bring
upon ourselves the hatred and enmity of the whole world, is this not
madness? But Paul does not mind the enmity of the world. It made him all
the bolder to confess Christ. The enmity of the world in his estimation
augurs well for the success and growth of the Church, which fares best
in times of persecution. When the offense of the Cross ceases, when the
rage of the enemies of the Cross abates, when everything is quiet, it is
a sign that the devil is the door-keeper of the Church and that the pure
doctrine of God's Word has been lost.

Saint Bernard observed that the Church is in best shape when Satan
assaults it on every side by trickery and violence; and in worst shape
when it is at peace. In support of his statement he quotes the passage
from the song of Hezekiah: "Behold, for peace I had great bitterness."
Paul looks with suspicion upon any doctrine that does not provoke

Persecution always follows on the heels of the Word of God as the
Psalmist experienced. "I believe, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly
afflicted." (Ps. 116:10.) The Christians are accused and slandered
without mercy. Murderers and thieves receive better treatment than
Christians. The world regards true Christians as the worst offenders,
for whom no punishment can be too severe. The world hates the Christians
with amazing brutality, and without compunction commits them to the most
shameful death, congratulating itself that it has rendered God and the
cause of peace a distinct service by ridding the world of the undesired
presence of these Christians. We are not to let such treatment cause
us to falter in our adherence to Christ. As long as we experience such
persecutions we know all is well with the Gospel.

Jesus held out the same comfort to His disciples in the fifth chapter
of St. Matthew. "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you and persecute
you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven." The
Church must not come short of this joy. I would not want to be at peace
with the pope, the bishops, the princes, and the sectarians, unless they
consent to our doctrine. Unity with them would be an unmistakable sign
that we have lost the true doctrine. Briefly, as long as the Church
proclaims the doctrine she must suffer persecution, because the Gospel
declares the mercy and glory of God. This in turn stirs up the devil,
because the Gospel shows him up for what he is, the devil, and not
God. Therefore as long as the Gospel holds sway persecution plays the
accompaniment, or else there is something the matter with the devil.
When he is hit you will know it by the havoc he raises everywhere.

So do not be surprised or offended when hell breaks loose. Look upon it
as a happy indication that all is well with the Gospel of the Cross. God
forbid that the offense of the Cross should ever be removed. This would
be the case if we were to preach what the prince of this world and his
followers would be only too glad to hear, the righteousness of works.
You would never know the devil could be so gentle, the world so sweet,
the Pope so gracious, and the princes so charming. But because we seek
the advantage and honor of Christ, they persecute us all around.

  VERSE 12. I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

It hardly seems befitting an apostle, not only to denounce the false
apostles as troublers of the Church, and to consign them to the devil,
but also to wish that they were utterly cut off--what else would you
call it but plain cursing? Paul, I suppose, is alluding to the rite of
circumcision. As if he were saying to the Galatians: "The false apostles
compel you to cut off the foreskin of your flesh. Well, I wish they
themselves were utterly cut off by the roots."

We had better answer at once the question, whether it is right for
Christians to curse. Certainly not always, nor for every little cause.
But when things have come to such a pass that God and His Word are
openly blasphemed, then we must say: "Blessed be God and His Word, and
cursed be everything that is contrary to God and His Word, even though
it should be an apostle, or an angel from heaven."

This goes to show again how much importance Paul attached to the least
points of Christian doctrine, that he dared to curse the false apostles,
evidently men of great popularity and influence. What right, then, have
we to make little of doctrine? No matter how nonessential a point of
doctrine may seem, if slighted it may prove the gradual disintegration
of the truths of our salvation.

Let us do everything to advance the glory and authority of God's Word.
Every tittle of it is greater than heaven and earth. Christian charity
and unity have nothing to do with the Word of God. We are bold to curse
and condemn all men who in the least point corrupt the Word of God, "for
a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."

Paul does right to curse these troublers of the Galatians, wishing that
they were cut off and rooted out of the Church of God and that their
doctrine might perish forever. Such cursing is the gift of the Holy
Ghost. Thus Peter cursed Simon the sorcerer, "Thy money perish with
thee." Many instances of this holy cursing are recorded in the sacred
Scriptures, especially in the Psalms, e.g., "Let death seize upon them,
and let them go down quick into hell." (Ps. 55:15.)

                         THE DOCTRINE OF GOOD WORKS

Now come all kinds of admonitions and precepts. It was the custom of the
apostles that after they had taught faith and instructed the conscience
they followed it up with admonitions unto good works, that the believers
might manifest the duties of love toward each other. In order to avoid
the appearance as if Christianity militated against good works or
opposed civil government, the Apostle also urges us to give ourselves
unto good works, to lead an honest life, and to keep faith and love with
one another. This will give the lie to the accusations of the world that
we Christians are the enemies of decency and of public peace. The fact
is we Christians know better what constitutes a truly good work than all
the philosophers and legislators of the world because we link believing
with doing.

  VERSE 13. For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not
liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

In other words: "You have gained liberty through Christ, i.e., You are
above all laws as far as conscience is concerned. You are saved. Christ
is your liberty and life. Therefore law, sin, and death may not hurt
you or drive you to despair. This is the constitution of your priceless
liberty. Now take care that you do not use your wonderful liberty for an
occasion of the flesh."

Satan likes to turn this liberty which Christ has gotten for us into
licentiousness. Already the Apostle Jude complained in his day: "There
are certain men crept in unawares...turning the grace of our God into
lasciviousness." (Jude 4.) The flesh reasons: "If we are without the
law, we may as well indulge ourselves. Why do good, why give alms, why
suffer evil when there is no law to force us to do so?"

This attitude is common enough. People talk about Christian liberty and
then go and cater to the desires of covetousness, pleasure, pride, envy,
and other vices. Nobody wants to fulfill his duties. Nobody wants to
help out a brother in distress. This sort of thing makes me so impatient
at times that I wish the swine who trampled precious pearls under foot
were back once again under the tyranny of the Pope. You cannot wake up
the people of Gomorrah with the gospel of peace.

Even we creatures of the world do not perform our duties as zealously in
the light of the Gospel as we did before in the darkness of ignorance,
because the surer we are of the liberty purchased for us by Christ, the
more we neglect the Word, prayer, well-doing, and suffering. If Satan
were not continually molesting us with trials, with the persecution of
our enemies, and the ingratitude of our brethren, we would become so
careless and indifferent to all good works that in time we would lose
our faith in Christ, resign the ministry of the Word, and look for an
easier life. Many of our ministers are beginning to do that very thing.
They complain about the ministry, they maintain they cannot live on
their salaries, they whimper about the miserable treatment they receive
at the hand of those whom they delivered from the servitude of the law
by the preaching of the Gospel. These ministers desert our poor and
maligned Christ, involve themselves in the affairs of the world, seek
advantages for themselves and not for Christ. With what results they
shall presently find out.

Since the devil lies in ambush for those in particular who hate the
world, and seeks to deprive us of our liberty of the spirit or to
brutalize it into the liberty of the flesh, we plead with our brethren
after the manner of Paul, that they may never use this liberty of the
spirit purchased for us by Christ as an excuse for carnal living, or as
Peter expresses it, I Peter 2:16, "for a cloak of maliciousness."

In order that Christians may not abuse their liberty the Apostle
encumbers them with the rule of mutual love that they should serve
each other in love. Let everybody perform the duties of his station and
vocation diligently and help his neighbor to the limit of his capacity.

Christians are glad to hear and obey this teaching of love. When others
hear about this Christian liberty of ours they at once infer, "If I am
free, I may do what I like. If salvation is not a matter of doing why
should we do anything for the poor?" In this crude manner they turn the
liberty of the spirit into wantonness and licentiousness. We want them
to know, however, that if they use their lives and possessions after
their own pleasure, if they do not help the poor, if they cheat their
fellow-men in business and snatch and scrape by hook and by crook
everything they can lay their hands on, we want to tell them that they
are not free, no matter how much they think they are, but they are the
dirty slaves of the devil, and are seven times worse than they ever were
as the slaves of the Pope.

As for us, we are obliged to preach the Gospel which offers to all men
liberty from the Law, sin, death, and God's wrath. We have no right
to conceal or revoke this liberty proclaimed by the Gospel. And so we
cannot do anything with the swine who dive headlong into the filth of
licentiousness. We do what we can, we diligently admonish them to love
and to help their fellow-men. If our admonitions bear no fruit, we
leave them to God, who will in His own good time take care of these
disrespecters of His goodness. In the meanwhile we comfort ourselves
with the thought that our labors are not lost upon the true believers.
They appreciate this spiritual liberty and stand ready to serve others
in love and, though their number is small, the satisfaction they give
us far outweighs the discouragement which we receive at the hands of the
large number of those who misuse this liberty.

Paul cannot possibly be misunderstood for he says: "Brethren, ye have
been called unto liberty." In order that nobody might mistake the
liberty of which he speaks for the liberty of the flesh, the Apostle
adds the explanatory note, "only use not liberty for an occasion to the
flesh, but by love serve one another." Paul now explains at the hand of
the Ten Commandments what it means to serve one another in love.

  VERSE 14. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, thou
  shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

It is customary with Paul to lay the doctrinal foundation first and then
to build on it the gold, silver, and gems of good deeds. Now there is
no other foundation than Jesus Christ. Upon this foundation the
Apostle erects the structure of good works which he defines in this one
sentence: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

In adding such precepts of love the Apostle embarrasses the false
apostles very much, as if he were saying to the Galatians: "I have
described to you what spiritual life is. Now I will also teach you what
truly good works are. I am doing this in order that you may understand
that the silly ceremonies of which the false apostles make so much are
far inferior to the works of Christian love." This is the hall-mark of
all false teachers, that they not only pervert the pure doctrine but
also fail in doing good. Their foundation vitiated, they can only build
wood, hay, and stubble. Oddly enough, the false apostles who were such
earnest champions of good works never required the work of charity, such
as Christian love and the practical charity of a helpful tongue, hand,
and heart. Their only requirement was that circumcision, days, months,
years, and times should be observed. They could not think of any other
good works.

The Apostle exhorts all Christians to practice good works after they
have embraced the pure doctrine of faith, because even though they have
been justified they still have the old flesh to refrain them from doing
good. Therefore it becomes necessary that sincere preachers cultivate
the doctrine of good works as diligently as the doctrine of faith, for
Satan is a deadly enemy of both. Nevertheless faith must come first
because without faith it is impossible to know what a God-pleasing deed

Let nobody think that he knows all about this commandment, "Thou shalt
love thy neighbour as thyself." It sounds short and easy, but show me
the man who can teach, learn, and do this commandment perfectly. None
of us heed, or urge, or practice this commandment properly. Though
the conscience hurts when we fail to fulfill this commandment in every
respect we are not overwhelmed by our failure to bear our neighbor
sincere and brotherly love.

The words, "for all the law is fulfilled in one word," entail a
criticism of the Galatians. "You are so taken up by your superstitions
and ceremonies that serve no good purpose, that you neglect the most
important thing, love." St. Jerome says: "We wear our bodies out with
watching, fasting, and labor and neglect charity, the queen of all good
works." Look at the monks, who meticulously fast, watch, etc. To skip
the least requirement of their order would be a crime of the first
magnitude. At the same time they blithely ignored the duties of charity
and hated each other to death. That is no sin, they think.

The Old Testament is replete with examples that indicate how much God
prizes charity. When David and his companions had no food with which
to still their hunger they ate the showbread which lay-people were
forbidden to eat. Christ's disciples broke the Sabbath law when they
plucked the ears of corn. Christ himself broke the Sabbath (as the Jews
claimed) by healing the sick on the Sabbath. These incidents indicate
that love ought to be given consideration above all laws and ceremonies.

  VERSE 14. For all the Law is fulfilled in one word.

We can imagine the Apostle saying to the Galatians: "Why do you get so
worked up over ceremonies, meats, days, places, and such things? Leave
off this foolishness and listen to me. The whole Law is comprehended in
this one sentence, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' God is
not particularly interested in ceremonies, nor has He any use for them.
The one thing He requires of you is that you believe in Christ whom
He hath sent. If in addition to faith, which comes first as the most
acceptable service unto God, you want to add laws, then you want to know
that all laws are comprehended in this short commandment, 'Thou shalt
love thy neighbour as thyself.'"

Paul knows how to explain the law of God. He condenses all the laws of
Moses into one brief sentence. Reason takes offense at the brevity with
which Paul treats the Law. Therefore reason looks down upon the doctrine
of faith and its truly good works. To serve one another in love, i.e.,
to instruct the erring, to comfort the afflicted, to raise the
fallen, to help one's neighbor in every possible way, to bear with his
infirmities, to endure hardships, toil, ingratitude in the Church and
in the world, and on the other hand to obey government, to honor one's
parents, to be patient at home with a nagging wife and an unruly family,
these things are not at all regarded as good works. The fact is, they
are such excellent works that the world cannot possibly estimate them at
their true value.

It is tersely spoken: "Love thy neighbour as thyself." But what more
needs to be said? You cannot find a better or nearer example than
your own. If you want to know how you ought to love your neighbor, ask
yourself how much you love yourself. If you were to get into trouble or
danger, you would be glad to have the love and help of all men. You
do not need any book of instructions to teach you how to love your
neighbor. All you have to do is to look into your own heart, and it will
tell you how you ought to love your neighbor as yourself.

My neighbor is every person, especially those who need my help, as
Christ explained in the tenth chapter of Luke. Even if a person has done
me some wrong, or has hurt me in any way, he is still a human being with
flesh and blood. As long as a person remains a human being, so long is
he to be an object of our love.

Paul therefore urges his Galatians and, incidentally, all believers
to serve each other in love. "You Galatians do not have to accept
circumcision. If you are so anxious to do good works, I will tell you in
one word how you can fulfill all laws. 'By love serve one another.' You
will never lack people to whom you may do good. The world is full of
people who need your help."

  VERSE 15. But if ye bite and devour one another take heed that ye be
  not consumed one of another.

When faith in Christ is overthrown peace and unity come to an end in the
church. Diverse opinions and dissensions about doctrine and life spring
up, and one member bites and devours the other, i.e., they condemn each
other until they are consumed. To this the Scriptures and the experience
of all times bear witness. The many sects at present have come into
being because one sect condemns the other. When the unity of the spirit
has been lost there can be no agreement in doctrine or life. New errors
must appear without measure and without end.

For the avoidance of discord Paul lays down the principle: "Let every
person do his duty in the station of life into which God has called
him. No person is to vaunt himself above others or find fault with the
efforts of others while lauding his own. Let everybody serve in love."

It is not an easy matter to teach faith without works, and still to
require works. Unless the ministers of Christ are wise in handling the
mysteries of God and rightly divide the word, faith and good works may
easily be confused. Both the doctrine of faith and the doctrine of good
works must be diligently taught, and yet in such a way that both the
doctrines stay within their God-given sphere. If we only teach works, as
our opponents do, we shall lose the faith. If we only teach faith people
will come to think that good works are superfluous.

  VERSE 16. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not
  fulfill the lust of the flesh.

"I have not forgotten what I told you about faith in the first part of
my letter. Because I exhort you to mutual love you are not to think that
I have gone back on my teaching of justification by faith alone. I
am still of the same opinion. To remove every possibility for
misunderstanding I have added this explanatory note: 'Walk in the
Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.'"

With this verse Paul explains how he wants this sentence to be
understood: "By love serve one another. When I bid you to love one
another, this is what I mean and require, 'Walk in the Spirit.' I know
very well you will not fulfill the Law, because you are sinners as long
as you live. Nevertheless, you should endeavor to walk in the spirit,"
i.e., fight against the flesh and follow the lead of the Holy Ghost.

It is quite apparent that Paul had not forgotten the doctrine of
justification, for in bidding the Galatians to walk in the Spirit he at
the same time denies that good works can justify. "When I speak of the
fulfilling of the Law I do not mean to say that you are justified by the
Law. All I mean to say is that you should take the Spirit for your guide
and resist the flesh. That is the most you shall ever be able to do.
Obey the Spirit and fight against the flesh."

   VERSE 16. And ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

The lust of the flesh is not altogether extinct in us. It rises up again
and again and wrestles with the Spirit. No flesh, not even that of the
true believer, is so completely under the influence of the Spirit that
it will not bite or devour, or at least neglect, the commandment of
love. At the slightest provocation it flares up, demands to be revenged,
and hates a neighbor like an enemy, or at least does not love him as
much as he ought to be loved.

Therefore the Apostle establishes this rule of love for the believers.
Serve one another in love. Bear the infirmities of your brother. Forgive
one another. Without such bearing and forbearing, giving and forgiving,
there can be no unity because to give and to take offense are
unavoidably human.

Whenever you are angry with your brother for any cause, repress your
violent emotions through the Spirit. Bear with his weakness and love
him. He does not cease to be your neighbor or brother because he
offended you. On the contrary, he now more than ever before requires
your loving attention.

The scholastics take the lust of the flesh to mean carnal lust. True,
believers too are tempted with carnal lust. Even the married are not
immune to carnal lusts. Men set little value upon that which they have
and covet what they have not, as the poet says:

  "The things most forbidden we always desire, And things most denied
   we seek to acquire."

I do not deny that the lust of the flesh includes carnal lust. But
it takes in more. It takes in all the corrupt desires with which the
believers are more or less infected, as pride, hatred, covetousness,
impatience. Later on Paul enumerates among the works of the flesh even
idolatry and heresy. The apostle's meaning is clear. "I want you to love
one another. But you do not do it. In fact you cannot do it, because of
your flesh. Hence we cannot be justified by deeds of love. Do not for
a moment think that I am reversing myself on my stand concerning faith.
Faith and hope must continue. By faith we are justified, by hope we
endure to the end. In addition we serve each other in love because true
faith is not idle. Our love, however, is faulty. In bidding you to
walk in the Spirit I indicate to you that our love is not sufficient to
justify us. Neither do I demand that you should get rid of the flesh,
but that you should control and subdue it."

  VERSE 17. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit
  against the flesh.

When Paul declares that "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the
Spirit against the flesh," he means to say that we are not to think,
speak or do the things to which the flesh incites us. "I know," he says,
"that the flesh courts sin. The thing for you to do is to resist the
flesh by the Spirit. But if you abandon the leadership of the Spirit for
that of the flesh, you are going to fulfill the lust of the flesh and
die in your sins."

  VERSE 17. And these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye
  cannot do the things that ye would.

These two leaders, the flesh and the Spirit, are bitter opponents. Of
this opposition the Apostle writes in the seventh chapter of the Epistle
to the Romans: "I see another law in my members, warring against the law
of my mind, and bringing me into the captivity to the law of sin which
is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from
the body of this death?"

The scholastics are at a loss to understand this confession of Paul and
feel obliged to save his honor. That the chosen vessel of Christ should
have had the law of sin in his members seems to them incredible and
absurd. They circumvent the plain-spoken statement of the Apostle
by saying that he was speaking for the wicked. But the wicked never
complain of inner conflicts, or of the captivity of sin. Sin has its
unrestricted way with them. This is Paul's very own complaint and the
identical complaint of all believers.

Paul never denied that he felt the lust of the flesh. It is likely that
at times he felt even the stirrings of carnal lust, but there is no
doubt that he quickly suppressed them. And if at any time he felt angry
or impatient, he resisted these feelings by the Spirit. We are not going
to stand by idly and see such a comforting statement as this explained
away. The scholastics, monks, and others of their ilk fought only
against carnal lust and were proud of a victory which they never
obtained. In the meanwhile they harbored within their breasts pride,
hatred, disdain, self-trust, contempt of the Word of God, disloyalty,
blasphemy, and other lusts of the flesh. Against these sins they never
fought because they never took them for sins.

Christ alone can supply us with perfect righteousness. Therefore we must
always believe and always hope in Christ. "Whosoever believeth shall not
be ashamed." (Rom. 9:33.)

Do not despair if you feel the flesh battling against the Spirit or if
you cannot make it behave. For you to follow the guidance of the
Spirit in all things without interference on the part of the flesh is
impossible. You are doing all you can if you resist the flesh and do not
fulfill its demands.

When I was a monk I thought I was lost forever whenever I felt an
evil emotion, carnal lust, wrath, hatred, or envy. I tried to quiet my
conscience in many ways, but it did not work, because lust would always
come back and give me no rest. I told myself: "You have permitted this
and that sin, envy, impatience, and the like. Your joining this holy
order has been in vain, and all your good works are good for nothing."
If at that time I had understood this passage, "The flesh lusteth
against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh," I could have
spared myself many a day of self-torment. I would have said to myself:
"Martin, you will never be without sin, for you have flesh. Despair not,
but resist the flesh."

I remember how Doctor Staupitz used to say to me: "I have promised God
a thousand times that I would become a better man, but I never kept my
promise. From now on I am not going to make any more vows. Experience
has taught me that I cannot keep them. Unless God is merciful to me for
Christ's sake and grants unto me a blessed departure, I shall not be
able to stand before Him." His was a God-pleasing despair. No true
believer trusts in his own righteousness, but says with David, "Enter
not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man
living be justified." (Ps. 143:2) Again, "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark
iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" (Ps. 130:3.)

No man is to despair of salvation just because he is aware of the lust
of the flesh. Let him be aware of it so long as he does not yield to it.
The passion of lust, wrath, and other vices may shake him, but they are
not to get him down. Sin may assail him, but he is not to welcome it.
Yes, the better Christian a man is, the more he will experience the heat
of the conflict. This explains the many expressions of regret in the
Psalms and in the entire Bible. Everybody is to determine his peculiar
weakness and guard against it. Watch and wrestle in spirit against your
weakness. Even if you cannot completely overcome it, at least you ought
to fight against it.

According to this description a saint is not one who is made of wood and
never feels any lusts or desires of the flesh. A true saint confesses
his righteousness and prays that his sins may be forgiven. The whole
Church prays for the forgiveness of sins and confesses that it believes
in the forgiveness of sins. If our antagonists would read the Scriptures
they would soon discover that they cannot judge rightly of anything,
either of sin or of holiness.

  VERSE 18. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

Here someone may object: "How come we are not under the law? You
yourself say, Paul, that we have the flesh which wars against the
Spirit, and brings us into subjection."

But Paul says not to let it trouble us. As long as we are led by the
Spirit, and are willing to obey the Spirit who resists the flesh, we are
not under the Law. True believers are not under the Law. The Law cannot
condemn them although they feel sin and confess it.

Great then is the power of the Spirit. Led by the Spirit, the Law cannot
condemn the believer though he commits real sin. For Christ in whom
we believe is our righteousness. He is without sin, and the Law cannot
accuse Him. As long as we cling to Him we are led by the Spirit and are
free from the Law. Even as he teaches good works, the Apostle does not
lose sight of the doctrine of justification, but shows at every turn
that it is impossible for us to be justified by works.

The words, "If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law,"
are replete with comfort. It happens at times that anger, hatred,
impatience, carnal desire, fear, sorrow, or some other lust of the flesh
so overwhelms a man that he cannot shake them off, though he try ever so
hard. What should he do? Should he despair? God forbid. Let him say to
himself: "My flesh seems to be on a warpath against the Spirit again.
Go to it, flesh, and rage all you want to. But you are not going to have
your way. I follow the leading of the Spirit."

When the flesh begins to cut up the only remedy is to take the sword of
the Spirit, the word of salvation, and fight against the flesh. If you
set the Word out of sight, you are helpless against the flesh. I know
this to be a fact. I have been assailed by many violent passions, but as
soon as I took hold of some Scripture passage, my temptations left me.
Without the Word I could not have helped myself against the flesh.

  VERSE 19. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these.

Paul is saying: "That none of you may hide behind the plea of ignorance
I will enumerate first the works of the flesh, and then also the works
of the Spirit."

There were many hypocrites among the Galatians, as there are also among
us, who pretend to be Christians and talk much about the Spirit, but
they walk not according to the Spirit; rather according to the flesh.
Paul is out to show them that they are not as holy as they like to have
others think they are.

Every period of life has its own peculiar temptations. Not one true
believer whom the flesh does not again and again incite to impatience,
anger, pride. But it is one thing to be tempted by the flesh, and
another thing to yield to the flesh, to do its bidding without fear or
remorse, and to continue in sin.

Christians also fall and perform the lusts of the flesh. David fell
horribly into adultery. Peter also fell grievously when he denied
Christ. However great these sins were, they were not committed to spite
God, but from weakness. When their sins were brought to their attention
these men did not obstinately continue in their sin, but repented. Those
who sin through weakness are not denied pardon as long as they rise
again and cease to sin. There is nothing worse than to continue in sin.
If they do not repent, but obstinately continue to fulfill the desires
of the flesh, it is a sure sign that they are not sincere.

No person is free from temptations. Some are tempted in one way, others
in another way. One person is more easily tempted to bitterness and
sorrow of spirit, blasphemy, distrust, and despair. Another is more
easily tempted to carnal lust, anger, envy, covetousness. But no matter
to which sins we are disposed, we are to walk in the Spirit and resist
the flesh. Those who are Christ's own crucify their flesh.

Some of the old saints labored so hard to attain perfection that they
lost the capacity to feel anything. When I was a monk I often wished
I could see a saint. I pictured him as living in the wilderness,
abstaining from meat and drink and living on roots and herbs and cold
water. This weird conception of those awesome saints I had gained out
of the books of the scholastics and church fathers. But we know now
from the Scriptures who the true saints are. Not those who live a single
life, or make a fetish of days, meats, clothes, and such things. The
true saints are those who believe that they are justified by the death
of Christ. Whenever Paul writes to the Christians here and there he
calls them the holy children and heirs of God. All who believe in
Christ, whether male or female, bond or free, are saints; not in view of
their own works, but in view of the merits of God which they appropriate
by faith. Their holiness is a gift and not their own personal

Ministers of the Gospel, public officials, parents, children, masters,
servants, etc., are true saints when they take Christ for their wisdom,
righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, and when they fulfill
the duties of their several vocations according to the standard of God's
Word and repress the lust and desires of the flesh by the Spirit. Not
everybody can resist temptations with equal facility. Imperfections are
bound to show up. But this does not prevent them from being holy. Their
unintentional lapses are forgiven if they pull themselves together by
faith in Christ. God forbid that we should sit in hasty judgment on
those who are weak in faith and life, as long as they love the Word of
God and make use of the supper of the Lord.

I thank God that He has permitted me to see (what as a monk I so
earnestly desired to see) not one but many saints, whole multitudes of
true saints. Not the kind of saints the papists admire, but the kind of
saints Christ wants. I am sure I am one of Christ's true saints. I am
baptized. I believe that Christ my Lord has redeemed me from all my
sins, and invested me with His own eternal righteousness and holiness.
To hide in caves and dens, to have a bony body, to wear the hair long
in the mistaken idea that such departures from normalcy will obtain
some special regard in heaven is not the holy life. A holy life is to
be baptized and to believe in Christ, and to subdue the flesh with the

To feel the lusts of the flesh is not without profit to us. It prevents
us from being vain and from being puffed up with the wicked opinion of
our own work-righteousness. The monks were so inflated with the opinion
of their own righteousness, they thought they had so much holiness
that they could afford to sell some of it to others, although their
own hearts convinced them of unholiness. The Christian feels the unholy
condition of his heart, and it makes him feel so low that he cannot
trust in his good works. He therefore goes to Christ to find perfect
righteousness. This keeps a Christian humble.

  VERSES 19, 20. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are
  these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry,

Paul does not enumerate all the works of the flesh, but only certain
ones. First, he mentions various kinds of carnal lusts, as adultery,
fornication, wantonness, etc. But carnal lust is not the only work of
the flesh, and so he counts among the works of the flesh also idolatry,
witchcraft, hatred, and the like. These terms are so familiar that they
do not require lengthy explanations.


The best religion, the most fervent devotion without Christ is plain
idolatry. It has been considered a holy act when the monks in their
cells meditate upon God and His works, and in a religious frenzy kneel
down to pray and to weep for joy. Yet Paul calls it simply idolatry.
Every religion which worships God in ignorance or neglect of His Word
and will is idolatry.

They may think about God, Christ, and heavenly things, but they do it
after their own fashion and not after the Word of God. They have an idea
that their clothing, their mode of living, and their conduct are holy
and pleasing to Christ. They not only expect to pacify Christ by the
strictness of their life, but also expect to be rewarded by Him for
their good deeds. Hence their best "spiritual" thoughts are wicked
thoughts. Any worship of God, any religion without Christ is idolatry.
In Christ alone is God well pleased.

I have said before that the works of the flesh are manifest. But
idolatry puts on such a good front and acts so spiritual that the sham
of it is recognized only by true believers.


This sin was very common before the light of the Gospel appeared. When I
was a child there were many witches and sorcerers around who "bewitched"
cattle, and people, particularly children, and did much harm. But now
that the Gospel is here you do not hear so much about it because the
Gospel drives the devil away. Now he bewitches people in a worse way
with spiritual sorcery.

Witchcraft is a brand of idolatry. As witches used to bewitch cattle and
men, so idolaters, i.e., all the self-righteous, go around to bewitch
God and to make Him out as one who justifies men not by grace through
faith in Christ but by the works of men's own choosing. They bewitch
and deceive themselves. If they continue in their wicked thoughts of God
they will die in their idolatry.


Under sects Paul here understands heresies. Heresies have always
been found in the church. What unity of faith can exist among all the
different monks and the different orders? None whatever. There is no
unity of spirit, no agreement of minds, but great dissension in the
papacy. There is no conformity in doctrine, faith, and life. On the
other hand, among evangelical Christians the Word, faith, religion,
sacraments, service, Christ, God, heart, and mind are common to all.
This unity is not disturbed by outward differences of station or of

                            DRUNKENNESS, GLUTTONY

Paul does not say that eating and drinking are works of the flesh, but
intemperance in eating and drinking, which is a common vice nowadays, is
a work of the flesh. Those who are given to excess are to know that they
are not spiritual but carnal. Sentence is pronounced upon them that they
shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Paul desires that Christians
avoid drunkenness and gluttony, that they live temperate and sober
lives, in order that the body may not grow soft and sensual.

  VERSE 21. Of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in
  the past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom
  of God.

This is a hard saying, but very necessary for those false Christians and
hypocrites who speak much about the Gospel, about faith, and the Spirit,
yet live after the flesh. But this hard sentence is directed chiefly at
the heretics who are large with their own self-importance, that they may
be frightened into taking up the fight of the Spirit against the flesh.

  VERSES 22, 23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
  longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.

The Apostle does not speak of the works of the Spirit as he spoke of the
works of the flesh, but he attaches to these Christian virtues a better
name. He calls them the fruits of the Spirit.


It would have been enough to mention only the single fruit of love, for
love embraces all the fruits of the Spirit. In I Corinthians 13, Paul
attributes to love all the fruits of the Spirit: "Charity suffereth
long, and is kind," etc. Here he lets love stand by itself among other
fruits of the Spirit to remind the Christians to love one another, "in
honor preferring one another," to esteem others more than themselves
because they have Christ and the Holy Ghost within them.


Joy means sweet thoughts of Christ, melodious hymns and psalms, praises
and thanksgiving, with which Christians instruct, inspire, and refresh
themselves. God does not like doubt and dejection. He hates dreary
doctrine, gloomy and melancholy thought. God likes cheerful hearts. He
did not send His Son to fill us with sadness, but to gladden our hearts.
For this reason the prophets, apostles, and Christ Himself urge, yes,
command us to rejoice and be glad. "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy king cometh unto thee."
(Zech. 9:9.) In the Psalms we are repeatedly told to be "joyful in the
Lord." Paul says: "Rejoice in the Lord always." Christ says: "Rejoice,
for your names are written in heaven."


Peace towards God and men. Christians are to be peaceful and quiet. Not
argumentative, not hateful, but thoughtful and patient. There can be no
peace without longsuffering, and therefore Paul lists this virtue next.


Longsuffering is that quality which enables a person to bear adversity,
injury, reproach, and makes them patient to wait for the improvement
of those who have done him wrong. When the devil finds that he cannot
overcome certain persons by force he tries to overcome them in the long
run. He knows that we are weak and cannot stand anything long. Therefore
he repeats his temptation time and again until he succeeds. To withstand
his continued assaults we must be longsuffering and patiently wait for
the devil to get tired of his game.


Gentleness in conduct and life. True followers of the Gospel must not
be sharp and bitter, but gentle, mild, courteous, and soft-spoken, which
should encourage others to seek their company. Gentleness can overlook
other people's faults and cover them up. Gentleness is always glad to
give in to others. Gentleness can get along with forward and difficult
persons, according to the old pagan saying: "You must know the manners
of your friends, but you must not hate them." Such a gentle person was
our Savior Jesus Christ, as the Gospel portrays Him. Of Peter it is
recorded that he wept whenever he remembered the sweet gentleness of
Christ in His daily contact with people. Gentleness is an excellent
virtue and very useful in every walk of life.


A person is good when he is willing to help others in their need.


In listing faith among the fruits of the Spirit, Paul obviously does not
mean faith in Christ, but faith in men. Such faith is not suspicious of
people but believes the best. Naturally the possessor of such faith will
be deceived, but he lets it pass. He is ready to believe all men, but he
will not trust all men. Where this virtue is lacking men are suspicious,
forward, and wayward and will believe nothing nor yield to anybody. No
matter how well a person says or does anything, they will find fault
with it, and if you do not humor them you can never please them. It is
quite impossible to get along with them. Such faith in people therefore,
is quite necessary. What kind of life would this be if one person could
not believe another person?


A person is meek when he is not quick to get angry. Many things occur in
daily life to provoke a person's anger, but the Christian gets over his
anger by meekness.


Christians are to lead sober and chaste lives. They should not be
adulterers, fornicators, or sensualists. They should not be quarrelers
or drunkards. In the first and second chapters of the Epistle to Titus,
the Apostle admonishes bishops, young women, and married folks to be
chaste and pure.

  VERSE 23. Against such there is no law.

There is a law, of course, but it does not apply to those who bear these
fruits of the Spirit. The Law is not given for the righteous man. A true
Christian conducts himself in such a way that he does not need any law
to warn or to restrain him. He obeys the Law without compulsion. The Law
does not concern him. As far as he is concerned there would not have to
be any Law.

  VERSE 24. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the
  affections and lusts.

True believers are no hypocrites. They crucify the flesh with its evil
desires and lusts. Inasmuch as they have not altogether put off the
sinful flesh they are inclined to sin. They do not fear or love God
as they should. They are likely to be provoked to anger, to envy, to
impatience, to carnal lust, and other emotions. But they will not do the
things to which the flesh incites them. They crucify the flesh with its
evil desires and lusts by fasting and exercise and, above all, by a walk
in the Spirit.

To resist the flesh in this manner is to nail it to the Cross. Although
the flesh is still alive it cannot very well act upon its desires
because it is bound and nailed to the Cross.

  VERSE 25. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
A little while ago the Apostle had condemned those who are envious and
start heresies and schisms. As if he had forgotten that he had already
berated them, the Apostle once more reproves those who provoke and
envy others. Was not one reference to them sufficient? He repeats his
admonition in order to emphasize the viciousness of pride that had
caused all the trouble in the churches of Galatia, and has always caused
the Church of Christ no end of difficulties. In his Epistle to Titus
the Apostle states that a vainglorious man should not be ordained as a
minister, for pride, as St. Augustine points out, is the mother of all

Now vainglory has always been a common poison in the world. There is no
village too small to contain someone who wants to be considered wiser or
better than the rest. Those who have been bitten by pride usually stand
upon the reputation for learning and wisdom. Vainglory is not nearly so
bad in a private person or even in an official as it is in a minister.

When the poison of vainglory gets into the Church you have no idea
what havoc it can cause. You may argue about knowledge, art, money,
countries, and the like without doing particular harm. But you cannot
quarrel about salvation or damnation, about eternal life and eternal
death without grave damage to the Church. No wonder Paul exhorts all
ministers of the Word to guard against this poison. He writes: "If we
live in the Spirit." Where the Spirit is, men gain new attitudes. Where
formerly they were vainglorious, spiteful and envious, they now become
humble, gentle and patient. Such men seek not their own glory, but
the glory of God. They do not provoke each other to wrath or envy, but
prefer others to themselves.

As dangerous to the Church as this abominable pride is, yet there is
nothing more common. The trouble with the ministers of Satan is that
they look upon the ministry as a stepping-stone to fame and glory, and
right there you have the seed for all sorts of dissensions.

Because Paul knew that the vainglory of the false Apostles had caused
the churches of Galatia endless trouble, he makes it his business to
suppress this abominable vice. In his absence the false apostles went
to work in Galatia. They pretended that they had been on intimate terms
with the apostles, while Paul had never seen Christ in person or
had much contact with the rest of the apostles. Because of this they
delivered him, rejected his doctrine, and boosted their own. In this way
they troubled the Galatians and caused quarrels among them until they
provoked and envied each other; which goes to show that neither the
false apostles nor the Galatians walked after the Spirit, but after the

The Gospel is not there for us to aggrandize ourselves. The Gospel is
to aggrandize Christ and the mercy of God. It holds out to men eternal
gifts that are not gifts of our own manufacture. What right have we to
receive praise and glory for gifts that are not of our own making?

No wonder that God in His special grace subjects the ministers of the
Gospel to all kinds of afflictions, otherwise they could not cope
with this ugly beast called vainglory. If no persecution, no cross,
or reproach trailed the doctrine of the Gospel, but only praise and
reputation, the ministers of the Gospel would choke with pride. Paul
had the Spirit of Christ. Nevertheless there was given unto him the
messenger of Satan to buffet him in order that he should not come
to exalt himself, because of the grandeur of his revelations. St.
Augustine's opinion is well taken: "If a minister of the Gospel is
praised, he is in danger; if he is despised, he is also in danger."

The ministers of the Gospel should be men who are not too easily
affected by praise or criticism, but simply speak out the benefit and
the glory of Christ and seek the salvation of souls.

Whenever you are being praised, remember it is not you who is being
praised but Christ, to whom all praise belongs. When you preach the
Word of God in its purity and also live accordingly, it is not your own
doing, but God's doing. And when people praise you, they really mean
to praise God in you. When you understand this--and you should because
"what hast thou that thou didst not receive?"--you will not flatter
yourself on the one hand and on the other hand you will not carry
yourself with the thought of resigning from the ministry when you are
insulted, reproached, or persecuted.

It is really kind of God to send so much infamy, reproach, hatred, and
cursing our way to keep us from getting proud of the gifts of God in us.
We need a millstone around our neck to keep us humble. There are a few
on our side who love and revere us for the ministry of the Word, but for
every one of these there are a hundred on the other side who hate and
persecute us.

The Lord is our glory. Such gifts as we possess we acknowledge to be
the gifts of God, given to us for the good of the Church of Christ.
Therefore we are not proud because of them. We know that more is
required of them to whom much is given, than of such to whom little is
given. We also know that God is no respecter of persons. A plain factory
hand who does his work faithfully pleases God just as much as a minister
of the Word.

  VERSE 26. Let us not be desirous of vain glory.

To desire vainglory is to desire lies, because when one person praises
another he tells lies. What is there in anybody to praise? But it is
different when the ministry is praised. We should not only desire people
to praise the ministry of the Gospel but also do our utmost to make
the ministry worthy of praise because this will make the ministry
more effective. Paul warns the Romans not to bring Christianity into
disrepute. "Let not then your good be evil spoken of." (Rom. 14:16.) He
also begged the Corinthians to "give no offense in anything, that the
ministry be not blamed." (I Cor. 6:3.) When people praise our ministry
they are not praising our persons, but God.

  VERSE 26. Provoking one another, envying one another.

Such is the ill effect of vainglory. Those who teach errors provoke
others. When others disapprove and reject the doctrine the teachers
of errors get angry in turn, and then you have strife and trouble. The
sectarians hate us furiously because we will not approve their errors.
We did not attack them directly. We merely called attention to certain
abuses in the Church. They did not like it and became sore at us,
because it hurt their pride. They wish to be the lone rulers of the


  VERSE 1. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault ye which are
  spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness.

IF we carefully weigh the words of the Apostle we perceive that he does
not speak of doctrinal faults and errors, but of much lesser faults
by which a person is overtaken through the weakness of his flesh. This
explains why the Apostle chooses the softer term "fault." To minimize
the offense still more, as if he meant to excuse it altogether and to
take the whole blame away from the person who has committed the fault,
he speaks of him as having been "overtaken," seduced by the devil and of
the flesh. As if he meant to say, "What is more human than for a human
being to fall, to be deceived and to err?" This comforting sentence at
one time saved my life. Because Satan always assails both the purity of
doctrine which he endeavors to take away by schisms and the purity
of life which he spoils with his continual temptations to sin, Paul
explains how the fallen should be treated. Those who are strong are to
raise up the fallen in the spirit of meekness.

This ought to be borne in mind particularly by the ministers of the Word
in order that they may not forget the parental attitude which Paul here
requires of those who have the keeping of souls. Pastors and ministers
must, of course, rebuke the fallen, but when they see that the fallen
are sorry they are to comfort them by excusing the fault as well as they
can. As unyielding as the Holy Spirit is in the matter of maintaining
and defending the doctrine of faith, so mild and merciful is He toward
men for their sins as long as sinners repent.

The Pope's synagogue teaches the exact opposite of what the Apostle
commands. The clerics are tyrants and butchers of men's conscience.
Every small offense is closely scrutinized. To justify the cruel
inquisitiveness they quote the statement of Pope Gregory: "It is the
property of good lives to be afraid of a fault where there is no fault."
"Our censors must be feared, even if they are unjust and wrong." On
these pronouncements the papists base their doctrine of excommunication.
Rather than terrify and condemn men's consciences, they ought to raise
them up and comfort them with the truth.

Let the ministers of the Gospel learn from Paul how to deal with those
who have sinned. "Brethren," he says, "if any man be overtaken with a
fault, do not aggravate his grief, do not scold him, do not condemn
him, but lift him up and gently restore his faith. If you see a brother
despondent over a sin he has committed, run up to him, reach out your
hand to him, comfort him with the Gospel and embrace him like a mother.
When you meet a willful sinner who does not care, go after him and
rebuke him sharply." But this is not the treatment for one who has been
overtaken by a sin and is sorry. He must be dealt with in the spirit of
meekness and not in the spirit of severity. A repentant sinner is not to
be given gall and vinegar to drink.

  VERSE 1. Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
This consideration is very much needed to put a stop to the severity of
some pastors who show the fallen no mercy. St. Augustine says: "There
is no sin which one person has committed, that another person may not
commit it also." We stand in slippery places. If we become overbearing
and neglect our duty, it is easy enough to fall into sin. In the book
entitled "The Lives of Our Fathers," one of the Fathers is reported to
have said when informed that a brother had fallen into adultery: "He
fell yesterday; I may fall today." Paul therefore warns the pastors not
to be too rigorous and unmerciful towards offenders, but to show them
every affection, always remembering: "This man fell into sin; I may fall
into worse sin. If those who are always so eager to condemn others would
investigate themselves they would find that the sins of others are motes
in comparison to their own."

"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
(I Cor. 10:12.) If David who was a hero of faith and did so many great
things for the Lord, could fall so badly that in spite of his advanced
age he was overcome by youthful lust after he had withstood so many
different temptations with which the Lord had tested his faith, who are
we to think that we are more stable? These object lessons of God should
convince us that of all things God hates pride.

  VERSE 2. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of

The Law of Christ is the Law of love. Christ gave us no other law than
this law of mutual love: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye
love one another." To love means to bear another's burdens. Christians
must have strong shoulders to bear the burdens of their fellow
Christians. Faithful pastors recognize many errors and offenses in the
church, which they oversee. In civil affairs an official has to overlook
much if he is fit to rule. If we can overlook our own shortcomings
and wrong-doings, we ought to overlook the shortcomings of others in
accordance with the words, "Bear ye one another's burdens."

Those who fail to do so expose their lack of understanding of the law
of Christ. Love, according to Paul, "believeth all things, hopeth all
things, endureth all things." This commandment is not meant for those
who deny Christ; neither is it meant for those who continue to live
in sin. Only those who are willing to hear the Word of God and then
inadvertently fall into sin to their own great sorrow and regret, carry
the burdens which the Apostle encourages us to bear. Let us not be hard
on them. If Christ did not punish them, what right have we to do it?

  VERSE 3. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is
  nothing, he deceiveth himself.

Again the Apostle takes the authors of sects to task for being
hard-hearted tyrants. They despise the weak and demand that everything
be just so. Nothing suits them except what they do. Unless you eulogize
whatever they say or do, unless you adapt yourself to their slightest
whim, they become angry with you. They are that way because, as St. Paul
says, they "think themselves to be something," they think they know all
about the Scriptures.

Paul has their number when he calls them zeros. They deceive
themselves with their self-suggested wisdom and holiness. They have
no understanding of Christ or the law of Christ. By insisting that
everything be perfect they not only fail to bear the burdens of the
weak, they actually offend the weak by their severity. People begin to
hate and shun them and refuse to accept counsel or comfort from them.

Paul describes these stiff and ungracious saints accurately when he says
of them, "They think themselves to be something." Bloated by their
own silly ideas and schemes they entertain a pretty fair opinion of
themselves, when in reality they amount to nothing.

  VERSE 4. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have
  rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

In this verse the Apostle continues his attack upon the vainglorious
sectarians. Although this passage may be applied to any work, the
Apostle has in mind particularly the work of the ministry.

The trouble with these seekers after glory is that they never stop to
consider whether their ministry is straightforward and faithful. All
they think about is whether people will like and praise them. Theirs is
a threefold sin. First, they are greedy of praise. Secondly, they are
very sly and wily in suggesting that the ministry of other pastors
is not what it should be. By way of contrast they hope to rise in
the estimation of the people. Thirdly, once they have established a
reputation for themselves they become so chesty that they stop short of
nothing. When they have won the praise of men, pride leads them on to
belittle the work of other men and to applaud their own. In this artful
manner they hoodwink the people who rather enjoy to see their former
pastors taken down a few notches by such upstarts.

"Let a minister be faithful in his office," is the apostolic injunction.
"Let him not seek his own glory or look for praise. Let him desire to
do good work and to preach the Gospel in all its purity. Whether an
ungrateful world appreciates his efforts is to give him no concern
because, after all, he is in the ministry not for his own glory but for
the glory of Christ."

A faithful minister cares little what people think of him, as long as
his conscience approves of him. The approval of his own good conscience
is the best praise a minister can have. To know that we have taught the
Word of God and administered the sacraments rightly is to have a glory
that cannot be taken away.

The glory which the sectarians seek is quite unstable, because it rests
in the whim of people. If Paul had had to depend on this kind of glory
for his ministry he would have despaired when he saw the many offenses
and evils following in the wake of his preaching.

If we had to feel that the success of our ministry depended upon our
popularity with men we would die, because we are not popular. On the
contrary, we are hated by the whole world with rare bitterness. Nobody
praises us. Everybody finds fault with us. But we can glory in the Lord
and attend to our work cheerfully. Who cares whether our efforts please
or displease the devil? Who cares whether the world praises or hates us?
We go ahead "by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report."
(II Cor. 6:8.)

The Gospel entails persecution. The Gospel is that kind of a doctrine.
Furthermore, the disciples of the Gospel are not all dependable. Many
embrace the Gospel today and tomorrow discard it. To preach the Gospel
for praise is bad business especially when people stop praising you.
Find your praise in the testimony of a good conscience.

This passage may also be applied to other work besides the ministry.
When an official, a servant, a teacher minds his business and performs
his duty faithfully without concerning himself about matters that are
not in his line he may rejoice in himself. The best commendation of any
work is to know that one has done the work that God has given him well
and that God is pleased with his effort.

  VERSE 5. Every man shall bear his own burden.

That means: For anybody to covet praise is foolish because the praise of
men will be of no help to you in the hour of death. Before the judgment
throne of Christ everybody will have to bear his own burden. As it is
the praise of men stops when we die. Before the eternal Judge it is not
praise that counts but your own conscience.

True, the consciousness of work well done cannot quiet the conscience.
But it is well to have the testimony of a good conscience in the last
judgment that we have performed our duty faithfully in accordance with
God's will.

For the suppression of pride we need the strength of prayer. What man
even if he is a Christian is not delighted with his own praise? Only the
Holy Spirit can preserve us from the misfortune of pride.

  VERSE 6. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that
  teacheth in all good things.

Now the Apostle also addresses the hearers of the Word requesting them
to bestow "all good things" upon those who have taught them the Gospel.
I have often wondered why all the apostles reiterated this request
with such embarrassing frequency. In the papacy I saw the people
give generously for the erection and maintenance of luxurious church
buildings and for the sustenance of men appointed to the idolatrous
service of Rome. I saw bishops and priests grow rich until they
possessed the choicest real estate. I thought then that Paul's
admonitions were overdone. I thought he should have requested the people
to curtail their contributions. I saw how the generosity of the people
of the Church was encouraging covetousness on the part of the clergy. I
know better now.

As often as I read the admonitions of the Apostle to the effect that the
churches should support their pastors and raise funds for the relief
of impoverished Christians I am half ashamed to think that the great
Apostle Paul had to touch upon this subject so frequently. In writing to
the Corinthians he needed two chapters to impress this matter upon
them. I would not want to discredit Wittenberg as Paul discredited the
Corinthians by urging them at such length to contribute to the relief of
the poor. It seems to be a by-product of the Gospel that nobody wants to
contribute to the maintenance of the Gospel ministry. When the doctrine
of the devil is preached people are prodigal in their willing support of
those who deceive them.

We have come to understand why it is so necessary to repeat the
admonition of this verse. When Satan cannot suppress the preaching of
the Gospel by force he tries to accomplish his purpose by striking the
ministers of the Gospel with poverty. He curtails their income to such
an extent that they are forced out of the ministry because they cannot
live by the Gospel. Without ministers to proclaim the Word of God the
people go wild like savage beasts.

Paul's admonition that the hearers of the Gospel share all good
things with their pastors and teachers is certainly in order. To the
Corinthians he wrote: "If we have sown unto you spiritual things is it a
great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" (I Cor. 9:11.) In the
old days when the Pope reigned supreme everybody paid plenty for masses.
The begging friars brought in their share. Commercial priests counted
the daily offerings. From these extortions our countrymen are now
delivered by the Gospel. You would think they would be grateful for
their emancipation and give generously for the support of the ministry
of the Gospel and the relief of impoverished Christians. Instead, they
rob Christ. When the members of a Christian congregation permit their
pastor to struggle along in penury, they are worse than heathen.

Before very long they are going to suffer for their ingratitude. They
will lose their temporal and spiritual possessions. This sin merits the
severest punishment. The reason why the churches of Galatia, Corinth,
and other places were troubled by false apostles was this, that they had
so little regard for their faithful ministers. You cannot refuse to give
a penny who gives you all good things, even life eternal, and turn around
and give the devil, the giver of all evil and death eternal, pieces of
gold, and not be punished for it.

The words "in all good things": are not to be understood to mean that
people are to give all they have to their ministers, but that they
should support them liberally and give them enough to live well.

  VERSE 7. Be not deceived; God is not mocked.

The Apostle is so worked up over this matter that he is not content with
a mere admonition. He utters the threatening words, "God is not mocked."
Our countrymen think it good sport to despise the ministry. They like to
treat the ministers like servants and slaves. "Be not deceived,"
warns the Apostle, "God is not mocked." God will not be mocked in His
ministers. Christ said: "He that despiseth you, despiseth me." (Luke
10:16.) To Samuel God said: "They have not rejected thee, but they have
rejected me." (I Sam. 8:7.) Be careful, you scoffers. God may postpone
His punishment for a time, but He will find you out in time, and punish
you for despising His servants. You cannot laugh at God. Maybe the
people are little impressed by the threats of God, but in the hour of
their death they shall know whom they have mocked. God is not ever going
to let His ministers starve. When the rich suffer the pangs of hunger
God will feed His own servants. "In the days of famine they shall be
satisfied." (Ps. 37:19.)

  VERSE 7. For whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

These passages are all meant to benefit us ministers. I must say I do
not find much pleasure in explaining these verses. I am made to appear
as if I am speaking for my own benefit. If a minister preaches on money
he is likely to be accused of covetousness. Still people must be told
these things that they may know their duty over against their pastors.
Our Savior says: "Eating and drinking such things as they give; for the
laborer is worthy of his hire." (Luke 10:7.) And Paul says elsewhere:
"Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the
things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers
with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they which preach
the gospel should live of the gospel." (I Cor. 9:13, 14.)

  VERSE 8. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap
  corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap
  everlasting life.

This simile of sowing and reaping also refers to the proper support
of ministers. "He that soweth to the Spirit," i.e., he that honors the
ministers of God is doing a spiritual thing and will reap everlasting
life. "He that soweth to the flesh," i.e., he that has nothing left for
the ministers of God, but only thinks of himself, that person will reap
of the flesh corruption, not only in this life but also in the life to
come. The Apostle wants to stir up his readers to be generous to their

That the ministers of the Church need support any man with common sense
can see. Though this support is something physical the Apostle does
not hesitate to call it sowing to the Spirit. When people scrape
up everything they can lay their hands on and keep everything for
themselves the Apostle calls it a sowing to the flesh. He pronounces
those who sow to the Spirit blessed for this life and the life to come,
while those who sow to the flesh are accursed now and forever.

  VERSE 9. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we
  shall reap, if we faint not.

The Apostle intends soon to close his Epistle and therefore repeats once
more the general exhortation unto good deeds. He means to say "Let us do
good not only to the ministers of the Gospel, but to everybody, and let
us do it without weariness." It is easy enough to do good once or twice,
but to keep on doing good without getting disgusted with the ingratitude
of those whom we have benefited, that is not so easy. Therefore the
Apostle does not only admonish us to do good, but to do good untiringly.
For our encouragement he adds the promise: "For in due season we shall
reap, if we faint not." "Wait for the harvest and then you will reap the
reward of your sowing to the Spirit. Think of that when you do good and
the ingratitude of men will not stop you from doing good."

  VERSE 10. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all
  men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

In this verse the Apostle summarizes his instructions on the proper
support of the ministers and of the poor. He paraphrases the words of
Christ: "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the
night cometh, when no man can work." (John 9:4.) Our good deeds are to
be directed primarily at those who share the Christian faith with us,
"the household of faith," as Paul calls them, among whom the ministers
rank first as objects of our well doing.

  VERSE 11. Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine
  own hand.

With these words the Apostle intends to draw the Galatians on. "I
never," he says, "wrote such a long letter with my own hand to any of
the other churches." His other epistles he dictated, and only subscribed
his greetings and his signature with his own hand.

  VERSE 12. As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they
  constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer
  persecution for the cross of Christ.

Paul once more scores the false apostles in an effort to draw the
Galatians away from their false doctrine. "The teachers you have now do
not seek the glory of Christ and the salvation of your souls, but only
their own glory. They avoid the Cross. They do not understand what they

These three counts against the false apostles are of so serious a nature
that no Christian could have fellowship with them. But not all the
Galatians obeyed the warning of Paul.

The Apostle's attack upon the false apostles was not unjustified.
Neither are our attacks upon the papacy. When we call the Pope the
Antichrist and his minions an evil brood, we do not slander them. We
merely judge them by the touchstone of God's Word recorded in the first
chapter of this Epistle: "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any
other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him
be accursed."

  VERSE 13. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the
  law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your

In other words: "I shall tell you what kind of teachers you have now.
They avoid the Cross, they teach no certain truths. They think they are
performing the Law, but they are not. They have not the Holy Spirit
and without Him nobody can keep the Law." Where the Holy Ghost does not
dwell in men there dwells an unclean spirit, a spirit that despises God
and turns every effort at keeping the Law into a double sin.

Mark what the Apostle is saying: Those who are circumcised do not
fulfill the Law. No self-righteous person ever does. To work, pray, or
suffer apart from Christ is to work, pray, and to suffer in vain, "for
whatsoever is not of faith is sin." It does a person no good to be
circumcised, to fast, to pray, or to do anything, if in his heart he
despises Christ.

"Why do the false apostles insist that you should be circumcised? Not
for the sake of your righteousness," although they give that impression,
but "that they may glory in your flesh." Now what sort of an ambition is
that? Worst of all, they force circumcision upon you for no other reason
than the satisfaction they get out of your submission.

  VERSE 14. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our
  Lord Jesus Christ.

"God forbid," says the Apostle, "that I should glory in anything as
dangerous as the false apostles glory in because what they glory in is a
poison that destroys many souls, and I wish it were buried in hell. Let
them glory in the flesh if they wish and let them perish in their glory.
As for me I glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." He expresses
the same sentiment in the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans,
where he says: "We glory in tribulations"; and in the twelfth chapter of
the Second Epistle to the Corinthians: "Most gladly, therefore, will
l rather glory in my infirmities." According to these expressions
the glory of a Christian consists in tribulations, reproaches, and

And this is our glory today with the Pope and the whole world
persecuting us and trying to kill us. We know that we suffer these
things not because we are thieves and murderers, but for Christ's sake
whose Gospel we proclaim. We have no reason to complain. The world, of
course, looks upon us as unhappy and accursed creatures, but Christ
for whose sake we suffer pronounces us blessed and bids us to rejoice.
"Blessed are ye," says He, "when men shall revile you, and persecute
you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad." (Matt. 5:11, 12.)

By the Cross of Christ is not to be understood here the two pieces of
wood to which He was nailed, but all the afflictions of the believers
whose sufferings are Christ's sufferings. Elsewhere Paul writes: "Who
now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind
of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is
the church." (Col. 1:24.)

It is good for us to know this lest we sink into despair when our
opponents persecute us. Let us bear the cross for Christ's sake. It will
ease our sufferings and make them light as Christ says, Matthew 11:30,
"My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

  VERSE 14. By whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

"The world is crucified unto me," means that I condemn the world. "I am
crucified unto the world," means that the world in turn condemns me. I
detest the doctrine, the self-righteousness, and the works of the world.
The world in turn detests my doctrine and condemns me as a revolutionary
heretic. Thus the world is crucified unto us and we unto the world.

The monks imagined the world was crucified unto them when they
entered the monastery. Not the world, but Christ, is crucified in the

In this verse Paul expresses his hatred of the world. The hatred was
mutual. As Paul, so we are to despise the world and the devil. With
Christ on our side we can defy him and say: "Satan, the more you hurt
me, the more I oppose you."

  VERSE 15. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything,
  nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

Since circumcision and uncircumcision are contrary matters we would
expect the Apostle to say that one or the other might accomplish some
good. But he denies that either of them do any good. Both are of no
value because in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision
avail anything.

Reason fails to understand this, "for the natural man receiveth not
the things of the Spirit of God." (I Cor. 2:14.) It therefore seeks
righteousness in externals. However, we learn from the Word of God that
there is nothing under the sun that can make us righteous before God and
a new creature except Christ Jesus.

A new creature is one in whom the image of God has been renewed. Such a
creature cannot be brought into life by good works, but by Christ alone.
Good works may improve the outward appearance, but they cannot produce
a new creature. A new creature is the work of the Holy Ghost, who imbues
our hearts with faith, love, and other Christian virtues, grants us
the strength to subdue the flesh and to reject the righteousness of the

  VERSE 16. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them,
  and mercy.

This is the rule by which we ought to live, "that ye put on the new man,
which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Eph.
4:24.) Those who walk after this rule enjoy the favor of God, the
forgiveness of their sins, and peace of conscience. Should they ever be
overtaken by any sin, the mercy of God supports them.

  VERSE 17. From henceforth let no man trouble me.

The Apostle speaks these words with a certain amount of indignation. "I
have preached the Gospel to you in conformity with the revelation which
I received from Jesus Christ. If you do not care for it, very well.
Trouble me no more. Trouble me no more."

  VERSE 17. For I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

"The marks on my body indicate whose servant I am. If I was anxious to
please men, if I approved of circumcision and good works as factors
in our salvation, if I would take delight in your flesh as the false
apostles do, I would not have these marks on my body. But because I
am the servant of Jesus Christ and publicly declare that no person can
obtain the salvation of his soul outside of Christ, I must bear the
badge of my Lord. These marks were given to me against my will as
decorations from the devil and for no other merit but that I made known

Of the marks of suffering which he bore in his body the Apostle makes
frequent mention in his epistles. "I think," he says, "that God hath set
forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are
made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men." (I Cor.
4:9.) Again, "Unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are
naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; And labour,
working with our hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we
suffer it; being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the
world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day." (I Cor.

  VERSE 18. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your
  spirit. Amen.

This is the Apostle's farewell. He ends his Epistle as he began it by
wishing the Galatians the grace of God. We can hear him say: "I have
presented Christ to you, I have pleaded with you, I have reproved you, I
have overlooked nothing that I thought might be of benefit to you. All I
can do now is to pray that our Lord Jesus Christ would bless my Epistle
and grant you the guidance of the Holy Ghost."

The Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, who gave me the strength and the
grace to explain this Epistle and granted you the grace to hear it,
preserve and strengthen us in faith unto the day of our redemption. To
Him, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, be glory, world without
end. Amen.

This text was converted to ASCII format for Project Wittenberg by Laura
J. Hoelter and is in the public domain. You may freely distribute, copy
or print this text. Please direct any comments or suggestions to:

Rev. Robert E. Smith Walther Library Concordia Theological Seminary

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ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.