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Luther on Galatians

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"It is a marvelous thing and unknown to the world to teach Christians to ignore the Law and to live before God as though there were no Law whatever. For if you do not ignore the Law and thus direct your thoughts to grace as though there were no Law ... you cannot be saved." (6)
Thus the German reformer Martin Luther provocatively sets the tone for his 1535 lectures on Galatians. His argument is based on the fact that in Galatians the Apostle Paul draws, in effect, a crucial distinction between two kinds of righteousness: active and passive. Active righteousness involves our relying on our own fulfillment of the law for our ultimate justification before God (see Gal. 3:3, 12; 5:2-4). Passive righteousness consists in our permitting someone else-namely, God-to bring about our salvation. Active righteousness consists in our actively working to appease God's wrath. Passive righteousness involves our passively accepting by faith a gift we in no way deserve because God has acted in Christ to justify us (see Gal. 1:3-4; 2:15-16, 20-21; 3:2-14).


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1 [ Back ] All of the quotations identified only by a page number are from Martin Luther, Luther's Works, translated by Jaroslav Pelikan (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1963), Volume 26. The reference attributed to Paul Althaus is found in his Theology of Martin Luther, translated by Robert C. Schultz (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), p. 182.


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Issue: "The Heart of the Gospel: Paul's Message Of Grace in Galatians" Sept./Oct. 2003 Vol. 12 No. 5 Page number(s): 26-30

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