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Psalm 16

 

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you." As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (ESV)

Half Right

Friday of Easter 7

6 June 2014

Poor John Agricola! He listened to the preaching of Martin Luther about the gospel and taken it so to heart that he tried to abolish the law from itself. Agricola had paid attention to what Luther had said about the article of justification; that about our status in the presence of God the law has nothing to say. The law must be silenced completely where the gospel speaks. Under justification the law is an enemy of us Christians and is a positive evil. Agricola decided to run with that presupposition and pushed it over the cliff, so that for him the law had no place whatever in the church, that is, he abolished the law from itself. As far as he was concerned, the law needed to be relegated to the law courts and the town hall. There it performed its office of keeping human society in order. Of course, that was not the intention of Luther, who was horrified to find out that Agricola attributed repentance and contrition to the gospel; a function of the law attributed to the gospel. Agricola had made the church's preaching a purely exclusive dichotomy: law or gospel, instead of a complimentary dichotomy: law and gospel.

 

For Luther the law still had its primary role as a preachment of wrath, that by pointing out sin, it might beat us into contrition. But such sorrow over sin is not yet the business of the gospel. It might well be but worldly sorrow (2Co 7:10) and thus the business of the law. The gospel has nothing of this sorrow and grief in it, but it is nothing but Christ and His promises lavished on the poor sinner yearning for the divine proclamation of mercy. The sinner comes with nothing but his dismal inadequacy and broken-heartedness. The Lord Jesus takes all that into Himself and has it borne away. All our filth and wickedness become His and Him (2Co 5:19). What is His becomes ours by faith, just as the bride receives all the property of the bridegroom. What a deal! My filth is taken by Him. His righteousness is given to me through faith.

 

How shocking, indeed unbelievable, is this faith! Humans struggle to believe that God has done all this without any merit in us humans. It remains a miracle of the Spirit to believe it. How timid our hearts are to believe that the substitute for our sin is none other than God's precious Son, Christ our Lord. Our every fiber howls that this is impossible, "Just look at your sin! You are not worthy of such great giftedness." Here is why the law ought to have no place when the gospel is proclaimed unto our justification. The gospel is proclaimed for the sake of our peace of heart and mind. Our conscience has been cleared; wiped clean by the gospel alone. The law must be excluded from the preaching of the gospel in the church. Agricola was half right, but only half right!

 

Martin Luther

 

"In the issue of justification-a discussion of justification is something vastly different from a discussion of the law-necessity demanded that Paul speak of the law as something very contemptible (Gal 4:2). When we are dealing with this argument, we cannot speak of it in sufficiently vile and odious terms either. For here the conscience should consider and know nothing except Christ alone. Therefore we should make every effort in the question of justification that we reject the law from view as far as possible and embrace nothing except the promise of Christ. This is easy enough to say. But in the midst of trial, when the conscience is contending with God, it is extremely difficult to be able to accomplish this. It is especially difficult when the law is terrifying and accusing you, showing you your sin, and threatening you with the wrath of God and with death, to act as though there had never been any law or sin but only Christ and sheer grace and redemption. It is difficult also, when you feel the terror of the law, to say nevertheless: 'Law, I shall not listen to you, because you have an evil voice. Besides, the time has now fully come. Therefore I am free. I shall no longer endure your domination.' Then one can see that the most difficult thing of all is to distinguish the law from grace; that is simply a divine and heavenly gift to be able in this situation to believe in hope against hope (Rm 4:18); and that this proposition of Paul's is eminently true, that we are justified by faith alone."


Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 4.3
 
Prayer

Lord Christ, send me Your gospel on the lips of my pastor, that I might hear the consoling message of sin forgiven for Your sake. Amen.

 

For all those who are seeking work, that they would be blessed with gainful employment in keeping with their calling from God

 

For elected officials of government, that they might carry out their offices in keeping the constitutional ideal of government by the people and for the people

 

For doctors, nurses, and all medical workers, that they would not weary of their labor

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Resurrection (1515)

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