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They [the three men] said to him [Abraham], "Where is Sarah your wife?" And he said, "She is in the tent." The LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?" The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son." But Sarah denied it, saying, "I did not laugh," for she was afraid. He said, "No, but you did laugh." (ESV)

A Big If


20 January 2016

What are you going to do if you win the lottery? Because of the huge jackpot in the Powerball lottery last week, I was reminded that I don't play the lottery, not because I would be wasting my money by buying a ticket (it is a regressive voluntary tax on cupidity). I don't buy lottery tickets because I fear winning. Knowledge of my sinful self tells me that this would not be good for me. Like everyone else, however, I have occasionally fantasized about winning the lottery. When we contemplate the chances of our hitting the lottery and think about what we might do with the "Mega-Millions," we talk about what we might do 'if' we win the lottery. While we are considering this, someone will invariably reply, "That's a big 'if.'" Life is full of "big ifs."
The biggest "if" in the world is "if I keep the law perfectly, I will go to heaven." This is what grammarians would call a "contrary to fact condition." The condition of keeping the law perfectly is not susceptible to our fulfilling it. The law simply frustrates our plan to be perfect by our own righteousness. We ought to shiver right down into the depths of our soul when confronted with that "if." For in fact, it is conditional only upon us. From God's side it is not optional, but unconditional. Those who are under the law remain under the curse of God. Therefore, the law cannot be the instrument of our standing before God. The big "if" is always looming up before us.
What remains is Christ after the law clears the field of our pretensions to righteousness and puts us to death. When Christ holds the field forever, there is no "if" at all. He is the unconditional gift of life and salvation, which are imputed to us by faith. Christ's substitution for us is unconditional. There are no "ifs" about it.


Martin Luther

"When Paul says: 'The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The one who does them shall live by them"' (Gal 3:12), he is comparing the righteousness of the law and that of faith, as he also does in Romans 10. It is as though he were saying: 'It would indeed be fine if someone kept the law. But since no one does so, we must take refuge in Christ, who was put under the law to redeem those who were under the law (Gal 4:4). Believing in Him, we receive the Holy Spirit and begin to keep the law. Because of our faith in Christ what we do not keep is not imputed to us. But in the life to come believing will cease, and there will be a correct and perfect keeping and loving. For when faith ceases, it will be replaced by glory, by means of which we shall see God as He is (1Jn 3:2). There will be a true and perfect knowledge of God, a right reason, and a good will, neither moral nor theological but heavenly, divine, and eternal. Meanwhile we must persevere here in faith that has the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of righteousness through Christ. Therefore no legalist keeps the law. Since he is without faith, he is under a curse.'
"Thus Paul clearly distinguishes the worker of the law from the man of faith. He is not speaking here about the believing doer of the law; he is speaking about the doer of the law who does not have the forgiveness of sins through Christ but wants to be justified solely through the law."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 3.12
O Lord Christ, my sins loom before me to testify against my own holiness. Rescue me by Your gracious work on the cross that I might have by faith what you have won unconditionally for me.
For Paul Lodholz, who is undergoing therapy for cancer, that God the Lord would grant him healing
For the members of the board of Luther Academy, as they travel to Houston for their meeting this weekend, that the cause of confessional Lutheranism would be served and that their travel would be safe
For our military chaplains, especially US Army Chaplain (Maj.) Donald Ehrke, that he might be strengthened as he preaches the eternal gospel to those under his care
Art: CHAMPAIGNE, Philippe de  Moses with the Ten Commandments  (1648)

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