Friday, September 18, 2009

Luther on Galatians 5:1b

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

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.

-Luther's commentary on Galatians


Brother Titus said...

Wow! What clear, sad, disparaging and frightening word pictures Luther uses for the unbeliever. Did you translate that from the original German?

Frontier Forest said...

Being bought with such a mighty price, we were brought out, or dragged away from the yoke of slavery unto the blessed fresh air of FREEDOM!
Wherein Christ has set us free, we are forever free indeed! Allowing our inner man to become entangled with the snares of this world, or the chains of legalism, or the bondage of trying to be, or do or become, is denying the truth, the very depths of grace alone by faith alone. Thus, trying to add to Christ’s atoning death on the cross makes a mockery out of Ephesians 2:11-16; “Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called ‘Circumcision’, which is performed in the flesh by human hands. Remember that your were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and stranger to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in this world. But now, in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace. And might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.”

Rick Calohan said...

Stand fast therefore. After having told them that they are the children of the free woman, he now reminds them that they ought not lightly to despise a freedom so precious. And certainly it is an invaluable blessing, in defense of which it is our duty to fight, even to death; since not only the highest temporal considerations, but our eternal interests also, animate us to the contest. 81

Many persons, having never viewed the subject in this light, charge us with excessive zeal, when they see us so warmly and earnestly contending for freedom of faith as to outward matters, in opposition to the tyranny of the Pope. Under this cloak, our adversaries raise a prejudice against us among ignorant people, as if the whole object of our pursuit were licentiousness, which is the relaxation of all discipline. But wise and skillful persons are aware that this is one of the most important doctrines connected with salvation. This is not a question whether you shall eat this or that food, — whether you shall observe or neglect a particular day, (which is the foolish notion entertained by many, and the slander uttered by some,) but what is your positive duty before God, what is necessary to salvation, and what cannot be omitted without sin. In short, the controversy relates to the liberty of conscience, when placed before the tribunal of God.

The liberty of which Paul speaks is exemption from the ceremonies of the law, the observance of which was demanded by the false apostles as necessary. But let the reader, at the same time, remember, that such liberty is only a part of that which Christ has procured for us: for how small a matter would it be, if he had only freed us from ceremonies? This is but a stream, which must be traced to a higher source. It is because

“Christ was made a curse, that he might redeem us
from the curse of the law,” (Galatians 3:13;)

because he has revolted the power of the law” so far as it held us liable to the judgment of God under the penalty of eternal death; because, in a word, he has rescued us from the tyranny of sin, Satan, and death. Thus, under one department is included the whole class; but on this subject we shall speak more fully on the Epistle to the Colossians.

This liberty was procured for us by Christ on the cross: the fruit and possession of it are bestowed upon us through the Gospel. Well does Paul, then, warn the Galatians, not to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage, — that is, not to allow a snare to be laid for their consciences. For if men lay upon our shoulders an unjust burden, it may be borne; but if they endeavor to bring our consciences into bondage, we must resist valiantly, even to death. If men be permitted to bind our consciences, we shall be deprived of an invaluable blessing, and an insult will be, at the same time, offered to Christ, the Author of our freedom. But what is the force of the word again, in the exhortation, “and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage?” for the Galatians had never lived under the law. It simply means that they were not to be entangled, as if they had not been redeemed by the grace of Christ. Although the law was given to Jews, not to Gentiles, yet, apart from Christ, neither the one nor the other enjoys any freedom, but absolute bondage.

81 “Car il n’est pas yci seulement question du monde et des eommoditez de ceste vie, mais aussi des choses sainctes et qui eoncernent le service de Dieu.” “For the present subject comprehends not merely the world and the benefits of this life, but also holy things, and those which relate to the worship of God.”

John Calvin Calvin's Commentaries on Galatians Chapter V Verse 1
VOL XXI p146

Todd said...

These comments of Luther's _are_ wonderfully clear.

I'm interested in your translation too. It is very direct. My translation (much more wordy) gives a slightly different nuance to the end of the first paragraph quoted:

"and when they have tired themselves a long time in the works of the law with great and grievous toil, in the end this is their reward, that they are miserable and perpetual servants. And whereof? Even of sin, death, God’s wrath, the devil, etc"

Todd said...

P.S. Why is "democracy" a label on this post? Do you have something in mind that I'm missing or was that an error?

Qayaq said...

Luther is good stuff! We need the constant reminder of the frivolity of trying to earn our own righteousness by being good or doing good. If the law was sufficient to make one righteous, Christ would not have been necessary. The very fact that God became man proves this.

Reepicheep said...

Sorry, it was supposed to be "Devotional" not "Democracy" autofills when you type the first couple of letters.

My Luther commentary on Galatians is the 1535 version translated by
Theodore Graebner.

Sorry, I don't know German beyond "Volkswagen" and "Gesundheit".