Words from a dead, old, white guy.
JULY 30, 2020
Words from a dead old white guy on this edition of Key Life.
Key life is all about God’s radical grace, grace that has dirt under its fingernails and laugh lines on its face. If you want the Bible to be a book of rules, you may want to stop listening now, but if you’re hungry for the truth, that’ll make you free. Welcome to Key Life.
Thank you Matthew. You know, I got a lot of material here on Galatians. If you were with us yesterday, we started a brand new series. There used to be a sign in Canada said this is back before they had paved roads in a lot of places. And we didn’t either. But the sign in Canada said, choose your groove very carefully. You’re going to be in it for the next 20 miles. Well, there’s, that’s kind of true. I have chosen this groove of carefully. It’s the book of Galatians, and we’re going to be in the book of Galatians for a very long time. I have no hurry. I mean, I’m old. I could die before we finish. But other than that, I’m just going to be your tour director. And I’m going to take you on a tour of this absolutely wonderful book. And I’m going to point out some things that will literally change your life. Before we get into the nitty gritty of who wrote it. And when it was written and the occasion for which it was written and the themes that are a part of Galatians, etc, etc. I thought the first thing that I would do is to read a message from an old white guy, who’s been dead a very long time. His name is Martin Luther, and he wrote a preface to this book of Galatians and it’s worth sharing. It’s not that exciting. So you gotta, it’s kind of boring, but you gotta, but if you listen, it’ll be well-worth, you’re listening and I’m reading a version that was translated. Uh, it was an abridgment by my friend, uh, Dr. Tim Keller and, um, and it’s really good. And he gets the essence of how and what Martin Luther wrote. Okay. Let me read you this preface.
The most important thing in the world, the one doctrine, which I have supremely in my heart, is that of faith in Christ, from whom, through whom and unto whom all my theological thinking flows back forth day and night. This walk, which we shall call the doctrine of justification through faith was shaken by Satan and paradise. When he persuaded our first parents, that they might by their own wisdom and power become like God. Ever since then, the whole world has invented innumerable religions and ways through which without the aid of Christ, use their works to redeem themselves from evil and from sins. When Paul discusses the biblical doctrine of justification by faith, he explains that there are several kinds of righteousness. First, there is political and civil righteousness, a nation’s public laws, which magistrates and lawyers may defend and teach. Secondly, there is cultural righteousness, the standards of our family and social grouping or class, which parents and schools may teach. Third, there is ethical righteousness, the Ten Commandments and law of God, which the church may teach, but only in light of Christian righteousness. So all these may be received without danger, as long as we attribute them to no power to justify for sin, to please God, or to deserve grace. These kinds of righteousness are gifts of God. Like all things we enjoy. Yet, there is another righteousness, far above the others, which Paul calls the righteousness of faith, Christian righteousness, God imputes it to us, apart from our works. In other words, it is passive righteousness, as the others are active. For, we do nothing for it. We give nothing for it. We only receive it.
And then Martin Luther goes on with the need of Christian righteousness.
This passive righteousness is a mystery that the world cannot understand. Indeed, Christians never completely understand it themselves. And thus do not take advantage of it when they are troubled and tempted. So we have to constantly teach it, repeat it and work it out in practice. Anyone who does not understand this righteousness or cherish it in the heart and conscience will continually be buffeted by fears and depression. Nothing gives peace like passive righteousness. For human beings, by nature, when they get near either danger or death itself, will of necessity examined their own worthiness. We defend ourselves before old threats by recounting our good deeds and moral efforts, but then the remembrance of sins and flaws inevitably come to mind. And this tears us apart, and we think how many errors and sins and wrongs I have done. Please God, let me live so I can fix and amend them. We become obsessed with our active righteousness and are terrified by its imperfections. But the real evil is that we trust our own power to be righteous and will not lift our eyes to see what Christ has done for us. So the troubled conscience has no cure for its desperation and feeling of unworthiness, unless it takes hold of the forgiveness of sins by grace. Offered free of charge in Christ Jesus, which is the passive or Christian righteousness. If I tried to fulfill the law myself, I could not trust in what I had accomplished. Neither could it stand up to the judgment of God. So I rest only up on the righteousness of Christ, which I do not produce, but simply receive. God, the father freely giving it to us through Jesus Christ. It is an absolute, he goes on, it is an absolute and unique teaching in all the world, to teach people through Christ, to live as if there were no law or wrath or punishment, in a sense they do not exist any longer for the Christian, but only total grace and mercy for Christ’s sake. Once you’re in Christ, the law is the greatest guide for your life. But until you have Christian righteousness, all the law can do is to show you how sinful and condemned you are. In fact to those outside of Christian righteousness, the law needs to be expounded in all of its force. Why is that? So people who think they have power to be righteous before God will be humbled by the law and understand that they are sinners. Therefore we must be careful to use the law appropriately. If we use the law in order to be accepted by God through obedience, then Christian righteousness becomes mixed up with earned moral righteousness in our minds. If we try to earn our righteousness by doing good deeds, we actually do nothing. We neither please God through our works righteousness, nor do we honor the purpose for which the law was given. But if we first received Christian righteousness, then we can use the law not for our salvation, but for his honor and glory and the lovingly show our gratitude. So then have we nothing to do to obtain this righteousness? No, nothing at all. For this righteousness comes by doing nothing, hearing nothing, knowing nothing, but rather in knowing and believing this only, that Christ has gone to the right hand of the father, not to become our judge, but to become for us our wisdom, our righteousness, our holiness, our salvation. Now God sees no sin in us, for in this heavenly righteousness, sin has no place. So now we may certainly think, although I still sin, I don’t despair because Christ lives, who is both my righteousness and my eternal life. In that righteousness, I have no sin, no fear, no guilty conscience, no fear of death. I am indeed a sinner in this life of mine in my own righteousness, but I have another life, a life of righteousness above this life, which is in Christ, the son of God who knows no sin or death, but is eternal righteousness and eternal life. While we live here on earth, we will be accursed, exercised with temptations, oppressed, with heaviness and sorrow and bruised by the law with it’s demands of active righteousness. Because of this, Paul sets up this letter of Galatians to teach us, to comfort us, to make us constantly aware of this Christian righteousness.
Oh my. Okay. I’ve got to get out of here, I’m out of time, but we’re going to study it and rejoice. Be glad for grace. You think about that. Amen.
Thank you Steve. That was Steve Brown, continuing to tee up our new series, a guided tour through the book of Galatians. Today, reflecting on Martin Luther’s observations on the book. This is going to be a great series and we’ll resume it soon. But tomorrow it’s time again for Friday Q & A. That’s when Steve and our friend Pete Alwinson will field the questions you sent in. On tap for tomorrow. What about cremation? Hmm. Very interesting subject. Make sure you join us. Well, doubt sometimes comes from questions like have you ever had trouble believing that the Bible is true? Have you ever wondered if God is really there or questioned why you don’t feel a certain way? Those are big, but they’re also honest questions that deserve Biblical answers. And if that’s what you’re looking for, there’s a mini-book we’d love to send you for free. It’s called Faith and Doubt: When Belief Is Hard. Get your copy while supplies last, just call 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also request the mini-book by emailing Steve@keylife.org. If you’re mailing us, send your request to
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