Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Power of a Passive Righteousness

Speaking of the righteousness of faith that God imputes to us through Christ apart from works, Luther says this of its surpassing worth:
Christians themselves do not adequately understand it or grasp it in the midst of their temptations. Therefore it must always be taught and continually exercised. And anyone who does not grasp or take hold of it in afflictions and terrors of conscience cannot stand. For there is no comfort of conscience so solid and certain as this passive righteousness. . . .
Therefore the afflicted conscience has no remedy against despair and eternal death except to take hold of the promise of grace offered in Christ, that is, this righteousness of faith, this passive or Christian righteousness, which says with confidence: "I do not seek active righteousness. I ought to have and perform it; but I declare that even if I did have it and perform it, I cannot trust in it or stand up before the judgment of God on the basis of it. Thus I put myself beyond all active righteousness, all righteousness of my own or of the divine Law, and I embrace only that passive righteousness which is the righteousness of grace, mercy, and the forgiveness of sins." In other words, this is the righteousness of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, which we do not perform but receive, which we do not have but accept, when God the Father grants it to us through Jesus Christ.
—Martin Luther, "Lectures on Galatians 1535" (vol. 26 in Luther's Works; ed. Jaroslav Pelikan; St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1963), 5–6.

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