What We Need
Comments on Galatians with an ear to Luther’s commentary
Scripture Text: Galatians 3:9 and Luke 18:18–23
Series: Comments on Galatians
Are you able to have faith in yourself, that your religion and your love for God and neighbor are so excelling that God is bound to admit you into his everlasting kingdom? I suppose there are some who claim that they are confident in their works, but they are deceived to the uttermost. The story of the rich, young ruler paints this portrait of self-deceit for us in Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Matthew 19:16–23; Mark 10:17–22; Luke 18:18–23). “What good deed must I do,” he asks Jesus, “to have eternal life?” After looking at the Commandments, the young men insists that he has kept them all.
Conscience is always waiting for another commandment. It fears imperfection and damnation, and wonders, There must be something else I ought to have done. So, Jesus gives the rich man another commandment: “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor.” He commands the same man, but the ruler in the man another command: “Follow me.”
There is always that one thing (at least) that even the most religious cannot or will not do. We cannot depend on our good works; they fail us in the end — if not much sooner. Yet, even if we could be perfectly religious, it will not do. We do not need a professor to give us an A+ in Good Works 101. Nor do we need a mentor to show us how to achieve a state of perfection. We need a Savior, one who would redeem us from our sins and justify us to God. This we can never do.
But Jesus has done it for us.
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