If there is a book that influenced Luther and his “Evangelical Breakthrough” more than Galatians, I have not heard.  While Romans is usually touted as being the predominant book to fuel Martin Luther and the reformatory process of the Church, Luther himself found Galatians far more concrete and clear.  This is why he took the time to write his own commentary on the letter to the Galatian churches and did not do so for the book of Romans.  This Commentary on Galatians was so influential for the theological formation of Lutheran pastors and laity that it was given the title of “Luther’s Great Galatian Commentary” after Luther passed away on 18 February 1546.  This title describes the place this Commentary had for the life and thought and formation of the Church in its early years after Reformation. 

The reason that Luther himself, in his commentary, cites for this letter’s great influence upon him is St. Paul’s clear presentation of justification by grace through faith and the righteousness of God that comes with it.  It is in this great commentary that Luther presents a great theological development–a development which is influential to my preaching and teaching.  It is the diagram that I sometimes use from the pulpit, which I presented again in Monday morning bible class, we have a relationship (vertically) between God and us, and then also between us and our neighbors (vertically).  In our relationship with God there is nothing we can do to earn his righteousness.  We receive it by Grace through faith.  But, between our neighbors there is righteousness too.  It is a righteousness that is obtained by works.  It is a righteousness that sometimes needs the sting of the law to motivate sinners to achieve.  This type of righteousness takes many forms, or is practiced in many different arenas.

If you are a business man/woman and have workers under you; treat them well, give them a fair wage, and do not burden them with fear or your anger.  If you are a wife, submit to your husband and do not frustrate him, if you are a husband sacrifice yourself and your pride and childish ambition as Christ sacrificed all for his bride–the Church.  These are the sorts of practices, AND MANY MORE I TELL YOU, that belong to the righteousness we practice in an active way, rather than the righteousness we receive as completely passive creatures by faith. 

To prepare us for reading this jam-packed little letter let me just say that things are not good in the Galatian Churches.  St. Paul has strong language in Galatians.  Perhaps the strongest of any letter he wrote.  He is unhappy because there is a guy, or most likely a group of guys, diverting the Church from the truth that we human creatures are justified by grace through faith.  These false teachers were claiming Paul had no real authrotiy as Apostles because he came so much later than the other Apostles.  And, on this claim, these false teachers were adding to the Gospel of God from the practices of the Jewish religion–circumcision and food laws to be precise.  They were telling these Gentile Christians things like, “to be REAL Christians you need to get Circumcised, or you are not really a child of God.”  This is, of course, the law.  Which has no place in determining the status of a human creatures vertical relationship between God–only Christ determines that status. 

Now the stage is set.  I look forward to what follows.  May the YOUR God who has given you the status as Sons and Daughters by Grace continue in his love and favor for you this day.

Pastor Beltz

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