Reading 2012: Commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther

So I had set the goal of reading 1 book/mo, among other things, back when I was musing ’round new year’s day. Yeah, I haven’t been entirely successful at that. And that’s why I’m so glad my righteousness doesn’t depend on fulfilling my own arbitrary standards. I’m still plugging away at my goal, but not because I’m concerned it will enhance my credibility or anything. I do it because I like reading and because I’m convinced it is good for me . . . on so many levels.
This commentary I just finished wasn’t originally “one of the 12” I had set my eye on for the year, neither was it one that I finished in the space of 30 days. I’m just adding it in to boost my numbers. hehe 🙂 After all, I did read it this year. It just took me from January to June to finish it.
You may be wondering why I would sit down and read through a biblical commentary. Well, I didn’t. I mean, I didn’t just read it straight like a novel or anything. I would study out a portion of the book of Galatians and then read Martin’s view of things afterwards. I did this for my daily Bible reading until I finished reading the entire commentary.
Have you ever read anything by Martin? He’s a wordy fellow! The book of Galatians is only 6 chapters, but the commentary is 415 pages long! And I even read the modern-english version.
With all his wordiness and somewhat difficult to understand sentences, I’ve grown very fond of the man from reading this commentary. This is so much more than a commentary on Galatians. It’s a commentary on Martin’s life. The issues he fought with were the same ones Paul was perplexed about in Galatians. Both Martin and Paul were passionate, and consequently very verbal, about defending the purity of the gospel.
I say the commentary is an extremely personal one because you’ll often find Martin speaking to himself or relating some experience of his own.
When explaining the war of the flesh against the spirit in Galatians 5 he writes, “If then I had rightly understood these sentences of Paul, ‘The flesh lusteth contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit contrary to the flesh,’ and ‘these two are one against another, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would do,’ I should not have so miserably tormented myself, but should have thought and said to myself, as now commonly I do: ‘Martin, you shall not utterly be without sin, for you still have the flesh; you shall therefore feel the battle thereof, according to that saying of Paul, “The flesh resisteth the Spirit.” Despair not therefore, but resist it strongly, and fulfill not the lust thereof.'”
Is that not so lovely?! My heart melted when I read that paragraph. The fact that he let me, and his readers, see that internal conflict of soul within him was so endearing to me.
The book was encouraging, convicting, enlightening, inspiring, endearing – the -ing terminated words that could be used to describe it could go on and on! I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Martin. I feel as though we can definitely be on a first names basis from now on.
Some quotes I found especially thought provoking:
“This is then the chief knowledge and true wisdom of Christians, to count these words of Paul, that Christ was delivered to death, not for our righteousness or holiness, but for our sins, to be of great importance. Therefore, think them not to be small, and such as may be done away by your own works; neither yet despair for the greatness of them, if you feel oppressed therewith, but learn here of Paul to believe that Christ was given, not for counterfeit sins, nor yet for small sins, but for great and huge sins; not for one or two, but for all; not for vanquished sins, but for invincible sins. And except you be found in the number of those who say ‘our sins,’ there is no salvation for you” {pp. 37 & 38}.
“For either Christ must remain and the law perish, or the law must remain and Christ perish. Christ and the law can by no means agree and reign together in the conscience. Where righteousness of the law rules, the righteousness of grace cannot rule; one of them must give place to the other. If you cannot believe that God will forgive your sins for Christ’s sake, how then will you believe that He will forgive you your sins for the works of the law, which you could never perform” {p. 48}?
“The truth of the gospel is that our righteousness comes by faith alone, without the works of the law. The corruption or falsehood of the gospel is that we are justified by faith but not without the works of the law” {p. 69}.
“Therefore it is most true, that they who do the law, do it not. For the more men go about to satisfy the law, the more they transgress it. The more a man strives to pacify his conscience, the more he troubles and torments it. When I was a monk, I endeavored as much as was possible to live after the straight rule of my Order: I tried to reckon up all my sins {yet being always very contrite before}, and I returned  to confession very often, and thoroughly performed the penance that was enjoined to me; yet for all this my conscience was always in doubt, and said: This or that you have not done rightly; you were not contrite enough; this sin you did omit in your confession. Therefore, the more I went about to help my weak, wavering, and afflicted conscience by men’s traditions, the more weak and doubtful and the more afflicted I was. And thus, the more I observed men’s traditions, the more I transgressed them, and in seeking after righteousness through my Order, I could never attain it: for it is impossible {as Paul says} that the conscience should be pacified by the works of the law” {p. 323}.
I just finished reading Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic as well and will be sharing my thoughts on that shortly {i.e. within 3 weeks, Lord willing}.
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