God, let the light of the Gospel shine in our hearts. Amen.
Text: Galatians 3:5-11
Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? – just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “The just shall live by faith.”
All unconverted souls are under the law. Whatever they think about being saved, it is by their own works. Some take it as an easy thing; others consider it very hard. Some think they are keeping the law and are safe; others work at it, but are weary and troubled. Some are certain that they have faith, but think: “What good is that, when my works are not perfect?” Others work like slaves at believing and bearing fruits of faith. For some the main thing is hearing, reading, praying, and shunning the joys of the world; others try to do what is right and fair and to show mercy. All of them lack the understanding of the law’s deep demand and real meaning, and all of them are under the condemnation of the law. Dear friend, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy” (Isa 55:2)? How do you read the law, and how do you understand Paul? Look at yourself in the mirror of the command to love, and see that you are a lost and condemned sinner, and let the law drive you to Christ! This is God’s purpose with the law. As long as you are your own savior, either alone or with Christ’s help, then you are under the curse. When you die to yourself and become alive in Christ, when you learn to hold on to faith and not to the law, you are saved with faithful Abraham. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Gal 3:13), and this freedom belongs to everyone who believes. The law has nothing to do with you regarding your righteousness before God. The handwriting that was against you was nailed to the cross; the stone tables are gone. You are as far from the courtroom of works as east is from west. Now never again mix in your works with Christ’s work; let Him alone be and remain your righteousness. Now go forth in the Spirit, become ever poorer in yourself, and let Jesus be all your boast! See, then you are a child of Abraham and inherit his blessing. Then you are perfectly righteous, and there is no condemnation in you. Then your conscience is cleansed of dead works to serve the living God. Then you love Him who loved you first, and you gladly do His will. The holy command of the law is inscribed in the tables of your heart.
Listen, all who long for salvation: No one is justified before God by the law. All Scripture testifies that everyone who clings to his own works is cursed. All Scripture testifies that the just shall live by faith. Come and incline your heart to hear this blessed teaching. The Spirit Himself shall accomplish it in you, and when you listen to Him, you shall know His living and mighty power against sin, death, and the devil.
Merciful God, enlighten us with the gifts of Your Holy Spirit. Lead us into the blessed freedom of faith, and work mighty deeds within us, to the praise of Your name. Amen.
God in grace will us e’er gather
To His Church, our Holy Mother,
Sons and daughters, great and small,
God’s watchful eye upon us all.
Unto freedom she now bears us,
Bondage to the Law now spares us,
Folds us to her bosom dear,
And speaks to us sweet words of cheer.
For the truth that she now teaches
With God’s gracious love she reaches,
Grafts us in that we may be
Justified and in spirit free.
But now bound to lovingkindness
Willing servants God will find us
Here on earth and then above
Faithful in service and in love.
Kingo: Kommer I som vil ledsage Jesum L 293:1-4 tr. DeGarmeaux;
tune: Jesus Christus, unser Heiland (ELH 316 or 317); alternate hymn: Of Zion’s honor angels sing ELH 216