Lord, instruct us, teach us the way of true righteousness. Amen.
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference.
You are completely obligated to keep God’s holy Law, for God created you with the power to do it, and the Law’s demand is fair. It cannot be changed, and nothing can be taken away from its requirements. But when you sincerely want to keep it, then you will find that you cannot do it. Many don’t know that they are transgressors of the Law, and don’t know that they are condemned by the Law. They have never sincerely tried to fulfill it. When one honestly keeps the commandment without any compromise, then the demand goes deeper and deeper, yes, as deep as it can. We didn’t know how inclusive and exacting the Law was, before we seriously began to obey it. When we have done everything we thought it demanded, have lived faithfully, shunned evil, and practiced good toward both God and man, then it still demands even more. It demands the whole heart full of pure love and does not tolerate one single selfish or impure desire in us. It immediately says: Condemned! And it is right. We must admit it. It stops our mouth and makes us guilty to be condemned under God’s judgment. No! No one can be justified before God by the works of the Law. The Law works wrath. It shows us our sin, but doesn’t take it away. The Law demands love, demands it with legal right and authority, but it can only demand, not give, not a bit.
But the Gospel can. The Gospel proclaims God’s grace in Christ. He fulfilled the Law in our place, and God has ordained that everyone who believes this has a share in it. Everyone who holds on to Christ partakes of His fulfilling the Law and His suffering. The Gospel says: Everything is finished, and everything is given to you. Thus faith is wakened in the poor heart, troubled by the Law. So it takes refuge in Christ, is covered by Him, and in Him stands justified before God. And see: when you are set free from the Law in this way, then you are heartily joined to it and rejoice in it as the revealed will of your heavenly Father, the most excellent rule for your conduct, and its demand is accomplished in you, for now you love both God and your neighbor. But your righteousness is not from the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. It is of highest importance that you have experienced this!
Enlighten us with Your Holy Spirit, Lord, that we realize the purpose of the Law, are humbled in heartfelt knowledge of sin, are driven to Christ, and indeed are justified by faith. Amen.
Salvation unto us is come
By God’s free grace and favor;
Good works cannot avert our doom,
They help and save us never.
Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone,
Who did for all the world atone;
He is our one Redeemer.
What God doth in His law demand,
No man to Him doth render;
Before this Judge all guilty stand;
His law speaks curse in thunder,
The law demands a perfect heart;
We were defiled in every part,
And lost was our condition.
Still all the law fulfilled must be,
Else we were lost forever,
Then God His Son sent down that He
Might us from doom deliver;
He all the law for us fulfilled
And thus His Father’s anger stilled
Which over us impended.
Speratus: Salvation unto us is come L 190:1-3 ELH 227:1.2.5 tr. Composite;
tune: Es ist das Heil