Martin Luther came to understand the gospel from his study of the books of Galatians and Romans. In 1520, Dr. Luther wrote a book entitled ‘Treatise Concerning Good Works’. This most important book (or “treatise”) is still extremely relevant today.
Read carefully this quotation that reveals all of our “sin underneath the Sins” that we commit each day and how we are to understand God’s graciousness by faith alone! He is commenting on the first commandment (I have inserted a few brief comments in Luther’s quote):
God says: “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Luther on Our Common Idolatry
“All those who do not in all their works or sufferings, life and death, trust in God’s favor, grace and good-will, but rather seek His favor in other things or in themselves, do not keep the first commandment, and practice real idolatry, even if they were to do all the works of all the other commandments, and in addition had all the prayers, fasting, obedience, patience, chastity, and innocence of all the saints combined…
If we doubt or do not believe that God is gracious and pleased with us, or if we presumptuously expect to please Him through our works, then all of our compliance with the Law of God is pure deception, outwardly honoring God, but inwardly setting up self as a false savior…
…Note for yourself, then, how far apart these two are: keeping the first commandment with outward works only, and keeping it with inward justifying faith. For this last makes true, living children of God, the other only makes worse idolatry and the most mischievous hypocrites on earth…
…And as this first commandment is the very first, highest and best, from which all the others proceed, in which they exist, and by which they are directed and measured, so also its work, that is, the faith or confidence in God’s favor at all times, is the very first, highest and best, from which all others must proceed, exist, remain, be directed and measured…”
Christ has come to free us from idolatry to sin so that we might serve God out of gratitude for the grace that He has bestowed upon us. Christ is the only one who has ever kept the first commandment and loved God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength. Christ Jesus died under the curse of the Law for idolaters who repent and believe the Gospel of grace.
In the Gospel the righteous obedience and perfection that God requires of all man, God provides in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
Through faith alone, all the righteousness that Christ Jesus possesses in Himself is ours through imputation, as it is received by faith alone. Now we live freely by God’s grace and Spirit doing all that God commands us to do willingly and lovingly, yet imperfectly, and only in reliance upon His grace.
Let us say with the Apostle Paul:
I want to be found in Christ by faith alone… “Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” – Philippians 3:9-11 ESV
Love in Christ,