If God Helps Those Who Help Themselves, Christ Died For Nothing

Now take both Laws, the Ceremonial Law and the Moral Law or the Decalog. Imagine that by the merit of congruity you have made so much progress that the Spirit has been granted to you and that you have love. Of course, all this would be a monstrosity and cannot be found anywhere in the nature of things. But imagine, I say, that, by doing what lies within you, you acquire grace, are righteous, and have the Spirit. On what basis? On the basis of the merit of congruity? Then you do not need Christ, but He has become useless to you and died to no purpose.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 26 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 181.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. The problem with all such self-assessment is, “But is it enough?” Assurance is lacking, and effort is extended, ever in vain. Positional sanctification is just as important as positional justification, for assurance to exist.

  2. That truism isn’t found in Scripture and neither is found that theology. An old hymn entitled “Abide With Me,” written by Henry F. Lyte in 1847, says,
    “When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
    Help of the helpless,
    Abide with me.”

  3. Reminds me of a quote I’ve heard from John Owen: To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect.

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