For he who does them shall live by them. . . . I take this passage as a general statement, like that saying of Christ (Luke 10:28): “Do this, and you will live,” so that it is a kind of irony or ridicule. “Yes, just go ahead and do it!” Paul wants to show here what the righteousness of the Law and of the Gospel is, exactly and accurately. The righteousness of the Law is to keep the Law, according to the statement: “He who does them, etc.” The righteousness of faith is to believe, according to the statement, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Therefore the Law requires that we perform something for God. Faith does not require our doing; it requires that we believe the promise of God and accept something from Him. Therefore the function of the Law, at its highest level, is to work, just as that of faith is to assent. Thus the Law provides doing, and faith provides believing; for faith is faith in the promise, and the work is the work of the Law. This is why Paul lingers over the term “doing.” To show clearly what the righteousness of the Law and what that of faith is, he contrasts the one with the other, the promise with the Law and faith with works. He says that nothing follows from the Law except doing; but faith is something altogether different, namely, that which clings to the promise.
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), 271–272.
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