Luther: We Must Strive To Think Of Jesus As Paul Does (Not As Rome Does)

We adults, who are imbued with the noxious doctrine of the papists, which we absorbed into our very bones and marrow, acquired an opinion of Christ altogether different from the one that Paul sets forth here. No matter how much we declared with our mouths that Christ had redeemed us from the tyranny and slavery of the Law, actually we felt in our hearts that He was a lawgiver, a tyrant, and a judge more fearful than Moses himself. Even today, in the great light of the truth, we cannot completely banish this wicked opinion from our minds. So stubbornly do things to which we have been accustomed since youth cling to us! You young people, who are still unspoiled and have never been infected by this wicked notion, have less difficulty in teaching purely about Christ than we adults have in banishing these blasphemous illusions about Him from our minds. Yet you have not altogether escaped the wiles of the devil. For even if you have not yet been imbued with this wicked idea of Christ as a lawgiver, you still have the same source of this idea in you, namely, the flesh, the reason, and the wickedness of our nature, which cannot think of Christ in any other way than as a lawgiver. Therefore you must contend with all your might, in order that you may learn to acknowledge and regard Christ as Paul portrays Him in this passage [Gal. 4:4-5]. But if, in addition to the wickedness of our nature, there come wicked teachers—of whom the world is full today, both the old and the new variety—they lend support to the wickedness of our nature; and the evil is doubled. For when wicked instruction is applied to a nature that is already corrupted in itself, it is impossible not to develop a false Christ. As I have said, reason invents him on its own; and then bad instruction makes him grow and impresses him on our minds so strongly that he cannot be eliminated without great labor and effort.

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), 368–369.


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  • Tony Phelps
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    Tony grew up in Rhode Island. He was educated at BA (University of Rhode Island) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He worked in the insurance industry for ten years. He planted a PCA church in Wakefield, RI where he served for eleven years. In 2015–18 he pastored Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Colorado Springs. He is currently pastor of Living Hope (OPC). Tony is married to Donna and together they have three children.

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