Luther: If You Are Under The Law You Are A Slave

Now it should be noted that the Holy Spirit insults the people of the Law and of works here by calling them “sons of the slave woman.” It is as though He were to say: “Why do you boast about the righteousness of the Law and of works and brag that on its account you are the people and the children of God? If you do not know whence you have your birth, I will tell you. You were born as slaves and of a slave woman. What sort of slaves? Of the Law, sin, death, and eternal damnation. A slave is not an heir but is cast out of the house.” Therefore the pope, with all his regime and whatever other self-righteous people there are, regardless of how saintly they may be in appearance, who trust they will obtain grace and salvation through laws human or divine—all of them are sons of the slave woman who will not inherit with the sons of the free woman but will be cast out of the house. And I am not speaking now about the ungodly monks, who worshiped their belly as god (Phil. 3:19) and committed horrible sins that I would just as soon not mention, but about the best of them, to whom I and many others belonged, who lived holy lives and tried with might and main to appease the wrath of God and to merit the forgiveness of sins and eternal life by the observances of their religious order. These men must now hear the sentence that the sons of the slave woman are to be cast out of the house together with the slave woman, their mother.

When they are carefully considered, such sentences provide us with certainty and reassurance regarding the doctrine and the righteousness of faith, in opposition to the doctrine and the righteousness of works. The world embraces and praises the latter, and it despises and condemns the former.

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), 457–58.


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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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