Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Martin Luther on Grace and Peace

Having just begun our Bible study on St. Paul's letter to the Galatians (Thursdays at noon and Sundays at 9am), I was struck by some of Martin Luther's words in response to Paul's prayer that "God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace" (Gal 1:3).  Luther says that Paul chose those words carefully, and that those "two words [grace and peace] contain all the belong to Christianity."  He says that "grace releases sin, and peace makes the conscience quiet."

Despite our efforts to achieve peace through a host of other methods: sound financial planning, righteous behavior, whatever; Luther contends that Paul's claim is that true peace can only come through grace.  He says elsewhere that our "quest for glory [and we could replace glory here with "peace"] can never be satisfied.  It must be extinguished."  In other words, there is no place you could attain at which you couldn't imagine being more peaceful.  "The grass is always greener," and all that.

Despite the fact that, because of Christ's saving work, we actually have been given peace through grace, Luther goes on to say that though the words are simple, "during temptation, to be convinced in our hearts that we have forgiveness of sins and peace with God by grace alone is the hardest thing."  And this is true to human Christian experience, right?  When faced with a situation, to accept that our standing with God is secure even if we make the wrong choice is a next-to-impossible thing to accept.  This is why our consciences are so often troubled.  We just flat-out can't really believe that God will be graceful to us and we therefore cannot have peace.

This is why it is important for Paul to begin his letter by wishing the Galatians grace and peace through God and Jesus Christ.  This is why it's important for all of us to hear it every week, every day, every minute.  If you want to learn more about the wonderful grace of Jesus Christ that can lead to real and everlasting peace, join us as we read and digest Galatians on either Thursday afternoons or Sunday mornings.  All are welcome!

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