A Jagged Contention: Perpetual Slavery

“[St. Paul] would dearly love to stir and persuade [the Galatians] to not let themselves be influenced by the false apostles and not to let these men ensnare them once more in the yoke of slavery. It is as though he were saying: ‘The issue here is no trifle or mere nothing; it is an issue between either endless, eternal freedom or slavery.’ For just as freedom from the wrath of God and from every evil is not political freedom or a freedom of the flesh but an eternal freedom, so the slavery of sin, death, and the devil, which oppress those who seek to be justified and save through the Law, is not physical slavery, which lasts a while, but a perpetual slavery. For self-righteous people of this kind, who take everything very seriously—and they are the ones whom Paul is discussing—are never serene and peaceful. In this life they are always in doubt about the will of God and are afraid of death and of the wrath and judgment of God; and after this life they will suffer eternal destruction as punishment for the unbelief.”

– Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, LW vol. 27, pg. 8.


Question:

Why does self-righteousness remove peace and serenity? Why does Luther couple self-righteousness alongside doubt and fear? Conversely, how does faith in the gospel give peace, serenity, and joy to the heart?

Share your thoughts in the comments below

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8 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: Perpetual Slavery

  1. When you remove the “alone” from grace, so that man must contribute anything for his salvation, then you lose peace and serenity, because you are never sure that you’ve done enough or with the right sincerity.

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  2. The 2CD question ‘how…’ : I’m sure I cannot understand how or why God gives us peace & joy but I’m thankful He does. What strikes me is ‘eternal freedom’ from the Luther quote. Our Lord in John 8:32 says the Truth shall make us free & in John 3:8 describes a freedom hard to imagine. Are we free to worship with other denominations or even cultures that profess ‘Jesus is Lord’? Are we free to skip church & worship Him engulfed in the beauty of His creation? Are we free to meditate on His word & seek His guidance in prayer & silence? Are we free to tear down the hierarchy of the church; because the church has ceased to be in a state of reformation & confirming 8th graders & turning them loose except for an hour once a week (maybe), is not making disciples? Well, I reckon I’ve gone to far, must be the anchovies.

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    1. Yo Mountain Badger!

      If we have faith in Christ, we are absolutely free! Free from the penalty of sin. Free from slavery to sin. Free from the grip of the devil. The question, then, is how should we use our freedom? The best answer to that question, in my opinion, comes from the Apostle Paul in Romans and Galatians. Two excellent studies in the freedom of the gospel, and the best use of our freedom as Christians.

      After the Apostle Paul, I would highly recommend Luther’s “Concerning Christian Liberty.” You can download a free copy on your iPhone, or probably find it in PDF format on the web.

      Christ Hold Fast recently did an excellent message on this subject. Check out episode 27.

      http://www.christholdfast.org/christholdfastpodcast/

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      1. Thank you & I will check it out when I have time. I also look forward to studying the 2 Epistles you recommended. The Epistles & The OT (except for Genesis & Psalms) are my weakest areas of the Bible(except for Ephesians). On Christian Liberty I have read & enjoyed & wish that the church could always be in a state of reformation but I’m aware that it goes against our collective nature.

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    2. In Christ, we are free from having to save ourselves or prove our worthiness. Anytime we look toward the promises we have and have faith in those promises as our sure hope, we have peace. Naturally, this is not a constant state of heart and mind in our world, we are troubled, we, in our sin, still want to qualify, to please God, to establish our worth.

      That brings up your question: Are we free to worship with other denominations or even cultures that profess ‘Jesus is Lord’? In worship, we receive Word and sacrament to reassure, strengthen, receive forgiveness.I certainly believe that, when cooperate in externals, in service to those in need, we can and should work alongside other Christians and that our work together ought to begin and end in prayer and praise. We will often find ourselves in weddings, funerals, confirmations, baptisms, first communions sitting in the pews of other churches. Wherever the Word is spoken, we will receive something. But we should not expect proper preaching or administration of sacraments outside of our own churches. So, as to worship, you may, but it would be lacking so, why would you seek it?

      Are we free to skip church & worship Him engulfed in the beauty of His creation? Worship is corporate, by nature, and is not something between “me and God”, so to speak. As one who delights in nature, I understand that God is with me on my walks, that I may carry a Bible on those walks and engage in prayer and reading. But I would not presume to call this worship or accept any revelation from the experience that is outside God’s Word.

      Are we free to meditate on His word & seek His guidance in prayer & silence? Oratio, meditatio, tentatio – not only free, but God has provided His Word and given us prayer for this purpose.

      Are we free to tear down the hierarchy of the church; because the church has ceased to be in a state of reformation & confirming 8th graders & turning them loose except for an hour once a week (maybe), is not making disciples? Our church is not hierarchical, it is confessional. Reformation never ceases in that we ought to always question and be answered, the church is never free from having to defend itself. As to discipleship, I believe it is as successful now as it has ever been. We cannot judge inward faith by rote knowledge or outward conformity. Nor should we assume that it takes great faith, bold actions, and strong discipleship to receive grace and salvation. Even the most imperfect faith is still just that, faith. As we encourage each other, pray for each other, serve with each other, worship with each other, teach each other, and receive Word and sacrament, together, God uses this fellowship to make us better disciples. We are the priesthood, we are the church. To say that the church is not making disciples is to say that we sinners, we imperfect Christians, are not making disciples. We will be forgiven this sin, as well, and God will still work His will in the world.

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      1. Thank you for your well thought out & thourow reply. Most of the standard LCMS doctrine I am aware of because I was a member from confirmation through college with much of my schooling by the mother church. Even though I am not a member officially I can’t find another church that I agree with more. That being said there seems to me to be plenty that we can’t understand or that hasn’t been revealed for an unknown reason. I don’t wish to debate (mostly because I’m sure to lose) but I will say that the churches that have all the questions answered are the ones I stay away from. I do appreciate this forum & will continue to pray, listen, read & meditate on the Word in my quest to be a disciple of Jesus.

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  3. Self-righteousness removes peace and security because our conscience can only find rest in the gospel. When we try to establish our own righteousness, our conscience will always accuse us and tell us that we have not done enough, especially if we are regularly reading God’s Word (lex semper accusat).

    The law says “do this” and it is never done. The gospel says “believe in this” and everything is already done.

    Christ fulfilled the law for us, does not need anything from us, and therefore requires nothing in return. He freed us, completely and totally. By faith, we receive all of the benefits he has won for us. Now we obey, love and serve, not trying to earn his favor, but simply because this is the natural desire of the one who has been born from above. We don’t need to worry about obeying perfectly, because we know that we are going to fail, but our failures have been forgiven.

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  4. The “self” in self-righteous is the problem. We were not justified and sanctified merely for our selves: we are made alive and set free in order to serve God and neighbor. I heard a pastor say that God does not need our works (Christ gave his own works for our full debt: we contribute nothing) and so we do not need any of our own works either. But our neighbor desperately needs our good works. We need faithful spouses, good parents, good practitioners of the vocations, and honest people. We need to look to help our neighbor prosper, and we need others to help us. If I’m constantly “naval gazing” I cannot see the other people and things around me. Whether it’s an obvious sin like cussing out the other drivers, or whether I look so fondly into the mirror, it’s utter focus on self and being oblivious to others.

    A few more thoughts about self-righteousness. Self-righteous feelings/beliefs are based on a lie (thinking that one’s self is better than others; thinking one’s self is better than he/she is in reality). If a person values himself this way, he would always fear when others will discover the truth (absurdly, he might fear that God might discover the truth). Such a person might also be afraid to admit the truth about themselves. Believing the lies we tell to self about self is ridiculous, but isn’t it as common as smog in LA?

    I think this is one of the paradoxes of faith: peace will come by admitting my own failures. Peace will come when I look to God for that peace. We confess, and we are told that forgives all of it (Thank you, Lord!!) He gives His peace in the means of grace. We also catch glimpses of it when we are in service to others. When I’ve listened to a friend confide their own fears/failures, I somehow feel peace in that time. If I help a friend move, spend extra time helping a struggling student, give time/money to a charity, or dare I say vacuuming the house or changing diapers, I get a glimpse of peace and have peace for a short season (until I get wrapped up in my sinfulness yet again and tear the thing down).

    Belief, trust, or hope in self is a lie: belief in the God full of grace who saves the unrighteous is the truth. Truth=peace.

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