"Hungry hearts appreciate Christ"

Galatians chapter 3 forms the basis for one of our principal claims as Protestants: we are saved by faith alone. Not by works, which kill. Paul is crystal clear on this:

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”– 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

My use of the word “kill” as regards work and salvation is not original. I first read it in a commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther (Project Wittenberg) in which Luther wrote

The Law cannot give life. It kills. The Law does not justify a person before God; it increases sin. The Law does not secure righteousness; it hinders righteousness. The Apostle declares emphatically that the Law of itself cannot save.

Luther, of course, was rather too harsh by half on “the Jews”, by which he likely meant all Jews. He was a brilliant yet bitter man, as some Jews of his time had rejected his entreaties to join him in his reclamation of the Hebrew Scriptures for the Messiah.

In other words, Luther was far from perfect, but he illuminated the truth about salvation. For the first time in many centuries, a truth that had been all but lost. Luther recovered the essential nature of God’s gift of salvation, and illustrated it with our father Abraham:

God never said to Abraham: “In thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed because thou hast kept the Law.” When Abraham was still uncircumcised and without the Law or any law, indeed, when he was still an idol worshiper, God said to him: “Get thee out of thy country, etc.; I am thy shield, etc.; In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” These are unconditional promises which God freely made to Abraham without respect to works.

The proverb has it that Hunger is the best cook. The Law makes afflicted consciences hungry for Christ. Christ tastes good to them. Hungry hearts appreciate Christ. Thirsty souls are what Christ wants. He invites them: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Quite the foundation for the Reformation, don’t you think? Hungry hearts, yearning to be re-united with Christ without mediation.

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