Man’s Glory or God’s Grace

In 1518, during the Heidelberg disputation, Martin Luther stridently declared that there was a theology of glory (theologia gloriae) that contended against the theology of the cross (theologia Crucis).  The difference between the two is nothing less than the difference between works and faith, damnation and salvation, the glory of men against the unmerited grace of God.

Now, in the 21st century, we evangelicals in the church would be loath to admit that any such thing is in contention. Is it the cross or is it man’s wisdom and efforts? Of course it is the cross! “God forbid”, we might say “that anything else would take preeminence”.  But these days, the distinction is much more subtle. With some new popular preaching, the focus is upon “Seeking the blessing that God has for you” and “Storing up the favor of God by doing what God wants”; “I think Bible principles are principles for life.” and “God wants to bless us where we are”. In other words, the power is yours to do what must be done in order to get God to save you or bless you.

Contrast this with the following statement by Luther: “The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty”.

Romans 4:5(ESV)- And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness- Does not work.

This isn’t a suggestion that you make no efforts to live out the implications of God’s grace through the cross, Paul has much to say about that in Romans and elsewhere (Phillipians 2:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:1). Rather, the apostle is insisting that our efforts are not the basis of anything that God does for us in either our salvation or life. Luther takes the next logical step and pronounces that such self-based efforts are in fact condemnatory in themselves.

The cross of Jesus Christ is a decisive, final humiliation of our constantly rising self-righteousness and a vindication of the righteousness in character and conduct of the almighty. We need to recover the meditation of the cross and its finality of verdict about what we are and what we can or should do.

Here is Luther again: “The law says ‘Do this’, and it is never done. Grace says, ‘believe in this’ and everything is already done.”

Today, remember that God accepts us, not due to anything we could ever do but only through the mighty, incomparable cross of Jesus. This silences our efforts to wrangle blessings by our puny efforts (temporal or eternal) and frees us to live a life based on obedient love.

Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

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~ by secondaryreformation on May 11, 2010.

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