“Two Kinds of Righteousness” and Vocation

Luther's Two Kinds of Righteousness is one of the clearest, most penetrating, most profound, and most beautiful expositions of the Gospel–with stunning applications of Scripture–that I have ever come across.

The “alien righteousness” we have in Christ is a real righteousness, delivering us from the “alien” sinfulness that we have in Adam.  When we are united to Christ by faith–as a result of His grace and the Holy Spirit’s work through Word and Sacrament–we are saved by His good works, which become ours, since we are members of His body.

 

I’m in a reading group that just finished discussing Luther’s Two Kinds of Righteousness.  Friends, you have got to read this brief tract based on one of Luther’s sermons from 1519.  It’s from the early days of the Reformation, two years after the 95 Theses and two years before the showdown with the emperor at the Diet of Worms.  This is Luther at his very best.

Setting aside polemics, despite the tumultuous controversies of the time–this was also the year of the Leipzig disputation with Johann Eck over indulgences and the authority of the pope–this work is pure pastoral care.  It is one of the clearest, most penetrating, most profound, and most beautiful expositions of the Gospel–with stunning applications of Scripture–that I have ever come across.

And it is helpful in explaining something that we often overlook, that the “alien righteousness” we have in Christ is a real righteousness, delivering us from the “alien” sinfulness that we have in Adam.  When we are united to Christ by faith–as a result of His grace and the Holy Spirit’s work through Word and Sacrament–we are saved by His good works, which become ours, since we are members of His body.

Therefore a man can with confidence boast in Christ and say:  “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, his suffering and dying, mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, suffered, and died as he did.”  Just as a bridegroom possesses all that is his bride’s and she all that is his—for the two have all things in common because they are one flesh [Gen. 2:24]—so Christ and the church are one spirit [Eph. 5:29-32].

Furthermore, Luther explains the connection of this “alien righteousness” that we did not accomplish with our “proper righteousness”; that is, the good works that are the fruit and consequence of Christ’s righteousness in us.

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