2 Corinthians 3.7-8
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?
The Intense Happiness of Grace
By Martin Luther
Paul undertakes to explain the difference between the righteousness of the Law and the righteousness of faith. The righteousness of the Law is the fulfillment of the Law according to the passage: “The man that does these will live in them.” The righteousness of faith is to believe the Gospel according to the passage: “The righteous will live by faith.”
The Law is a statement of debit, the Gospel a statement of credit. By this distinction Paul explains why [good works], which is the commandment of the Law, cannot justify, because the Law contributes nothing to our justification.
Indeed, works do follow after faith, but faith is not therefore a meritorious work. Faith is a gift.
When we believe in Christ we live by faith. When we believe in the Law we may be active enough but we have no life. The function of the Law is not to give life; the function of the Law is to kill. True, the Law says: “The man that does them shall live in them.” But where is the person who can do “them,” i.e., love God with all his heart, soul, and mind, and his neighbor as himself?
Paul has nothing against those who are justified by faith and therefore are true doers of the Law. He opposes those who think they can fulfill the Law when in reality they can only sin against the Law by trying to obtain righteousness by the Law.
The Law demands that we fear, love, and worship God with a true faith. The law-workers fail to do this.
All evils would have overwhelmed us, as they shall overwhelm the unbelievers forever, if Christ had not become the great transgressor and guilty bearer of all our sins. The sins of the world got Him down for a moment. They came around Him like water. Of Christ, the Old Testament Prophet complained: “Your fierce wrath goes over me; your terrors have cut me off.”
By Christ’s salvation we have been delivered from the terrors of God to a life of eternal felicity.
*Excerpted and language updated from Martin Luther’s A Commentary on Saint Pauls Epistle to the Galatians.