In his commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther called this righteousness of deeds, of doing, “active righteousness,” and he described it as political and civil righteousness; the ceremonial righteousness of tradition; and the righteousness of the law and of the Ten Commandments. Luther wrote that these works “may be performed … by our natural strength or else by God’s gift” (xvii). But, Luther then concluded that the “most excellent righteousness” is not in deeds. Rather, he said:
“It is quite the opposite; that is to say, it is passive, whereas the others are active. We do nothing in this matter; we give nothing to God but simply receive and allow someone else to work in us—that is, God. (xvii).
Allowing God to “work in us” requires that we abandon, not encourage, our natural strength and willfulness. Instead of being something we fight for, something we achieve or master, discipleship is something we “simply receive,” a peacefulness that comes when there’s yielding in our heart.
(drawn from Turning Aside to See, chapter 16, ©️ 2011)
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