Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Two Kinds of Righteousness/Luther/ Lull

I'm still busy with "Luther's Basic Theological Writings" (Lull). Part III, "The Righteousness of God in Christ", leads in with the sermon, titled here "Two Kinds of Righteousness".

Doctrinally the sermon is nice and clear on the "two kinds of righteousness". The sermon actually aims to deal with the text: "have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped" (Phil 2:5-6). The two kinds of rightousness are needed to fulfill such a thing as having this mind of humility among ourselves.

If you think this quote is long, it has been distilled from 12 pages to 3 pages.

Two Kinds of Righteousness

Bits from the INTRO
Sermon from late 1518 or early 1519. Based on the traditional Epistle text for Palm Sunday. An early an clear statement of Luther’s understanding of how the righteousness of God has been manifested in Christ Jesus.

The first type of righteousness is alien or external righteousness, that which can never be found in a sinful human individual intrinsically, but which has been freely given in Jesus. This righteousness, given to the baptized and in repentance, allows the poor human being to claim all that Christ has accomplished on the cross. Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, his suffering and dying, mine as much as I have lived, done, spoken, suffered and died as he did.

And this alien righteousness is the primary form; it, and it alone, is “the basis, the cause, the source of all our own actual righteousness."

This alien righteousness comes to us by grace alone, in preaching and in the sacraments. It comes both decisively and repeatedly, for ‘it is not instilled all at once, but it begins, makes progress, and is finally perfected at the end through death.” The gospel is precisely the news that this surprising possibility exists fur humanity, that God accepts sinners not through some exertion on their part, but freely, and for Christ’s sake.

Alien righteousness must come first. But there is also a second kind or type of righteousness, that which flourishes in that woman or man who has found justification in Christ Jesus. Here Luther comes to ethics, to good work, to the love of neighbour and life in the world. But all of this is lived not according to one’s own inherent possibility; the women or man in Christ lives only in reflection of and response to that alien righteousness that has been received as a gift.

Now we get Luther himself.


Brethren, “have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” (Phil.2:5-6)

There are two kinds of Christian righteousness, just as man’s sin is of two kinds.

The first is alien righteousness that is the righteousness of another, instilled from without. This is the righteousness of Christ by which he justifies through faith, as it is written in 1 Cor. 1:30: “Whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” In John 11 (25-26) Christ himself states: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me…shall never die. Later he adds in John 14(6) “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” This righteousness, then is given to men in baptism and whenever they are truly repentant. 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.”

(He brings in more Bible passages)

Through faith in Christ therefore, Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness and all that he has becomes ours; rather, he himself becomes ours.

Therefore this alien righteousness, instilled in us without our works by grace alone—while the Father, to be sure, inwardly draws us to Christ—is set opposite original sin, likewise alien, which we acquire without our works by birth alone. Christ daily drives out the old Adam more and more in accordance with the extent to which faith and knowledge of Christ grow. For alien righteousness is not instilled all at once but it begins, makes progress, and is finally perfected at the end through death.

What strikes me here, is that the exchange is not a matter of "robe of righteousness" but that it is Christ himself, who is everything. He becomes mine, my everything. Somewhere else he says that that is process that is not complete until eternity. Here he says that it makes "progress" as Christ daily drives out the old Adam more and more. We are talking about the alien rightousness, here, as "faith and knowldege of Christ grow".

The second kind of righteousness is our proper righteousness, not because we alone work it, but because we work with that first and alien righteousness. this is that manner of life spent profitably in good works, in the first place, in slaying the flesh and crucifying the desires with respect to the self, of which we read in Gal. 5:24: “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” In the second place, this righteousness consists in love to one’s neighbour, and in the third place, in meekness and fear toward God. The Apostle is full of references to these, as is all the rest of Scriptures. He briefly summarizes everything, however, in Titus 2:12: “In this world let us live soberly (pertaining to crucifying one’s own flesh), justly (referring to one’s neighbour), and devoutly (relating to God).”

This righteousness is the product of the righteousness of the first type, actually its fruit and consequence, for we read in Ga. 5:22: “But the fruit of the spirit (i.e., of a spiritual man, whose very existence depends on faith in Christ) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” This righteousness goes on to complete the first for it ever strives to do away with the old Adam and to destroy the body of sin. Therefore it hates itself and loves its neighbour; it does not seek its own good, but that of another, and this its whole way of living consists. For in that it hates itself and does not seek its own, it crucifies the flesh. Because it seeks the good of another, it works love. Thus in each sphere it does God’s will, living soberly with self, justly with neighbour, devoutly toward God.

This righteousness follows the example of Christ in this respect (I Peter 2:21) and is transformed into his likeness (II Cor. 3:18). It is precisely this that Christ requires. Just as he himself did all things for us, not seeking his own good but ours only—and in this he was most obedient to God the Father—so he desires that we also should set the same example for our neighbours.

That's pretty good, how he summarizes the Christian life:
Titus 2:12: “In this world let us live soberly (pertaining to crucifying one’s own flesh), justly (referring to one’s neighbour), and devoutly (relating to God).”
This devoutly relating to God, i.e. in humility, fearing your good works to be sins (Heidelberg dispuation), is always something that has to be kept in mind. It is also key to understanding how one is to serve the neighbor humbly, with the mind of Christ, as he presses on to show next.

…This is what the text we are now considering says: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). This means you should be as inclined and disposed toward one another as you see Christ was disposed toward you.

… He was not like the Pharisee who said, “God, I thank thee that I am not like other men”, for that man was delighted that others were wretched; at any rate he was unwilling that they should be like him. This is the type of robbery by which a man usurps things for himself—rather, he keeps what he has and does not clearly ascribe to God the things that are Gods’, nor does he serve others with them that he may become like other men. Men of this kind wish to be like God, sufficient in themselves, pleasing themselves, glorying in themselves, under obligation to no one, and so on. Not thus, however, did Christ think; not of this stamp was his wisdom. He relinquished that form to God the Father and emptied himself, unwilling to use his rank against us, unwilling to be different from us. Moreover, for our sakes he became as one of us and took the form of a servant, that is, he subjected himself to all evils. And although he was free, as the Apostle says of himself also (I Cor. 9:19), he made himself servant of all (Mark 9:35), living as if all the evils which were ours were actually his own.

…The Apostle means that each individual Christian shall become the servant of another in accordance with the example of Christ. If one has wisdom, righteousness, or power with which one can excel others and boast in the “form of God, “ so to speak, one should not keep all this to himself, but surrender it to God and become altogether as if he did not possess it (II Cor. 6:10), as one of those who lack it.

Paul’s meaning is that when each person has forgotten himself and emptied himself of God’s gifts, he should conduct himself as if his neighbor’s weakness, sin, and foolishness were his very own. He should not boast or get puffed up. Nor should he despise or triumph over his neighbour as if he were God or equal to God. Since God’s prerogatives ought to be left to God alone, it becomes robbery when a man in haughty foolhardiness ignores this fact. It is in this way, then, that one takes the form of a servant, and that command of the Apostle in Gal. 5:13 is fulfilled: “Through love be servants of one another.”

There is some more, but not today.

This idea of robbery is paramount in this section. If we get puffed up we are robbers of the neighbor and of God. We might be really growing in comparison to someone else, and you and others might even notice this, but it means nothing. Just take on the lowliest attitude, the way Christ did. As always, nothing good is really of yourself and everything good is mingled with our sinfulness and feared to be sin.

Just a little more from Philippians: "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others."


Steve Martin said...

Good stuff, Brigitte!

I never tire of hearing of His righteousness for me.

It keeps my righteousness at bay. It keeps me where I belong, in my place, where God made me to be and lets Him be the God that He is.

Brigitte said...

I find interesting here, how also the "proper" righteousness is nothing be staying in your place and letting "Him be the God that He is". It is consistent.