THE BLESSED & THE CURSED
THE BLESSED (, )
THE CURSED ()
Paul isn’t cursing those outside the church, he’s aiming at those who diminish grace—and cultivate pride—by supposing that it’s possible to gain God’s favor through God-talk, church attendance, profession of right doctrine, meal-time prayers, regular Bible reading, avoiding gross sins, and the like. The Galatians are running with the ball, trying to score points in helter-skelter frenzy of “doing the right thing,” so Paul sounds the penalty buzzer.
In his monastery at Erfurt, Martin Luther fell into a period of darkness and depression in which he felt he was under the wrath of God. Habakkuk’s words, “The righteous shall live by faith,” spoke to him during this time. The words resonated once more when he journeyed to Rome and visited the Basilica of St. John Lateran. There, certificates for the forgiveness of sins, called indulgences, were issued to all who climbed the steps of the basilica on their knees, pausing to pray and kiss each step. Later, Luther’s son recorded what happened:
As he repeated his prayers on the Lateran staircase, the words of the prophet Habakkuk came suddenly to his mind: “The just shall live by faith.” Thereupon he ceased his prayers, returned to Wittenberg, and took this as the chief foundation of all his doctrine.
Luther no longer believed his efforts could gain God’s favor. He later said, “Before those words broke upon my mind, I hated God and was angry with him … But when, by the Spirit of God, I understood those words—‘the just shall live by faith!’ ‘The just shall live by faith!’—then I felt born again like a new man; I entered through the open doors into the very Paradise of God.”