Over the past week I have been studying Martin Luther's Introduction to his commentary on Galatians. I've enjoyed reading Luther's commentary and feel many convictions that I'll share with you here. Please take time to read and comment as I would like to hear what you think!
ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE RIGHTEOUSNESS
ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE RIGHTEOUSNESS
Webster's Definition of Active and Passive
Active- engaged in action; characterized by energetic work, participation; involved in physical effort and action.
Passive- not participating readily or actively; inactive; not involving visible reaction or active participation.
Luther's explanation of active and passive Righteousness
Luther states that most Christians have a hard time understanding passive righteousness, to which I shout, "AMEN!" But, I must admit that I do not fully understand nor grasp the full concept of passive righteousness. If I did, my life would look completely different - ALL the time.
Active righteousness is just as the definition states, it is identified by YOU, US, WE, ME, I. What I mean by that is active righteousness is my doing; it is my physical effort, energetic work, or participation that makes me righteous. I would normally stop here and think to myself about the many religions and people who are trying to please God with their actions, their good works, their righteousness. Groups that come to mind are mormons with all of their striving and trying to attain a position or follow an estate (right path), catholics with their worship towards Mary and good deeds, and muslims with their peaceful bowing and reverence towards Allah. What I have realized is that I often participate in active righteousness.
I'll let Luther explain passive righteousness, also titled Christian righteousness: But the most excellent righteousness of faith, which God through Christ, without any works, imputeth to us, is neither political, nor ceremonial, nor the righteousness of God's law, nor consisteth of works, but is clean contray to these; that is to say, it is a mere passive righteousness, as the others are active. For in the righteousness of faith, we work nothing, we render nothing unto God, but we only receive, and suffer another to work in us, that is to say, God.
A little later Luther continues...
I seek not active or working righteousness, for if I had it, I could not trust in it, neither dare I set it against the judgment of God. Then I abandon myself from all active righteousness, both of my own and of God's law, and embrace only that passive righteousness, which is the righteousness of grace, mercy, and forgiveness of sins.
On the next page Luther offers what I would call a pattern for evangelism and/or a call to fellow believers to continue in the gospel that was taught to them: righteousness by faith. Since Luther's commentary is on Galatians his writing concerns the latter more than the former, but can still be applied (Maybe a future blog post!).
Luther continues explaining Christian righteousness as us doing nothing. At church we are studying God's Plan for Salvation. The statement that God saved us not because he looked down the corridor of time and saw that we would "accept" him and be of value for his kingdom, but in spite (in disregard of our doing anything), he saved us.
Luther: Why, do we then nothing? Do we work nothing for the obtaining of this righteousness? I answer, Nothing at all. For this is perfect righteousness, to do nothing, to hear nothing, to know nothing of the law, or of works, but to know and believe this only, that Christ is gone to the Father, and is not now seen; that He sitteth in heaven at the right hand of His Father, not as judge, but made unto us of God, wisdom, righteousness, holiness and redemption; briefly, that He is our high priest intreating for us, and reigning over us, and in us, by grace. In this heavenly righteousness sin can have no place, for there is no law; and where no law is, there can be no transgression. (Romans 4:15)
Christian/passive righteousness brings peace. Why? Good question! It brings peace because we have no part in it! Our conscience does not fear and will not become depressed, because it is NOT of us! Luther explains it better: Although I am a sinner by the law, and under condemnation of the law, yet I despair not, yet I die not, because Christ liveth, who is both my righteousness and my everlasting life.
Brian's final thought
As I continue to preach the gospel to myself and realize that my position with God is not based on what I do, but what Christ did, I move towards a better understanding Christian righteousness. Both Christian (passive) righteousness and active righteousness will remain while I live here. I'm not out to find a happy medium because passive and active are at separate poles. When the law creeps into my conscience, overstepping its bounds as to intice me towards active righteousness, my prayer is that through reading, studying, and meditation, I might be able to rise against and say: conscience, you do guide my behavior, but you are not my Savior and Lord, for HE is my righteousness and peace.
HE...CREATEDHE...DIEDHE...LIVESHE...SAVESHE...IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS