This fall I've been going through the book of Romans with a group of High School students. In preparing for last week's discussion on Romans 7 I came across this insightful quote from Luther's commentary that I just have to share. The verse that he is exegeting is 7:14 which reads, "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin." Concerning this Luther writes:
"That is the proof of a spiritual and wise man. He knows that he is carnal, and he is displeased with himself; indeed, he hates himself and praises the law of God, which he recognizes because he is spiritual. But the proof of a foolish, carnal man is this, that he regards himself as spiritual and is pleased with himself" (Muller 112).
One of the things I love about Luther is that he says things that seem completely out of line with our natural tendencies. It's natural to think that we should be pleased with ourselves if we "behave" properly. For Luther this is precisely the point where we are most lost.
This is why we need the law to constantly thrust us to Christ even after conversion. The second I believe that I've got my stuff together is when I'm most vulnerable. Is this a depressing way to look at life? I'll let Luther answer this one:
"Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ... Yearning for grace wells up when recognition of sin has arisen" (Lull 56).
Lull, Timothy (Trans.) "Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings"
Mueller, Theodore (Trans.) "Commentary on Romans"