I have been reading Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians in preparation for teaching a youth Bible study. While reading, I’m discovering something really quite simple, yet profound. Here it is, relatively undeveloped but worth sharing and exploring further:
The true purpose for studying Scripture is not primarily to understand how to be more obedient. Rather, we study Scripture (and obey it), in order to rearrange the way we think about how righteousness is gained.
We naturally consider that the way to be righteousness is to be obedient. It makes sense, doesn’t it? But because of our own sinful nature, we are so far from being able to earn righteousness through obedience, we will never achieve it. It can’t be done! Therefore we must gain it by another way.
Jesus Christ has provided this way. His own complete obedience, and his death and resurrection, has become our way to righteousness. But because our human nature is so inclined to earn righteousness through obedience, we must rearrange our thinking to align with God’s provision of righteousness. This is why we study Scripture. We begin to know who God is, how perfectly holy he is. We begin to know who we are, how utterly helpless and unholy we are. And we begin to understand that our efforts to save ourselves are futile.
We study Scripture and place ourselves under the authority of it and the church, so that we will be transformed, so that we no longer believe and live as though our righteousness depends on our own works. All of Scripture exists to tell us about these things. It exists to show us how far we are from earning righteousness and to show us how God only wants us to trust him as our saviour. All of Scripture addresses our various excuses and natural inclinations toward self-righteousness and points to righteousness through faith in God.
As Tim Keller has said,
the only way you can become a Christian is not by pointing to your qualifications but by admitting you have no qualifications, which is the only qualification. Until you admit you have no qualifications, you’re not qualified.1
- Timothy J. Keller, “The Rescue,” in The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013). [↩]