Feb

06

2012

Tullian Tchividjian|2:04 pm CT

Jehovah Knoweth None

I’m two weeks into a new sermon series on Galatians that I’ve entitled Free at Last. And I dare say that there is no other commentary on Galatians that is better or more important than Martin Luther’s. Galatians, according to Luther, is the “Magna Carta of Christian Freedom.” It is, he said, “my Katharina von Bora”, referring to his beloved wife. Luther’s commentary is not just a groundbreaking commentary on Galatians, it is one of the most important books ever written on the Gospel.

One of my favorite sections is when he writes on how to answer the Accuser:

Paul does not say that works are objectionable, but to build one’s hopes for righteousness on works is disastrous, for that makes Christ good for nothing.  Let us bear this in mind when the devil accuses our conscience. When that dragon accuses us of having done no good at all, say to him, “You trouble me with the remembrance of my past sins; you remind me that I have done no good. But this does not bother me, because if I were to trust in my own good deeds, or despair because I have done no good deeds, Christ would profit me neither way. I am not going to make Him unprofitable to me. This I would do if I should presume to purchase for myself the favor of God by my good deeds or if I should despair of my salvation because of my sins.”

This reminds me of my favorite hymn line:

Well may the accuser roar, of sins that I have done; I know them all and thousands more, Jehovah knoweth none!

30 Comments

  1. Luther’s commentary indeed is a must read. Another of his works that would be a companion piece is his “Treatise on Christian Liberty.” I love this quote from it:

    A Christian man is the most free lord of all and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.

  2. Ha! Everytime I hear that hymn now I remember the time during mid-week where you couldn’t remember the name of the song and I screamed it out from the crowd. I am so blessed to have been placed by God under your care. Much love Pastor Tullian! Keep up the great work.

  3. Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

    Yes, it is so important that we don’t believe in Satan’s – be it right or false – accusations, and re-look at our righteous Lord as soon as possible by addressing a prayer to Him, so that neither despair nor boastfulness about our (perhaps alleged) good works can overcome us. Satan only wants to convince us that we are still “the old Adam” and that we’ll never change. And he would be right if we’ll accord credibility to him.

    Maybe, we should get more used to how God looks at us, only seeing His sinless, perfect Son dwelling in us who through His Spirit alone gives birth to the New Creation, more and more conforming with Christ’s image that is “the new Adam”.

    By the way, browsing Luther’s commentary on Galatians, the following of our famous predecessors in faith caught my eye. In my humble opinion, Luther made a both comforting and creative writing here by saying,

    “Our merciful Father in heaven saw how the Law oppressed us and how impossible it was for us to get out from under the curse of the Law. He therefore sent His only Son into the world and said to Him: `You are now Peter, the liar; Paul, the persecutor; David, the adulterer; Adam, the disobedient; the thief on the cross. You, My Son, must pay the world’s iniquity.´ The Law growls: `All right. If Your Son is taking the sin of the world, I see no sins anywhere else but in Him. He shall die on the Cross.´ And the Law kills Christ. But we go free.”

    (Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, Chapter 3 on Gal 3:13)

  4. Amen.

  5. [...] the meantime, Pastor Tullian had this great quote from Luther’s commentary on the book of Galatians. I just had to share it: “Paul does [...]

  6. Mitchell Hammonds

    Great gospel postings such as this one absolutely charge me up! I actually followed your link and listened to your sermon on Galatians. Fantastic.

  7. Awesome, Pastor Tullian!

    “The good we do won’t save us…and the evil that we do won’t condemn us.” – Luther

  8. Pastor
    Don’t look at me, look at Jesus.

  9. Jehovah knoweth none! Amen!

    Those hirelings who feel it their duty to drive the blood-washed saints into misery and despair through the scourge of the Law, show themsleves to be accusers of the brethren and children of their father.

  10. [...] In Blogs Tweet http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2012/02/06/jehovah-knoweth-none/ Facebook Comments: Copyright © 2011 Ben Johnson Powered by [...]

  11. [...] Tullian Tchividjian points to Luther’s commentary on Galatians as one of the most important books ever written on the Gospel. A related sermon video is [...]

  12. Tullian

    ‘Free at Last’… yes… but free from what?

  13. Christian freedom is never solely a “freedom from” but also a “freedom to.” We are freed from the demands of the Law and freed to live in the Gospel. This side of eternity the Christian simultaneously 100% saint and 100% sinner. So we are never without the Law, for we still have use for it to accuse and kill this sinful flesh so that we may daily die to sin and be raised anew through the Gospel.

    There are those that wish to portray Luther in an antinomian light, but his Galatians Commentary will have none of that. To live in the Gospel is to live without sin and in perfect love toward God and neighbor. This is where good works and love necessarily flow from, for true faith will bear fruit, but it is not the fruit which justifies, that is Christ alone.

    Luther put it this way in his Large Catechism in teaching on the office and work of the Holy Spirit:
    57 However, while sanctification has begun and is growing daily [2 Thessalonians 1:3], we expect that our flesh will be destroyed and buried with all its uncleanness [Romans 6:4–11]. Then we will come forth gloriously and arise in a new, eternal life of entire and perfect holiness. 58 For now we are only half pure and holy. So the Holy Spirit always has some reason to continue His work in us through the Word. He must daily administer forgiveness until we reach the life to come. At that time there will be no more forgiveness, but only perfectly pure and holy people [1 Corinthians 13:10]. We will be full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death, and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body [1 Corinthians 15:43, 53].

    Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions, Edited by Paul Timothy McCain (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005). 405.

  14. Mitchell Hammonds

    We are free from sin (though we still sin) and we are free to serve (though we do not always serve)… we are free from navel gazing as well.

  15. Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

    Apropos “Free at Last”.

    I suppose it is indeed a matter of great rarity whether some people will be perfect as their heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48) or just not yet in this earthly life. If anyone arrives at this very goal, he will be free at last.

    But free from what? This a very good question, not easy to reply to, I guess …

    For that reason only some of my own deliberations.

    Firstly, we must be assured that such a perfect condition will only be achieved by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone, because it is solely His power that is able to overcome our human “Mission Impossible” to change our hearts by ourselves.

    “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Mt 19:26)

    Secondly, we should know how such a condition will look like. How can we realize whether there are actually people who already “climbed up that hill”? What will be different without them? Maybe, their behavior – is it more or even “Christ like”?

    (1) As Rom 8:2 declares, we will be free from the law of sin and death, if – and that is the very premise or pre-condition for that – if we are “in Christ” i.e. we live in (or by) the Spirit.
    This happens only by – again – God’s grace, when Jesus baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Mt 3:11), so that we become totally “One” with Him (1 Cor 6:17 in conjunction with Rom 8:9). Thus the New Creation has been born of the Spirit (Jn 3:3-8).

    (2) People who are used to live by the Spirit have some special features which can easily be observed. On the one hand you won’t be able to state that they still live in sin, because “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” (1 Jn 3:9) On the other hand they show the whole spectrum of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22-23), so that we can recognize them by their fruits (Mt 7:15-20). Moreover, they do show grace towards any man – not only Christians (1 Joh 4:20) – but all their neighbors, too (2 Pt 1:7*).

    (3) There is another specific characteristic with them, we hardly find with other people we are used to know: It is absolutely impossible to predict what they think, do in the next moment or will do in the future because they are like “the wind who blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Joh 3:8)

    It is a wonderful experience to know such people who often also show a deep sense of humor, as Martin Luther said (paraphrasing), “Open your mouth to proclaim the gospel, but do it with humor!”

    ——————————————————————-

    * 2 Pt 1:7 (ESV): “and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”
    VERSUS
    2 Pt 1:7 (Luther 1984 – German): “and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love to all mankind.”

  16. Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

    Correction!

    Not the German version of Joh 3:8, but Jn 3:8 (in the end of the 2nd to the last passage).

    Thanks.

  17. Pastor Tchividjian, I don’t know if you’re still following the comments on this post but I thought I would share this from C.J. Mahaney’s “Living The Cross Centered Life.” From the chapter “Unloading Condemnation” where he writes about low-grade guilt:

    “Because of the gospel’s power you can be completely free of all condemnation. Not mostly free; COMPLETELY free. Don’t buy the lie that cultivating condemnation and wallowing in your shame is somehow pleasing to God, or that a constant, low-grade guilt will somehow promote holiness and spiritual maturity.” -C.J. Mahaney

    Oh my goodness how long I lived like that, thinking I was cultivating holiness and spiritual maturity!

  18. Watched the sermon: Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  19. I’m reading Luther’s commentary on Galatians right now! You can get it free on amazon for the kindle. I was wanting to read some grace-centered stuff and I have to say, Luther’s commentary on Galatians is certainly scratching that itch!

    I posted a couple of things and one of my hyper-legalistic messianic Christian friends actually started to manifest. SO GOOD! So unashamedly scandalous! I have to say, I am REALLY excited about the liberate conference. We are going to have so much fun!

    Gal 1:4 Who gave Himself for our sins.
    He does not say, “Who received our works,” but, “who gave.” Gave what? Not gold, or silver, or paschal lambs, or an angel, but Himself. What for? Not for a crown, or a kingdom, or out goodness, but for our sins. These words are like so many thunderclaps of protest from heaven against every kind and type of self-merit. – Martin Luther

    Once again, a delicious post.

  20. mmmm that is so good, the grace we have been given is so incredibly freeing! We need only to turn to Christ for the strength to overcome sin and leave the rest in His hands!

  21. Hi Mitchell (and others)

    Thanks for developing what Christian freedom is… I ‘amened’ all said, including, Mitchell, freedom from ‘navel-gazing’. I agree with that completely. Freedom from the law means freedom from navel-gazing (Roms 7 is navel-gazing).

    Thus we are free from law (its accusations,curse, obligations)… sin (its guilt, power and ultimately its presence)… Satan (his accusations,devices)… the world (its influence, false values etc)… the flesh (its passions)… from death. All these controlling and destroying influences no longer have rights and power over the believer. In Christ, these are dismantled powers with no control over the believer who lives by grace and faith.

    And it is a freedom from living under law to living under grace, from slavery to sin to being a slave of righteousness, from flesh and its works to the Spirit and his fruit,from condemnation and the dominion of death to justification and the reign of life, from serving the destroying god of this world to serving the creating God of the universe who gives us all things, from this passing world’s limited vision and corrupting values to the eternal vistas of the World to Come.

    These are the freedoms of Galatians and they are truly glorious.

  22. JT…

    Amen!
    (I gotta make sure to Amen you when I can… )
    ;)

    best regards

  23. This is totally off topic, but I really don’t know where else to post it. Is there anyone else going to the Liberate conference that wants to share a room? I’m trying to keep my costs down. Contact me through thereforenow.com or http://www.facebook.com/jim.mcneely

  24. Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

    Thanks a lot, Doc, … er … John – I had suspected as much that there was missing some essential and necessary for (eternal) life stuff. Reading your 2nd and 3rd passage, I assuredly realized what it was.
    You are a very good teacher!

    Reading your blog has been a real benefit to me.
    This, perhaps you could plainly see.

    Susanne :D

  25. Tullian Tchividjian

    Hey Jim!

    I just tweeted your request and pointed people to your facebook. I hope it works out, my friend.

    Tullian

  26. Awesome, Thanks! I am confident things are going to work out wonderfully – God seems to be crazy about me. I can’t wait to meet up with all the other people who think the same thing!

  27. More hair band pictures to illustrate your message! Please!

  28. Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

    My message – brief and simple ̶ is to picture “The unspeakable Freedom of a Christian” finding its expression in any kind of literature, be it poems, lyrics, or whatever. We can hear God’s voice anywhere in the world. We can hear Him talking all the time through anyone, and see Him anywhere if He has opened our ears and eyes of the heart. This is the direct outcome of spiritual life, the life with Jesus Christ, with the Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit day and night, 24 hours round the clock. As the Apostle John said,

    “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life —
    the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1 Jn 1:1-4)

    I would never have believed that such a kind of “free(d) life” could exist. But it does. We really have a wonderful and lovely Lord who loves us just the way we are. We mustn’t try and try and … to change our inner depravity.
    Of course, in the beginning of this sanctified life, it is a shocking, horrifying experience to receive the Holy Spirit. We can see how God looks at our inner “old Adam”, and it seems as if God hates us – we feel ashamed and we’ll finally come to know what we deserve: Hell, and nothing else. But this is the very way Got puts us to death. So, at first our Lord always spits us out of His mouth, because we are lukewarm by nature (Rev 3:16).
    Maybe, the whole process of sanctification lasts more than decades, but it’s absolutely necessary that the old Adam is fully dead, because – if not – then you can read about the (fleshly) consequences for example here Rom 1:24-32 ; 1 Cor 6:9-10 ; Eph 5:5 ; Heb 13:4 ; Rev 21:8 and Rev 22:15
    The Apostle Paul uttered a clear warning against Antinomianism in the following passage:

    “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Gal 5:13-16)

    The Word of God – not only the Bible – but particularly Jesus’ words, who, indeed, is the Word of God (Rev 19:13) – directly spoken to us by the Spirit – can be sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12); they kill us in the end. But he who really has died, will be raised with Jesus through faith (Col 2:12).
    These painful experiences of spiritual life cannot be avoided because we must enter into eternal, spiritual life by the narrow gate (Mt 7:13-14). Otherwise our Self cannot be put to death.

    So, I hope and pray that any of us who will experience this spiritual process will find others who understand them. For it is not easy to go this way all alone without anyone who makes or did make the same experience. For about twenty years I only had books as my advisors. This process of sanctification is absolutely independent from any denomination, non-denomination or multi-denomination – you can find those people all through Christendom. I read an incredibly amount of Christian (auto) biographies and theological literature, and this helped me at last.
    Thanks be to God that He is with us, even in our dark valleys of death. We are children and “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Rom 8:17)

    Don’t give up if this really happens to you! Try to pray, even if you cannot pray any more. If you have no words, but you feel that you want to have way more of God than you have right now – then you are already on this way.

  29. Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

    The best illustration for the experience of God’s overwhelming love is in the Holy Bible. The spiritual love between Jesus Christ (Solomon) and His Bride, i.e. every individual believer, is described in a romantic and poetic way in the Song of Songs.

    The erotically charged language insinuates the great and blissful experience of God’s love that, indeed, is a holistic (body and soul through the Holy Spirit) erotic experience. Even though it can be compared with the act of love between man and woman, it is way more than this (though human sexual acts can be a wonderful experience, too) – it cannot be expressed in words but solely through poetry. The Apostle Paul only gave us the clue to this divine secret by saying,

    “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Eph 5:31-32)

    Paul here hints at the mystic experience to become one spirit with God through Jesus Christ. And here is another allusion that Paul gave us,

    “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” (1 Cor 2:9-10)

    No wonder that Paul was able to live a celibate life, for God’s love alone is able to fulfil our deepest longings. Forever.

  30. Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

    Here is another illustration for God’s Love I found on the internet. But if you like to continue reading this text, please, test the spirits to discern whether they are from God or not. Personally I have verified the following excerpt.

    ——————————————————————-

    “It is from Me that you breathe, bathed in My Light; it is in Me that you move and are never ceasing to be; for My Majesty transcends earth and heaven and all that is within them.
    Then, from My Mouth, full of grace, flow wealth and honour, enriching all those who love Me; [...] teaching them with tenderness of heavenly realities, lifting their spirit to revolve [...] around heavenly realities.

    It was I who created your inmost self and put you together in your mother’s womb – and as I watched daily, inebriated with delight, your bones taking shape, forming in secret, I was already celebrating our betrothals; I tell you, were I to find your spirit eager and thirsty to know Me, I, who, from your birth was so eager to possess you and espouse you to Myself, I would fly to you at your first invitation and brand you with My fiery baptismal kiss on your forehead; a heavenly sign of our matrimonial celebration.”

    (Excerpt from “Canticle of the Holy Spirit” (IV), June 22, 1998 from “True life in God”)

    ——————————————————————-

    To find this excerpt you can go to “Message Search” entering “Canticle”.

    But don’t wonder if you find out that over there’s also – unfortunately – a presentation of plenty of confusing stuff about angels, somehow “strange” visions and often a clearly false image of God and the Trinity. If you have no concerns about getting entangled in some rather “baffling” thoughts, it could be interesting. Maybe.

    PS
    Particularly regrettable in my opinion is the obvious lack of the ability to distinguish between the spirits among some (not all!) of the highest church leaders who are quoted on this side. They rather often seem to realize that those visions had had a supernatural origin, but they fail to see what God has said, where the angel of light was involved, and where the visionary only described her own desires and thoughts. But it’s no wonder – the more some churches have left the Biblical fundament, the more confusion is inside the church.

    In my humble opinion, at most 5 to 10 percent of all visions are of divine origin, the rest is nonsense. Moreover, God never makes blah blah blah nor does He ever uplift human virtues (very often in this text!). And he never asks man to do this or that – He is Lord, and He commands without any explanation. Where we find a lot of reasonable and seemingly logical stuff, we can be sure most of the time that Satan was its author. If God really speaks to a man or a woman and they receive the Holy Spirit through His anointment (1 Jn 2:27), then they will be turned inside out and receive a new heart such as Saul, who was immediately turned into another man according to Samuel’s prophecies (1 Sm 10:6-9).

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