In his Commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther has a number of choice statements about the gospel, faith, and conversion. Commenting on Galatians 2:16, hear how this Reformer defines a ‘genuine Christian’:
(For those not familiar with King James English, please forgive the hath’s and saith’s)
We therefore make this definition of a Christian: a Christian is not he who hath no sin, but he to whom God imputeth not his sin, through faith in Christ. That is why we so often repeat and beat into your minds, the forgiveness of sins and imputation of righteousness for Christ’s sake. Therefore when the law accuseth him and sin terrifieth him, he looketh up to Christ, and when he hath apprehended Him by faith, he hath present with him the conqueror of the law, sin, death, and the devil: and Christ reigneth and ruleth over them, so that they cannot hurt the Christian. So that he hath indeed a great and inestimable treasure, or as St. Paul saith: ‘the unspeakable gift’ (2 Cor 6:15), which cannot be magnified enough, for it maketh us the children and heirs of God. This gift may be said to be greater than heaven and earth, because Christ, who is this greater gift, is greater (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, trans. Erasmus Middleton [Reprint: Grand Rapids: Kregel Classics, 1979], 72).
It bears repeating, “a Christian is not one who has no sin,” but one who has advocate with God the Father, Jesus Christ our mediator. In him do erring sinners find pardon and relief when they come to him in faith.
Since our natural tendency is to work for our salvation and to trust our own religious accomplishments, we must, as Luther says, “often repeat and beat into [our] minds, the forgiveness of sins and imputation of righteousness” comes from faith in Jesus Christ alone and not through our own works.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!