These are Luther's insights on Galatians 5:7. Enjoy!
Galatians 5:7 - You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?
These words are clear. Paul declares that he taught correctly before and is teaching correctly now; at the same time he suggests rather subtly that the Galatians had been running correctly before, that is, had obeyed the truth and had believed and lived correctly, but that they were not doing so now, after they have been led astray by the false apostles. Moreover, he uses a new expression here when he calls the Christian life a “running.” To the Hebrews running or walking means living or behaving. Teachers and learners “run” when the former teach purely and the latter receive the Word with joy (Matt. 13:20) and when the fruits of the Spirit follow in both. This is what happened while Paul was present, as he testified in chapters three and four as well as here, when he says: “You were running well; that is, you were living a good life and pursuing the right course toward eternal life, which the Word promised you.”
But the words “You were running well” contain comfort. For with these words Paul pays attention to the trial by which the devout are disciplined; to themselves their life seems dreary, closer to crawling than to running. But when there is sound teaching—which cannot be without results, since it brings the Holy Spirit and His gifts—the life of the devout is strenuous running, even though it may seem to be crawling. To us, of course, it seems that everything is moving ahead slowly and with great difficulty; but what seems slow to us is rapid in the sight of God, and what hardly crawls for us runs swiftly for Him. Likewise, what is sorrow, sin, and death in our eyes is joy, righteousness, and life in the eyes of God, for the sake of Christ, through whom we are made perfect. Christ is holy, righteous, happy, etc., and there is nothing that He lacks; thus there is nothing that believers in Him lack either. Therefore Christians are really runners; whatever they do runs along and moves forward successfully, being advanced by the Spirit of Christ, who has nothing to do with slow enterprises.
Those who fall away from grace and faith to the Law and works are hindered in this running. This is what happened to the Galatians; they were persuaded and led astray by the false apostles, whom Paul attacks obliquely with the words “Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” He spoke the same way earlier (3:1): “Who has bewitched you so that you do not obey the truth?” Paul indicates here incidentally that men are so violently crazed by false teaching that they accept lies and heresies as truth and as spiritual teaching, while they swear that the sound teaching which they had loved originally is in error, but that their error is sound teaching; this position they defend with all their might. Thus the Galatians, who were running along very well at first, were led by the false apostles into the opinion that they had been in error and were moving along very slowly when they had followed Paul as their teacher. But later, when they had been led astray by the false apostles and were forsaking the truth completely, they were so bewitched by these false arguments that they believed their whole life was moving along and running very successfully. Today the same thing is happening to those who have been deceived by the fanatical spirits. This is why I am often wont to say that a fall from sound doctrine is not human but demonic, from the very heights of heaven to the lowest depths of hell. Men who persevere in error are so far away from acknowledging their sin that they even defend it as the height of righteousness. Therefore it is impossible for them to be forgiven.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 27, pp. 31–33). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
We are quickly approaching the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. A hymn that beautifully summarizes what the Reformation was all about and one that should still be sung and memorized by all Christians today is Salvation Unto Us Has Come.
1 Salvation unto us has come
By God's free grace and favor;
Good works cannot avert our doom,
They help and save us never.
Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone,
Who did for all the world atone;
He is our one Redeemer.
2 What God did in His Law demand
And none to Him could render
Caused wrath and woe on ev'ry hand
For man, the vile offender.
Our flesh has not those pure desires
The spirit of the Law requires,
And lost is our condition.
3 It was a false, misleading dream
That God His Law had given
That sinners could themselves redeem
And by their works gain heaven.
The Law is but a mirror bright
To bring the inbred sin to light
That lurks within our nature.
4 From sin our flesh could not abstain,
Sin held its sway unceasing;
The task was useless and in vain,
Our guilt was e'er increasing.
None can remove sin's poisoned dart
Or purify our guileful heart--
So deep is our corruption.
5 Yet as the law must be fulfilled
Or we must die despairing,
Christ came and has God's anger stilled,
Our human nature sharing.
has for us the Law obeyed
And thus His Father's vengeance stayed
Which over us impended.
6 Since Christ has full atonement made
And brought to us salvation,
Each Christian therefore may be glad
And build on this foundation.
Your grace alone, dear Lord, I plead,
Your death is now my life indeed,
For You have paid my ransom.
7 Let me not doubt, but truly see
Your Word cannot be broken:
Your call rings out, "Come unto Me!"
No falsehood have You spoken.
Baptized into Your precious name,
My faith cannot be put to shame,
And I shall never perish.
8 The Law reveals the guilt of sin
And makes us conscience-stricken;
But then the Gospel enters in
The sinful soul to quicken.
Come to the cross, trust Christ, and live;
The Law no peace can ever give,
No comfort and no blessing.
9 Faith clings to Jesus' cross alone
And rests in Him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
With love and hope increasing.
For faith alone can justify;
Works serve our neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living.
10 All blessing, honor, thanks, and praise
To Father, Son, and Spirit,
The God who saved us by His grace,
All glory to His merit.
O triune God in heav'n above,
You have revealed Your saving love;
Your blessed name we hallow.
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