From Martin Luther’s Sermon “Two Kinds of Righteousness”

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“There are two kinds of Christian righteousness, just as man’s sin is of two kinds.

“The first is alien righteousness, that is the righteousness of another, instilled from without. This is the righteousness of Christ by which he justifies through faith… This righteousness, then, is given to men in baptism and whenever they are truly repentant… Through faith in Christ, therefore, Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness and all that he has becomes ours; rather, he himself becomes ours…

“The second kind of righteousness is our proper righteousness, not because we alone work it, but because we work with that first and alien righteousness. This is that manner of life spent profitably in good works, in the first place, in slaying the flesh and crucifying the desires with respect to the self… In the second place, this righteousness consits in love to one’s neighbor, and in the third place, in meekness and fear toward God.”

(LW 31:297-299)

3 thoughts on “From Martin Luther’s Sermon “Two Kinds of Righteousness”

  1. The Catholic (and Orthodox) Churches agree that Christ’s righteousness is something given to us. Luther came up with the idea of it being imputed to us juridically (or forensically). The Catholic and Orthodox believe that Christ infuses his righteousness into us. Both Luther and Catholics/Orthodox believe that it occurs through the sacrament of baptism.

    It’s interesting since Calvin some years later took Luther’s idea of sola Fide through imputed alien righteousness but remove the “through baptism” part. Luther was much more sacramental than Calvin. Now the vast majority of Protestants follow Calvin’s version of sola Fide.

  2. As always, Luther’s sense of order and priority is crucial…alien righteousness precedes proper righteousness which the believer works out with “fear and trembling” and “joy” for the rest of life’s journey, one being root the other fruit.

  3. On this day, September 11 (9/11), it would be interesting to think about the role of advancing Islam in 16th century European borderlands in distracting the Papacy and the Emperor from giving their full attention to the “Luther Problem” in the German Lands.

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