When God Sends Hercules

Pentecost 13 Saturday

Jeremiah 23:29

“Is not my Word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”

The…theological or spiritual use of the law consists in increasing sin, as Paul calls it. That is, the law reveals to man his sin, his blindness, his misery, his godlessness, his ignorance regarding God, his hatred and disdain for God, so that he has well deserved death, hell, judgment and wrath from God. Romans 7 discusses this use excellently; however, this use is completely unknown to the hypocrites, sophists, and all people who are caught in the delusion that they are able to obtain righteousness through the law or through themselves. Yet so that God may tame and overcome this monster and this raging beast, i.e., the presumption of one’s own righteousness or spiritualness, which render man puffed up and proud by nature, so that he presumes to be pleasing to God for the sake of his own righteousness, God had to send a Hercules to attack this monster with all his force, to throw it down, and kill it. That is, God had to give the law on Mt. Sinai with great splendor and terrifying outward appearance that the entire people was terrified in fear, Exodus 19:18; 20:18. As this use of the law is the proper and chief one, so it is also very useful and exceedingly necessary. For if someone is not a murderer, an adulterer, or thief and keeps himself outwardly pure from sins, like that Pharisee in Luke 18:11, that person would swear, being possessed by the devil, that he is righteous…Such a person God cannot soften up and humble so that he might realize his misery and condemnation except by the law. For the law is the hammer of death, the thunder of hell, and the lightning of the divine wrath that breaks to pieces the hardened and unreasonable hypocrites…For as long as the presumption of man’s own righteousness remains in man, there also remains an immeasurable pride, arrogance, security, hatred of God, disdain for grace and mercy, ignorance concerning the promises and Christ. The preaching of the free forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake neither enters the heart nor tastes good, because an immense rock and a diamond-hard wall surround the heart, namely, the presumption of one’s own righteousness…God needs an immense and powerful hammer to destroy this wall, namely, the law. The law exercises its
proper office when it accuses and shows sin in this way: Look, you have broken all commandments of God, etc., thereby
terrifying the conscience, so that it feels in truth that God is offended and angered, and that it is condemned to eternal death. Then the heart experiences the unbearable weight of the law and is crushed to the point of despair, so that it wishes for death or thinks about taking its own life out of exceeding fear.

St. Louis ed., 9:410-412.

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