A Twofold Righteousness…and Unrighteousness

Epiphany 1 Thursday

Matthew 3:15

“But Jesus answered and said to him: Let it now be so. Thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he allowed it.”

What does it mean to fulfill all righteousness? What is all righteousness? This is all righteousness: to consider yourself unrighteous before God and to confess wholeheartedly that no one can stand his judgment, but all must bow before him, no matter how holy they may be, and confess that they are sinners–just as David, although he was a man according to God’s will, desired that God would not summon him to judgment because there neither he nor any other man would pass, Psalm 143:2. This, then, is what fulfilling all righteousness means: being good while not wanting to be good, that is,
confessing to be a sinner, not clinging to the goodness. This, then, is a twofold righteousness: He is righteous out of faith in Christ, but he does not take credit for the righteousness, but only for nothing but sin and refuse. For this is how we are by nature, since sin clings to our flesh until it turns to dust. Accordingly, there is also a twofold unrighteousness: Someone is a rogue by nature but does not want to be one, presents a good facade without anything behind it: He is a rogue by nature who additionally does not want to confess this. So, here the two, Christ and John, are righteous before God; and they also demonstrate their goodness by humility. Therefore, they fulfill all righteousness with the heart by faith and with outward proof that is a witness of the inner and true faith. Accordingly, we too should remain humble, not be self-confident, but always walk in fear and humility. John here does not assert anything here: Away, he thinks, away with my righteousness; a person better than I comes. He does not boast before Christ. This is how he fulfills all righteousness. Yet it is difficult for nature that a person should be good while he considers himself to be a sinner, declares himself to be a sinner, and lets himself be rebuked as a sinner. This is a lofty virtue to have much grace while acting as if there is much sin; to have the wisdom of the Spirit while acting in a plain and simple manner. If you do this, you will become free from self-confidence and arrogance. Accordingly, Christ also acts like other people, lets himself be
baptized and says: “Let it now be so. Thus all righteousness is to be fulfilled,” as if he wanted to say: “This is how the whole world should know that we are good children. He did not want to be openly what he was, until the Father would glorify him.

St. Louis ed., 11:2139-2140.

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