Why We Jump Out of the Law

Lent 5 Tuesday

Psalm 130:3

“If you, O Lord, would impute sins, O Lord, who will stand?”


As you know, this verse is used very frequently in our theology. And I do not see how either our adversaries or even the devil could overthrow it. For what about it could be doubted? David has the testimony, 1 Samuel 13:14, that he is a man according to God’s heart. And he truly is an outstanding example of every kind of Christian virtue. For although he has a bad reputation on account of Uriah’s murder and his adultery with Bathsheba, is not also his humility an extraordinary one and his faith an ardent one, when Samuel rebuked his sin and raised him back up again? Consider furthermore his great patience in adversities, his great care and diligence to establish and perpetuate worship. Why should I say more? David is not one among many, regardless of whether you consider his faith and life or God’s testimony about him. And yet, this great and holy man says expressly and evidently: “If you, O Lord, would impute sins, O Lord, who will stand?” Does this not mean that he denies simply all righteousness, holiness, and purity? Similarly, in Psalm 32:6, he evidently mentions “the saints” although he says: “Therefore the saints will pray to you at the proper time,” so that you may forgive them their sin. But where are those who praise the righteousness of works so much, when David casts aside all works and all righteousness before God and simply prays that God would not impute sin? To be sure, our adversaries now speak with significantly more moderation than in the beginning, for they no longer deny outright that faith justifies. But they do add that justifying faith must be formed by love, which makes them sound like parrots who utter words they do not understand. But no matter how you may form the faith, this is a generally valid statement: “If you, O Lord, would impute sin, O Lord, who, just who will stand?” No one, of course. For if anyone could stand, David truly would have stood, such a holy man who was so learned in the Word of God; who was so often led to faith and the fear of God by so much misfortune and danger. For I do not believe that the shamelessness among the papists goes so far that someone should consider himself superior to David as far as the righteousness of works is concerned – but David says: “The righteousness does not come from the works, for “if you would impute sins,” no one will stand.” This is why we should learn not to come to God’s judgment trusting in our works or our righteousness, even if we had done everything we could have done. … This is why this is the point: We all – David, Peter, Paul, etc. – are born as sinners, live as sinners, and die as sinners. But this is our glory and our salvation that we, instructed concerning the mercy of God and the merit of Christ by the gospel, jump out of the law and our works into another circle of doctrine and into another light and confidently step before God and say: “O Lord, we cannot argue with you in judgment; we cannot have a disputation with you about our righteousness and sin. Now, if you want to impute sins, if you want to inquire as in a trial whether we are righteous, we are lost. This is why we appeal from this judgment to the throne of mercy. If we have done anything that is holy, we have done it based on your gift. Consider us, therefore, with the eyes of your mercy, not with the eyes of your righteous judgment. For unless you overlook our sins and close your eyes regarding our sins so that you do not see them, we will not be saved.” We see that David followed the light of this teaching in the darkness of the law. Our situation today is better because we see clearly that we are presented with this light in the New Testament. For what do we teach today other than that we are saved by faith in Christ alone?


St. Louis ed., 5:2040-2044.

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