Luther’s Two Kinds of Righteousness


For any who have read my blog, it’s probably apparent that Martin Luther is one of my favorite theologians (along with Horatius Bonar, JC Ryle, and others). His works are utterly freeing, gospel-centered, and very passionate.

This is a refreshing excerpt from one of Luther’s sermons shortly before the beginning of the Reformation in Germany (circa 1519) called Two Kinds of Righteousness:

There are two kinds of Christian righteousness, just as man’s sin is of two kinds [natural and actual sin]. 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, as it is written in 1 Cor 1:30: “Whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption”…Through faith in Christ, therefore, Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness and all that he has becomes ours; rather, he himself becomes ours. Therefore the Apostle calls it “the righteousness of God” in Rom 1:17…This is an infinite righteousness, and one that swallows up all sins in a moment, for it is impossible that sin should exist in Christ. On the contrary, he who trusts in Christ exists in Christ; he is one with Christ, having the same righteousness as he…This righteousness is primary; it is the basis, the cause, the source of all our own actual righteousness…

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 the life spent profitably in good work, in the first place, in slaying the flesh and crucifying the desires with respect to the self…This [second] righteousness consists in love to one’s neighbor, [and is] the product of the righteousness of the first type, actually its fruit and consequence…This righteousness goes on to complete the first for it ever strives to do away with the old Adam and to destroy the body of sin…

Therefore through the first righteousness arises the voice of the bridegroom who says to the soul, “I am yours,” but through the second comes the voice of the bride who answers, “I am yours.” Then the marriage is consummated; it becomes strong and complete in accordance with the Song of Solomon 2:16: “My beloved is mine and I am his”.


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