These lectures give eloquent evidence of Luther’s determined espousal of the doctrine of justification by faith. But although in 1531 the Reformer’s position with regard to this cardinal teaching of the Holy Writ was identical with what he had set forth in his earlier series of lectures, a sharp difference is discernible to a careful reader. The Luther of 1535 has at his command far greater simplicity and pungency of expression than one finds in the work he compiled in 1519. With the passing of the years the Reformer grew in knowledge and exegetical skill. It is not surprising, therefore, that the lectures he delivered at a later period in his life overshadow the former series in popularity as well as in significance. These, his Lectures on Galatians, reflect his development.
“It is difficult and dangerous to teach that we are justified by faith without works and yet to require works at the same time. Unless the ministers of Christ are faithful and prudent here and are ‘stewards of the mysteries of God’ (1 Cor. 4:1), who rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15), they will immediately confuse faith and love at this point. Both topics, faith and works, must be carefully taught and emphasized, but in such a way that they both remain within their limits. Otherwise, if works alone are taught, as happened under the papacy, faith is lost. If faith alone is taught, unspiritual men will immediately suppose that works are not necessary.” (Volume 27, Pages 62–63)
“Therefore it is as necessary that faithful preachers urge good works as that they urge the doctrine of faith. For Satan is enraged by both and bitterly resists them. Nevertheless, faith must be implanted first; for without it one cannot understand what a good work is and what is pleasing to God.” (Volume 27, Page 53)
“This teaching is the touchstone by which we can judge most surely and freely about all doctrines, works, forms of worship, and ceremonies of all men. Whoever (whether he be a papist, a Jew, a Turk, or a sectarian) teaches that anything beyond the Gospel of Christ is necessary to attain salvation; whoever establishes any work or form of worship; whoever observes any rule, tradition, or ceremony with the opinion that thereby he will obtain the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and eternal life—will hear the judgment of the Holy Spirit pronounced against him here by the apostle: that Christ is of no advantage to him at all.” (Volume 27, Page 9)