That He might deliver us from the present evil world. (Galatians 1:4)
Here Paul calleth the whole world, which hath been, is, and shall be, the present world, to put a difference between this and the everlasting world to come. Moreover he calleth it evil, because whatsoever is in this world, is subject to the malice of the devil reigning over the whole world. For this cause the world is the devil's kingdom. For there is in it nothing but ignorance, contempt, blasphemy, hatred of God, and disobedience against all the words and works of God. In and under this kingdom of the world are we.
Again, you see that no man is able to put away sin, by his own works, or his own power, because this present world is evil, and is set upon mischief.
As many then as are in the world are the bond-slaves of the devil, constrained to serve him and to do at his pleasure.
What availeth it then to set up so many orders of religion, for the abolishing of sin: to devise so many and painful works, as to wear shirts of hair, to beat the body with whips till the blood flowed, to go on pilgrimage, and such like? Be it so that thou doest all these things, yet notwithstanding this is true, that thou art in this present evil world, and not in the Kingdom of Christ. And if thou be not in the Kingdom of Christ, it is certain thou belongest to the kingdom of Satan, which is this evil world. Therefore all the gifts, either of the body, or of the mind, which thou enjoyest, as wisdom, righteousness, holiness, eloquence, power, beauty, and riches, are but the slavish instruments of the devil, and with all these thou art compelled to serve him, and to advance his kingdom.
First with thy wisdom thou darkenest the wisdom and the knowledge of Christ, and by thy wicked doctrine, leadest men out of the way, that they cannot come to the grace and knowledge of Christ. Thou settest out and praiseth thin own righteousness and holiness: but the righteousness of Christ, by which only we are justified, and quickened, thou doest hate and condemn. To be brief, by thy power thou destroyest the Kingdom of Christ, and abusest the same to root out the gospel, to persecute and kill the ministers of Christ, and so many as hear them.
Therefore Paul doth rightly call it the present evil world: for when it is at the best, then is it worst. In the religious, wise, and learned men, the world is at the best, and yet, in very deed in them it is double evil. I overpass those gross vices which are against the second table, as disobedience to parents, to magistrates, adulteries, whoredoms, covetousness, thefts, murders, and maliciousness, wherein the world is altogether drowned, which notwithstanding are light faults if we compare them with the wisdom and righteousness of the wicked, whereby they fight against the first table. This white devil, which forceth men to commit spiritual sins that they may sell them for righteousness, is far more dangerous than the black devil which only enforceth them to commit fleshly sins, which the world acknowledgeth to be sins.
By these words then, That He might deliver us from this present world, Paul showeth what is the argument of this epistle; to wit that we have need of grace and of Christ, and that no creature, neither man nor angel, can deliver man out of the present evil world. For these works are only belonging to the Divine Majesty, and are not in the power of any either angel or man. That Christ hath put away sin and hath delivered us from the tyranny and kingdom of the devil; that is to say, from this wicked world, which is an obedient servant, and a willing follower of the devil his god. The world is full of the ignorance of God, of hatred, lying, blasphemy, and of contempt of God. Moreover of gross sins, as murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, and such-like, because he knoweth his father the devil, who is a murderer and a liar. And the more wise, righteous, and holy that men are without Christ, so much the more hurt they do the gospel. So we also, that were religious men, were doubly wicked in the papacy, before God did lighten us with the knowledge of His gospel.
Let these words then of Paul remain, true and effectual, as indeed they are, namely, that this present world is evil. Let it nothing at all move thee, that in a great number of men, there be many excellent virtues, and there is so great a show of holiness in hypocrites. But mark thou rather what Paul saith: out of whose words thou mayest boldly and freely pronounce this sentence against the world, that with all its wisdom, power, and righteousness, it is the kingdom of the devil: out of which God alone is able to deliver us by His only-begotten Son.
Therefore let us praise God the Father, and give Him hearty thanks for this His immeasurable mercy, that hath delivered us out of the kingdom of the devil (in which we were holden captives), by His own Son, when it is impossible to be done by our own strength. And let us acknowledge together with Paul that all our works and righteousness, are but loss and dross.
Also let us cast under our feet and utterly abhor all the power of free-will, all pharisaical wisdom and righteousness, all religious orders, all masses, ceremonies, vows, fastings, and such like (Phil. iii. 8 [Philippians 3:8]), as a most filthy rotten rag, or as dung, and as the most dangerous poison of the devil. Contrariwise, let us extol and magnify the glory of Christ, who hath delivered us by His death, not from this world only, but from this present evil world.
Paul then, by this word, evil, showeth that the Kingdom of the world, or the devil's kingdom, is the kingdom of iniquity, ignorance, error, sin, death, blasphemy, desperation, and everlasting damnation.
On the other side, the Kingdom of Christ, is the kingdom of equity, light, grace, remission of sins, peace, consolation, saving health, and everlasting life, into the which we are translated by our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory, world without end. Amen. -- Martin Luther from Luther's Commentary on Galatians, That He might deliver us from the present evil world. (Galatians 1:4 excerpt), English translation by Erasmus Middleton, B.D., edited by John Prince Fallowes, M.A., Pembroke College, Cambridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1979, 1553).
The text above is an exact copy of the excerpt from this edition and is used by permission.
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