Luther on Psalm 51:2

Psalm 51:2  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

“Once a Christian is righteous by faith and has accepted the forgiveness of sins, he should not be so smug, as though he were pure of all sins.  For only then does he face the constant battle with the remnants of sin, from which the prophet here wants to be cleansed.

He is righteous and holy by an alien or foreign holiness

that is, he is righteous by the mercy and grace of God.  This mercy and grace is not something human; it is not some sort of disposition or quality of the heart.  It is a divine blessing, given us through the true knowledge of the Gospel, when we know or believe that our sin has been forgiven us through the grace and merit of Christ and when we hope for steadfast love and abundant mercy for Christ’s sake…

It consists completely in the indulgence of another and is a pure gift of God, who shows mercy and favor for Christ’s sake…

Therefore, the Christian is not formally righteous, he is not righteous according to substance or quality…  He is righteous according to his relationship to something: namely, only in respect to divine grace and the free forgiveness of sins…”

LW Vol. 12 

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