God will uphold you with His victorious right hand.

I will uphold you with My victorious right hand. This beautifully brings the supreme comfort to a close. He uses a new word, I will uphold you. Christ grants the strength of His own righteousness to all believers and descends on the wretchedness of all who rely on their righteousnesses. Therefore he says here: “Only the righteousness of Christ, which is His own, this alone helps you against all enemies.” There he indicates that the Christian man is especially distressed by his own righteousnesses or is even perplexed by sins, his own and those of others and false ones. Day and night Satan is busy making sinners afraid, and with endless devices he assails this citadel, a happy conscience. That is something he cannot endure. But Christ fortifies this citadel against all the assaults and endless schemes of Satan. “Do not be confused, do not fear sins, and do not rely on your righteousness, but walk the middle way. Grasp My righteousness, and cling to it alone.”

Martin Luther
Luther’s Works Vol. 17 Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66

We are bound by our own will.

And it is because we do not really know God that we must, in the second place, construct a theology that enables us basically to place our trust in ourselves. The point of Luther’s writing On the Bondage of the Will is that as sinners we are bound by our own will to do this. The bondage of the will does not stem from the fact that because God is almighty we are therefore forced to do things “against our will”— as though we were “determined” or some such nonsense. No, the bondage of the will Luther was talking about was much more actual. It is something of our own making. We will not accept an almighty God and so are bound by our own will to construct a theology based on our own freedom. We are the problem, not God. We are bound to the folly of taking our fate into our own hands. That is what Luther means when he says in his explanation to the third article of the Apostle’s Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him. . . .”

Gerhard O. Forde
Where God Meets Man: Luther’s Down-to-Earth Approach to the Gospel
p. 24-25

Their works are nothing but grasshoppers. . .

This comparison with grasshoppers is frequently used in the Scriptures, as if to say, “Grasshoppers are easily shooed away.” All inhabitants of the earth are like this in the sight of God. They cannot bear God’s least judgment but are scattered by one word and breath of God. So today we observe that the pope and all the most holy servants of the Mass are in God’s sight nothing but grasshoppers that are scattered. The nations, again, are not to be understood metaphysically. The reference is to every undertaking and righteousness on their part that aims at appeasing God. Their works are nothing but grasshoppers that must be dispersed. And they hang on very weakly.

Martin Luther
Luther’s Works Vol. 17: Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66

The gist of preaching is “Behold your God.”

Say to the cities of Judah: Behold your God! He mentions the doctrine that should be preached. This is the gist of your preaching: Behold your God! “Promote God alone, His mercy and grace. Preach Me alone.” The rest, the ungodly, preach the doctrines and works of men, their own rules and righteousnesses. This herald must avoid that kind of teaching and speak of Christ alone. In Him alone rests all our salvation.

Martin Luther
Luther’s Works Vol. 17: Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66

Luther on Isaiah 40:2

2. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.

So here, the heart, groaning and sighing, is comforted by the Spirit, for the Spirit speaks to the heart as He wills. Do you want a gracious God? He answers: “You have a gracious God.” Do you want to be comforted? He answers: “You are comforted.” Here, then, you observe God’s people, afflicted and sad. To them the Gospel is spoken, to their heart and feeling. For Gospel preachers are commanded to say joyful things, more than the heart can grasp, as Paul says (Rom. 8:26), “with sighs too deep for words.” So these groans are comforted with consolations too deep for words. Let the preacher say, then: “I not only preach Christ to you as the One who forgives, but I also give you His righteousness, so that, clothed with Him, you may have all that is His. The comfort is therefore far more excellent than all groanings. Do you want to be holy? I will make you holy, yes, most holy through Christ.”

Martin Luther
Luther’s Works Vol. 17: Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66

We are both/and sinner and justified

Therefore, when Luther says that a Christian is at the same time sinner and justified, he does not mean in terms of an open-ended circle, but he adds that the “both/and” of these two powers (i.e. God and sin) is ever an “over/under” in our lives. We live, to be sure, in the twilight and the shadows of the night are ringed with the glow of light. However, it is not the glow of sunset, but rather the dawn of the morning. The power of sin is already weakened and it has already lost the battle. But the new righteousness of God has been raised and we already live in its hope: “The night is advancing, the dawn is almost nigh.”*

The Righteousness of Faith According to Luther
Hans J. Iwand
p. 33

* Iwand is quoting from WA 2:586. 9; LW 27:363-364: “Accordingly, one must not imagine that these are two distinct human beings. But it is like a morning twilight, which is neither day nor night yet can be called either one. Nevertheless, day, as that toward which it is tending after the darkness of night, is more appropriate. By fat the most beautiful illustrations of both truths is that half-alive man in Luke (10:30ff.) who, on being taken up by the Samaritan, was indeed being healed but still was not fully restored to health. Thus we in the church are indeed in the process of being healed, but we are not fully healthy. For the latter reason we are called “flesh;” for the former, “spirit.” It is the whole man who love chastity, and the same man is titillated by the enticements of lust. There are two whole men, and there is only one whole man. Thus it comes about that a man fights against himself and is opposed to himself. He is willing, and he is unwilling. And this is the glory of the grace of God; it makes us enemies of ourselves.”

Luther knew how difficult it is to hold fast to the truth.

Although I am a doctor of divinity, and have preached Christ and fought His battles for a long time, I know from personal experience how difficult it is to hold fast to the truth. I cannot always shake off Satan. I cannot always apprehend Christ as the Scriptures portray Him. Sometimes the devil distorts Christ to my vision. But thanks be to God, who keeps us in His Word, in faith, and in prayer.

The spiritual witchery of the devil creates in the heart a wrong idea of Christ. Those who share the opinion that a person is justified by the works of the Law, are simply bewitched. Their belief goes against faith and Christ.

Martin Luther: Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1535)
Trans. Theodore Graebner