Excerpt of Martin Luther and the Reformation (The Bondage of the will)
“It’s very hard for a man to believe that God is gracious to him. The human heart can’t grasp this.” Martin Luther, 1531
As Luther was dying, one of his final statements was: “We are all beggars. That is true”
Bishop Berkeley (A.D. 1670.) wrote, “I cannot pray, but I sin; I cannot preach, but I sin; I cannot administer, nor receive the holy sacrament, but I sin. My very repentance needs to be repented of: and the tears I shed need washing in the blood of Christ.”
A. Sola Scriptura
3. For Luther, Scripture alone did not mean that the history of interpretation was without value, but that the interpretations of men must always bow to the text itself.
B. Sola Fide (By Faith Alone)
3. “Without works”: not that the righteous person does nothing, but that his works do not make him righteous, rather that his righteousness creates works.”
C. Sola Gratia (By Grace alone)
2. The gospel the guide for the Christian life; the Christian life not spoken of in terms of obedience to God’s law. “The law says ‘do this,’ and it is never done. Grace says, ‘believe in this,’ and everything is done already.”
D. Solus Christus (By Christ Alone)
1. Christ the only mediator between God and man
2. Not the church, not the sacraments, not human ability
Humans were allowed freedom to things below us, but not things above us... unaided, the human will cannot move toward God;
~And can it be ( Charles Wesley )
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
New Living Translation (NLT)
10 Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom,
imprisoned in iron chains of misery.
11 They rebelled against the words of God,
scorning the counsel of the Most High.
12 That is why he broke them with hard labor;
they fell, and no one was there to help them.
13 “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
14 He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom;
he snapped their chains.
15 Let them praise the Lord for his great love
and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
16 For he broke down their prison gates of bronze;
he cut apart their bars of iron.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Paul’s Concern for the Galatians
8 Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist. 9 So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world? 10 You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. 11 I fear for you. Perhaps all my hard work with you was for nothing. 12 Dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles—free from those laws. You did not mistreat me when I first preached to you.
Quotes from Luther’s, On the Bondage of the Will
A. The Significance of the Issue
It is not irreligious, wasteful, or superficial, but essentially healthy and necessary, for a Christian to know whether or not his will has anything to do in matters pertaining to salvation. Indeed, let me tell you, this is the hinge on which our discussion turns, the crucial issue between us; our aim is, simply, to investigate what ability "free will" has, in what respect it is the subject of divine action and how it stands related to the grace of God. If we know nothing of these things, we shall know nothing whatsoever of Christianity, and shall be in worse than the heathen! He who does not admit this should acknowledge that he is not a Christian; and he who ridicules or derides it should realize that he is the greatest enemy of Christianity. For if I am ignorant in the nature, extent and limits of what I can and must do in relationship to God, I shall be equally ignorant and uncertain of the nature, extent and limits of what God can and will do in me - though God, in fact, works everything in everyone. Now, if I am ignorant of the works and powers of God, I am ignorant of God himself; and if I do not know God, I cannot worship, praise, give thanks or serve Him, for I do not know how much I should attribute to myself and how much to Him. We need, therefore, to have in mind a clear-cut distinction between God's power and ours, and God's work and ours, if we would live a godly life.
B. There are two parts to Christianity
This problem [the knowledge of what we contribute to our salvation] is one half of the whole sum of Christianity, since on it both knowledge of oneself and the knowledge and glory of God quite vitally depend. That is why we cannot permit you, my dear Erasmus, to call such knowledge "irreverent," "inquisitive," and "vain." The other half of the sum of Christianity is concerned with whether God's foreknowledge is uncertain, and whether everything we do could be done any other way.
Since God's foreknowledge is not uncertain, "free-will" is non-existent.
It is fundamentally necessary and healthy for Christians to acknowledge that God foreknows nothing uncertainly, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His own immutable, eternal and infallible will. This bombshell knocks "free-will" flat, and utterly shatters it; so that those who want to assert it must either deny my bombshell, or pretend not to notice it, or find some other way of dodging it.
C. A will which has no power without grace is not free
You describe the power of "free-will" as small, and wholly ineffective apart from the grace of God. Agreed? Now then, I ask you: If God's grace is wanting, if it is taken away from that small power, what can it do? It is ineffective, you say, and can do nothing good. So it will not do what God or His grace wills. Why? Because we have now taken God's grace away from it, and what the grace of God does not do is not good. Hence it follows that "free-will" without God's grace is not free at all, but is the permanent prisoner and bondslave of evil, since it cannot turn itself to good. This being so, I give you full permission to enlarge the power of "free-will" as much as you like; make it angelic, make it divine, if you can! - but when you add this doleful postscript, that it is ineffective apart from God's grace, straightway you rob it of all its power.
D. The comfort of knowing that salvation does not depend on "free-will"
I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want "free-will" to be given to me, nor anything to be justify in my own hands to enable me to endeavor after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities, and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground and hold fast my "free-will" (for one devil is stronger than all men, and on these terms no man could be saved); but because, even were there no dangers, adversities, or devils, I should still be forced to labor with no guarantee of success, and to beat my fists at the air. If I lived and worked to all eternity, my conscience would never reach comfortable certainty as to how much it must do to satisfy God. Whatever work I had done, there would still be a nagging doubt as to whether it pleases God, or whether He required something more. The experience of all who seek righteousness by works proves that; and I learned it well enough myself over a period of many years, to my own great hurt. But now that God has taken my salvation out the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him. "No one," He says, "shall pluck them out of my hand, because my father which gave them me is greater than all" [John 10:28-29]. Thus it is that, if not all, yet some, indeed many, are saved; whereas, by the power of "free-will" none at all could be saved, but every one of us would perish. Furthermore, I have the comfortable certainty that I please God, not by reason of the merit of my works, but by reason of His merciful favor promised to me; so that, if I work too little, or badly, He does not impute it to me, but with fatherly compassion pardons me and makes me better. This is the glorying of all the saints in their God.
E. The justice of God in His dealings with men
You may be worried that it is hard to defend the mercy and equity of God in damning the undeserving, that is, ungodly persons, who, being born in ungodliness, can by no means avoid being ungodly, and staying so, and being damned, but are compelled by natural necessity to sin and perish; as Paul says: "We were all the children of wrath, even as others" [Eph. 2:3], created such by God Himself from a seed that had been corrupted by the sin of one man, Adam. But here God must be reverenced and held in awe, as being most merciful to those whom He justifies and saves in their own utter unworthiness; and we must show some measure of deference to His Divine wisdom by believing Him just when to us He seems unjust. If His justice were such as could be adjudged just by human reckoning, it clearly would not be Divine; it would in no way differ from human justice. But inasmuch as He is the one true God, wholly incomprehensible and inaccessible to man's understanding, it is reasonable, indeed inevitable, that His justice also should be incomprehensible; as Paul cries, saying: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" [Romans 11:33]. They would not, however, be "unsearchable" if we could at every point grasp the grounds on which they are just. What is man compared with God? How much can our power achieve compared with His power? What is our strength compared with His strength? What is our knowledge compared with His wisdom? What is our substance compared with His substance? In a word, what is all that we are compared with all that He is? If, now, even nature teaches to acknowledge that human power, strength, wisdom, knowledge and substance, and all that is ours, is nothing compared with the Divine power, strength, wisdom, knowledge and substance, what perversity is it on our part to worry at the justice and the judgment of the only God, and to arrogate so much to our own judgment as to presume to comprehend, judge and evaluate God's judgment!
... I shall here end this book, ready though I am to pursue the matter further, if need be; but I think that abundant satisfaction has here been afforded for the godly man who is willing to yield to truth without stubborn resistance. For if we believe it to be true that God foreknows and foreordains all things; that He cannot be deceived or obstructed in His foreknowledge and predestination; and that nothing happens but at His will (which reason itself is compelled to grant); then, on reason's own testimony, there can be no "free-will" in man, or angel, or in any creature. So, if we believe that Satan is the prince of this world, ever ensnaring and opposing the kingdom of Christ with all his strength, and that he does not let his prisoners go unless he is driven out by the power of the Divine Spirit, it is again apparent that there can be no "free-will". … And, finally, if we believe that Christ redeemed men by His blood, we are forced to confess that all of man was lost; otherwise, we make Christ either wholly superfluous, or else the redeemer of the least valuable part of man only; which is blasphemy, and sacrilege.