Archive for October 27th, 2019

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Erasmus, the great humanist scholar at the time of the Reformation, wrote “Freedom of the Will” and Martin Luther responded with “Bondage of the Will”. Luther argues from Scripture which makes it abundantly clear that we have no natural powers to save ourselves. Here is one citation from Ephesians 2:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The Apostle describe mankind’s state, yours and mine, as “dead” (vss. 1, 5) and as “children of wrath” (vs. 3). “…even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” is graphically portrayed in the historical narrative Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead: only by the Word of the Christ can the dead Lazarus come from the tomb. Us as well. Christ gives us live and frees us. The Apostle wrote in to the Galatians this encouragement: For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5: 1) He encourages the Baptized to walk in the Spirit (Romans 6:1). This does not mean we have free will but a freed will in Holy Baptism by Christ’s work in the work of the Holy Spirit. In The Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article II, “Free Will” (The Book of Concord, Tappert, page 534, para. 56-68), the Lutheran Confessors sum up the “liberated will”. The last sentence truly teaches our condition and is a reminder of the importance of being fed the Holy Communion, hearing God’s Word and praying for freedom’s sake in Christ to be strengthened in faith and good works:

There is…a great difference between baptized people and unbaptized people because, according to the teaching of St. Paul, “all who have been baptized have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27), are thus truly born again, and now have a liberated will—that is, as Christ says, they have again been made free (St. John 8: 36). As a result, they not only hear the Word of God but also are able to assent to it and accept it, even though it be in great weakness. But since in this life we have received only the first fruits of the Spirit, and regeneration is not as yet perfect but has only been begun in us, the conflict and warfare of the flesh against the Spirit continues also in the elect and truly reborn. Again, there is not only a great difference between Christians, one being weak and the other strong in the Spirit, but even the individual Christian in his own life discovers that at one moment he is joyful in the Spirit and at another moment fearful and terrified, at one time ardent in love, strong in faith and in hope, and at another time cold and weak. (emphasis added)

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