With this year being the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Reformation (though there were quite a number of precursors leading up to that point), there are a number of great resources that are celebrating what God has done in history in recovering the gospel, while expressing the urgent need for ongoing reformation in our present day in the church (universally).
Tag: Martin Luther
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” Psalm 115:1
“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:4
This is an excerpt taken from the preface of Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians. He writes:
St. Paul sets about establishing the doctrine of faith, grace, forgiveness of sins, or Christian righteousness. His purpose is that we may understand exactly the nature of Christian righteousness and its difference from all other kinds of righteousness, for there are various sorts of righteousness. There is a political or civil righteousness, which emperors, princes of the world, philosophers, and lawyers deal with. There is also a ceremonial righteousness, which human traditions teach. This righteousness may be taught without danger by parents and schoolteachers because they do not attribute to it any power to satisfy for sin, to please God, or to deserve grace; but they teach such ceremonies as are necessary simply for the correction of manners and certain observations concerning this life. Besides these, there is another righteousness, called the righteousness of the law or of the Ten Commandments, which Moses teaches. We too teach this, according to the doctrine of faith.
“This, therefore, is also essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know: That God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His immutable, eternal, and infallible will.”
“… it follows unalterably, that all things which we do, although they may appear to us to be done mutably and contingently, and even may be done thus contingently by us, are yet, in reality, done necessarily and immutably, with respect to the will of God. For the will of God is effective and cannot be hindered; because the very power of God is natural to Him, and His wisdom is such that He cannot be deceived. And as His will cannot be hindered, the work itself cannot be hindered from being done in the place, at the time, in the measure, and by whom He foresees and wills. If the will of God were such, that, when the work was done, the work remained but the will ceased, (as is the case with the will of men, which, when the house is built which they wished to build, ceases to will, as though it ended by death) then, indeed, it might be said, that things are done by contingency and mutability. But here, the case is the contrary; the work ceases, and the will remains. So far is it from possibility, that the doing of the work or its remaining, can be said to be from contingency or mutability. But, (that we may not be deceived in terms) being done by contingency, does not, in the Latin language, signify that the work itself which is done is contingent, but that it is done according to a contingent and mutable will—such a will as is not to be found in God! Moreover, a work cannot be called contingent, unless it be done by us unawares, by contingency, and, as it were, by chance; that is, by our will or hand catching at it, as presented by chance, we thinking nothing of it, nor willing any thing about it before.”
Praise God for raising up someone to oppose those who were holding down the Gospel through greed, power and manipulation. There had been those before Luther such as John Huss and John Wycliffe who some would consider the first line of troops to break the stronghold of the “Normandy beach” but most of the initial Reformers died for the sake of Christ in making His Gospel known. But Luther was the first to gain a foothold on the beach by nailing his 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517 – aka Reformation Day (though it had already begun in debates and dialogs with various Roman Catholic theologians. It was revolutionary, the explosion of the Protestant Reformation was about to take place all over Europe. After seeing the Gospel pop out of the Scriptures before his eyes when reading Romans and Galatians in particular, that the righteous shall live by faith in Christ alone and nothing else (no works, etc), he could not help but see the unbelievable fallacies and evils of the Roman Catholic Church in direct opposition to the Gospel itself in the Scriptures. He saw they had set up a legalistic, religious system of approach to God, offering to all that more was needed than the blood of Christ alone to be saved, such as penance, purgatory, etc. Luther opposed this by showing that Salvation is by Sovereign Grace in the cross work of Christ on behalf of His people. Luther’s main emphasis in the Reformation was a returning to the Biblical Gospel, that we are saved by sovereign Grace Alone through Faith Alone in Christ Alone revealed in the Scriptures Alone to the Glory of God alone (the Five Solas).
Luther considered his most important work to be The Bondage of the Will, which spread like a wildfire throughout Europe, a letter (book really) written to Erasmus, a Roman Catholic theologian debating Luther on the Scriptural validity of the will being free from the corruption of sin or not. The heart of the Reformation itself dealt with the will, i.e. does God have to regenerate the will by the work of Christ to turn our affections and desires; whether God has to do a supernatural work in the heart to make a person willing to believe in Christ alone in order that they may be saved. Monergism vs. Synergism was the core issue. The doctrine of faith alone simply supported Grace Alone. It is God who saves from beginning to end, Alpha to Omega, the flesh is of no avail, just as Jesus said. I find it ironic that today most Protestant evangelicals in the West use the same arguments of Erasmus (a Roman Catholic theologian) when defending free will theology, whereas Luther would oppose them, just as he does in his most important book. It is odd that many disagree with the very conclusions of the heart of the Reformation itself, all the while benefiting from all that came out of it, even though this was the key issue to the whole thing, according to Luther himself. Regardless, praise God for raising up faithful people to spread his Gospel, even when it cost them their lives. Praise God for Reformation Day!
One of my favorite quotes from Luther:
“Whilst a man is persuaded that he has it in his power to contribute anything, be it ever so little, to his salvation, he remains in carnal self-confidence; he is not a self-despairer, and therefore is not duly humbled before God, he believes he may lend a helping hand in his salvation, but on the contrary, whoever is truly convinced that the whole work depends singly on the will of God, such a person renounces his own will and strength; he waits and prays for the operation of God, nor waits and prays in vain . . .” – Martin Luther
Even though I could go through and give arguments for each of the five points, I believe this is much more helpful. This debate cuts directly through to the core of the matter. Many believers who know and love Christ disagree on Calvinism and its tenets, but the heart of the debate can be summed up in the debate between the theological system of monergism and synergism and nothing more. Though these may seem like high and lofty words, used merely by scholars to define doctrinal systems, just bear with me for a moment because these concepts are not difficult at all: synergism is essentially the idea that “faith arises out of an inherent capacity of the natural man,” (Hendryx) or in other terms, that faith is produced by our unregenerated (i.e. sin bound) human nature, that man cooperates with God in salvation and more specifically in regeneration; and monergism is the idea that God alone does the work in salvation, having provided everything necessary to save His people, and that our faith in Christ is simply the result of a newly regenerated heart. Or simply put in a question format, does man cooperate with God in salvation, or is it God’s work alone? When two people hear the Gospel, why does one person believe while another doesn’t? Your answer to these questions reveals your system of doctrines on the nature of God, man, sin, election, regeneration, faith, justification, sanctification, as well as many other doctrines. And though many think these two opposing concepts to be mere hair-splitting over theological differences, these really do have larger ramifications in the areas of personal sanctification, evangelism, prayer, ministry philosophy, teaching/preaching, and many other areas. This is indeed a very important debate and much is at stake for the Gospel and ultimately God’s glory. And the main question we must answer is, what does the Word of God teach concerning these things?
Here I’ve listed what I feel are some very important articles addressing this subject with substantial Scripture references, and I ask you to take some time and read them, study the Scriptures mentioned, and determine it for yourself. I really do believe (speaking from experience of course) that once you understand and see that monergism is the more Biblical of the two positions, you will be drawn deeper into worship of the Almighty God, and stand in awe at your own unworthiness and His great might, power, and mercy to save His people from the consequences of sin and reconcile them to Himself (the latter being the greatest of all the blessings of salvation).
Two Views of Regeneration (A Very Helpful Chart)
Monergism vs. Synergism – John Hendryx
The Work of the Trinity in Monergism – John Hendryx
Monergism – Synergism Debate – Hendryx vs. Moser
Responding to Critics of Monergism – Hendryx
Regeneration Precedes Faith – R.C. Sproul
“At the same time righteous and a sinner.”
There are two senses in which the believer must view himself. In one sense, the Father sees us as He sees Christ. Jesus having fulfilled all righteousness and offering Himself up for us, has now given us His righteousness (an alien righteousness, or a righteousness that we did not produce or merit by “works of the law”). It is His gift, and His to give to whomever He pleases. While we must always see ourselves as the Father sees Christ in His righteousness and glory, at the same time, we must never forget our present position, as still possessing sin. We are sinners. This is the very thing the Jews, particularly in Jesus’ time, had forgotten. They believed that because the Lord had chosen them as His people that they must have been better than the rest. But they were just as unworthy to receive any particular blessing from the Lord as the rest of us. They did not merit it or deserve it. The Lord called Abraham, the father of us all who have believed (Old Testament and New Testament believers), out of the Chaldeans, out of the land of Ur, a pagan land where other gods were worshipped. The Jews are completely unworthy of any of God’s graces, just as we all are. They believed they were clean by obeying the law outwardly, and possessed no sin, and didn’t consider for a moment that they were still sinners. We will not be perfect in this life and will not be glorified until we die and go to be with the Lord forever. And so, at the present time, we still possess sin. In 1 John, we are told that if we claim to be without sin, we make [Christ] out to be a liar! But we do not hone in on this one reality and lose all hope, but we flee to Christ who is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. Therefore, we consider both of these realities at the same time, that we now possess the very righteousness of Christ because of His work, that the Father sees us as He sees His Son, and we are totally unworthy. We are sinners and still sin, but we must run to Christ, the only One who can cleanse us from all unrighteousness, because He is righteous and makes intercession for us before the Father as our great High Priest.