Calvinism and Arminianism 32

“This false idea of ‘free-will’ is a real threat to salvation, and a delusion fraught with the most perilous consequences” (Luther).

Therefore we reject all that is taught repugnant to this concerning the free will of man, since man is but a slave to sin and has nothing himself unless it is given him from heaven. Belgic Confession

So it is not irreligious, idle, or superfluous, but in the highest degree wholesome and necessary, for a Christian to know whether of 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 case than any people on earth…That God’s mercy works everything, and our will works nothing, but is rather the object of Divine working, else all will not be ascribed to God. (Luther’s Reply to Erasmus)

While the doctrine of the will is thought to be a secondary issue of minor importance in our day, at the time of the Reformation it was thought to be a primary issue. It was an issue of vital importance. The issue of free-will in the realm of salvation was repugnant to the writers of the Belgic Confession, and to Luther it was a matter of the highest degree necessary to know how our will operates in matters pertaining to salvation. As he said in the quote above, “this is the hinge on which our discussion turns, the crucial issue between us.” Remember that he was speaking to Erasmus who was Roman Catholic, but one that desired peace and unity. Erasmus was a scholar and did not like these battles and wanted unity in the Church. But Luther knew the importance of the issue and would not let Erasmus off the hook. He pressed this issue home and pressed it home relentlessly.
In our own day we have few (seemingly) who see this as a vital issue. The professing Church is full of men like Erasmus, but we have none who are like Luther. We can say that God must raise men like Luther up and give him His Spirit to stand as he did against the world and professing Church of that day. It is very true that there was and will be only one Luther, but the point is that we must each stand in our own way. We must not be ashamed of the great doctrines of Christ and the Gospel. Either Christ saves sinners wholly or there is part of them that does not need saved (the free-will) and something is left for them to do. Either Christ saves sinners by grace alone or there is something left for them to do. We must press these issues on the souls of men and women if we are to be faithful to the Gospel. But again, there are many nice men in the ministry in our day who are like Erasmus and they will not press these issues home to the soul.
If Luther really and truly believed that the doctrine of the will was the crucial issue and it was of the highest degree necessary to know how our will operates in the things of salvation, then he was either right or wrong. Since there is an eternal Gospel and no other, if he was right then his position is right now. We must either say from the heart that Luther was wrong or we must say from the heart that he was right. But if Luther was right, then we need to press these things home to the souls and consciences of sinners too.

Surely it is almost self-evident that it is vital to souls to know whether their will has the power and ability to do something in the realm of salvation or whether the power and ability is all of God’s to show at He mere pleasure. This seems so obvious that it almost seems silly to repeat, but since it is the case in our day that these things are not talked about (at least in the practical realm) and as such are not stressed to those who are concerned about their souls. As Luther said, if we know nothing of these things we will not know nothing of Christianity. If we don’t teach the people in the pew these things, they will not know anything of Christianity. But then again, if the ministers have not been taught these things they presently know nothing of true Christianity even if they are highly educated in religious things. If we don’t know that God’s will works all things by grace alone and our will is not free to apply grace to ourselves, then we know nothing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ no matter how orthodox we are in our knowledge of Christ. If we are not willing to press home to souls their inability in obtain grace and God’s sovereignty to give grace as He pleases, we will not preach the glorious Gospel of grace alone and we are not Reformed in any real meaning of the word. How we need to be awakened to these things!

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