Musings 134

John 6:44: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

Moreover, I give you hearty praise and commendation on this further account—that you alone, in contrast with all others, have attacked the real thing, that is, the essential issue. You have not wearied me with these extraneous issues about the Papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and such like—trifles, rather than issues—in respect of which almost all to date have sought my blood (though without success); you, and you alone, have seen the hinge on which all turns, and aimed for the vital spot. (Luther to Erasmus in Bondage of the Will)

The whole gospel of the grace of God, he held, was bound up with it, and stood or fell according to the way one decided it…The doctrine of the bondage of the will in particular was the corner-stone of the gospel and the very foundation of the faith…The denial of free-will was to Luther the foundation of the Biblical doctrine of grace, and a hearty endorsement of that denial was the first step for anyone who would understand the gospel and come to faith in God. The man who has not yet practically and experimentally learned the bondage of his will in sin has not yet comprehended any part of the gospel; for this is ‘the hinge on which all turns,’ the ground on which the gospel rests. (Quotes from Packer and Johnson from the introduction to The Bondage of the Will)

I am continually struck by how strong Luther and Calvin were on the depravity of man and the inability of man, but that is in direct contrast to today where it is rarely mentioned. Why is it rarely mentioned much less explained and taught as a vital truth in the Gospel? It is because men are ashamed of those things that will bring them troubles in the churches. It is because men are not clear on the Gospel themselves. It is because men understand doctrine to some degree as set out in a creed, but they have never felt the weight of it upon their own hearts. It is because men love to tickle their intellects with historical teachings but they don’t want the throne of self to be disturbed. The throne of self can be quite undisturbed as long as the teaching is only in the intellect.

If only Luther and Calvin taught this, then it would not be such a bit issue. But since Jesus was quite clear on it, then it should be a huge issue with us as well. Jesus said that no one “can come” to Himself unless the Father draws that person. It should seem clear from that point that no person can just believe, say a prayer, or do some act of faith and be saved as a result of that. No person has the power to bring him or herself to Christ and no person has the power to give him or herself faith. We live in a day where the professing “Reformed” sound just like the Arminians do and seem afraid (if they are aware) to tell people that they cannot give themselves faith, but it is God alone who must give them faith.

Luther, in the quote at the top of the page, was so very clear that this was a vital part or an essential issue. If we are to preach the same Gospel that Luther did, then we must preach that which he considered to be a vital part or an essential issue. The Gospel that Luther preached was not to hide the vital issues behind an intellectual doctrine, but it was to set it out as essential indeed. Until men and women feel their inability they will not see the truth of the sufficiency of Christ alone. Until men know from the depths of their soul that they have no good in them and have no ability for faith, they will not look to grace alone to give them new and believing hearts.

The quotes from Packer and Johnson show this so powerfully. Without quoting them directly, but interspersing words for effect, let me give you some things to think of. The fullness of the Gospel of the grace of God (not this is the truth of justification) stands or falls on how one views and treats the doctrine of the will. The bondage of the will is the very cornerstone of the Gospel and is the foundation of the faith. If one denies this, then one is denies the cornerstone of the Gospel as well as the foundation of faith. The person who has not inwardly and in reality learned by experience the bondage of his or her own will has not comprehended any part of the Gospel of grace alone or the Gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone.

When will the professing “church” wake up and realize that it is closer to the Pharisees than it is to Jesus? When will the professing “church” wake up and realize that it is far closer to the essentials of Rome than it is to the teachings of Luther and Calvin? When will the academics and the intellectuals in the halls of learning realize that they are giving information to brains and the hearts of those who hear them are undisturbed and unchanged? When will the professing “preachers” of our day be awakened to realize that moral lectures, doctrinal lectures, and biblical expositions apart from showing men and seeking to have them feel and know in the inward man their inability before God and then the sovereign grace of God are doing nothing but harden men in their sin? As long as men are not changed from the love of self to the love of God they are dead in their sin and will only know things about the Gospel without knowing Christ as set forth in the Gospel who is the only hope of men by grace alone.

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One Response to “Musings 134”

  1. Cafazzo Franco Says:

    I would say that when the canon of Dort was finished the real cover -up; if you will, was and is Justification without conditions. Men could argue over free-will, but the legalistic heart of man loves to present something to God to meet the conditional covenant requirement of the “gospel”. That the rebellious and ungodly are justified, and have their iniquity laid upon Christ before they are or do the least good thing. This includes the work of faith. Christ alone justifies. My faith adds not an iota to the satisfaction of the sin-bearer.

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