Not So Random Thoughts 4

A reposting of The Gospel and the Enslaved Will 1 from May 2, 2010
The trumpet of the Gospel that blasted forth from Luther and the Reformers is virtually unknown today. The power of that Gospel was also the Gospel that changed the world in the New Testament times before the Reformation. There are many who go forth preaching things about Jesus, but they miss the Gospel. There are many who go out telling people that they are sinners in need of a Savior, but they miss the Gospel. There are many who sound forth the teaching of grace, but they miss the Gospel. There are many today who want to call themselves Reformed or Calvinists, but they have missed the Gospel itself. There are many gospels that are not the Gospel.
Interestingly enough, there are many who call themselves Reformed who fight the heart of the teachings that came forth in power during the Reformation. The Gospel of the power of God can be hidden beneath the outward teachings of Calvinism and so the real power of the Gospel is not preached. The Gospel itself can be hidden beneath the cries of preachers to repent and believe, no matter how loudly they proclaim it. The Gospel itself can be hidden beneath the cries of men who attack what they call hyper-Calvinism and go forth preaching a false Gospel themselves because what they call hyper-Calvinism is really the truth of the Gospel.
Perhaps this sounds arrogant to some who read it, but so be it. Luther and all the Reformers were thought to be arrogant. The Lord Jesus was hated and abused for being Truth and preaching truth. The Reformers who preached the Gospel of Christ were abused and hated as well. It is no surprise that the true Gospel will be hated by unbelievers whether open sinners, religious people, and even those who claim to be Reformed. It should not surprise us when the truth of the depravity of men is preached that even very religious people don’t like it. What should surprise us is when all men speak well of us. Jesus said “Woe to you when all men speak well of you” (Luke 6:26). 1 John 4:5 tells us that “They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.” This is true even of those who are very religious. Paul tells us that “all who wish to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (II Tim 3:12). Being gracious may simply be a way of avoiding true godliness. The Gospel of Jesus Christ will not go forth apart from abuse and persecution from religious people. The Gospel of Jesus Christ will not go forth apart from that hated teaching of the enslaved will of sinners who can do nothing but sin apart from God giving grace. Yet that is the Gospel that thundered forth in the New Testament, the Reformation, and real revivals. The Gospel will not thunder forth again until the truth of it is captured and proclaimed. Until it does, the Gospel of grace alone cannot be understood or declared.
Luther’s Bondage of the Will can and has been translated as The Enslaved Will. His book on that topic was not written as some metaphysical musing, but was his effort to defend the heart of the Reformation and of justification by faith alone. While many today will agree that justification is by faith, fewer will agree that it is by faith alone. Even fewer will declare the connection between the enslaved will and the Gospel preached by the Reformers as the New Testament teaching. The Gospel preached by all the Reformers was that the very heart of the Gospel was the enslaved will of sinners. That meant that the Gospel of grace alone could be taught. Erasmus thought that the doctrine of the will was rather insignificant, but Luther saw it as the very heart of the Gospel. Here are his words:
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.

That was and is Luther’s response to all who diminish the importance of this doctrine and the necessity of what it means to know the sin of the heart. The thinking of so many today is that we can simply go tell people to repent and believe and not deal with the real sin of a person’s heart. But when that is not done, the Gospel will not be set out in truth. Until the nature of the disease is seen, the cure will not be seen. Until the rotten and corrupt hearts of sinners are set out for what they are, they will not see the need for a real Savior. It is because this book of Luther’s was the very heart of the Reformation that Warfield termed it “the manifesto of the Reformation.” There is no preaching of the Gospel of the Reformation without the teaching of the enslaved will. We do not preach the Gospel to sinners until we have opened them to the depths of their corruption and their desperate need for Christ to save them from their own hearts. This is, after all, what the old catechisms teach us is at the heart of irresistible grace.

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