"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Christ vs. Moralism by John W. Hendryx | Main | The "Justification" of Christmas »

    Martin Luther on the Bondage of the Will

    Many of the following quotes I found to be really delightful. They come from, what Luther saw as his most important work,"The Bondage of the Will".

    For context, Luther, is responding to some of Erasmus' assertions in support of our natural moral ability to obey the gospel. Erasmus presupposed that all of God's commands to obey proved that we had the "free-will" to do so. Luther, with great wit and irony exposes why free will is an erroneous, unscriptural doctrine which, ultimately, undermines the gospel itself.

    These quotes hit the crux of the issue: whether grace alone saves or whether salvation is a mixture of nature with little sprinkling of grace. This is still extremely relevant for today's Christian, for many of us carry the that unbiblical assumption that Erasmus held, which concludes any command from God to believe or obey the gospel, must somewhow imply the moral ability to to do so. Large numbers of evangelicals today make this same jump in logic and build a whole theology on it ...assuming God's commands somehow automatically implies moral ability (this belief includes, ironically, many Lutherans), but as Dr. Luther said to Erasmus, "when you are finished with all your commands and exhortations ... I’ll write Ro.3:20 over the top of it all" ("...through the law comes knowledge of sin."). In other words, the commands exist to show what we cannot do rather than what we can do and our inability to repay our debt to God does not take away our accountablity to do so.

    This includes God's command of all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel, an impossible act of will apart from a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit uniting us to Christ. Only the quicking grace of Jesus Christ applied by the Spirit can illumine The Text in such a way (to open blind eyes and deaf ears) wherein we and able to see Christ's beauty and excellency. Those who are unregenerate cannot see Christ's excellency and thus have no capacity to love what is spiritual and so are not partly but wholly dependent on God to translate them from darkness to light. The following are some quotes from Dr. Luther to this end:

    "For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily?" Martin Luther BW pg. 149

    "...'if thou art willing' is a verb in the subjunctive mood, which asserts nothing...a conditional statement asserts nothing indicatively." "if thou art willing", "if thou hear", "if thou do" declare, not man's ability, but his duty. pg 157

    "the commandments are not given inappropriately or pointlessly; but in order that through them the proud, blind man may learn the plague of his impotence, should he try to do as he is commanded." pg. 160

    Speaking to Erasmus, "Throughout your treatment you forget that you said that 'free-will' can do nothing without grace, and you prove that 'free-will' can do all things without grace! Your inferences and analogies "For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily?" Martin Luther BW pg. 149

    "Even grammarians and schoolboys on street corners know that nothing more is signified by verbs in the imperative mood than what ought to be done, and that what is done or can be done should be expressed by words in the indicative. How is it that you theologians are twice as stupid as schoolboys, in that as soon as you get hold of a single imperative verb you infer an indicative meaning, as though the moment a thing is commanded it is done, or can be done? pg 159

    "The passages of Scripture you cite are imperative; and they prove and establish nothing about the ability of man, but only lay down what is and what not to be done." pg 161

    "Does it follow from: 'turn ye' that therefore you can turn? Does it follow from "'Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart' (Deut 6.5) that therefore you can love with all your heart? What do arguments of this kind prove,
    but the 'free-will' does not need the grace of God, but can do all things by its own power...But it does not follow from this that man is converted by his own power, nor do the words say so; they simply say: "if thou wilt turn,
    telling man what he should do. When he knows it, and sees that he cannot do it, he will ask whence he may find ability to do it..." 164

    "By the law is the knowledge of sin' [Rom 3:20], so the word of grace comes only to those who are distressed by a sense of sin and tempted to despair." pg. 168

    As to why some are touched by the law and others not, so that some receive and others scorn the offer of grace...[this is the] hidden will of God, Who, according to His own counsel, ordains such persons as He wills to receive
    and partake of the mercy preached and offered." pg. 169

    The "imperative or hypothetical passages, or wishes, by which is signified, not what we can do, or do do...but what we ought to do, and what is required of us, so that our impotence may be made known to us and the knowledge of sin may be given to us." 174

    God Incarnate says; 'I would, and thou wouldst not." God Incarnate, I repeat, was sent for this purpose, to will, say, do, suffer and offer to all me, all that is necessary for salvation; albeit He offends many who, being abandoned or hardened by God's secret will of Majesty, do not receive Him thus willing, speaking, doing, and offering. As John says: "The light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness com comprehendeth it not' (John

    And again: "He came unto his own, and His own received Him not. (v. 11)"The law indicates the impotence of man and the saving power of God..."if any man will come after me': 'he that wills to save his life'; 'if ye love me'; 'if ye shall continue'. In sum, as I have said-let every occurrence of the conjunction 'if', and all imperative verbs, be collected together (so we may help the Diatribe...) [indicating that all commands to believe or follow Christ are conditional, not stating man's ability]

    Let all the 'free-will' in the world do all it can with all its strength; it will never give rise to a single instance of ability to avoid being hardened if God does not give the Spirit, or of meriting mercy if it is left to its own strength." p. 202

    "omnipotence and foreknowledge of God, I repeat, utterly destroy the doctrine of 'free-will'...doubtless it gives the greatest possible offense to common sense or natural reason, that God, Who is proclaimed as being full of mercy and goodness, and so on, should of His own mere will abandon, harden and damn men, as though He delighted in the sins and great eternal torments of such poor wretches. it seems an iniquitous, cruel, intolerable thought to think of God; and it is this that has been such a stumbling block to so many great men down through the ages. And who would not stumble at it? I have stumbled at it myself more than once, down to the deepest pit of despair, so that I wished I had never been made a man. (That was before I knew how health-giving that despair was, and how close to grace.)" Luther BW pg. 217

    " was not of the merits of Jacob or Esau, 'but of Him that Calleth that it was said of Sara: the elder shall serve the younger' Paul is discussing whether they attained to what was spoken of them by the power or merits of
    'free-will"; and he proves they they did not, but that Jacob attained what Esau did not solely by the grace of "Him that Calleth"224

    Now, since on God's own testimony, men are 'flesh', they can savour of nothing but the flesh; therefore 'free-will can avail only to sin. And if, while the Spirit of God is calling and teaching among them, they go from bad to worse, what could they do when left to themselves, without the Spirit of God? Your [Erasmus] observation that Moses is speaking of the men of that age is not to the point at all. The same is true of all men, for all are 'flesh'; as Christ says, 'That which is born of the flesh is flesh' (john 3:6) How grave a defect this is, He Himself there teaches, when he says: 'Except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (v. 5)...I call a man ungodly if he is without the Spirit of God; for Scripture says that the Spirit is given to justify the ungodly. As Christ distinguished the Spirit from the flesh, saying: "that which is born of the flesh is flesh', and adds that which is born of the flesh cannot enter the kingdom of God', it obviously follows that whatever is flesh is ungodly, under God's wrath, and a stranger to His kingdom. And if it is a stranger to God's kingdom and Spirit, it follows of necessity that it is under the kingdom and spirit of Satan. For there is no middle kingdom between the kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan, which are ever at war with each other. 241, 253

    "I say that man without the grace of God nonetheless remains the general omnipotence of God who effects, and moves and impels all things in a necessary, infallible course; but the effect of man's being carried along is nothing--that is, avails nothing in God's sight, nor is reckoned to be anything but sin. 265

    "the Baptist's word means that man can receive nothing unless given him from above; so that free-will is nothing!"

    I say that man, before he is renewed into the new creation of the Spirit's kingdom, does and endeavours nothing to prepare himself for that new creation and kingdom, and when he is re-created has does and endeavors nothing towards his perseverance in that kingdom; but the Spirit alone works both blessings in us, regenerating us, and preserving us when regenerate, without ourselves..." 268

    "All the passages in the Holy Scriptures that mention assistance are they that do away with "free-will", and these are countless...For grace is needed, and the help of grace is given, because "free-will" can do nothing."

    Quoted from Martin Luther's Bondage of the Will

    Posted by John on December 20, 2005 03:03 PM


    Wow. So I wonder what he really thinks...

    Let me add just one more quote that shows that Luther was not only convinced of the bondage of the will, but that he was also convinced that a proper understanding of the will was necessary for a proper understanding of the gospel. In The Bondage of the Will, replying to Erasmus’s “unheard-of assertion” that the doctrine of free will “is something non-essential”, Luther states,

    "I think it is vital. If it is ‘irreligious’, ‘idle’, ’superfluous’- your words-to know whether or not God knows anything contingently; whether our will is in any way active in matters relating to eternal salvation, or whether it is merely the passive subject of the work of grace; whether we do our good and evil deeds of mere necessity-whether, that is, we are not rather passive while they are wrought in us-then may I ask what does constitute godly, serious, useful knowledge?...If it is not really essential, and is not surely known, then neither God, Christ, the gospel, faith nor anything else even of Judaism, let alone Christianity, is left!"

    Glory to God for these words of Luther.

    God be praised that such truth was spoken through Luther. The man is a giant of our faith, yet apart from Christ he would be nothing but a rebellious monk. Soli deo Gloria.

    I just came across your site, after trying to understand Luther and his ideologies, and something about these quotes confuses me: If he is saying that accepting Christ as your savior is sufficient to receive God's grace, does he not discount the fact that CHOOSING to accept the sacrifice of Jesus is in and of itself, an action?

    Hi Mike

    Yes, choosing Christ is an action but faith and choice do not spring from an unrenewed heart. God must renew the heart if we are to believe and obey the gospel. Apart from the Holy Spirit no one natually comes to faith in Christ.

    The new birth is not a decision you make. Whoever you are, however you came to Jesus Christ, is because God has done a supernatural work of grace in your heart. That is why we pray for unbelievers because they would never come on their own.

    Notice the order of grace in the following passage:
    Ezekiel 36:25-27 says 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

    Likewise Jesus teaches that no one can believe in him unless God grants it (John 6:65) and ALL that God grants will believe (John 6:37)

    Hope this helps

    What I understand from the small amount of material from Luther and some of the pertinent comments is that without the gift of grace through faith in the sacrifice of Christ which brings to us the power of the Holy Spirit we are incapable of even one good thought let alone the free will to carry it out. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.James 1:17, KJV. As you quoted Luther, "For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily?" Martin Luther BW pg. 149

    Jesus said "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." John 8:34, KJV.

    Paul echoes the same thought and gives the solution and a caution. "Rom. 6:14-18 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

    Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

    But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

    Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." KJV

    The will is in bondge to sin until grace brings it into bondage to righteousness. Although we are under grace we still have a choice to make. God works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure but that does not mean we have no choice in the matter. We have to exercise the will to do that which God has both worked in us the desire and the power to do.

    The best illustration of this is the story of Peter walking on water. Peter asked Jesus to allow him to go to Him on the water. Jesus told him to come. Peter was given the opportunity to walk on water but he still had to choose to get out of the boat. Jesus set him free to act. He had to choose to do so.

    I hear Luther say that we are without free will until grace sets us free to choose to do what is good. Am I on the right track?

    It has been said by Reformed writers and ministers that in all the world, there are only two religions: the religion of faith, and the religion of human autonomy. And this is a truth not only of theology, but of logic. Either man is spiritually self-sufficient, or he is not. Luther's work "De Servo Arbitrio" is the classic statement of the religion of faith. It is solidly based on Scripture. If he is right, then all religions predicated on human ability are mistaken. Some may view this conclusion as "narrow-minded" and "unecumenical." So be it. If man has the ability to come to God by his own wits and resources, then why have so few done so? Why is the record so dismal? A religion of human spiritual self-sufficiency simply cannot account for the reality of evil in the world. And virtually every religion of human autonomy tries to deny it or fudge the issue in some way. What we ought to be asking is not how God can exist if there is evil in the world, but rather how man can exist. Our focus should be not theodicy but rather anthropodicy. And this is what Luther has done: he has shown that, given the evidence and the weight of Scripture, there is no justification for any belief in Man. Man is simply what God has made him, and what he is as the result of the Fall. The notion that man can redeem himself is a crass superstition, and the sooner Christians return to the insights of the Reformers, the better for Christianity.

    QUESTION: if the only way to salvation is by God giving us the grace to turn to Christ then why doesn't God give that grace to more people?
    Also if those who do not turn to Christ are condemned is that not unjust of God since it is His lack of grace that stops them turning?

    C. Ryton

    Thanks for your question. Perhaps the better question might be to ask, why God chooses to save anyone? That is what should should cause us surprise, especially that he would save sinners who actively rebel against Him like us. Amazing.

    How is it unjust of God to give people both what they deserve and what they want? Would it not be just of God to wipe out the entire world? You speak as if God is somehow under obligation - as if he answers to us. Grace would not be grace if there were some just obligation on his part.

    Wonderful! Thank you for posting this. John, you have the best site to go to on the web. May God always bless you and your work for Him.

    Having read your comments the parable of the sower comes to mind, in all my years of gardening my garden has never prepared itself. If I choose a section of ground for a garden there may be a road going through it, there may be rocks and weeds. I prepare that portion of ground soften the roadway, remove the rocks and the weeds and then sow my seed. Now I know that the ground that I have not prepared has no chance of producing but I may choose to throw some seed on the roadway, amoung the stones and the weeds. Is that not my right?Luke 8:5  A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.
    6  And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.
    7  And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.
    8  And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
    So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
    Romans 9:16 So we see our salvation is God's work and not ours.

    These quotes would make a good calendar for 2009. Or perhaps on bookmarkers with the Scripture verses to support Luther's comments. Good stuff. If you're reformed and have not read Bondage of the Will then you're really missing out!

    Just because we can't see God unless he reveals himself does not mean we are not free, just that we are incapable. Amen salvation is God's work but we have free wills to sin, seek Him and respond. God's action is critical but our response is not optional or absent.

    Free will does not mean omnipotence. Often determinists will say: "I cannot choose to fly unaided therefore I am not totally free". But this is a conflation of choice and ability and paves the way for irresponsible behaviour.

    Absence of free will means God's judgement becomes a farce. Let us not resort to absurdity in explaining Biblical tensions.

    Hi Marc

    Thank you for your comments.

    You say we have resorted "to absurdity in explaining Biblical tensions."

    Since free will is nowhere taught in the Bible there is no biblical tension to speak of. With respect to you Marc, may I suggest you are importing your tradition on Scripture. Unless of course, you can show any of us where the Scriptures teach free will. We contend that it plainly teaches the opposite. That the natural man is in bondage to sin. And there where is bondage there is slavery, and where there is slavery there is no freedom. Jesus said, those who sin are slaves to sin. Last time I looked, the meaning of the word 'slave' clearly indicated a lack of freedom.

    When you assert man has a free will what do you mean? Free from what? Free from sin?

    When the Bible speaks of man being in bondage to a corruption of nature, it is not referring to man being coerced by God or anyone else to act a specific way. No, it refers to man, since he is in bondage to sin, sins of necessity. And if left to himself he would never seek or choose God.

    EVEN YOU acknowledged in your post that "God's action is critical." Why would His actions be critical if man naturally has a free will? If man naturallly is free to choose, as you claim, then there would be no need for the Holy Spirit, since he is already morally able.

    Why is man unable to believe the gospel on his own without the work of the Holy Spirit? As soon as you acknowledge the need of the Holy Spirit in salvation you acknowledge man has no free will. As a natural man left to his own devices he would never choose Christ apart from the Holy Spirit. Therefore Man's will is not free, but in bondage to sin - and would always choose to reject God unless God opens his eyes and heart to the gospel.

    You assert, "Absence of free will means God's judgement becomes a farce." --- You have misunderstood Marc. God's judgement does not become a farce. As natural men we naturally rebel against a holy God. He would be just in his judgment if he swept everyone into judgment right now would he not? But he has mercy on many who don't deserve it. If 7 people owed me money and I cancelled the debt of 4 of them, but still maintained that the other 3 must repay me, would that make me unjust? No Jesus even tells a the parable of the workers with this exact same application.

    People believe the gospel not because some were smarter than others and choose Christ. That would be a salvaiton based on who was more wise rather than grace alone. No, salvation is wholly of the Lord. Goid is not basing salvation on some inherent merit in some.

    Please consider, why do some people believe the gospel and not others? Is it because of Jesus or somethig else in them that makes them to differ from others?

    1. If you search the Bible for the word “freewill,” you will find 25 occurrences — ALL in the *Old Testament*. And none are speaking with regard to salvation. Many are speaking of freewill offerings and the like. The actual word “freewill” does not appear anywhere in the New Testament.

    2. If you search for the phrase “will of man” you will find two occurrences in the New Testament. One is not speaking of salvation, but of prophecy - in which the will of man plays no part (2 Peter 1:21), and the other (John 1:12-13) explicitly teaches that the “will of man” plays no part in believers becoming the children of God.

    “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13.

    (Some might note in verse 12 that the believing came before becoming a child of God - and infer a freewill choice. The phrase "children of God," however, is not speaking of conversion, but of adoption - which occurs after conversion and after Justification (in other words, those spoken of here are already believers when God declares them His children. Furthermore, verse 13 explicitly says that the believers in his name were not born [made regenerate - born again - the new birth] by the will of man, but of God.)

    3. If you search the New Testament for all passages in which the words “will” and “man” simply occur (randomly) in the same verse, you will find 80 occurrences. I have looked at all of them individually one by one and none are speaking of anything having to do with free will (or man’s will) regarding salvation.

    Example: “And then they *will* see the Son of *Man* coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Luke 21:27

    4. If you search the two individual words “free” and “will,” they occur in the same verse 10 times in the New Testament. Out of the ten, eight are just random occurrences and teach nothing having to do with salvation (two speak of the “free will offering” Paul is taking up for the believers suffering in Jerusalem). There are two verses, out of the ten, that are teaching something regarding salvation:

    1. “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus, John 8:32
    2. “So if the Son of Man sets you free, you will become free indeed.” Jesus, John 8:36

    If you infer anything regarding salvation from these two verses, you will be compelled to say that neither teaches anything regarding a free will choice of unregenerate man.

    Let me be clear about what I am NOT saying. I am NOT arguing that Man is not a rational, thinking, being who cannot make moral choices. Nor am I saying that God forces people to believe in Him against their wills. I am simply observing that a “doctrine” of unregenerate man’s "freewill" ability to make a spiritual choice regarding his salvation seems difficult to find explicitly taught in the Bible, and may be arrived at only by supposition. On the other hand, there are numerous passages that explicitly teach unregenerate man has no ability to make spiritual choices.

    Example: “The man without the Spirit [unregenerate] does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” 1st. Corinthians 2:14.

    Thank you for the post, and thanks to those who have elaborated in comments. This has cleared up several issues in my thinking on the "will of man."

    Free will, like the Trinity or God's existence, is implicit in the Bible. Personal choice and responsibility are implicit in and essential to the concept of justice and every action for which man is praised or condemned.

    Perhaps you are conflating "free will" (I want) with freedom (I can). Could you define your (or Luther's) conception of "free will" or should we could perhaps discuss in more detail what "will" means? For me it means that which one desires to take place i.e. God's will is that which God desires will occur.

    Getting back to enslaved humans: a heroine addict can desire to not shoot up but he is not free to act on this will. Nevertheless, he has a will. Even a slave, who is not free, has the free will to want something else, something better. Even a sinner can see his sins are destroying his life, feel accused (Romans 2) and wish for better.

    What man lacks, and God provides, is the ability to break free from what binds us. This is God's gift which we cannot obtain but He would give it to us. Thus we could freely will it and still not have it.

    If Luther is basically teaching Sole Fide then OK. If he's teaching conversion as an essentially passive process OK (except our repentence and calling on God of course). But, if he is teaching determinism then no, neither the Bible nor common sense will permit this.

    Of course our will is influenced by our make-up and experience and thus not totally free from outside influence but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water: at the end of the day we make a choice and are responsible. Our sin is our fault. Our redemption is His doing. Our only boast is seeking Him, calling on His name.

    Mail me at cawoodm[at]gmail[dot]com so we don't clog up this guy's comments box.

    Bruce, the word "banana" appears 0 times in the Bible as does the phrase "sex before marriage". "Free will" is a way of saying "one chooses" and is implicit in the Bible.

    Would you call believing in Jesus a spiritual choice? How about wanting to believe in Jesus, seeking Him? These things are pre-conditions for most cases of salvation, they are NOT the actual salvation, and they imply a will.

    God offers a gift, we put out our hands and take it. We didn't make the gift, but we chose to accept it. We didn't save ourselves but took hold of the hand of the One who could save us.

    After we are saved (by grace), do we then have free will to allow us to choose to follow as disciples, or do we continue not to have free will and remain totally dependent on grace?

    I think I remember reading something in 'Bondage of the Will' that suggests we do not have free will after regeneration. But when I read Calvin's Institutes, I rather think that Calvin did believe in free will after conversion.



    Thank you for stopping by. You assert that free will is implicit in the Bible like the Trinity. May I ask, what is it that you think the Bible teaches that the natural man is free from? Free from bondage to sin?

    Anyone who agreed with your assertion would have to conclude then, that a person can come to faith in Christ apart from grace and the work of the Holy Spirit? Is this what you are saying? That the natural man has such powers over his will that he can believe the gospel apart from ANY help from the Holy Spirit? ON the contrary, man, left to himself, is impotent to believe the gospel unless Christ sets him free, opens his spiritual eyes and turns his heart of stone to a heart of flesh. The Bible not only implicitly, but explicitly denies the very possibility (see 1 Cor 2:14).


    Both Calvin and Luther were speaking of the condition of man in his unregenerate state. That apart from the grace of Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit, man, if left to himself, would never willingly choose Christ because he is in bondage to sin. As Jesus said when sp[eaking of our slavery to sin, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36
    Likewise Paul said, "For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness... But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God" (Rom 6)

    But in the Bible, freedom is not defined philosophically. The Bible defines the greatest freedom as freedom from the bondage to sin. God is the most free. The glorified saints are also made free by Christ. Neither God nor the saints have the "libertarian freedom" to sin any longer though. They are sealed in righteousness. In other words, they behave aaccording to theisr natures. Likewise, fallen man also behaves according to his nature and will not do otherwise apart from grace.

    However, both the beginnings of spiritual life and our sanctification spring from the same source. But since the regenerate man now has the Holy Spirit, his will is free to obey God, but this obedience always springs from that renewed heart in which the Holy Spirit dwells.

    A.W. Pink taught it clearly, though I will not quote him ver batum:

    If I hold a book in my hand, and then let it go, it is free to fall. In which direction? Downward, always downward. Why?
    Because answering to the law of gravity, it's own weight causes it to descend. If I wish this book to occupy a space three feet higher than where it is now, the book itself could not produce this effect. In order to accomplish this, and outside force would have to take the book and by it's own power, lift the book to the desired position. So it is with fallen man. Yes fallen man is free, but only in one direction. He is free to sin, and nothing else. Why? Because answering to the law of nature, the weight of his own depravity causes him to descend into utter wickedness. If this man would occupy a state above that in which he finds himself naturally, it could not be accomplished in his own power- for he lacks both the desire and the ability. In order to the accomplishment of this great task, and outside force would have to take hold of this mans heart and nature and by it's own power, rennovate his entire faculties. This way he will become both willing and able. This outside force must be the Person of God the Holy Spirit, and this task can only be accomplished in His power. It is by the omnipotent grace of God that fallen men are quickened from their spiritual death and raised to life and faith in Jesus Christ. For "they shall be made willing in the day of thy power." (Psalm 110:3)

    John, why conflate "free will" with "freedom from sin"? Is this what Luther does?

    Again, what is more frequent in the Bible than God saying to His people "come to me", "repent", "call on my name" so I can save you and give you rest? This sort of call makes no sense if we have no free will to do what God is calling us to do. Every part of the Bible implies humans choose evil instead of God and _should_ choose Him.

    We are not saving ourselves by works when we give up and rely on him. The only thing we "do" is stop doing. Our choosing God is part of the equation, it's not enough for salvation but He's promised to answer anyone who calls. We choose God and He responds in an irresistible way.


    Thank you for your posting and for your comments. The line of argument Luther took was directed exactly at the same kind of ideas you put forth. The argument that somehow God's commands to us to do something prove our moral ability to do it (i.e. free will). Luther's book was entitled Bondage of the Will. The bondage he referrs to is the bondage of the will to corruption (sin) and thereby the natural man is unable to obey God's command to repent and believe apart from grace. Freedom from the bondage to sin is, and always has been, what the debate about free will has been about, including every quote I posted by Luther. The will and affections are in bondage to sin and will only choose to reject Christ unless set free by Christ. The man without the Spirit cannot understand the gospel and thinks it foolish (1 Cor 2:14) Again, the purpose of God's commands to us are to show our utter inability, not our ability (See Rom 3:20).

    You said: "Again, what is more frequent in the Bible than God saying to His people "come to me", "repent", "call on my name" so I can save you and give you rest? This sort of call makes no sense if we have no free will to do what God is calling us to do. Every part of the Bible implies humans choose evil instead of God and _should_ choose Him."

    I will let the Bible and Luther's quote answer you:

    "Does it follow from: 'turn ye' that therefore you can turn? Does it follow from "'Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart' (Deut 6.5) that therefore you can love with all your heart? What do arguments of this kind prove,
    but the 'free-will' does not need the grace of God, but can do all things by its own power...But it does not follow from this that man is converted by his own power, nor do the words say so; they simply say: "if thou wilt turn,
    telling man what he should do. When he knows it, and sees that he cannot do it, he will ask whence he may find ability to do it..." Bondage of the Will 164

    "The passages of Scripture you cite are imperative; and they prove and establish nothing about the ability of man, but only lay down what is and what not to be done." pg 161

    "...'if thou art willing' is a verb in the subjunctive mood, which asserts nothing...a conditional statement asserts nothing indicatively." "if thou art willing", "if thou hear", "if thou do" declare, not man's ability, but his duty. pg 157

    You assertion that we can chhose God apart from the grace of the Holy Spirit is an ancient heresy called Pelagianism. Even Arminians believe in the bondage of the will prior to prevenient grace.

    I noticed that you commented positively about tim Keller's ministry. Keller's idea of of the gospel is based on this very concept of the natural man's innate bondage to sin. (Bondage means slavery and a lack of freedom) It is Jesus Christ and his grace alone that can free our will and desire to believe. Our salvation is ALL OF GRACE. God saves us by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying us for Christs' sake when we come to faith, but also raising us from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring us to faith. John 6:63-65 Jesus teaches us that faith itself is the gift of God. No one can believe ther gospel unless God first grants it and all whom he grants it will believe (v. 37)

    Lets be unambiguous. The natural man has no free will. It is in bondage to a corruption of nature. It sins by necessity, not by coercion. Necessity because it is in bondage and only Christ can set one free from it that one might believe. There is nothing more prevalent in the bible than the fact that we are saved by grace ALONE. Flesh and blood does not reveal that Christ is the messiah but only our Father in heaven. Unless he opens our spiritually blind eyes and softens our heart of stone, our "free will" can only damn us. No one can believe the gospel or say 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit.


    Also, it is important to realize that you do not want a free will! If your will was truly free, that is, not bound by your own nature, or dictated to by your own preferences and desires, you would find yourself willing what you do not necessarily want. If your will- which is the choice making (not choice determining) faculty were able to choose apart from consulting and receiving direction from your preferences and desires, you would find yourself in a restruant ordering food that you detest, and hanging around company that you despise.

    The will of man is not the head but the tale, not the leader but the follower, not the lord, but the slave. Before one makes any decision, the emotions, intellect, and various circumstantial propositions are first consulted. Then, based upon the strongest desire of the person, the will is then called into action. The will is not consulted, but like I said, dictated to by the strongest desire.

    Now when we are talking about spiritually dead sinners (Eph 2)who have no spiritual inclination or desire for holy things- how do you expect for them to choose Christ. They will not choose repentance, faith, humillity, obedience etc. They cannot, for they have no desire for these things. These are spiritual things, and the natural man "receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, nor indeed CAN HE, for they are spiritually discerned!"

    In order for fallen man to look to Christ- he must first be given eyes to see, and these are a sovereign gift of God ALONE- (Prov 20:12)

    In order for a fallen man to respond to the call of the spirit through the gopspel- he must first be given ears to hear, and a heart to preceive- and these are a sovereign gift of God ALONE- look for yourself:

    "And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles: YET the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day." (Deut 29:2-4)

    When reading through the gospels, pay attention to the fact that when Jesus was addressing large crowds- he was indeed speaking to everyone- yet was specifically addressing those who had "ears to hear." This is a significant point that should not be overlooked, since it is God alone who gives ears to hear.

    In His hands,
    Paul Liberati
    John 3:27

    "Would you call believing in Jesus a spiritual choice? How about wanting to believe in Jesus, seeking Him?"

    YES- MARC, these are spiritual choices that dead sinners cannot make. But quickened sinners can, and do.

    To be quickened means to be made alive, regenerated, born-again. This mysterious operation must first take place in a dead sinner's soul before he can "believe in Jesus." This operation is a sovereign monergistic operation that must first take place in a dead sinner's soul before he will ever "seek after God" FOR "there are NONE who seeketh after God" (Romans 3)

    I think that we all agree that one must believe in order to be justified, for the Bible is clear that Justification is BY FAITH.

    But what we must be able to establish is not justification (which is after faith) but rather regeneration (which is before faith, and necessary to it)

    Regeneration preceeds faith. This is the biblical and historic protestant position. I suggest that you do some reading on regeneration.

    Regeneration, or the new birth is pictured in three main ways in the scriptures: 1) as a spiritual resurrection 2) as a new creation 3) as a new birth. So we have birth, creation, and resurrection; ALL THESE ONLY GOD CAN PERFORM.

    If you will notice, the only place in the Bible where a "discourse" was ever given on the New birth is found in John chapter 3. I suggest that you study this conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus carefully, because this is what you will find:

    FAITH is not mentioned once in reference to the new birth (regeneration).

    Jesus teaches that the Spirit of God- who is the effectual cause of the new birth- is like the wind, "He blows wherever He wills." Man does not contribute, nor control, nor initiate, not participate in the new birth. It happens by the mysterious operation of the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the gospel- (1 Pet 1:23)!

    Also, in John 1:12, 13 there is some light that can be shed on this issue of the "order of salvation." Take a good look at this passage with me:

    "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which WERE BORN, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

    Notice that in verse 12 is says that those who BELIEVE [present tense] on Him can become the children of God.

    Then Notice who it is that believe:

    Those who beleive [present tense] are those "who WERE born".

    The term "were" indicates a past tense reality, that has already been accomplished in the lives of those who believe.

    So the order is this, Regeneration (the new birth), then faith, then Justification (the legal declaration of aquittal of Guilt and the imputation of Christ's Righteousness). Then on the basis of this new standing with God, we become the children of God- NOT BY BIRTH (for those who believe WERE ALREADY born) but simply by adoption, which is the legal aspect of our union with Christ. Adoption naturally flows out of Justification, for those who are not justified in the sight of God, cannot be accepted into the family of God LEGALLY.

    So the issue MARC, is this:

    We all agree that Justification is BY FAITH, and we all agree that one must believe in Jesus - Which is a spiritual fruit (Gal 5) and we must all repent, which is also given to us by virtue of the new heart- (Ez 36).

    We all agree!

    But what you need to understand is what MUST take place BEFORE a fallen, dead, blind, hard-hearted, stiff-necked, rebellious, carnal, natural, sinner can love God, seek God, believe in Christ, repent, and produce spiritual fruit.

    I suggest that you study REGENERATION a bit more, and you will see exactly what it is that we are saying, and why Martin Luther wrote the Bondage of the Will.

    May God be with you!

    In His hands,
    Paul Liberati
    John 3:27

    Hi Marc, Let me address two of your statements. But first, I would like to point out that you used no scripture to make your case in the assertions of your reply.

    >> [Marc posted]: Bruce, "Free will" is a way of saying "one chooses" and is implicit in the Bible.

    Marc, I would have no argument with your statement (above) at all. In fact, in my post, I even said: "Let me be clear about what I am NOT saying. I am NOT arguing that Man is not a rational, thinking, being who cannot make moral choices." However, some of the *implicit choice* passages you might be thinking of - may not be teaching what you *think* they are teaching. Furthermore, the implicit does not trump the explicit. Let's continue:

    The Bible makes it apparent that *unregenerate* man's "freewill" is not - absolute - and is limited by his fallen nature. In other words, unregenerate man is not "free" in the sense of being autonomous [self law - or a law unto himself]. Unregenerate man is NOT free to choose from that which is *contrary* to the influences and biases that are part of his fallen nature. Unregenerate man does have the "freewill" to choose from among all things that are consistent with his fallen nature, but he is not free to make choices that are *inconsistent* with his fallen nature. This should not be a difficult concept to accept as even God is constrained (or Self-constrained) to acting ONLY in concert with His nature. God, for example, cannot lie, nor can He tempt, nor can he do evil. So, in this respect, even God does not have freewill as many seem to define it (free to choose *anything*).

    Let me further illustrate this with a story that is simplistic, but nevertheless demonstrates the condition of man in his unregenerate nature: A scorpion was traveling along and came upon a river. Being unable to swim and desiring to get to the opposite side, he approached a frog and said "carry me across on your back." The frog objected "but you're a scorpion, you'll sting me to death," to which the scorpion replied, "don't be silly, for then we would both drown." This seemed *logical* to the frog so he told the scorpion to hop aboard. As they approached the middle of the river the scorpion arched his tail and fatally stung the frog. As the frog writhed in pain he exclaimed in disbelief: "you promised not to sting me!" To which the scorpion replied: "YOU KNEW I WAS A SCROPION WHEN YOU AGREED TO TAKE ME!"

    This accurately portrays how unregenerate man is constrained to act according to his nature. Men don't like to hear this, and many reject it, but it is nevertheless scripturally accurate. When God told Adam that the day he ate from the fruit of the forbidden tree he would surely die, Adam's death was *both* physical (but graciously postponed) and spiritual (immediate). And all of Adam's naturally conceived descendents are born "in Adam" -- born dead to (understanding/perceiving) spiritual things. Jesus said to Nicodemus: "Unless one is born again, he cannot *see* the kingdom of Heaven" John 3:3. The word *see* is the Greek word horao, which means not only to see with the eyes, but to perceive with the mind (to understand). Unregenerate man *must first* be born again - born from above - made regenerate - BEFORE he is able to perceive the kingdom of God and make spiritual choices (and Nic immediately proved Jesus correct by demonstrating he was unable to understand what Jesus was telling him - John 3:4).

    >> [Marc posted]: God offers a gift, we put out our hands and take it. We didn't make the gift, but we chose to accept it. We didn't save ourselves but took hold of the hand of the One who could save us.

    Marc, a former preacher of mine used to preach the same concept: Lost [unregenerate] Man is drowning in sin, God throws him a life preserver (Jesus), but the man still has to reach out and grab it (accept the gift). This sounds logical and preaches great. The only difficulty is - it isn't scriptural.

    You see, scripture NEVER portrays unregenerate Man as treading in the waters of sin looking for a hand to pull him out. Unregenerate Man has already drowned. He is "dead in his transgressions and sins" Ephesians 2:1. As a result, unregenerate Man is NOT seeking (or reaching out to) God for salvation "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understand; no one seeks for God" Romans 3:10. In fact, unregenerate Man cannot even understand his spiritual need (John 3:3 above), also "the man without the spirit [unregenerate] does NOT ACCEPT the things of the spirit of God, for they are FOOLISHNESS TO HIM, and he is NOT ABLE to understand them, because they are SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED" 1st. Corinthians 2:14. Even more "The message of the Cross [the Gospel] is FOOLISHNESS to those who are perishing [the unregenerate - the un-born again]" 1st. Corinthians 1:18.

    So you see, unregenerate Man is not exercising "his freewill" to reach out to God. He cannot. He is spiritually dead and can no more respond to the Gospel call than four days dead Lazarus had the power to walk out of his own tomb before Christ called out: "Lazarus, come fourth!" and imparted to him new life which ENABLED Lazarus to respond to Christ's command. When a man is born again, made regenerate by the work of the Holy Spirit, he is given a new nature (2nd. Corinthians 5:17, Titus 3:5), and that new nature has spiritual discernment, it is able to understand spiritual things - they are not foolishness to him any longer, and he will naturally, willingly, and by his own (new) "freed will" accept the Gospel call. Because "the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ from the law of sin and death" Romans 8:2.

    Something that may be helpful is "The Order of Salvation" from Dr. Wayne Grudem's (book) Systematic Theology. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in serious Bible study. It is written in language that laymen (such as myself) can understand.

    The Order of Salvation:

    1. Election: Foreknowing, Predestination - God chooses those to whom He will glorify Himself in showing mercy and compassion. Romans 8:29-30, Romans 9, Ephesians 1:5 and 1:11.

    2. “The Call” Two parts: (1.) The Internal “call” of The Father (Unless The Father draws, you cannot come. John 6:44, 65). (2.) The external “call” of the Gospel (Romans 10:14, 17). Note: “draws,” In John 6:44 is the Greek word helkos. Meaning: “To impel from within.” Not invite, woo, or entice as is sometimes preached. It is translated *haul/hauled* as fish in a net and also translated *drag/dragged* in six other places in the Bible. It is not a passive word (as in woo) but a word accompanied with the power to accomplish.

    3. Regeneration: The new birth - Born again. New (Holy) Spiritual life. John 3:3, Titus 3:5, 2 Cor. 5:17.
    Note: Also, look at: Ezekiel 36:26-27 (The enabling “new nature/creation” power of the Holy Spirit by which a formerly unregenerate person responds to the Father’s Call.) Both calls (by the Spirit, and the Word) are referred to in 1st. Peter 1:23.

    4. Conversion: (1.) Express and demonstrate repentance for sins. Luke 13:3, 2nd. Corinthians 7:10. (2.) Profess Faith in Christ alone as Lord and Savior. Romans 10:9-10, John 14:6.

    5. Justification: A legal declaration. God declares believers righteous based on their faith (trust) in the work of Christ on their behalf. (1.) God imputes the righteousness of Christ as the spotless Lamb to the believer’s account, and (2.) Imputes the guilt of our sins to Christ. (Rom. 8:30, Gal. 2:16, 2 Cor. 2:5)
    Note: Impute means to put, or credit, to one’s account.

    6. Adoption: God makes the believer His child. John 1:12, Ephesians 1:5, Titus 3:7 “Heirs”, Romans 8:17.

    7. Sanctification: (1.) The immediate setting apart to God of the new believer to God. (2.) The progressive, lifelong, conforming of the believer to the likeness (or image) of Christ. Rom. 8:29-30.

    8. Perseverance: Continuing in the faith until death. Philippians 1:6.

    9. Death: 1. The result of living in a fallen world (Not a punishment for the believer. Rom. 8:1). 2. The soul is separated from the body, and goes into the presence of the Lord. 2 Cor. 5:8, Luke 23:43.

    10. Glorification: Receiving a resurrection body. Philippians 3:21.

    ¶Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.Acts 7:51 This was Stephen summing up the character of those listening to his Spirit lead discourse. Included was Saul and Saul consented to his death keeping the coats of those that stoned Stephen.

    Saul was a Pharisee of Pharisees, moral and sincere and yet these qualities did not lead him to Christ.

    Now for Saul a light from heaven and the voice from the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven brought him to the end of himself. The Lord did not do this for all Pharisees but for his chosen vessel. Just as Isaiah has spoken,

    Isaiah 50:2 Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem?

    Let us keep one thing in mind, man's trial has ended. The verdict is in. That verdict is guilty!

    ¶Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.Romans 3:19

    As a guilty man I stand before the
    throne of God. Righteousness and judgement are the foundation of that throne. In other words do what is right or judgement will find you. As pronounced guilty I can only expect judgement. To receive anything but judgement would not display righteousness or justice.

    In the 18th chapter of Luke we find two men who could very well be standing before God's throne one pleads what he was and had done as his defense, even thanking God he was not as other men. The other man
    begs that God be merciful. If we look at the word merciful it really should be rendered Mercy Seat. So the publican is really pleading Christ's blood upon the mercy seat.
    Which man went away justified?

    What gave the one title to be justified and not the other? The publican bowed to God's verdict of guilty and looked to God to justify him.

    But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.Romans 4:5

    Romans 3:24  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
    25  Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
    26  To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

    A couple of things to note, the word propitation means mercy seat, and when it speaks of sins that are past it speaks of those before the cross. So God is just in justifying me an ungodly man when I bow to His word that I am guilty and my only plea is the Lord Jesus's blood before God's throne.

    Does anyone know what Martin Luther's real name was, and what the reason was for his changing it?

    The will of God is grace . The will of man is works. When Eve began to make her own decisions, she threw off God as her Sovereign ! Free Will is Rebellion against the Sovereignty of God . Since the fall, all men are now free will by nature ! Free will is the sin nature ! Free will religion is Anti-Christ religion ! It is paving the way for the Anti-Christ !
    When Satan wanted to rule and rise above God, it was free will he wanted . To make all the "decisions" himself .Then he was cast out of heaven, and passed on to Eve that same nature . "Free-will" ! Then Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden !

    Harold Brown

    I have enjoyed reading the posts & I have read "De Servo Arbitrio" ("The Bondage of the Will")but I did find it hard going at times.

    I am struggling with a couple of issues & I wonder if you would please clarify, I understand that the unregenerate cannot come unless God draws him, He is spiritually discerned, dead! So when God reveals Himself to us, & Thank God for that, does that mean we have no choice in the matter? He saves who He chooses, & sends to hell who He chooses? I understand He is God & is no mans debtor, can I resist the will of God? but what about scriptures like 3:16 the whosoever?

    many thanks martin

    I think one thing to keep in mind is that the message to the lost world is whosoever will may come. To those who are saved we see that it is nothing in us that caused God to choose us only unmerited favor. Something that really struck me in Bondage of The Will is what Luther said regarding Abraham. If Abraham was ungodly when God justified him then that means that all his works up to that time were ungodly works. It is amazing how man thinks that he is the judge of what good works are when in reality God alone is the judge, when men may seem justified before men it really is an abomination unto God. There is much to be learned from the life of Abraham in light of the new testament. It was almost twenty years from the time Abraham was reckoned as righteous through faith and the works which James speaks of. If that were realized it would put James in a proper perspective in relation to sola fida.

    Perhaps an over simplification but I have always understood that man can reject God's love, in all that implies, but cannot do the opposite which is to accept, that is the gift. A learned man told me I was wrong, I referred him to the book of concord several months later he stated my position and declared it scriptural and orthodox. This was before I had read "Bondage..." This simplifies the whole problem for me can't point to the exact place in concord but you will find it an exciting read.
    God's Blessings!


    I only came across your article this morning! The longer I serve the Lord the more I realize that salvation is and always has been His business! I consider myself reformed in my views, but not a hyper-calvinist, who replaces scripture with human logic.

    Luther obviously was blown away by illumination into God's grace. However, the last quote of Luther you used in your article, I believe, is faulty:

    "I say that man, before he is renewed into the new creation of the Spirit's kingdom, does and endeavours nothing to prepare himself for that new creation and kingdom... [I FULLY AGREE WITH THIS, SO FAR]...and when he is re-created has does and endeavors nothing towards his perseverance in that kingdom; but the Spirit alone works both blessings in us, regenerating us, and preserving us when regenerate, without ourselves..." 268 [THIS LATTER STATEMENT, REGARDING SANCTIFICATION, I FIND MISLEADING]

    While the will is in bondage in the dark night of sin, after regeneration it is liberated. The regenerated will now is free to cooperate under the influence of grace and can also resist, though not ultimately, if that person is truly one of the elect.

    If a an unregenerated soul sins, though culpable before God, that soul is truly unable to do anything but sin, because of the bondage of his will.

    But if a regenerated soul sins (and we all do at times), that sinning cannot be attributed to God's lack of involvement. In reality, that sin is a product of believer's refusal to be an active participation in the grace he's been given.

    The quote above from Luther could confuse this reality of the obedience of faith that is not automatic in the life of a Christian.

    Spiritual growth for a regenerated person is not a "passive" thing.

    For all the sincere and heated discussion about faith or lack of faith, I wonder how it translates into actively addressing the unfolding clergy abuse problem.

    This is a systemic issue and the faith in action, while it may be a ground up movement, also has a historic and institutional characteristic. I've written extensively about the intersection between faith/ spiritual life and dealing with abuse, particularly Religious Authority Sexual Abuse. I agree with the last comment that spiritual growth for a regenerated person is not a passive thing. This is the experience of those who have know Religious Authority Sexual Abuse-- we work to come back to life after sould death.

    My favorite quote of Martin Luther: "...Mankind has a free will; but it is free to milk cows and to build houses,nothing more.."
    God's election of Jacob over Esau even before they were born clearly shows that election is not based on God's knowledge about the actions of people in their lives even before they were born and who will and who will not accept him etc.. even before they were born. For it is Esau who was a better son to Jacob. He hunted Venison for his father and even prepared it to his liking and it was he who earned the love and respect of his father while Jacob was the cheater. Again it was Esau who sought after repentance with tears and could not find it.

    My favorite quote of Martin Luther: "...Mankind has a free will; but it is free to milk cows and to build houses, nothing more..." God's election of Jacob over Esau even before the twins were born in Romans 9:11 clearly shows that God's election is not based on His omniscience over the actions of people in their lives even before they were born and who will and who will not accept his salvation etc.. In real life, it was Esau who was a better son than Jacob. It was Esau who hunted Venison, prepared it and even served it his father to his liking and earned the deep love and respect of his father and not Jacob who was a Cheat. Again it was Esau who sought after repentance with tears and could not find it. It pleased God to love Jacob the cheat and hate Esau.

    Faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 2;8&9), it comes to us through the preaching of Christ, (Romans 10;17).
    Even infants receive this gift through Holy Baptism, (for Christ and His Word is in Baptism, Romans 6, Matthew 28:18-20), that infants have true faith, Jesus teaches in Mark 9:42. The discussion of the role of man's will in either conversion or the living out of the life of faith ignores Gal. 2;20.
    Nothing illustrates man's sinful nature more than his desire to have a roll in his salvation or his sanctification. All the glory belongs to God alone.

    This isn't for posting. I'm trying to find a couple of quotes, if stated by Martin Luther.

    1) Something about warning Germans that the Turk would carry you off to his Turkey

    2) That if you don't know something in the Bible or about God [if I've got that correct], you should put your hand on your mouth in reverent silence.

    If you know of these, or at least one of them, can you please e-mail to me? Thank you.

    I don't find the above arguments persuasive at all. It totally absolves people of any responsibility of sin. Yes, it is true that 'by Law it is the knowledge of sin' but Martin Luther seems to forget that the law is also our Jailer until Faith is revealed (Gal.3:23-24) and people were punished by it ie: they were found guilty and there is no guilt, if there is no ability to obey. Also, I advise brothers and sisters in the Lord, to read more about Martin and Calvin and to learn about their true characters (Why do you think the Jews blamed Martin for what Hitler did? and why did they call Calvin 'Protestant Pope' for example. Let us worship no man.

    Kemba 308

    Jesus said no one can come to me unless God grants it. (John 6:65). Contrary to Jesus himself you appear to be declaring that God will not grant grace unless we first come to him. Your teaching is contrary to the gospel. Grace is not a reward for faith but the cause of it. Salvation is of Christ alone.

    I don't understand your charge about worshipping man. Where has this been done in the post above. Your charge is empty because no one has done anything of the sort in these posts. Can you back your ideas with Scripture? Are you saying that we can attribute our faith and repentance to our own wisdom, humility, sound judgment and good sense and not to Christ alone? Where does the wisdom come from to begin with?

    The only thing I can conclude from your post is that you believe a person can come to faith in Jesus Christ apart from the grace of the Holy Spirit? And therefore cannot thank God for your faith because that is what you contributed to the price of your salvation. There could not be anything more contrary to the Scripture.

    I reading the comments by the synergists it is evident they either did not read anything a monergist wrote or was able to understand a single word a monergist wrote or quoted from the Bible. If this were a secular classroom and the responses from the synergists were answers to test questions, they would overwhelming fail with a score of 0% of the test questions answered correctly testifying to their level comprehension and level of mastering the subject matter at hand. I personally find it disturbing to say the least.

    I reading the comments by the synergists it is evident they either did not read anything a monergist wrote or was able to understand a single word a monergist wrote or quoted from the Bible. If this were a secular classroom and the responses from the synergists were answers to test questions, they would overwhelming fail with a score of 0% of the test questions answered correctly testifying to their level comprehension and level of mastering the subject matter at hand. I personally find it disturbing to say the least.

    Ref: Genesis 3:22
    1. how does this verse relate to free will
    2. did God put this tree here by accident?
    3. can love be returned without free will?
    4. man's fall? an unplanned event?
    5. can I "knock" or "seek" without the Spirit's prompting?
    All I know is that God has given me this gift of faith and I will freely chose to serve him to the best of my ability.


    In answer to your question. You first need to understand the context the discussion about free will takes place. Prior to the fall, man was not in bondage to a corruption of nature and so, in his nature, he did not sin of necessity. He was able to sin and able not to sin.

    After the fall he was "not able not to sin". He sins of necessity and thus has no free will to believe the gospel unless God opens his blind eyes and turns his heart of stone to a heart of flesh (Ezek 26:36) This is the context (man's condition after the fall) and what is meant historically in discussions of man's lack of free will or bondage of the will.

    So your verse in Genesis is irrelevant to the discussion at hand. When we say man has no free will we are referring to man's corrupt condition after the fall.

    As for your question about Love being returned ... When God, in his mercy chooses to save someone he gives them all that they need for salvation in Jesus Christ, including a new heart to believe. It is like a parent who sees their child disobey and run out into oncoming traffic. True love would act in this way. The parent would NOT sit at the curb and tell the child he would only help him if he first asked for help or met some other condition. No, a parent who loves their child runs out into the street at the risk of his own life to MAKE CERTAIN the child was safe, because the parent knows better than the child what is good for him. THAT IS HOW WE UNDERSTAND LOVE IN EVERYDAY LIFE... NOT THE CONDITIONAL LOVE advocated by people who believe in free will. When God saves us, we will love him because he has gifted us with a new heart that loves him. No one who still has the old heart can love God first.

    Hope this helps answer your questions.


    john - thanx for your response
    it does help in answering some questions
    I get that the "context" of the conversation is the condition of man post-fall as it concerns his ability (will) to obtain/attain faith. Having recently recieved this gift from God, there is no doubt in my mind (or in my heart)that the faith I have received is completely and totally a gift, not of my own making or doing or willing. Even the 20 plus years of knocking and seeking and searching I did came as a result of God putting the fire of the Holy Spirit in my heart and in my gut. It kept pushing and nudging me in the right direction. Only when I quit trying to "know" my way to truth; only when I surrendered. I'd often look around and ask, "why do these people have faith and I don't?"
    It's a reasonable question. Why some and not others. (Ref: the conv. '08 btween C.R. and John H).
    There is not a "better" question to ask if you wish an answer to that question, and I don't believe that the answer lies in getting what we "deserve". The ugly possibility of "determinism" does raise its head.
    I will return to my original question using Genesis 3:22 as a relevant point. It speaks to God's response at the time of the fall. Very little is said about the condition of "man" pre-fall, and the fall itself. In any event, to say that damnation is what we "deserve" absolves God of any responsibility in creating the world as he did, and in establishing its conditions. The tree that man ate from was not placed there by accident. For man to make any real choice, he must know both options -- its the only way that love can truly exist. The condition of man prior to this event, although not a part of the context of the conversation, does shed some light on the question.
    Returning to Martin Luther's issue; I think he's correct to suggest that "free will" is NOT what leads to faith -- that is a gift.

    Mark seems to worry about the ugly possibility of determinism i.e. whether we are robots or not. First of all, it is impossible to know whether we are robots, secondly, if you are a Christian, does it matter?

    Another point may be answered by Jonathan Edwards. He differentiates between moral ability and physical ability. Physical ability means that humans are physically able to keep the commandments of God but are morally unable to keep them because of the weakness of the flesh.
    God will judge all according to the law (Rom ch 2: 12...) due to the fact that humans are physically able to obey the law. However only those who have put their faith in Christ will be acquitted because they recognise they are morally unable to obey God and need His help.

    If a command shows what a christian cannot do, then how does he carry out its demands? What is the formula or prayer so its demands are followed?

    How does Romans 6:16-17 with its talk of "obedience" fit into this discussion? The NLT puts it this way;"You can choose sin...or you can choose to obey God.

    How does Romans 6:16-17 with its talk of "obedience" fit into this discussion? The NLT puts it this way;"You can choose sin...or you can choose to obey God".

    To Marc: God does not offer us salvation, he gives it to us. The Holy Spirit initiates it, we then respond because He makes us alive. God does not offer us the gift, He gives it to us. man is not sick, or drowning. We are "DEAD". You cannot throw a life vest to a dead man, he cannot take it. God gives us life in Christ. Then we can breathe and respond to his commands.


    i opened Martin Luthers Bondage of the will and could not find most of these Quotes in there
    whats the problem?

    I know I am way late to this conversation and that the reality of anyone reading this is highly unlikely. I have read many of the debated points and I say to all that there is another way to think about this concept. To say I can choose the gift that God has given me, that of grace, is to assert that I have authority some over my own salvation. If I have authority over my own salvation then by nature of that authority I place my self in the position of God, suggesting I have the ability to save myself, because I choose God, making myself equal to or superior to God thinking I know what God knows, or i know better than God what is good for me. This is a clear violation of the 1st commandment. And to suggest we have the power to choose God's gift is a sin that only promotes self idolatry.

    Salvation, or any part of it, is always about God's action for us, and to suggest anything different is a clear indication of usurping God's authority and breaking the 1st commandment. Thou shall have no other god's.

    Whenever a person asserts validity in the concept of free will I usually agree with them. I say I choose to do either A or B. In fact, I only choose that which God has already chosen for me to choose. In other words, I can not choose to do something other than that which was predestined for me to do, otherwise God would have to say, "You know...he really caught me by surprise. I thought for sure he would have chosen differently." This is not possible. God is all knowing, and if that's true he predetermines every action I take, even if I eat carrots instead of peas.

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