Monday, October 31, 2011

Reformation Day: "All works are condemned"

Now, if there must be error, those who say that the grace of God is priced high, and account it dear and costly, err less shamefully and presumptuously than those who teach that its price is a tiny trifle, and account it cheap and contemptible. Paul, however, pounds both errors to a single pulp with one word when he says that all are justified freely, without the law, and without the works of the law. The assertion that justification is free to all that are justified leaves none to work, merit or prepare themselves, and leaves no work that can be said to carry either congruent or condign merit. By the one cast of this thunderbolt, Paul shatters both the Pelagians with their total merit and the Sophists with their tiny merit. Free justification does not permit you to set men working for it, for free donation and preparation by working are manifestly incompatible. Furthermore, justification by grace does not permit you to regard the worthiness of any person, as Paul says in the eleventh chapter [of Romans]: 'If by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise, grace is not grace' (v. 6). So, too, he says in the fourth chapter: 'Now to him that worketh the reward is reckoned, not of grace, but of debt' (v. 4). And so my good Paul, the scourge of 'free-will', stands undefeated! He lays low two armies with a single word! For we are justified without works, all works are condemned, whether small or great; Paul exempts none, but thunders impartially against all.

-Martin Luther,
The Bondage of the Will

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