Free Will! One of my favorites! The notion of man’s “free will” is as common among the Christian church as any; it’s almost assumed. And while the Reformers do speak of man having freedom to choose “civil righteousness” (like whether or not to obey the speed limit), the Lutheran confession is clear that there is no “free will” in spiritual matters. That is to say, by our own reason or strength, our will is incapable of accepting anything of God. Apart from the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel, we are bound to sin and darkness, and not free at all. But through the Holy Spirit, who calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctified, do are made new, and receive a will that desires the things of God. Enjoy what you find!
Collect of the Week (Proper 16-C)
O Lord, You have called us to enter Your kingdom through the narrow door. Guide us by Your Word and Spirit, and lead us now and always into the feast of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Article XVII (Christ’s Return for Judgment)
1 Our churches teach that a person’s will has some freedom to choose civil righteousness and to do things subject to reason. 2 It has no power, without the Holy Spirit, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness. For “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:14). 3 This righteousness is worked in the heart when the Holy Spirit is received through the Word [Galatians 3:2–6].
4 This is what Augustine says in his Hypognosticon, Book III:
We grant that all people have a free will. It is free as far as it has the judgment of reason. This does not mean that it is able, without God, either to begin, or at least to complete, anything that has to do with God. It is free only in works of this life, whether good or evil. 5 Good I call those works that spring from the good in nature, such as willing to labor in the field, to eat and drink, to have a friend, to clothe oneself, to build a house, to marry a wife, to raise cattle, to learn various useful arts, or whatsoever good applies to this life. 6 For all of these things depend on the providence of God. They are from Him and exist through Him. 7 Works that are willing to worship an idol, to commit murder, and so forth, I call evil.
8 Our churches condemn the Pelagians and others who teach that without the Holy Spirit, by natural power alone, we are able to love God above all things and do God’s commandments according to the letter. 9 Although nature is able in a certain way to do the outward work (for it is able to keep the hands from theft and murder), yet it cannot produce the inward motions, such as the fear of God, trust in God, chastity, patience, and so on. (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. Edited by Paul Timothy McCain. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005, S. 40).
By the time of the Reformation, the Roman Church had fully developed a false and potentially damning doctrine, one that stated that a person is able, to some degree, to strive for and receive God’s mercy. Article XVIII asserts Scripture’s teaching that people, apart from God’s grace, are wholly incapable of perceiving spiritual things. The longest quote from a Church Father in the Augsburg Confession occurs here. It demonstrates Lutheranism’s continuity with the Church catholic—in contrast to Roman error on this doctrine. Augustine echoes the Bible’s teaching that while we humans can perform acts of civil righteousness, which may be called “good,” spiritually we are evil and enemies of God. However, in Christ, our loving God breaks down the wall of hostility separating us from Him. By His Spirit, through His Word, He gives us Christ’s perfect righteousness as a gift. In external, worldly matters we do have the freedom to make decisions according to human reason, but this does not mean, apart from God’s grace, that we have similar powers in matters of eternal life. (See also Ap XVIII; FC Ep II and SD II.) (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. Edited by Paul Timothy McCain. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005, S. 40).
Almighty, everlasting God, for our many sins we justly deserve eternal condemnation. In Your mercy You sent Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who won for us forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation. Grant us a true confession that, dead to sin, we may be raised up by Your life-giving absolution. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may be ever watchful and live true and godly lives in Your service; through Jesus Christ, our Lord (LSB, collect #153).
Daily Prayer (For Friday)
We pray…for the preaching of the holy cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and for the spread of His knowledge throughout the whole world; for the persecuted and oppressed; for the sick and dying.