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Bondage of the Will

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
August 15, 2022 12:01 am

Bondage of the Will

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 15, 2022 12:01 am

It is critically important whether we believe our salvation is the sovereign work of God or our own accomplishment. Today, R.C. Sproul demonstrates that our understanding of God's sovereignty in salvation affects the way we live as Christians.

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What part does God employ your salvation and what part do we play is a matter of critical importance. According to Luther as to whether we sink in the final analysis, our salvation is the work of God or it is something that to a certain degree is accomplished by our own efforts and our own striving, and our own merit throughout church history.

Some people said that man is totally free. The true celebration in the 16th century.

The debate over free will erupted between Martin Luther and the Dutch theologian.

Erasmus debate that continues today in the church all this week on Renewing Your Mind we will dive into Dr. RC Sproul series willing to believe and discover why man's will is not free will also learn why some assumptions about free will actually undermine the gospel in the most fascinating that ever took place in the theological arena between theologians was the duel that erupted in the 16th century between probably the most respected Catholic humanistic scholar of the era and Martin Luther. It was Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, the man who reconstructed the received text of the New Testament who is known around the world for his great scholarship and acumen who in the early stages of the Reformation sided with Luther and who wrote the praise of Folly, which was I better sarcastic satire against the corruptions of the clergy within the Catholic Church but nevertheless when it came to the cardinal issues of the Reformation itself. Erasmus broke with Luther and remained faithful to the Roman Catholic Church and then set about to critique the teachings of Martin Luther and the debate was prompted in 1524 when Erasmus published his work entitled the diatribe concerning free will, in which he gave an exhaustive and comprehensive critique of the theology of Luther and the reformers. The following year. In 1525, Luther responded to a Rasmussen's work with his famous book, they Servo our bedroom which is called the bondage of the will. All of the more than 50 volumes that come down to us from the plan of Martin Luther, Luther himself regarded as his most important work.

His work on the bondage of the will and the reply that he gave two harassments and I believe that for the most part, church historians and theologians have agreed with Luther's assessment that that was his most important work and I commend to you the reading of the bondage of the will as it remains a Christian classic, and certainly of vital importance to this whole controversy over free will as it relates both to the doctrine of election and to the doctrine of original sin. We know for example that the battle cry of the Reformation and the central issue of which the debate raged in the 16th century was over. This concept of Sola vide which is the slogan that means by faith alone, summarizing in capsule form.

Luther's doctrine of justification by faith alone. However, Luther at this point, regarded that in a certain sense the doctrine of justification was merely the tip of the iceberg of the controversy and that there was an even more serious theological matter that was hidden beneath the surface but was certainly engaged in and play in the controversy that divided Christendom so deeply in the 16th century and that was the doctrine of Sola Grazie for Luther Sola for the day grows out of Sola Grazie a and rests upon Sola Grazie and depends upon Sola Grazie a for its force and in his work on the bondage of the will, Luther.

In speaking of the doctrine of election or predestination which is so controversial made the comment that in his judgment, election is the core acolyte.

See, or the very heart of the church.

Again, you have to remember that Luther was an Augustinian monk and his primary mentor theologically was Augustine and it was Augustine who had emphasized so strongly centuries earlier. His concept of Sola Grazie that we are saved by grace and by grace alone and is for that reason that justification would have to be by faith alone, as Paul declares when he speaks in Ephesians that we are justified by grace through faith. And so Luther was trying to probe beneath the surface of the central issue of justification and get to its foundational underpinnings in the classical doctrine of grace and that of course immediately touches on the issue of the extent of our fallenness and the strength of our human will and in his diatribe, Erasmus argued that the whole issue of free will in this debate was a matter that was really not all that important. It was an academic point a technicality that could better be left to scholars and not something that people should be all of that concerned about. We recall that.

Also, in the diatribe. If you study a Rasmussen's position, you see how ambiguous and I frankly think confused it is and he vacillates back and forth among various ideas of freedom and of grace but he also makes the observation on certain issues like this as an academician he would prefer to suspend judgment and not to come down on one side or the other because he thought that that was the prudent thing to do in matters of this sort, to which Luther replied by saying in typical Lutheran fashion away with the skeptics away with the academics. Espirito Santo's non-ASCAP tutors. The Holy Spirit is not a skeptic, and the truth that he has revealed far more precious to us than life itself and with respect to the importance of the question of the degree of power the fallen human will has or lacks Luther makes this comments responding to harassments. Rasmussen said that the doctrine of free will is quote one of those useless doctrines that we can do without.

Luther said it is your religious idle and superfluous. You say to want to know whether our will affects anything in matters pertaining to eternal salvation or whether it is wholly passive under the work of grace. We hear you speak to the contrary, saying the Christian piety, consistent, striving with all our might and you say, apart from the mercy of God.

Our will is an effective hear you plainly assert that the will is in some respect active in matters pertaining to salvation for you represented the striving and again you represented is the object of divine action when you say that without God's mercy is an effective but you do not define the limits within which we should think of the will is acting and is acted upon. You take pains to engender ignorance as to what God's mercy and man's will can affect by your very teaching as to what man's will and God's mercy do affect now what Luther is saying here is this that the question of what part God plays in my salvation and what part I play in my salvation has everything to do with our religious posture before God and everything to do with our understanding of the grace of God, our appreciation of the grace of God.

Our worship of God and our dependence of God. It's a matter of critical importance.

According to Luther as to whether we think in the final analysis, our salvation is the work of God or it is something that to a certain degree is accomplished by our own efforts and our own striving, and our own merit. Here we see another one of the slogans of the Reformation working behind-the-scenes and that is the expression Sola Dayo Gloria to God alone. The glory am I to reduce the glory that belongs to God for my redemption and arrogate some of the praise and glory to myself or is it proper and the religious spirit of the Christian heart to understand that salvation is of the Lord, that we have been rescued as slaves who could not liberate themselves as debtors who could not pay their debt so that we sing praises to God's grace throughout our lives.

Luther said this is a matter of supreme importance to the health of the Christian's life and so that is not just a matter that should be reserved for the halls of academia or to scholars along now again I Rasmussen was concerned about some of the practical consequences that might flow out of the Reformation teaching on the moral inability of man and the sovereignty of divine grace. He says what can be more useless than the publish to the world.

The paradox that all we do is done not by free will, but a mere necessity and Augustine's view that God works in us both good and evil that he rewards his own good works analysis and punishes his own evil works in us a Rasmussen. This would open a floodgate of iniquity and would spread such news openly to the people. The race this practical question. This doctrine of election were to be taught what wicked man would amend his life. Who would believe that God loved him and who would fight against his flesh. If you recall when we looked at the system called semi Pelagianism, and we looked at the writings of Cassie and her Cassie address and we saw Cassie Anis reacting against Augustine's teaching on nature and grace that Cassie Anis raise these exact same objections against Augustine saying that if the doctrine of election were to be taught and man's moral inability were to be proclaimed that it would be the end of preaching by the end of evangelism that would be the end of anybody's seeking improvement in their character. How does Luther respond to these questions.

Well, listen to them.

Luther stating this way, you say a Rasmussen who will try to reform his life.

The answer Luther gives nobody Erasmus who will believe that God loves him. Luther answers nobody nobody can. But the elect shall believe it, and the rest will perish without believing it raging and blasphemy.

Erasmus said that a floodgate of iniquity is opened by our doctrines. Luther said so.

Luther's want to go to the final point on this.

He said I what's at stake here is the character of God, and if by teaching what the Bible teaches about our utter dependence upon the grace of God to redeem us is going to cause people not to strive to come to God in their spiritual death.

He says that's a floodgate of iniquity and that it's open as B openly said, because in the first place and the main point is what who will try to amend their lives who will incline themselves to the things of God.

If we teach this doctrine. Nobody because nobody can anyway and nobody does. Anyway, that's the whole point as the apostle had made it clear no one seeks after God that in our fallen condition. We are so much enslaved by our sin that we don't want to come to the things of God. That's the very point that Luther is trying to say and so you say if I teach people that in their fallen condition. They will never strive or incline themselves to come to God that that would cause them to stop striving and inclining themselves to come to God when they can't do it anyway that's absurd again. He sang the problem that we have in our fallen condition is that nobody wants God.

We don't want God in our thinking.

We don't want God in our lives and we are not pursuing God over heaven and earth were fleeing from God. As far and as fast as we possibly can in our only hope is that if God seeks us out and turns us around and brings us to himself. Later on Luther deals with a Rasmussen's definition of free will by reproducing it in his own book.

He says I suppose then that this part of the human will means the power or faculty or disposition or aptitude to will or not to will to choose or reject to approve or disapprove and to perform all the other actions of the will know what it means for the same power to apply itself or to turn away. I do not see unless it refers to the actual willing or not willing, choosing or rejecting approving or disapproving. That is the very action of the will itself so we must suppose that this power is something that comes between the will and its action something by which the will itself elicits the act of willing or not willing and by means of which the action of willing or not willing is elicited. Nothing else is imaginable conceivable. Now that may sound a little bit arcane to that concept that I've just read to you and Luther will be expanded in much greater clarity later on by Jonathan Edwards, but the simple point that Luther is making here is he's asking this question if it all comes down to your willing or not willing your rejecting or accepting your choosing or not choosing to cooperate with the grace of God that is God's grace is given to you to this person and to this person, but in the final analysis, it's up to your free will, or his free will to determine your destiny. What is it that is found in your fallen nature that will cause this person's will to say yes and that person's will to say no or something between the ability to will and the actual action of making the choice and of course what Augustine it said centuries earlier. And Luther is reiterating at this point is that it's the inclination of the soul or the desire.

If this person says yes to grace. It can only be because this person wants to say yes to grace and if this person says no to grace. It can only be because this person wants to say no to grace. What could be more simple than all that simple to state the problem or to state the question is simple but again the difficulty is in determining why one person would say yes and another person would say obviously the person said yes has a positive desire towards God before they're even born of the spirit. The other person doesn't have a positive inclination towards God and the person who has the right inclination will make the right choice the person is the wrong inclination will make the wrong choice, and if it's strictly on the basis of the operation of the human will that the terms that in the final analysis, that means that this person is done.

The righteous thing this person is done the evil thing this person has something of which the post.

This person has nothing of which about often express this. The people in these terms of say to them, why are you a Christian and your neighbor isn't an essay well because I chose to pay and they chose not to be an essay. Okay.

Is it because you're more righteous than your neighbor. That was the normal Christian answer to that question.

You know what it's supposed to be.

You know you're never supposed to stand up and say will. The reason I'm a Christian and somebody else isn't is because I more righteous. This is the Zenith resonator really of self-righteousness to say that the reason I'm in the kingdom and somebody is out of the king is because I am righteous, and they are not. That sounds like the Pharisee in the temple who was boasting of his relationship with God. Most Christians shrink from saying that it's because I more righteous.

At that price will is it because you're more intelligent than that person know that I want to say because I know if I do say it. The next thing I'm in essays where did you get that intelligence that you are in it, or did you receive it. Is it an accomplishment or a gift, and then the discussion on their part was that this is not because I more righteous and answer why isn't it. Because you're more righteous.

Did you make the right decision. Yes, that your neighbor make the wrong decision yes is it good that you made this decision yes is it bad that they made that decision. Yes, why don't you say you're more righteous than that person is a know they're not supposed to but they have to if they really believe that in the final analysis, that which determines their inclusion in the kingdom of God is the right and good choice that they made when they had the opportunity now the other point that Luther debated with the rest of us was this matter that I read moments ago of harassment complaining about necessity.

According to the Rasmussen of God knows everything in advance of what is going to take place that all things that happen in this world happened, by necessity, and if all things happen by necessity and we can't possibly be free at all for a Rasmussen's necessity means coercion if my actions are necessary with respect to God's foreknowledge according to harassment than they must take place through some kind of coercion.

Luther said no and and and and and said God does not force me to make the decisions that I make in my normal daily living, but they are necessary with respect to his knowledge because of God knows today. What I am going to do freely tomorrow without his coercion will I do that tomorrow. Is it certain that I will do it tomorrow. It is a necessity of certainty in so far as it most certainly will come the past because God doesn't make mistakes in his knowledge. That doesn't mean that God is forcing me to do it or that I'm forced by chance or anything else that God knows in advance what I'm going to do this not mean that he has to coerce me to do it so that's why Luther makes this distinction between the necessity of consequence and the necessity of the consequent is a technical distinction. To explain this but when he signed a Rasmussen.

We are not teaching with our view of election or divine sovereignty of the fall of man that God coerces sinners to sin. Since people choose what they want, but the problem is what they want is wicked, it is certain that they will choose what they want by virtue of God's knowledge of God doesn't force those who desire to do good to do bad or to see force people who want only evil to do.

It's important to define terms as it Luther made it clear that before salvation. We do have freedom to choose, but every choice we make is in bondage to sin. Our focus this week on Renewing Your Mind is Dr. RC Sproul series willing to believe the controversy over free will. The series contains 1223 minute lessons and we will send you the three DVD set when you give a donation of any amount to ligature ministries you can make a or when you call us at 800-435-4343, before we close today.

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