From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Free Will
This distinction has not been invented by us but is clearly taught in Scripture. Augustine also covers it, and recently William of Paris dealt with it well. Yet it has been wickedly suppressed by those who have imagined that people are able to obey God’s Law without the Holy Spirit, that instead, the Holy Spirit is given because obedient people are considered meritorious.
Pulling It Together
When the Sword of the Lord (Heb 4:12), his Word, delivers the cutting law of God, people understand that there is nothing they can do to be saved. The young man in Matthew 19 had been keeping the commandments his whole life, or so he claimed, but still knew something was lacking. So he asked Jesus, “What good deed must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus swung the law-edge of the sword at him so that he would be able to see his great need.
When people are able to see their need, they cry out, “What shall we do?” And here is the “follow me” that Jesus extended to the young man. “Repent and be baptized...in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So we readily see that there is some civic good that we might do but, in the words of Charles Wesley, we are “all unrighteousness” (from “Jesus, Lover of My Soul). All that is left to us is to repent and be baptized. To such meek souls, the Holy Spirit is given—not earned. Through his power alone, we are enabled to follow Jesus, to be his disciples.
Prayer: Forgive me, Lord, and give me grace to follow you anew. Amen.
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