The Augsburg Confession Article 18 Of Free Will
by Carlton Pruitt
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What is the Augsburg Confession?
In January 1530, Emperor Charles V issued a summons for a special meeting of the leaders of his kingdom for the purpose of bringing a resolution to the various disputes and tensions that had resulted from the work of Martin Luther and other reformers. This meeting, called a “diet,”was convened in the German city of Augsburg. Philip Melanchthon prepared a text to be presented at the Diet ofAugsburg, based on an earlier set doctrinal articles prepared by Martin Luther and his colleagues in the city of Torgau. Melanchthon’s draft was sent to Luther for his consideration and possible revision. After Luther’s approval was obtained, Melanchthon prepared the final text. The German version of what became known as the Augsburg Confession was read on Saturday afternoon, June 25, 1530.
The Augsburg Confession is the most succinct presentation of Lutheranism. Articles 1–21 have to do with basic Christian doctrines,with the most important of these articles being Articles 3, 4, 5. Articles 22–28 concerns the abuses the Lutherans had worked to correct. The Augsburg Confession focuses especially on the objective and universal message of salvation by God’s grace alone, received through faith alone, all as a result of the work of Christ, alone.
With the Augsburg Confession, the Lutherans were intent on making clear that what they stood for was nothing more, nor certainly anything less, than the ancient faith of the church, a faith that had been corrupted and obscured by Medieval Roman Catholicism. It is the “magna carta” of Lutheranism, setting forth for the first time her beliefs and convictions and rejection of various abuses in the church. This commitment to what the church has always taught, believed and confessed, on the basis of God’s Holy Word, remains to this day a hallmark of genuine, orthodox and confessing Lutheranism. With hope and courage the Lutheran confessors declared, “I will speak of thy testimonies before kings,and will not be put to shame”(Psalm 119:46)
Article XVIII: Of Free Will.
1] Of Free Will they teach that man's will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work 2] things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness; since the natural man 3] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 2:14; but this righteousness is wrought in the heart when the Holy Ghost is received 4] through the Word. These things are said in as many words by Augustine in his Hypognosticon, Book III: We grant that all men have a free will, free, inasmuch as it has the judgment of reason; not that it is thereby capable, without God, either to begin, or, at least, to complete aught in things pertaining to God, but only in works of this life, whether good 5] or evil. "Good" I call those works which 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 diverse useful arts, or whatsoever good 6]pertains to this life. For all of these things are not without dependence on the providence of God; yea, of Him and through Him they are and have their being. "Evil" 7] I call such works as willing to worship an idol, to commit murder, etc. 8] They condemn the Pelagians and others, who teach that without the Holy Ghost, by the power of nature alone, we are able to love God above all things; also to do the commandments of God as touching "the substance of the act." For, although nature is able in a manner to do the outward work, 9] (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, etc.
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