Jan 7, 2012

Born Again by Faith - Calvin & Luther

In his commentary on Galatians, Reformed theologian Martin Luther said this on Galatians 3: 26 - "For we are all the children (sons) of God by faith in Christ Jesus."

"The law then maketh us not children of God, and much less do men's traditions. These cannot beget us into a new nature, or a new birth; but it setteth before us the old birth, whereby we were born to be children of wrath; and so it prepareth us to a new birth, which is by faith in Jesus Christ. "For ye are all the sons of God by faith." Faith in whom? In Christ, who maketh us the sons of God, and not the law. St. John also witnesseth to the same, "To as many as believed Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God" (St. John 1: 12; Rom. 8: 16, 17)."

In his commentary upon I Peter 1: 3, Luther wrote:

"But how or by what means does this new birth take place? "By the resurrection," Peter says, "of Jesus Christ from the dead;" as if he should say, God, the Father, has begotten us, not of corruptible (as he himself will explain later) but of incorruptible seed, namely, of the word of truth, which is the power of God. It begets new life and makes all alive and blessed who believe in it (Rom. 1: 16). What kind of a word then is that? Even that which is preached among you concerning Jesus Christ..."

"He is born again, that is, created anew after the image of God, receives the Holy Spirit, knows God's gracious will, has a heart, mind, courage, will and thoughts, which no work-righteous person or hypocrite has."

In commenting upon verse 23, Luther wrote:

"Through a seed we are born again...But how does this take place? After this manner: God lets the word, the Gospel, be scattered abroad, and the seed falls in the hearts of men. Now wherever it sticks in the heart, the Holy Spirit is present and makes a new man. Then there will indeed be another man, of other thoughts, of other words and works. Thus you are entirely changed."

John Calvin wrote the following in commentary on the verses in John 1: 12, 13:

"On the contrary, the Evangelist repeats the same thing in a variety of words, in order to explain it more fully, and impress it more deeply on the minds of men. Though he refers directly to the Jews, who gloried in the flesh, yet from this passage a general doctrine may be obtained: that our being reckoned the sons of God does not belong to our nature, and does not proceed from us, but because God begat us WILLINGLY, (James 1:18,) that is, from undeserved love. Hence it follows, first, that faith does not proceed from ourselves, but is the fruit of spiritual regeneration; for the Evangelist affirms that no man can believe, unless he be begotten of God; and therefore faith is a heavenly gift. It follows, secondly, that faith is not bare or cold knowledge, since no man can believe who has not been renewed by the Spirit of God.

It may be thought that the Evangelist reverses the natural order by making regeneration to precede faith, whereas, on the contrary, it is an effect of faith, and therefore ought to be placed later. I reply, that both statements perfectly agree; because by faith we receive the incorruptible seed, (1 Peter 1:23,) by which we are born again to a new and divine life. And yet faith itself is a work of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in none but the children of God. So then, in various respects, faith is a part of our regeneration, and an entrance into the kingdom of God, that he may reckon us among his children. The illumination of our minds by the Holy Spirit belongs to our renewal, and thus faith flows from regeneration as from its source; but since it is by the same faith that we receive Christ, who sanctifies us by his Spirit, on that account it is said to be the beginning of our adoption.

Another solution, still more plain and easy, may be offered; for when the Lord breathes faith into us, he regenerates us by some method that is hidden and unknown to us; but after we have received faith, we perceive, by a lively feeling of conscience, not only the grace of adoption, but also newness of life and the other gifts of the Holy Spirit. For since faith, as we have said, receives Christ, it puts us in possession, so to speak, of all his blessings. Thus so far as respects our sense, it is only after having believed — that we begin to be the sons of God. But if the inheritance of eternal life is the fruit of adoption, we see how the Evangelist ascribes the whole of our salvation to the grace of Christ alone; and, indeed, how closely soever men examine themselves, they will find nothing that is worthy of the children of God, except what Christ has bestowed on them." (Calvin, Commentary, John 1:13)

In his comment on 1 Corinthians 13:13, Calvin says, "In fine, it is by faith that we are born again, that we become the sons of God -- that we obtain eternal life, and that Christ dwells in us."

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