A serious problem with Protestant and Anabaptist doctrine surfaces in the writings of the most famous Anabaptist, Menno Simons, and in the writings of the powerful Protestant reformer, Martin Luther. It is clear that many Anabaptists opted for free will, while the Protestants theoretically viewed salvation as occurring totally through the power of divine election, apart from the power of some man generated free will. Nevertheless, in the area of law preaching, the agreement between the Protestant and Anabaptist positions was greater than any minor differences they might have had. The writings of Menno illustrate that for him, law preaching had a power to drive men to seek Jesus Christ. I have elsewhere tried to show that Martin Luther taught that law conviction was essential before gospel conversionn could take place.
In "Luther and Menno" an article from the Mennonite Quarterly Review Magazine, july 1969, pages 200-213, Richard Detweiler concurs with my position concerning Luther. The author also points out that Menno had essentially the same view of law conviction as did Luther. On page 211, Detweiler states: "First, as we have seen, the law functions for both Luther and Menno as the letter of demand, showing man his sinful condition and his hopeless state in being unable to meet the law's requirements".The author goes on to state that Luther rejected the notion that repentance came by law. While his early writing, "freedom of a Christian" did reflect a view that repentance came by law, it is certain that he was forced to modify his view while being challenged by Menno. Nevertheless, this becomes a useless quarrel about words. Reflecting in his later years of life, Luther believed that his "Commentary on Galatians" was a work worth saving. In that work (See John Dillenberger's "Martin Luther", Doubleday, pp. 140-141) Luther stated that the law had power to "mollify and humble". In fact, Luther taught that, "...if any be not a murderer, an adulterer, a thief...he would swear that he is righteous...Such a one God cannot otherwise mollify and humble...but by the law. The preaching of free remission of sins for Christ's sake, cannot enter the heart of such a one..."
We can see that Luther changed from first believing that repentance came by the law, to the later thought that only humility came from law conviction. My contention is that humility is a part of repentance and repentance is a part of true faith. Luther simply argued with Menno over words, when in fact their positions as compared with scripture do not seriously differ. By attributing any power to the law regarding conviction, Menno and Luther committed the same error, even though they quibbled over whether it was repentance or humility that came by law.
The gospel teaches that humility, repentance and faith come by the gospel, not by the law at all! See Acts chapter 2. Acts 2:36 states "'Therefore, let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified'" Acts 2:37 states: Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" This beginning of repentance through the hearers being pierced through the heart by the gospel message has no relationship to the law preaching described by Martin Luther and Menno Simons.
The truth according to the gospel is that law only stirs up sin in the unbeliever, causing in him a desire to sin more. (Romans ch 7) Humility is a fruit of the Spirit. This grace relates to a rejection of the Savior, and has nothing to do with law conviction of some individual sin. Any conviction of sin that would supposedly come through the preaching of law is a deception and a false gospel.
I testify before all who read this article that I was cut to the heart and convicted of unbelief when I was not looking for the gospel. This is God's prescribed method of salvation, either in the presence of a messenger or outside the presence of a messenger from God after having heard the message of Christ crucified.
Regarding the law, if it truly had this power of the gospel, then the Rich Young Ruler would have sold his riches when confronted by Jesus Christ. He went away sorrowful because the command of Jesus to sell all had stirred up sin in the young man. But notice that the law did not cause humility or repentance of any kind. In fact, Jesus himself said that the things that are impossible with men are possible with God. The law had no power and this exchange is absolute proof of that.
I have been exchanging ideas with Cliff Bjork of Searching Together magazine. He has said that perhaps the reformers did not have enough light to expound on the gospel more correctly. But I would admonish Cliff that the work of salvation is an inner work. If they were saved by the power of the gospel, then they would know that the law had no place in this salvation. Cliff is busy admonishing me for judging the reformers when he should be separating from the reformers. He should be careful who he judges for he is indeed judging the wrong person, me!
This article is a call to the elect to flee those who teach law preaching, and contend one final time for the faith once delivered to the saints. Gary Anderson 2005
Martin Luther was a sacralist Covenant Theologian and was of course, the father of Protestantism. I urge you to read my comments below to understand just what Covenant Theology was all about in PRACTICE: The wonders of the internet. I searched around as I often do and was taken aback by what we can learn from an unbeliever named James Walker. This man has a website http://www.nobeliefs.com/luther.htm . I quote him in words relating to the anti semitism shown by the Protestant Reformer, which is not surprising given the understanding that this man ENGAGED IN SACRALISM AND IN THE PERSECUTION OF PEOPLE WHO WERE UNDER THE THUMB OF SACRAL POWER. This is what Mr Walker says about Martin Luther:
"Unfortunately few popular books on Luther go into detail about Luther's anti-Jewishness, or even mention that he had a hatred for Jews at all. This has resulted in a biased outlook towards Martin Luther and Christianity. This unawareness of Luther's sinister side, while honoring his "righteousness" leads to a ratcheting promotion of Luther which supports a "good" public image while also transporting his Jewish beliefs to those who carry the seeds of anti-Semitism. This will present an unwanted dilemma for many Christians because Luther represents the birth of Protestant Christianity as well as the genesis of the special brand of Jewish hatred that flourished only in Germany.
Although Luther did not invent anti-Jewishness, he promoted it to a level never before seen in Europe. Luther bore the influence of his upbringing and from anti-Jewish theologians such as Lyra, Burgensis, (and John Chrysostom, before them). But Luther's 1543 book, "On the Jews and their lies" took Jewish hatred to a new level when he proposed to set fire to their synagogues and schools, to take away their homes, forbad them to pray or teach, or even to utter God's name. Luther wanted to "be rid of them" and requested that the government and ministers deal with the problem. He requested pastors and preachers to follow his example of issuing warnings against the Jews. He goes so far as to claim that "We are at fault in not slaying them" for avenging the death of Jesus Christ. Hitler's Nazi government in the 1930s and 40s fit Luther's desires to a tee.
So vehemently did Luther speak against the Jews, and the fact that Luther represented an honorable and admired Christian to Protestants, that his written words carried the "memetic" seeds of anti-Jewishness up until the 20th century and into the Third Reich. Luther's Jewish eliminationist rhetoric virtually matches the beliefs held by Hitler and much of the German populace in the 1930s."
Needless to say, God could not have looked upon Martin Luther with generosity because of this hatred alone, not to mention the doctrinal misuse of law and government that drove him to political power in the first place! Here is just one of the many disturbing quotes that Luther made that flies in the face of Romans chapter 11 and Paul's refusal to hate his Jewish brothers:
"If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews' blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. THEY MUST BE DRIVEN FROM OUR COUNTRY."