|IIIM Magazine Online, Volume 1, Number 12, May 17 to May 23, 1999|
“He thus placed the material or subjective principle of Protestantism above the formal or objective principle, the truth above the witness of the truth, the doctrine of the gospel above the written Gospel, Christ above the Bible. Romanism, on the contrary, places the church above the Bible. But we must remember that Luther first learnt Christ from the Bible, especially from the Epistles of Paul, which furnished him the key for the understanding of the scheme of salvation” (Schaff, History of the Christian Church).Luther distinguished between the more important and the less important books of the New Testament, putting James, Jude, and Revelation at the end of the German Bible. His greatest conflict was with the Epistle of James because he could not harmonize it with Paul’s teaching on justification by faith without works, going so far as to call James an epistle of straw compared with the genuine apostolic writings (cf. Jas. 2:21).
“We condemn man’s free will, his strength, his wisdom, and all religion of man’s own devising; in short, we say that there is nothing in us able to deserve grace (Martin Luther).”The Anabaptists as a whole prized free will in their theology. They de-emphasized or failed to teach the doctrines of election and predestination. Probably, their aversion to the loose living of many of the Reformed people drove them to this more strict viewpoint on free will.
“This mightily offends our rational nature that God should, of His own mere unbiased will, leave some men to themselves, harden them and condemn them; but He gives abundant demonstration, and does continually, that this is really the case; namely, that the sole cause why some are saved, and others perish, proceeds from His willing the salvation of the former, and the perdition of the latter, according to that of St. Paul, ‘He hath mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth’” (Martin Luther).
“Predestination we call the decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself, what He would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny: but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestinated either to life or to death” (John Calvin).
“The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice” (Westminster Confession of Faith).
“Wherever this living faith is found, it must necessarily be accompanied by the hope of eternal salvation; for if we have not this hope, however eloquently we may discourse of faith, it is evident that we have none. The opinion consequently stands, that no one can be called a son of God who does not know himself to be such.”Thus, in these early Reformers we find an extremely close correspondence between assurance and saving faith, such that the lack of assurance indicated the potential absence of saving faith.
“Religious persecution arises not only from bigotry and fanaticism, and the base passions of malice, hatred and uncharitableness, but also from mistaken zeal for truth and orthodoxy, from the intensity of religious conviction, and from the alliance of religion with politics or the union of church and state, whereby an offence against the one becomes an offence against the other” (Schaff).In the areas of religious toleration and the right of the human conscience, the Anabaptists were ahead of their time. They held tenaciously to religious liberty for all men, even when they disagreed with the true gospel of Christ.