Continuing my preacher’s journey through Luther’s lesser known 97 theses:
68. Therefore it is impossible to fulfill the law in any way without the grace of God.
The gravitational pull of a post Genesis 3 world will always pull us toward a morality that is bereft of the presence of God. This is the tendency we have: to try to be like God, apart from God. Let’s never settle for obedient compliance over genuine relationship with God by His Spirit.
69. As a matter of fact, it is more accurate to say that the law is destroyed by nature without the grace of God.
70. A good law will of necessity be bad for the natural will.
71. Law and will are two implacable foes without the grace of God.
I want to leave these theses rather than summarizing them. As a human being I am naturally in total opposition to God being God. Telling me to behave by his rules will only incite rebellion, or . . .
72. What the law wants, the will never wants, unless it pretends to want it out of fear or love.
Unless the person is fearfully self-protective, or loving self in some way. Thus the written code will gain a variety of responses, from younger brother rebellion to older brother self-righteousness, but nothing on this continuum is actually a good result. Seems hopeless?
73. The law, as taskmaster of the will, will not be overcome except by the “child, who has been born to us” [Isa. 9:6].
Our only hope is Christ himself. Apart from him we are deeply in trouble with a terrible foe. So as a preacher? I must, must, must preach Christ – the only hope. But if I reduce Christ and start to preach law in some way, the result will not be greater godliness.
74. The law makes sin abound because it irritates and repels the will [Rom. 7:13].
75. The grace of God, however, makes justice abound through Jesus Christ because it causes one to be pleased with the law.
Only the grace of God can create a new taste, a new inner relish…hang on, I am drifting into Jonathan Edwards now. God can do what the law never could, stirring the heart with a new appetite for good.