Friday, 19 September 2014

Martin Luther's Loveless Legalism

The leader of the Protestant Reform is none other than Martin Luther, who is most famous for his 95 Theses. As true as some of his criticisms may be, he has been criticised for his emphasis on faith rather than love. 

His 44th theses is that ''because love grows by works of love', man thereby 'becomes better'. This is to claim that it is love that is the fruit of good works, rather than good works being the fruit of love. Such a statement assumes that a person is capable of loving other in their own human strength, and therefore capable of truly loving others and God in their own flesh. This is far from the truth. 

1 John 4:8 says that: He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. This means that because God is love, a person can only truly love others when the love of God is in him. It does not mean that those who have no love do not know God in spite of God being love.A person who does not know God cannot love others because it is impossible for the carnal flesh to please God. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be (Romans 8:7). 

To be subject to the Law of God is to obey it. To obey God is to love God. If a person truly loves God, his will keep the Commandments of God as Jesus said: "If you love Me, you will keep My Commandments" (John 14:15). These Commandments are to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37), and to "love one's neighbour as oneself" (Matthew 22:39). 

 1 John 4:10 makes it clear that: Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Therefore, it is not that people love God, and therefore others. It is that God loves us first, so that we love God. Since whoever does not have the love of God in him cannot love, humans cannot possibly love others is one's own strength. Therefore, love cannot be the fruit of one's good works. Rather, love is in the heart that results in good works.

All the Commandments of God hinges on the Law of Love. The root of all godlessness, unrighteousness, unholiness, evil and wickedness is lovelessness. A person who does not  know God cannot please God, no matter what good works and how moral he is. We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Isaiah 64:6). 

Proponents of Luther's 44th theses would most likely argue that is faith that produces love, because love grows by works of love, and works of love are works of faith to rebut the case being presented against the 44th theses. 

It is true that faith without works is dead (James 2:26) and that without faith it is impossible to please him (Hebrews 11:6). However, faith is only a fruit of one having God's love abiding in him. It is the fruit of love, rather than the root of love. The root of all good works, righteousness and holiness which require faith is love. 

To claim that faith in the root of good works, and that love grows when one does good works is to imply that one can truly love in one's own strength. One cannot love God is one's own strength. 

As such, such as statement is one of faith in one's own flesh that can do no good, thinking that the aim should be to do certain works and follow certain rules, rather than aim to love. This leads to loveless legalism.