The Bondage of the Will, the Sovereignty of Grace, and the Glory of God

This is the sixth post in a series with my notes from the Together for the Gospel Conference (#T4G2016) that was held from April 12-14 in Louisville, KY. To see my other notes from the sermons at T4G, click here

Speaker: John Piper                                  Key text: Various

Listen to the full sermon: Audio || Video 

Are humans so sinful that God’s sovereign grace needs to create and decisively full and produce all inclinations to believe in and obey God? At the heart of Martin Luther’s theology was the idea that humans are dependent on God to rescue them from the bondage of the will. If free will truly exists, then it makes it incredibly difficult to understand how much credit for salvation goes to God and how much should go to us. Election gives God all the credit for faith. “The failure to see the depth of sin and the bondage of the will, left unchecked, becomes an assault on God’s sovereign grace.” -Martin Luther. Any exaltation of the “goodness” of self or the will negates the need for God’s decisive transforming grace. Luther doesn’t mean that the human will is inactive in salvation and obedience, but where the will is involved, God is actively creating the desire. “The gospel takes all the credit and glory from man and ascribes it to God, the One who created everything from nothing.” -Martin Luther.

Five Ways the Bible Describes the Bondage of the Will: 

  1. The bondage of legal guilt and divine condemnation (Romans 3:9-10)
    This is a universal guilt common to all mankind. It hangs over every human soul, especially those apart from Christ (John 3:36; Romans 2:5). It doesn’t “go there” out of nowhere, but remains and stays there from birth. Our natural legal position is guilt and condemnation because of our treason against the holy God.
  2. The bondage of love for the darkness (John 3:19-20)
    This bondage is about self-glorification. The bondage isn’t that light is lacking, but light is hated and darkness is loved. You can’t embrace as bright and beautiful that which you hate. You can’t repudiate and reject that which you love. You can’t shoose what you love or hate. Darkness tastes good to the natural palate and light tastes bitter. These are real “cannots” and cannots that are blameworthy and culpable because they aren’t things we’re forced to do, but things we naturally want to do (John 5:43-45). How can we believe Jesus when we love the praise of men? We can’t!
  3. The bondage of hatred for the supremacy of God (Romans 8:6-8)
    This is a bondage to a mindset that is hostile to God. It’s not something we have to learn; it’s something we’re born with. We are self-reliant and want to do it on our own without God. The opposite of this are those who have been set free and are controlled by the Spirit (Romans 8:9-11). You can’t submit to a divine law who’s first commandment is that you love the God you hate.
  4. The bondage of spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1-3; Luke 15:31-32)
    Everyone is dead in sin and trespasses apart from sovereign grace. By nature, we aren’t alive but in lockstep with the God-excluding desires of the flesh–death.
  5. The bondage of the blindness to the glory of Jesus (1 Corinthians 2:6-8)
    If we want to define an evil person, Paul says to look at the natural person. You cannot accept as wise what you see as foolish. The natural man only sees the crucified Christ as foolish. Satan exploits out natural blindness with his own blindness (2 Corinthians 4:4). There is a divine and supernatural light that shines through the gospel that no one can see apart from the omnipotent removal of spiritual blindness.

Five Ways Sovereign Grace Frees Us From the Bondage of the Will:

  1. To the bondage of legal guilt and divine condemnation, sovereign grace says “you have been justified because I have given you the righteousness of my Son.”
  2. To the bondage of the love for darkness, sovereign grace says “I have given you the gift of repentance in order that you might love the light and hate the darkness.”
  3. To the bondage of hatred for the supremacy of God, sovereign grace says “only because of the work of my Holy Spirit can you declare that Jesus is Lord.”
    If we don’t know this, how will we love the Holy Spirit?
  4. To the bondage of spiritual death, sovereign grace says “when you were dead in trespasses and sin, I made you alive with Christ.”
    So many people treat grace as God’s lenient attitude toward sin. It is so much more than that: it is the power to make dead people alive!
  5. To the bondage of the blindness to the glory of Jesus, sovereign grace says “let there be light!” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

If you see Jesus as more precious and glorious than anything else, you’re a walking miracle! Fallen man cannot create his own holy choices. In the act of faith and pursuit of holiness, man doesn’t complete God’s prevenient grace by providing his own determination and ability to obey. Every inclination to obedience, God must decisively fulfill (1 Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 2:12-13; 2 Thessalonians 1:11). Our working wasn’t added to God’s working, but produced by God’s working. Our working is God’s working. “God produces all, creates all.” -Jonathan Edwards.

We owe it all to grace, not because God jumpstarted our will and waited to see what we would do, but because He produced faith and every good work afterwards. Talking about the new identity without discussing the nature of the old man, leads many to take God’s sovereign grace for granted.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

Notable Tweets

More from John Piper: My sermon notes from CrossCon 2013 || My sermon notes from T4G 2012 || Video from past T4Gs

[image credit: @t4gonline on Twitter]

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About Lawson Hembree
Lawson is an entrepreneur, ministry leader, and outdoors enthusiast who also enjoys blogging about business, ideas, and theology. Want to continue the discussion or write a guest post? Let's Connect!

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