Posts tagged ‘Monergism’

“Let us” vs. “I will”

Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Tower of Babel (Vienna) - Google Art Project - edited.jpg
The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel (c. 1563) / Wikipedia

Human arrogance is nothing new. It’s as old as sin itself. Adam and Eve, after all, were tempted into sin by a delusion of grandeur – if they broke a command of God, they could “be like God” (Genesis 3:5).

Another early instance of human arrogance comes in the form of an infamous building project:

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:1-4)

The arrogance of humanity in this project can be summed up in two words:

“Let us.”

“Let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly,” they say. “Let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves,” they plan. They believe that there is nothing they can’t do. They don’t need God when they have a “Let us.”

When God discovers the people’s plot, He stops them by confusing their language so they can no longer communicate with each other, which is why we now call this building project “Babel – because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world” (Genesis 11:9). But God does not merely judge these people by confusing their communication. He does something else. He does something more. He tries something better.

In the very next chapter of Genesis, God calls a man named Abraham and says to him:

Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:1-3)

God is not only promising to bless Abraham here, He is also working to undo the calamity of Babel by responding to humanity’s arrogant “Let us” with two words of His own:

“I will.”

“I will give you a new land,” God explains. “I will make you into a great nation,” God declares.

On the one hand, the words “I will” can trouble us, because what God will do always outdoes and overcomes what we might want to do. On the other hand, these words of God are a great promise for us. They remind us that our accomplishments, our worth, and our lives are not in our hands. We do not live by what we do. We live because of what God has done – and will do – for us.

At a time like this, the temptation to say “Let us” can become overwhelming. “Let us get a raise so we can live more comfortably.” “Let us airbrush our lives on social media so we can present ourselves perfectly.” “Let us win this presidential election so we can beat our opponents into submission politically.” What we need most at a moment like this, however, is not another “Let us.” We need God’s “I will.” “I will provide for you.” “I will grant you My perfect righteousness.” “I will be your perfect king and your loving heavenly Father.” His “I will” always works better than our “Let us.”

The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

October 26, 2020 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Righteous

Crucifixion 1This weekend in worship and ABC, we learned about the doctrine of justification which teaches that our righteousness before God is not a product of ourselves and our works; rather, it is a free gift from God, given to us by the work of Christ on the cross.  As the apostle Paul writes, “[We] are justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

Throughout the history of the Church, some have tried to undercut this doctrine of God’s work with human works.  The Pelagians, for instance, taught that by obeying God’s commands, people could gain favor in God’s sight.  The Synergists taught that justification was not a gift of God’s righteousness exclusively, but a comingling of God’s righteousness with human righteousness.  In the face of such unbiblical teachings, Martin Luther offers this important reflection on justification as God’s work and not as ours:

The world wants to win heaven from our Lord God by right, although He is causing the message to be proclaimed aloud throughout the world that He wants to give it to us for nothing.  He says:  “I want to be your God; out of grace and for nothing I want to save you … I will not let you win heaven from Me.  Therefore make no other gods, do not invent things that you do for yourself … Do not begin with your good works; allow Me to have mercy on you.”  It certainly is a shame that people must accuse us being unwilling to accept heaven for nothing, nay, of actually wanting to earn it and of proposing to give to God, to Him who desires to offer everything to us in plenty.  Such fools are we:  we want to give what we ought to take.[1]

We bring nothing to our righteous standing before God – no good work, no pious thought, no warm heart.  Instead, God supplies any and all righteousness we need through His Son.  This is the doctrine of justification.  This is the promise of the gospel.  And this is the cornerstone of our faith.

May we never seek to add our works to God’s work.  After all, it is God’s work – and His work alone – that saves us.


[1] Martin Luther, What Luther Says, Ewald M. Plass, comp. (St. Louis:  Concordia Publishing House, 1959), §2207.

July 8, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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