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On 1 Peter 1:8 and change of heart

"Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory..." (1 Peter 1:8 ESV)

Been thinking on this passage... that becoming a Christian is not a matter of externals (religion, ceremony, moralism), nor even a matter of willing or decision or choice, though these follow in turn. It is a matter first and foremost of the heart and the change of "affections" (Edward's term) that takes place through the new birth by the Holy Spirit.

Here's a good quote from Luther...

But again, on the other hand, when God works in us, the will, being changed and sweetly breathed on by the Spirit of God, desires and acts, not from compulsion, but responsively, from pure willingness, inclination, and accord; so that it cannot be turned another way by any thing contrary, nor be compelled or overcome even by the gates of hell; but it still goes on to desire, crave after, and love that which is good; even as before, it desired, craved after, and loved that which was evil. This, again, experience proves. How invincible and unshaken are holy men, when, by violence and other oppressions, they are only compelled and irritated the more to crave after good! Even as fire, is rather fanned into flames than extinguished, by the wind. So that neither is there here any willingness, or "Free-will," to turn itself into another direction, or to desire any thing else, while the influence of the Spirit and grace of God remain in the man.

In a word, if we be under the god of this world, without the operation and Spirit of God, we are led captives by him at his will, as Paul saith. (2 Tim. ii. 26.) So that, we cannot will any thing but that which he wills. For he is that "strong man armed," who so keepeth his palace, that those whom he holds captive are kept in peace, that they might not cause any motion or feeling against him; otherwise, the kingdom of Satan, being divided against itself, could not stand; whereas, Christ affirms it does stand. And all this we do willingly and desiringly, according to the nature of will: for if it were forced, it would be no longer will. For compulsion is (so to speak) unwillingness. But if the "stronger than he" come and overcome him, and take us as His spoils, then, through the Spirit, we are His servants and captives (which is the royal liberty) that we may desire and do, willingly, what He wills.

(Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, sect. 25)

Comments

Hubcap said…
Now with this I have a problem, I do not have and have never had an overwhelming desire or great willingness to do good, sometimes I do however have such for sin. When it comes to those two things I am ambivalent much of the time. I have some desire to do both. I don’t think that my desire to do either is greater or lesser than a nonbeliever’s. I do have that ability to remain calm in adversity and have an unfailing faith, because I can see the larger picture that God is in control. But my will to do good or evil is not affected insofar as I can determine. I sin often for I am a very fallible man, and I do good often because I know it is right. However, I have never had this great will or desire to do good, I mostly do it out of a sense duty. It seems that it is a one way street most of the time, temptation to sin but not to be righteous. Is this a contradiction, or am I reading the quote wrong? Is a strong will to do good neccesarily inherent in a christian as the quote seems to say? If so I don't seem to have it.
Sandy said…
Thanks for being candid about this. I think what Luther is saying is that (along the lines of 1 Peter 1:8) love to Christ is the central characteristic of the new birth. Bare duty, or just willing the good without having any inclination at all toward it (embracing good b/c it is good and not just as an obligation), is a form of moralism no better than the natural state of things. The supernatural effect of the Holy Spirit is to give us a love, an inclination, toward Christ that we did not have before. This, of course, does not mean we are perfected in love and never sin (Gal.5:16ff), but there is an attraction to Christ and his values that was not there when we acted _only_ from duty. Even duty takes on a new meaning when love is at the heart.

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