God's Will or Dead Will
Thursday of Epiphany 5
9 February 2017
"Monergism" is just a fancy word to say that God alone saves us. We contribute nothing to our own conversion or regeneration. After all, apart from God we humans are spiritual corpses, dead in our trespasses and sins. To what has a corpse ever contributed? What will or decision does a corpse exhibit? The picture of a corpse making requests paints a mental image that is at once humorous and macabre. Only God can regenerate the dead, and especially so in the case of those who are dead in trespasses and sins.
What medicine is prescribed for us to live who once were dead? None but the Word that is spirit and life for us. How does the Spirit use the Word? How does baptism actually raise the dead? No one but the divine practitioner knows. Only God is privy to how the power of His Word works. Only the Spirit who uses the Word could answer the question, "How?" And He has not. The Word calls life from death in ways not open to human scrutiny. But should our ignorance lead to unbelief? No more than our ignorance of the half-life of the antibiotic we take for strep throat, would keep us from taking our medicine. How does Azithromycin heal? I have no idea. So? That wouldn't keep me from taking it if my doctor prescribed it for me.
Bishop Hilary of Poitiers has such a beautifully monergistic view of the work of God; even of his own conversion. He believes his own regeneration; but he seems reticent to say even that he "knows" that he is regenerated. He believes it. There is no weakness in believing what God has promised. However, for him the Spirit's work is a fact. The result is a matter of faith. Hilary is willing to plead faithful ignorance on how the Spirit's work results in the new life. It just does because the Word says so. We have what God promises not because we understand it, but because He promises it. This monergistic clarity on the part of Hilary certainly calls into question the contention among modern theologians that the ancient fathers believed that we choose God in our conversion. No, the will in conversion is not our interred will, but God's gracious will.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Hilary of Poitiers
"O God, I cannot describe the Holy Spirit, whose pleas for me I cannot describe. As in the revelation that Your Only-begotten was born of You before times eternal, when we cease to struggle with ambiguities of language and difficulties of thought, the one certainty of His birth remains; so I hold fast in my consciousness the truth that Your Holy Spirit is from You and through Him, although I cannot by my intellect comprehend it. For in Thy spiritual things I am dull, as Thy Only-begotten says, 'Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again." The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit' (Jn 3:7-8). Though I hold a belief in my regeneration, I hold it in ignorance. I possess the reality, though I comprehend it not. For my own consciousness had no part in causing this new birth, which is manifest in its effects. Moreover, the Spirit has no limits; He speaks when He wills, and what He wills, and where He will. Since, then, the cause of His coming and going is unknown, though the watcher is conscious of the fact. Shall I count the nature of the Spirit among created things, and limit Him by fixing the time of His origin? Your servant John says, indeed, that all things were made through the Son (Jn 1:3), who as God the Word was in the beginning, O God, with You.
"Again, Paul recounts all things as created in Him, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible (Col 1:16). And, while he declared that everything was created in Christ and through Christ, he thought, with respect to the Holy Spirit, that the description was sufficient, when he called Him Your Spirit. With these men, peculiarly Your elect, I will think in these matters; just as, after their example, I will say nothing beyond my comprehension about Your Only-begotten, but simply declare that He was born, so also after their example I will not trespass beyond that which human intellect can know about Your Holy Spirit, but simply declare that He is Your Spirit. May my lot not be empty contention about words, but the unwavering confession of an unhesitating faith.
"Keep my pious faith undefiled, and even till my spirit departs, grant that this may be the utterance of my convictions, so that I may ever hold fast that which I professed in the creed of my regeneration, when I was baptized in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let me, in short, adore You our Father, and Your Son together with You. Let me win the favor of Your Holy Spirit, who is from You, through Your Only-begotten. For I have a convincing witness to my faith, who says to His Father, 'All mine are yours, and yours are mine' (Jn 17:10), even my Lord Jesus Christ, abiding in You, and from You, and with You, forever God, who is blessed forever and ever. Amen."

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 12.56-57
1 Corinthians

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (ESV)
Dear Christ, resurrected and triumphant Lord, Your Word calls us from our graves in the sacrament of holy baptism, in which the triune Name is placed upon us. Give us peace in our daily life so that we may confess the life we have in You and that we needn't fear death. Amen.
For Pastor Joseph Randrianasolo and his daughter Mamisoa, that the Lord would keep them steadfast in His Word
For Jill Stoneburner, who is undergoing chemotherapy, that the Lord would keep her faith strong despite weakness
For President Trump, that he would bear his office for our good
Art: MANETTI, Rutilio  Wedding Feast at Cana  (c. 1620)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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