"Whoever has been emptied through suffering no longer regards himself as the worker but rather God, who works and does all things in him". (LW 31.55) Indeed, so removed is the theologian of the cross from worry about works, there is a kind of shocking indifference to the question as such:
"For this reason, whether God works or not is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does works, nor is he disturbed if God does not work through him. He knows it is sufficient if he suffers and is brought low by the cross in order to be annihilated all the more." (LW 31.55)
The point here is that the obsession for works as the basis for self-reliance is to be extinguished (thesis 22). God can even go the whole way. He can bring on the ultimate suffering of doing no works through believers in order to bring them lower still!
The last sentences of this proof represent the great turning to the concluding section of the disputation. They indicate the final failure of the will, the blindness of sight, the false speaking, the misuse of wisdom--and open the way to the true righteousness worked by God's creative love. The final farewell is given in the words of John 3:7 spoken to Nicodemus who came seeking wisdom: "You must be born anew." We have arrived at that point now. No repairs, no improvements, no optimistic encouragements are possible. Just straight talk: " You must be born anew." But like Nicodemus we ask how that can be. Now all possibility is truly cut off. the theologian of glory, of course, will suggest one last stratagem: turn even that into something to do--perhaps crawling back into the womb to come out again. But therewith the insistence on doing something has at last turned into a cynical reductio ad absurdum. The theologian of glory has at last come up against something that can't be done! So Luther's proof executes the final coup de grace "literally: the stroke of grace!). "To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I want to emphasize, means to feel the very presence of death."
... So to die in this connection means to experience the very presence of death, to reach that point where the final intervention occurs, where one has "bottomed out." The theologian of glory finally is "frightened to death," if one may so speak. The terror is in the fact that the end of sin has come and the Old Adam and Eve can no longer survive. Then one is a candidate for being born anew. That is the gateway to being saved by the creative righteousness of God.
Mark Twain, Sagebrush, a Camel, and Miracles
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