I have an excellent book in my library entitled The Reformation: A Rediscovery of Grace by William Childs Robinson. If the Protestant Reformation was anything, it was indeed a redicovery of God’s grace! It was also a rebirth of Augustinian theology. In light of that, I share section thirty of Augustine’s Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love (Regenry Publishing, 1961, p.36-37).
XXX. MEN ARE NOT SAVED BY GOOD WORKS, NOR BY THE FREE DETERMINATION OF THEIR OWN WILL, BUT BY THE GRACE OF GOD THROUGH FAITH.
But this part of the human race to which God has promised pardon and a share in His eternal kingdom, can they be restored through the merit of their own works? God forbid. For what good work can a lost man perform, except so far as he has been delivered from perdition? Can they do anything by the free determination of their own will? Again I say, God forbid. For it was by the evil use of his free-will that man destroyed both it and himself. For, as a man who kills himself must, of course, be alive when he kills himself, but after he has killed himself ceases to live, and cannot restore himself to life; so, when man by his own free-will sinned, then sin being victorious over him, the freedom of his will was lost. ‘For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage’ (2 Pet. 2:19). This is the judgment of the Apostle Peter. And as it is certainly true, what kind of liberty, I ask, can the bond-slave possess, except when it pleases him to sin? For he is freely in bondage who does with pleasure the will of his master. Accordingly, he who is the servant of sin is free to sin. And hence he will not be free to do right, until, being freed from sin, he shall begin to be the servant of righteousness. And this is true liberty, for he has pleasure in the righteous deed; and it is at the same time a holy bondage, for he is obedient to the will of God. But whence comes this liberty to do right to the man who is in bondage and sold under sin, except he be redeemed by Him who has said, ‘If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed’ (John 8:36)? And if he is not yet free to do what is right, how can he talk of the freedom of his will and his good works, except he be inflated by the foolish pride of boasting which the apsostle restrains when he says, ‘By grace are ye saved, through faith’ (Ephesians 2:8).”
One of the reasons we struggle with the theology of God-centered theologians (the Apostle Paul being supreme) is that we have an inflated opinion of our abilities or goodness. Thankfully, God used the Reformation to remind us only God can shine the light of the gospel in the hearts of men (2 Cor. 4:6).
Soli Deo Gloria (To God alone be the glory)!
PS–The NO WORKS sign above refers to the truth that faith, righteousness, and salvation result from grace, not human effort. Once saved, however, believers do indeed work (Eph. 2:10), as God works in and through them for His glory (Phil. 2:13).