Today, I begin my multi-part look at the Heidleberg Disputation. The Heidleberg Disputation was where Martin Luther defended the doctrine of the depravity of man and the bondage of the will.
The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.
This is made clear by the Apostle in his letter to the Romans (3[:21]): “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.” St. Augustine interprets this in his book, The Spirit and the Letter (De Spiritu et Littera): “Without the law, that is, without its support.” In Rom. 5[:20] the Apostle states, “Law intervened, to increase the trespass,” and in Rom. 7[:9] he adds, “But when the commandment came, sin revived.” For this reason he calls the law a law of death and a law of sin in Rom. 8[:2]. Indeed, in 2 Cor. 3[:6] he says, “the written code kills,” which St. Augustine throughout his book, The Spirit and the Letter, understands as applying to every law, even the holiest law of God.
Here we have two thoughts on the law, one not-so-shocking and the other one very shocking. First, the law does not save. The law is not a solution to sin and does not lead to righteousness. Second, the law makes things worse because the law denies the free gift of grace. The more we follow the law, the more we try to be righteous in the law, the worse off we are.