Dead Works

The Heidelberg Disputation

Brother Martin Luther, Master of Sacred Theology, will preside and Brother Leonhard Beier, Master of Arts and Philosophy, will defend the following theses before the Augustinians of this renowned city of Heidelberg in the customary place. In the month of May, 1518.

Distrusting completely our own wisdom, according to that counsel of the Holy Spirit, “Do not rely on your own insight” [Prov. 3:5], we humbly present to the judgment of all those who wish to be here these theological theses, so that it may become clear whether they have been deduced well or poorly from St. Paul, the especially chosen vessel and instrument of Christ,

  1. The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him. 
  2. Much less can human works which are done over and over again with the aid of natural precepts, so to speak, lead to that end.
  3. Although the works of man always appear attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins. 
  4. Although the works of God always seem unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really for good and God’s glory.
  5. The works of God (we speak of those which he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless.
  6.  The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.
  7. By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security. To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God. Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.
  8. Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.
  9. In the sight of God sins are then truly venial when they are feared by men to be mortal
  10. Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does what it is able to do, it commits a mortal sin
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