From the Word
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
John 6:44, RSV
He must surely perish whom the Father does not draw. Thus it is decreed, that whoever does not come to this Son must be condemned forever. The Son is given us only to the end that he may save us; besides him, nothing saves us either in heaven or on earth. If he does not help us, nothing will. If the Father does not come first and draw men, they must forever perish. The Father must lay the first stone of the foundation in us, else we will never do anything. This is accomplished in the following way:
God sends his preachers, whom he has taught to preach to us his will. First he instructs us that our entire lives and characters, however holy and beautiful they may be, are nothing before him; this is called a preaching of the law. Then he offers us grace; he tells us that he will not utterly condemn and reject us, but makes us heirs of his kingdom, lords over all that is in heaven and upon earth. This is called preaching grace, or the gospel. But God is the origin of all; God first sends the preachers and constrains them to preach. Where the pure and plain Word of God goes, it breaks to pieces everything that is exalted of man, it makes valleys of all their mountains, and all their hills it makes low. Every heart that hears this Word must lose faith in itself, else it will not be able to come to Christ. God’s works do nothing but destroy and make alive, condemn and administer salvation.
Hence, a person who is thus smitten in his heart by God to confess that he is one who must be condemned on account of his sins, is like the righteous man whom with the words of this gospel God first wounds, and because of that wound fixes upon him the band of his divine grace, by which he draws him, so that he must seek help and counsel for his soul. Before he could not obtain any help or counsel from God, nor did he ever desire it; but now he finds the first comfort and promise of God. From such promise he will ever continue to gain courage as long as he lives and will ever win greater and greater confidence in God.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 241–42.