What I have observed is this, that all heresies and errors in Connection with the Scriptures have arisen, not from the simplicity of the words, as is almost universally stated, but from neglect of the simplicity of the words, and from tropes or inferences hatched out of men’s own heads. For example, I have never, so far as I recall, put such a forced interpretation on the words “Stretch out your hand to whatever you will” [Ecclus. 15:16] as to say, “Grace will stretch out your hand to what it wills”; nor have I said that “Get yourselves a new heart” [Ezek. 18:31] means “Grace will make you a new heart,” and so forth, although Diatribe misrepresents me in this way in a published work, no doubt because she is so stuffed and fuddled with tropes and inferences that she does not realize what she is saying about anyone or anything. What I have said is this, that by the words “Stretch out your hand,” etc., when they are taken simply as they stand, without any tropes and inferences, all that is signified is that a stretching out of the hand is required of us, and this indicates what we ought to do, in accordance with the nature of the imperative verb as the grammarians and ordinary speech employ it. But Diatribe, neglecting this simple use of the verb, and dragging in tropes and inferences, interprets as follows: “Stretch out your hand,” that is to say, “You can by your own power stretch out your hand”; “Get yourselves a new heart,” that is, “You can make a new heart”; “Believe in Christ,” that is, “You can believe.” So that for her it is all the same whether a thing is said imperatively or indicatively; otherwise she is prepared to regard Scripture as ridiculous and meaningless. And these interpretations, intolerable as they are to any grammarian, must not be called forced and farfetched when used by theologians, but they are the work of the most highly approved doctors who have been received for so many centuries!
The Bondage of the Will
Luther’s Works Vol. 33