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We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (ESV)






Faith Works Everything

Thursday of Pentecost 22

24 October 2013

Martin Luther always argued that good works arise out of faith and that if faith was preached, those who were converted by the preaching could do nothing else than produce a life full of good works. To demand good works without preaching faith into the hearts of the hearers is like demanding that a baseball player with a broken pitching arm throw strikes. It is no use to tell the player what he ought to be doing if he is completely unable to do it. He would consider it cruel to demand that his broken arm should produce a 90-mile-an-hour fastball. Of course, any rational person would point out that the player's arm needs medical attention, and after the bone is set and his rehabilitation is complete, he might then be able to pitch. After the recovery of his arm, he would be eager to pitch again in competition.


Those who demand good works apart from faith are demanding fastballs from broken arms. This is a cruel demand, because the Lord's Word brings healing to broken humans by granting the faith that is an instant recovery. That recovery is accompanied by joy at the power to serve God. That joy can never be exhausted in the Christian life because faith in Christ is inexhaustible and the opportunities for service in faith are so abundant. The first commandment alone, "You shall have no other gods," can never be exhausted. Everything we believe and do is tied to who God is and what He does, especially in Christ. A thousand lifetimes would never fulfill the depth of faith that this commandment elicits. But if we have that faith, we will always be busy about the things that the command elicits from us. Faith does everything because it empowers humans to be busy about the things of God.


If we preach faith alone then, we are not forbidding faith, any more than an orthopedic surgeon is forbidding baseball by setting a broken pitching arm. Instead, by preaching faith the church is creating good works in the lives of her children. By faith everything we do becomes a faithful act, because faith suffuses everything. By faith even our failings, and maybe especially our failings, become acts of faith, for God promises that all things work for good (Rm 8:28). If He can succeed in view of our weaknesses then His success will be to His glory, not for our honor. Faith works everything because it is faith in Christ.


Martin Luther


"Now where are those who ask what works are good, what they do, how they will be good? Yes, and where, too, are those who say that when we preach about faith we do not teach works or say they should be done? Does not the first commandment alone give us more work to do than any one man can do? If a man were a thousand men, if he were all men in one, if he comprised all creatures, there is still enough asked of him, and more than enough, since he is commanded to live and walk at all times in faith and trust toward God, to place such faith in no one else and in this way to have no other God, just the one and only true God.


"Now since the being and nature of man cannot exist for an instant unless it is doing or not doing something, putting up with or running away from something (for as we know, life never stands still), well then, let him who wants to be holy and full of good works begin to exercise himself at all times in this faith in all his life and works. Let him learn to do and to leave undone all things in such continual faith. Then he will find how much work he has to do, and how completely all things are included in faith, and how he may never grow idle because his very idling must be the exercise and work of faith. In short, nothing can be in or about us and nothing can happen to us but what must be good and serviceable to us, as long as we believe (as we ought) that all things please God. So says St. Paul, Dear brothers, 'whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God' (1Co 10:31). Now it cannot be done in this name except it be done in this faith. Likewise, 'We know that all things work together for good' (Rm 8:28) to the saints of God.


"Therefore, when some people say, as they do, that when we preach faith alone good works are forbidden, it is as if I were to say to a sick man, 'If you had health you would have the full use of all your limbs, but without health the works of all your limbs are nothing,' and from this he wanted to infer that I had forbidden the works of his limbs. Whereas on the contrary I meant that the health must first be there to work all the works of all his limbs. In the same way faith must be the master-workman and captain in all the works, or they are nothing at all." 
Martin Luther,
Treatise on Good Works, 13

Lord Jesus Christ, You have done everything well, offering Yourself as a substitute for sinners on the cross of Calvary. Keep me in the true faith that I might be empowered to give all I am and have to the needs of others for Your glory. Amen.


For Mathew and Esther Mohono, that their family would be blessed through God's gift of a baby girl, Kristin


For the many guests and visitors, that are attending services at Memorial Lutheran Church that we would welcome them with open arms and invite them to join us


For Diane Garner, that the Lord Jesus would be her strength in weakness
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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