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James
2:14-26

 

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

 

But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe - and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness" - and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (ESV)

 

Faith and Life

Emperor Justinian, Christian Ruler and Confessor of Christ 

14 November 2014

The distinction between law and gospel helps to protect the gospel of Christ in the church, because it distinguishes my love from God's work of justifying me in Christ. When we are talking about our standing in God's sight nothing of works applies. When we are talking about our standing among men, everything of works applies. Our neighbor is helped by our works, not by our faith. What good is our faith to our neighbor? Likewise, God is not helped by our works, for He has no need that we should do anything for Him. What would He lack that we could possibly provide (Ps 50:10-13). Our neighbor, on the other hand, is greatly benefited by what we can provide when he is need. This is why the Ten Commandments require us to help and support our neighbor in every physical need (SC 1.5).

 

This, I believe, is the point being made in the epistle of James: "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (Jm 2:14-17). The poor neighbor gains nothing through your faith, if that faith does not issue in works. Your faith is not edible. Your faith is not fuel for a warming fire. Your love provides the works. Love is directed toward the neighbor. Faith is directed toward God. Each must be kept in its own sphere and place; faith giving rise to good works.

 

Luther says "faith is never alone but brings with it love and other manifold gifts" (Genesis Commentary). This is a simple description of the entire Christian life (1Co 13:13). The Christian life is nothing other than to live "in faith toward God and in fervent love toward one another" as the church prays in the post-communion collect. Love and good works are absolutely necessary in the Christian life, which is the work of putting faith into action. Love and good works are absolutely unnecessary in the article of justification, where the only work that avails is Christ's. Our works help our neighbor. His works help us. If our works help God, then we have overthrown the article of justification.

 

Martin Luther

 

"In this passage (Gal 5:6) Paul is not dealing with what faith is or what avails before God; he is not discussing justification. He has already done that very thoroughly. But in a brief summary he draws a conclusion about the Christian life, saying: 'In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love' (Gal 5:6), that is, a faith that is neither imaginary nor hypocritical but true and living. This is what arouses and motivates good works through love. This is the equivalent of saying: 'He who wants to be a true Christian or in the kingdom of Christ must be truly a believer. But he does not truly believe if works of love do not follow faith.' Thus he excludes hypocrites on both sides, on the right and on the left, from the kingdom of Christ. On the left he excludes the Jews and the work-righteous; for he says: 'In Christ no circumcision, that is, no works or no worship nor any kind of life are of any avail, but faith alone, without any trust in works.' On the right he excludes the lazy, the idle, and the sluggish, because they say: 'If faith without works justifies, then let us not do any works; but let us merely believe and do whatever we please!' 'Not so, you wicked men,' says Paul. 'It is true that faith alone justifies, without works; but I am speaking about true faith, which, after it has justified, will not go to sleep, but is working through love.'

 

"As I have said, therefore, Paul is painting a picture of the whole of the Christian life in this passage: inwardly it is faith toward God, and outwardly it is love or works toward one's neighbor. Thus a man is a Christian in a total sense: inwardly through faith in the sight of God, who does not need our works; outwardly in the sight of men, who do not derive any benefit from faith but do derive benefit from works or from our love. When one has heard or understood this form of the Christian life, namely, as I have said, that it is faith and love, one has not yet said what faith is and what love is; for this is another matter for discussion. Earlier Paul has discussed faith, its internal nature, power, and function, and has taught that it is righteousness or rather justification in the sight of God. Here he connects it with love and works; that is, he speaks of its external office. Here he says that it is the impulse and motivation of good works or of love toward one's neighbor. Therefore no one with any wisdom can take this passage to refer to the business of justification in the sight of God; for it is speaking of the total life of Christians." 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 5.6
 
Prayer

We give thanks to You, almighty God, that You have refreshed us through the holy sacrament, and we implore You that of Your mercy You would strengthen us through the same in faith toward You and fervent love toward one another; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

For Joanna Karner, who is undergoing a new therapy, that the Lord would grant her healing in accordance with His gracious will

 

For Kim Cheng, that the Lord would grant her strength

 

For all medical researchers, that they would be endowed with wisdom and the capacity to make medical breakthroughs to cheat death, the last enemy 
Art: Crucifixes  Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)

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