It isn’t Faith or Works…. or Faith versus Works…
Devotional THought of the Day:
1 Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2 I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3 Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4 And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5 The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: Philippians 2:1-5 (TEV)
1 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (TEV)
18 All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (TEV)
Walther wrote: “Luther, you know, taught that good works do not save a person, but only faith, without good works. From this rejection of good work, papists draw the inference that Luther must have been a wicked man because he taught that to get to heaven, man should only believe and need not do any good works. However, that is by no means Luther’s doctrine. Luther taught the exact contrary. True, he did not say that, to be saved, a person must have faith and, in addition to that, good works, or love; but he did teach that those who would be saved must have a faith that produces love spontaneously and is fruitful in good works.
The progressive identification of the soul with Jesus Christ, which is the essence of the Christian life, is carried out in a hidden way through the Sacraments.3 It also needs an effort from each one to correspond to grace: to know and love Our Lord, and to have the same dispositions as he had.4 The aim is to reproduce his life in our daily conduct, until we can exclaim with the Apostle: Vivo autem, iam non ego: vivit vero in me Christus,5 it is not I who live, it is Christ who lives in me.
I could have provided so many more quotations from scripture, so many more from Luther, Walther, Pieper or from Benedict XVI and Francis.
Recent Conversations on this topic exploded into my mind as I read the quote in blue this morning from the Introduction to the Forge, by Josemaria Escriva. The day before I had found the quote in green from CFW Walther’s (first president of my denomination the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).
Yet despite such things there are people that argue that works have no place in the Christian life, since we cannot save ourselves by them, Theospeak – they do not merit our salvation. There are others who say unless we break our backs in proving our holiness, that there we cannot be saved. The first want to reject works because they smack of pietism (that we are Pharisees if we insist on good works) , the latter want to reject faith because they see it being antinomial. ( that being free of God’s law means we can do whatever the h&ll we want!)
In both cases, these arguments nullify the work of God in our lives. The first denies the work of God through the means of grace in sanctifying us, in His setting us apart to be His special people. That in setting us apart, He is transforming us, that the Holy Spirit is changing our hearts and minds to reflect the nature of Christ. Such a change should be reflected, not only in our actions, but more importantly in our attitudes towards our neighbor, toward “those people”, toward the ones who are our adversaries, or just antagonize the hell out of us.
But the transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is done, as the quote from the Forge says, in a hidden way. As God comes to us, through the word and sacraments He takes up residence in us, He delivers the blessings promised, (see Ez, 36:25ff) He strengthens our trust in Him – the trust which causes us to correspond to this work. We begin to desire His heart, we begin to confess our sins, and receive absolution, we begin to desire the Lord’s Supper-the Eucharist more and more.
it is subtle, yet it requires much of us. Sometimes we want to rebel, to correspond less, or even not at all. It is then those very same sacraments, especially Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Confession and Absolution come into play even more. For as Jeremiah learns during his rants against God, God’s love it to wonderful, God’s mercy is to extravagant, God’s presence cannot be denied. We are transforming.
So stop all the arguments trying to divide faith and works. It is a division God doesn’t intend. One isn’t just the result of the other, for that still puts the emphasis on us. Both are the result of God coming to us, saving us, granting us faith and repentance and replacing hardened hearts and minds with the presence of the Holy Spirit. A presence that is undeniable and that we desire more and more in our lives.
To Him be glory for ever and ever.
(1) Thesis X, Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, CFW Walther
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 138-143). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Posted on September 5, 2014, in Devotions, The Forge, Theology in Practice and tagged CFW Walther, Faith and Works, Holy Spirit, Incarnation, jesus christ, life, Martin Luther, Ministry, sacraments, St. Josemaria Escriva. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.