When Luther Bashed “Faith Alone”

christening the dew the priest

Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4  But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7  Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” 8  This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Titus 3:3-8 (NLT2)

28 Our know-it-alls, the new spirits,4 assert that faith alone saves and that works and external things contribute nothing to this end. We answer: It is true, nothing that is in us does it but faith, as we shall hear later on.
29 but these leaders of the blind are unwilling to see that faith must have something to believe—something to which it may cling and upon which it may stand. Thus faith clings to the water and believes it to be Baptism in which there is sheer salvation and life, not through the water, as we have sufficiently stated, but through its incorporation with God’s Word and ordinance and the joining of his name to it. When I believe this, what else is it but believing in God as the one who has implanted his Word in this external ordinance and offered it to us so that we may grasp the treasure it contains?
30 Now, these people are so foolish as to separate faith from the object to which faith is attached and bound on the ground that the object is something external. Yes, it must be external so that it can be perceived and grasped by the senses and thus brought into the heart, just as the entire Gospel is an external, oral proclamation. In short, whatever God effects in us he does through such external ordinances. No matter where he speaks—indeed, no matter for what purpose or by what means he speaks—there faith must look and to it faith must hold.

760    Here is a thought that brings peace and that the Holy Spirit provides ready-made for those who seek the will of God: Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit—“The Lord rules me, and I shall want nothing.” What can upset a soul who sincerely repeats these words?

One of the challenges that all public speakers and authors having is being understood.  People hear one thing you say, they read one thing you write and they latch onto one phrase and interpret it in a way that appeals to them.

I see this with Luther, and especially with His statement that gets dissected about the fact that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, as revealed in scripture alone (you can add through Christ alone and to the glory of God alone to the mix as well)

When I became a Lutheran some 17-18 years ago, (although my friend always thought I was, and that I didn’t know it) I misunderstood this phrase, breaking each Sola/Only phrase apart as if they were bullet points  First understand this one, then that one, then add the third.  They don’t see them as a continuous phrase, that radically changes its meaning f you divide them.

Yet Protestants do this all the time, especially with faith alone and scripture alone. And when you see Catholic criticism of Luther, it is offered by criticising what people think Luther said.

This isn’t new by the way,  Both Zwingli and the Anabaptists did this during Luther’s lifetime, and in the quote from the Large Catechism, we see Luther confronting the misrepresentation!  These “know-it-alls” in redefining “faith alone” separate from the rest create an anti-sacramental version of what Luther taught and personally depended upon.  When they separate faith alone, they dismiss any work that is done, saying no works matter, even Gd’s.

And this one is critical. For in taking Luther’s phrase out of context, they steal from believers the security God provides as He baptizes and seals us into His family.  It’s not about the water as Luther clarifies, but the word of God that infuses the water with His promise.

This is what faith grabs a hold of, it is what faith depends upon. Not something vague, not something that we do, but something God promises and does as He gives us a new birth and new life in Christ.  A specific action of His, mixed with a specific promise wherein God is the change-agent in our lives.

To have faith in Him means to depend on Him, to trust in His words as He makes good on them specifically in each of our lives.  As St. Josemaria says it is recognizing that the Lord rules, that his action He does so care for us, so changes us that we want for nothing,   This is something Zwingli and the Anabaptists don’t offer, an assurance based on God’s tangible work.  It is also something the Catholic Church didn’t catechize well in Luther’s time, as people just assumed baptism worked because they were told it worked because the water was holy.

It works because of God’s promise, because of God’s love poured out on us in action He ordained.  Knowing that brings comfort and peace, something to personally hold on to, a promise that guards our hearts and minds.

May we all hear Him, hear His promises

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1769-1771). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on July 11, 2018, in Augsburg and Trent, Book of Concord, Devotions, Martin Luther, The Way and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Very well said.

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