Books Etc Spirituality

“Faith … a Busy, Active, Powerful Thing” – Luther

Martin Luther apparently liked to write about faith.

Do we not have to admit that faith in the ever-active, ever-creative, ever-loving, ever-redeeming God of the Bible would quickly produce some repurcussions of good-will in the believer?
I love his saying that faith “does not even ask whether good works SHOULD be done”! God made humans. God loves the human race. It is the nature of the beast that when a human responds to God in faith there is engendered an impulse to do something or other GOOD.

O, this faith is a living, busy, active, powerful thing!

It is impossible that it should not be ceaselessly doing that which is good. It does not even ask whether good works should be done; but before the question can be asked, it has done them, and it is constantly engaged in doing them.

Certainly we can disagree about the effectiveness or long-term wisdom of some people’s acts of goodness – including our own.
And we have the ever-potent human ability to get entangled in questions of what really is good and what is not. Still, do we not have to admit that faith in the ever-active, ever-creative, ever-loving, ever-redeeming God of the Bible would quickly produce some repurcussions of good-will in the believer?

“He who does not do such works, is a man without faith.”
Luther even goes on to say works are a clear evidence of faith. He’s pretty blunt; sounds like James 2. And he points out how we can distract ourselves from the inconvenience of living faith by arguing and debating about what faith is and what good works are and how they relate and what is their sequence, etc. etc.

But he who does not do such works, is a man without faith. He gropes and casts about him to find faith and good works, not knowing what either of them is, and yet prattles and idly multiplies words about faith and good works.

[This is quoted from Dallas Willard’s Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives, 1988, HarperCollins, p39. The chapter is “Salvation is a Llife”.]

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  • naw. this quote of luther is taken out of context. here is a fuller quote to reflect Luthers real thoughts…

    “14. The reason for this is, that man’s understanding cannot get beyond this external piety of works, and cannot comprehend the righteousness of faith; but, the greater and more skillful this understanding is, the more it confines itself to works and rests upon them. It is not possible for man in times of temptation and distress, when his conscience smites him, to cease from groping around for works on which to stand and rest. Then we seek and enumerate the many good deeds, which we would like to do, or have done, and because we find none, the heart begins to doubt and despair. This weakness adheres so firmly to our nature, that even those who have faith and recognize the grace of God, or the forgiveness of sins, cannot overcome it with all their efforts and exertions, and must daily contend against it. In short it is entirely beyond human knowledge and understanding, ability and power, to ascend above this earthly righteousness, and to transfer oneself into this article of faith; and although one hears much about it and is conversant with it, there continues nevertheless the old delusion and inborn corruption which would bring its own works before God and make them the foundation of salvation. Such is the case, I say, with those who are Christians and fight against this workrighteousness; others, critics and inexperienced souls are even lost in it. “
    Luther’s Sermon on the 3rd use of the law, 19th Sunday after trinity, matt 9:1-8 Marburg 1528

    “15. Therefore this doctrine, that our piety before God consists entirely in the forgiveness of sins, must be rightly comprehended and firmly maintained. We must therefore get beyond ourselves and ascend higher than our reason, which keeps us in conflict with ourselves and which reminds us both of sin and good works; and we must soar so high as to see neither sin nor good works, but be rooted and grounded in this article and see and know nothing besides. Therefore let grace or forgiveness be pitted not only against sin, but also against good works, and let all human righteousness and holiness be excluded. Thus there are in man two conflicting powers: Externally in this life he is to be pious, do good works, and the like. But if he aims beyond this life and wishes to deal with God, he must know that here neither his sin nor his piety avails anything. And though he may feel his sins which disturb his conscience, and although the law demands good works, he will not listen nor give heed to them, but will boldly reply; If I have sin, Christ has forgiveness; yea, I am seated on a throne to which sin cannot attain.
    16. Therefore we are to regard the kingdom of Christ as a large, beautiful arch or vault which is everywhere over us, and covers and protects us against the wrath of God; yea, as a great, extended firmament which pure grace and forgiveness illuminate and so fill the world and all things, that all sin will hardly appear as a spark in comparison with the great, extended sea of light; and although sin may oppress, it cannot injure, but must disappear and vanish before grace. They who understand this, may well be called masters, but we will all have to humble ourselves and not be ashamed to keep on learning this lesson as long as we live.
    17. For wherever our nature succeeds in finding sin, it tries to make an unbearable burden of it. Satan fans the spark and blows up a great fire which fills heaven and earth. Here the leaf must be turned and we must firmly conclude: If the sin were ever so great or burdensome, this article of faith is nevertheless much higher, wider and greater, which has been recommended and established not by man’s wisdom, but by him who has comprehended heaven and earth and holds them in the hollow of his hand. Isaiah 40:12. My sin and piety must remain here on earth as far as they concern my life and conduct. But in heaven above I have another treasure, greater than either of these; there Christ is seated and holds me in his arms, covers me with his wings and overshadows me with his grace.
    18. You may say: How is this, since I daily feel sin and my conscience condemns me and threatens me with God’s wrath? I answer: For this reason, I say, one must understand that the righteousness of a Christian is nothing that can be named or imagined but the forgiveness of sin, that is, it is a kingdom of power which deals only with sin and with such abundant grace as takes away all wrath.
    It is called the forgiveness of sin for the reason that we are truly sinners before God; yes, everything in us is sin, even though we may have all human righteousness. For where God speaks of sin, there must be real and great sin; so also forgiveness is no jest, but real earnestness. When you, therefore, consider this article you have both. Sin takes away all your holiness, no matter how pious you are on earth; again, forgiveness takes away all sin and wrath. Therefore your sin cannot cast you into hell, nor can your piety elevate you into heaven. “