Of Faith and Good Works: Part 1
“Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes!’” Isaiah 62:11
While I was web surfing today, the following quote caught my eye:
For if out of your own free will you might avoid sin and do that which pleases God, what need would you have of Christ?
And, as is the case with many great quotes, I wound up searching for its origin, its context—the heart in which it lives. Sometimes I find it. Other times I don’t. Today I found more than I bargained for! I found Martin Luther’s Works in English, where in turn I found Martin Luther’s Church Postil, in which I found The Advent Postil – Concerning Faith and Good Works.
It’s like finding a treasure trove and not knowing which piece to pick up first. There is so much here that I wish I had one of these (found here) to steal away to, just to read. But I don’t, and I praise God for daydreams and deep contentment, and for His many mercies and gifts, and for His grace and joy, which make me glad to share excerpts of these treasures with you.
Tell ye the daughter of Zion… Matt 21:5
“Tell ye” the daughter of Zion. This is said to the ministry and a new sermon is given them to preach, namely, nothing but what the words following indicate, a right knowledge of Christ. Whoever preaches anything else is a wolf and deceiver. This is one of the verses in which the Gospel is promised of which Paul writes in Rom. 1, 2; for the Gospel is a sermon from Christ, as he is here placed before us, calling for faith in him.
I have often said that there are two kinds of faith. First, a faith in which you indeed believe that Christ is such a man as he is described and proclaimed here and in all the Gospels, but do not believe that he is such a man for you…
Behold, this faith is nothing, it does not receive Christ nor enjoy him, neither can it feel any love and affection for him or from him. It is a faith about Christ and not in or of Christ, a faith which the devils also have as well as evil men… [To] say that this faith is sufficient to make Christians… virtually [denies] Christian faith… as St. Peter in 2 Pet. 2,1 had foretold: “There shall be false teachers, who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them.”
This caught my eye in particular because often when I try to explain the heresy that God has rescued me from, I get questions like, “Do they not preach Christ?” Yes, they do. They indeed preach Christ as He is described and proclaimed here and in all the Gospels, but do not believe that He alone is their righteousness by faith alone, because they like to boast of their own good merits as well.
In the second place he particularly mentions, “The daughter of Zion.” In these words he refers to the other, the true faith… He does not say: Tell of the daughter of Zion, as if some one were to believe that she has Christ; but to her you are to say that she is to believe it of herself, and not in any wise doubt that it will be fulfilled as the words declare. That alone can be called Christian faith, which believes without wavering that Christ is the Saviour not only to Peter and to the saints but also to you. Your salvation does not depend on the fact that you believe Christ to be the Saviour of the godly, but that he is a Saviour to you and has become your own.
Such a faith will work in you love for Christ and joy in him, and good works will naturally follow. If they do not, faith is surely not present; for where faith is, there the Holy Ghost is and must work love and good works.
This faith is condemned by apostate and rebellious Christians… They call it arrogance to desire to be like the saints. Thereby they fulfill the prophecy of Peter in 2 Pet. 2, 2, where he says of these false teachers: “By reason of whom the way of the truth shall be evil spoken of.” For this reason, when they hear faith praised, they think love and good works are prohibited. In their great blindness they do not know what faith, love and good works are.
If you would be a Christian you must permit these words to be spoken to you and hold fast to them and believe without a doubt that you will experience what they say. You must not consider it arrogance that in this you are like the saints, but rather a necessary humility and despair not of God’s grace but of your own worthiness… That would be arrogance if you desired to be saved by your own merit and works, as the Papists teach. They call that arrogance which is faith, and that faith which is arrogance; poor, miserable, deluded people!
If you believe in Christ and in his advent, it is the highest praise and thanks to God to be holy. If you recognize, love, and magnify his grace and work in you, and cast aside and condemn self and the works of self, then are you a Christian.
It gets better, because it’s not up to us to prove that last paragraph. God willing, I’ll be back with more excerpts next week. Thanks for your time and visits!
Sorry for the length. I can’t seem to abide by my own blogging rule to keep things short and sweet.
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