“Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favour that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures.”
—Martin Luther (1483–1546)
Faith and works, according to Martin Luther, a pillar of the Reformation, are so implicit of the true believer’s modus operandi that they cannot but love. This is a radical concept. This faith can only be lived, not discussed or written about (please forgive me for writing about it) or pondered... it has to find traction within the lives of real people and real situations.
Faith must give itself away. It throws itself into the life of living so as to avidly perceive needs and it fulfils them. While others are busy standing around and talking, wanting to make themselves look good, faith has already plunged into the situational mix and has discerned what is necessary. It does it.
This picture of Faith is the image Martin Luther describes in his introduction to Paul’s letter to the Romans. Faith and works, thus, are indivisible in the manner that faith cannot be faith without works.
Faith operates by love, full of hope, and love is always action-oriented. Any time we love by giving ourselves away graciously we are working in faith.
The Coherence of Faith and Works
Works can occur without faith but faith cannot occur without works.
Every believer has presumably run ahead of God and engaged in works that were faithless. That is, we have operated under the guise of love without the purity of love energising our works. Evidence of faithless works is complaint in the mode of delivering those works, where love would have no conception at all of complaint. Faithlessness looks for acknowledgement, for recognition. Faith looks for no such thing.
Faith runs ahead of the flesh and it gives without thought of recompense.
Faith is thrilled with the idea of grace—the very fact that life presents with limitless opportunities to bay in the Presence of God within loving human interactions. These opportunities for loving human interactions compel the person with faith to work joyfully, without regard for the menial realities comprising the work.
Faith has no self-interest. The person presenting faithfully has their heart right for God. Rather than keep themselves, they give away whatever they have to reasonably give of themselves.
Faith must operate via works and is visible by works, implicitly loving, but works alone—without faith—are a blight on the ‘dreamer’ (as Martin Luther describes the works merchant) and an offence against God’s grace.
Truly, works can occur without faith but faith cannot occur without works. These faith-held works are love offerings of hope-ventured action—for want of no return.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.