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Faith Is Never Alone

October 11, 2019
By Martin Luther

And [Abram] believed the LORD, and He counted it to him as righteousness.

GENESIS 15:6

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Faith Is Never Alone

The chief and most important part of the doctrine is the promise; to it faith attaches itself, or, to speak more clearly, faith lays hold of it. Moreover, the confident laying hold of the promise is called faith; and it justifies, not as our own work but as the work of God. For the promise is a gift, a thought of God by which He offers us something. It is not some work of ours, when we do something for God or give Him something. No, we receive something from Him, and that solely through His mercy. Therefore he who believes God when He promises, he who is convinced that God is truthful and will carry out whatever He has promised, is righteous or is reckoned as righteous. After that there is also the Law; for God not only promises, but He also commands and enjoins. Moreover, it is the concern of the Law that you conform your will to it and obey God's commands. . ..

We know indeed that faith is never alone but brings with it love and other manifold gifts. For he who believes in God and is sure that God is graciously inclined toward us, since He gave His Son and with His Son the hope of eternal life, how could he not love God with all his heart? How could he not revere Him? How could he not strive to display a grateful heart for such great blessings and to obey God while bearing hardships? . . . Faith is the mother, so to speak, from whom that crop of virtues springs. If faith is not there first, you would look in vain for those virtues. If faith has not embraced the promises concerning Christ, no love and no other virtues will be there, even if for a time hypocrites were to paint what seem to be likenesses of them.

Therefore the promise must be distinguished from the Law. The promise requires faith; the Law, works. The promise is certain and reliable, and is surely carried out, because God carries it out. But the Law is not carried out, because we, who try to fulfill it, are human beings, that is, weak sinners. Accordingly, our righteousness does not depend on the Law and works, because we cannot perfectly fulfill the Law; it depends on the promise, which is sure and unalterable. Therefore this promise is surely carried out and fulfilled when faith takes hold of it; and it follows with infallible logic that faith alone justifies, inasmuch as faith alone accepts the promise. The Law and works do not justify; yet Law and works must be taught and performed, in order that we may become aware of our wretched state and accept grace all the more eagerly.

This theology did not originate with us. . .. St. Paul teaches it, and as a witness he quotes Moses, who says that Abraham believed God and that this was reckoned to him for righteousness, that is, that Abraham was reckoned as righteous when he believed the promise, since God had compassion on him. Furthermore, every promise of God includes Christ; for if it is separated from this Mediator, God is not dealing with us at all. Therefore the only difference between Abraham's faith and ours is this: Abraham believed in the Christ who was to be manifested, but we believe in the Christ who has already been manifested; and by that faith we are all saved.

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