As I mentioned in my last post, I have begun reading some of the writings of Martin Luther. Seeing as how there was some interest in the topic of discipleship, and that naturally and rightfully traveled on to a discussion of works, I thought I'd see what Martin Luther has to say about works. Warning: Luther doesn't mince words on this topic. Try to remember that the words in italics are his, not mine.
The following excerpt is taken from Luther's Preface to The Book Of Romans
O, when it comes to faith, what a living, creative, active, powerful thing it is. It cannot do other than good at all times. It never waits to ask whether there is some good work to do. Rather, before the question is raised, it has done the deed, and keeps on doing it. A man not active in this way is a man without faith. He is groping about for faith and searching for good works, but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Nevertheless, he keeps on talking nonsense about faith and good works.
Faith is a living and unshakeable confidence, a belief in the grace of God so assured that a man would die a thousand deaths for its sake. This kind of confidence in God's grace, this sort of knowledge of it, makes us joyful, high-spirited, and eager in our relationship with God and with all mankind. That is what the Holy Spirit effects through our faith. Hence, the man of faith, without being driven, willingly and gladly seeks to do good to everyone, suffer all kinds of hardships, for the sake of the love and glory of the God who has shown him such grace. It is impossible, indeed, to separate works from faith, just as it is impossible to separate heat and light from fire.
Luther is quite convinced that we don't even have to ask God, or anyone else where the good works are, that faith does the deed even before the question is raised. I think I agree with that. I have been pondering a verse in Proverbs for a while, and it says,
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, "Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it," when you have it with you. Proverbs 3:27-28 NASB
The I other day, I made a comment that I have asked, "Where is the place where faith and works meet?" I think I know the answer now. It is everywhere, wherever we go. Just as "who is my neighbor?" can be answered, "Everyone!", so, too, is everywhere an opportunity to do good. This good flows from the faith within us, given us by God. By good works, we are not earning anything, we are simply doing what our faith causes us to do. That's why we are able to do it, because we have been enabled by faith, which cannot do wrong or dead works, but can only do that which the Spirit desires.
My question is, does the Holy Spirit, which convicts the world according to sin, confirm our works according to the righteousness imparted to us through Christ? If so, would we even be worried about whether we were doing good works, or would we trust and know that we are, because we have this faith that cannot do anything but good?
There is this whole battle going on between the flesh and the Spirit, and because of our flesh, we do not always live out in faith. Will our works grow as the power of the Spirit gains over the flesh? To me, it seems the answer would be yes. The Spirit does not overpower the flesh all at once, if He did, we'd all be perfect, without sin, ever. Yet we know that we sin at times, so there is this process, going on inside of us. Faith and works working together, not producing righteousness, but proving it, more and more as we are conformed to the image of Christ. So then, do we have to ask what to do? Or do we know it? Does our asking imply a lack of faith? Does it imply laziness, or unwillingness to submit to the Spirit? Luther believed we didn't have to ask. What do you think?