Sometimes, searching the internet can leave you with some great material. Like this (somewhat lengthy) quote from Martin Luther on the definition of faith:
Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. “Faith is not enough,” they say, “You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.” They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, “I believe.” That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn’t come from this `faith,’ either.
Instead, faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.
Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor 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. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they’re smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.
(An excerpt from “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522 by Martin Luther, 1483-1546 Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith from DR. MARTIN LUTHER’S VERMISCHTE DEUTSCHE SCHRIFTEN. Johann K. Irmischer, ed. Vol. 63)
I will admit, at times, to being confused by the beliefs of some regarding faith and salvation. I know that some members of my husband’s family, as well as friends growing up, were taught to believe that salvation comes with a simple declaration of faith. Basically, once you say you believe, you are saved. I have often wondered if that is truly the doctrine of their various churches, or just a slight (but seemingly common) misunderstanding of what is being said. I have had so many people insist to me that works are not necessary to be saved. And this idea has come both from people who do tremendous works and those who, well, don’t even seem to practice what they “believe.”
Martin Luther’s assertion that “Faith cannot help doing good works constantly” is more in line with my beliefs. And it seems to uphold the assertions in James 2:
14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
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17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
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20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
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22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
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24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
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26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
So, I guess the question is, do you see faith as a belief, or as more of an action? Do you have faith if you believe in Christ, or do you have to act on that belief?
Or, more importantly, do you really believe in Christ if you don’t believe Christ? Because, if you believe him, you will follow him.
As Martin Luther said, “…it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire!” My goal for the week is to provide to others the warmth and light that my faith requires.