St. Stephen's Musings

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:: Monday, December 06, 2004 ::

The Works of Faith

What the Fathers are teaching [when they speak about faith and works] is faith as the only true righteousness, as opposed to anything else. This is the teaching of the Apostles, this is the consensus of the Fathers, this is the doctrine of the Church: No amount of good works, done apart from faith, is worth anything.

However, what is not part of the patristic consensus or of Scripture rightly understood, is dividing, conceptually, faith from *its own works*, that is, faith from itself.

The works of faith are to it as the spirit is to a body (James 2:26). They are what makes it alive, what makes it faith.

Belief doesn't yet make it faith--even the demons believe. Trust, if it's only in your mind and heart, doesn't yet make it faith. For all you know, you are imagining you trust him, flattering yourself, like St. Peter. (Luke 22:33, see also Mark 10:38-39) Faith is belief and trust *in concrete form*.

It's "faith which works by love" (Gal. 5:6) that is and always was the only true righteousness. Without love, who am I, a child of God? No, I am a nobody, a nothing. (I Cor. 13:2) Thus, the great chapter on faith, Hebrews 11, turns out mostly to be about works!

Faith's works, that is. For they are God's work in us, and our work in God. In truth, where there is union with God, one can no longer say whose works they are.
They are yours in the sense that it's you, not God, who must put forth the effort; they are God's in the sense that He, not you, makes the effort fruitful.
No, neither faith with its works nor faith without its works will merit you salvation.

Faith apart from the works of the law indeed exists. But Faith without *its* works DOESN'T exist and so isn't worth talking about; it's a human fantasy and nothing more; it cannot be instrumental in your salvation any more than works apart from faith can.

But even faith with its works won't earn you salvation either. Rather, it already *is* your salvation sprouting up (not yet in full bloom). You have already been saved from being any other sort of person than one who lives by trust in God. You have already been saved from a selfish, meaningless existence. You have already been saved from despair, from wickedness, from slavery to satan, from fear, from secularism, from humanism, from countless dead-end isms, from walking death.

So if sola fide means faith apart from works of the law, fine. (Romans 9:32, Gal. 2:16) But if it means faith considered apart from *faith's* works, no. That is purely a figment of our imagination. We do not consider or theologize concerning what doesn't really exist, much less suppose this abstraction could be capable of justifying anybody. (James 2:14-24)

--From the the Orthodox-Lutheran discussion group

Update: "Belief and Faith are not necessarily the same things....God grant me to be a father who unifies belief and behavior in the heart by faith." Amen.

:: Karl :: 8:25:00 AM [Link] ::

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