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Saturday, April 09, 2005

What Is Faith?

I must confess that I am in love . . . with this book! "The Fire and the Staff" by Pastor Klemet Preus has some excellent observations about how doctrine and life fit together. Here are just a couple of snippets to hopefully whet your appetite.

You have one faith, not two faiths. Faith is both passive and active. Christians need to be able to tell the difference between faith as it is passive and faith as it is active.

Faith simply receives all the gracious promises and blessings of God. Faith is passive. It does nothing. It offers nothing. It contributes nothing. It's like the bag of the trick-or-treater. Our Confessions say, "To have faith is to desire and to receive the offered promise of the forgiveness of sins and justification."

Preus gives a cute illustration of going out on Halloween as a child and losing all his candy through a hole in his bag. The application he makes is that faith is the bag that catches the treat. But you are never focusing on the bag itself, but on what is inside the bag, what the bag receives. The Christian doesn't point the microscope at his faith, but on what faith receives, namely Christ.

We are saved by faith alone, but faith is never alone. Good works always follow true saving faith. Faith is always accompanied by love and hope. We should never imagine that there is such a thing as a faith that can exist and remain alongside an evil intention to sin. So faith always produces works. Faith is always active. Luther says taht faith is always 'a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly."

"Good works are not an option. Nor are they, strictly speaking, a requirement. We do them spontaneously out of faith. Someone needs to make a bumper sticker that says, "Good works happen." You don't have to demand them anymore than you demand the sun to shine or the tide to rise. It is the nature of faith to produce good works. Yet we are saved without them."

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