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quod pro nobis traditum est

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Do good works exist?

A while back I posted on the topic of the "goodness" of good works, not as a denial of sin and its effects, but to emphasize the essential "goodness" of good works. While they do not come from us they can be done in and through us. I have not read that post recently but, if I remember, this is the basic gist. All depends on a merciful God. However, and even if works are not meritorious, this does not mean that they are not "good." Once again the emphasis is on where the "good" works come from. Also, there is no question of claiming goodness since these works are worked to glorify the Father in heaven.

"Antinomianism" may rightly be attributed to Lutheranism on certain occasions. Sometimes, we hear works spoken of disparagingly in an attempt to clarify a position on justification. Sometimes this disparaging talk is so successful it leads one to wonder even if good works "exist." "Anti-nomianism" means "against the law." This is sometimes understood, mistakenly, to advance ideas that the law does not pertain to us because we are saved by faith. This may take the form of the law no longer applies to me or I am now "above" the law.

Recent side reading on "antinomianism" and a reading from the liturgy brought this topic back to my attention. This is the wonder of the liturgy. In addition to being prayer, all of it is worth hearing and given to us as a reminder that God visits His people. In one reading from the liturgy the Apostle says, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." He encourages the church to live not according to the sinful flesh. He adds, "For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith."

The Apostle encourages doing good in the context of living and walking in the Spirit. "And let us not grow weary while doing good . . ." ". . . as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." This is not a matter of sanctimony, although it brings into question disparaging talk of works and antinomianism. Other types of living and walking are outside the context of eternal life.

The cross is the central good work for our salvation. Jesus died for all sins and was raised in the body in the Spirit. By connection in baptism, we "walk in newness of life." This is like the Word calling light into existence. God says "Let there be light." And there is. The Word brings into existence good works. They are not just declared from afar with no effect on or in the hearer. Disparaging talk of works gets nowhere, nor is it Scriptural. Mary says, "Let it be done to me according to Your word." The Word is made flesh. In Christ, every good work exists.

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