A Jagged Contention: Faith and Works

“I cannot change all that I have consistently taught about this until now, namely, that “through faith” (as St. Peter says) we receive a different, new, clean heart and that, for the sake of Christ our mediator, God will and does regard us as completely righteous and holy. Although sin in the flesh is still not completely gone or dead, God will nevertheless not count it or consider it.

“Good works follow such faith, renewal, and forgiveness of sin, and whatever in these works is still sinful or imperfect should not even be counted as sin or imperfection, precisely for the sake of this same Christ. Instead, the human creature should be called and should be completely righteous and holy—according to both the person and his or her works—by the pure grace and mercy that have been poured and spread over us in Christ. Therefore we cannot boast about the great merit of our works, where they are viewed apart from grace and mercy. Rather, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” [I Cor. 1:31, 2 Cor. 10:17]. That is, if one has a gracious God, then everything is good. Furthermore, we also say that if good works do not follow, then faith is false and not true.”

The Smalcald Articles: Part III: Article 13– How a Person Is Justified and Concerning Good Works


It is clear from scripture and the confessions that good works most certainly follow upon faith. How does one judge good works in the life of the Christian? Can one always see the good works which follow their faith? How does one distinguish between the good works of the unbeliever and the good works of faith?

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