Today's Gospel reminds us the greatest good work of Christ is the forgiveness of sins, from which every other good work proceeds and to which they point. Receiving the forgiveness of sins in faith is what frees the Christian to do the good works given by God for us to do according to His will for the sake of our neighbor, that they too might believe and have life in His name.
Our teachers are falsely accused of forbidding good works. . . . They have taught well what is pleasing to God in every station and vocation of life. . . . . . . Furthermore, we teach that it is necessary to do good works. This does not mean that we merit grace by doing good works, but because it is God's will (Ephesians 2:10). It is only by faith, and nothing else, that forgiveness of sins is apprehended. The Holy Spirit is received through faith, hearts are renewed and given new affections, and then they are able to bring forth good works. Ambrose says: "Faith is the mother of a good will and doing what is right." Without the Holy Spirit people are full of ungodly desires. They are too weak to do works that are good in God's sight (John 15:5). . . . Therefore, it is easy to see that this doctrine is not to be accused of banning good works. Instead, it is to be commended all the more because it shows how we are enabled to do good works. For without faith, human nature cannot, in any way, do the works of the First or Second Commandment (1 Corinthians 2:14). Without faith, human nature does not call upon God, nor expect anything from Him, nor bear the cross (Matthew 16:24). Instead, human nature seeks and trusts in human help. So when there is no faith or trust in God, all kinds of lusts and human intentions rule in the heart (Genesis 6:5). This is why Christ says, "Apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). That is why the Church sings: "Lacking Your divine favor, there is nothing in man. Nothing in him is harmless."
Condensed from CONCORDIA: THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS, copyright 2005,2006 by Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission. All rights reserved. To purchase a copy of CONCORDIA, call 800-325-3040.
Lord grant you faith in His grace alone for your salvation unto eternal life. Amen