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The Word of God cannot be received and cherished by any works whatever but only by faith. Therefore it is clear that, as the soul needs only the Word of God for its life and righteousness, so it is justified by faith alone and not any works; for if it could be justified by anything else, it would not need the Word, and consequently it would not need faith.

This faith cannot exist in connection with works—that is to say, if you at the same time claim to be justified by works, whatever their character—for that would be the same as “limping with two different opinions” [I Kings 18:21], as worshiping Baal and kissing one’s own hand [Job 31:27–28], which, as Job says, is a very great iniquity. Therefore the moment you begin to have faith you learn that all things in you are altogether blameworthy, sinful, and damnable, as the Apostle says in Rom. 3[:23], “Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and, “None is righteous, no, not one; … all have turned aside, together they have gone wrong” (Rom. 3:10–12). When you have learned this you will know that you need Christ, who suffered and rose again for you so that, if you believe in him, you may through this faith become a new man in so far as your sins are forgiven and you are justified by the merits of another, namely, of Christ alone.

Since, therefore, this faith can rule only in the inner man, as Rom. 10[:10] says, “For man believes with his heart and so is justified,” and since faith alone justifies, it is clear that the inner man cannot be justified, freed, or saved by any outer work or action at all, and that these works, whatever their character, have nothing to do with this inner man. On the other hand, only ungodliness and unbelief of heart, and no outer work, make him guilty and a damnable servant of sin. Wherefore it ought to be the first concern of every Christian to lay aside all confidence in works and increasingly to strengthen faith alone and through faith to grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who suffered and rose for him, as Peter teaches in the last chapter of his first Epistle (I Pet. 5:10). No other work makes a Christian. Thus when the Jews asked Christ, as related in John 6[:28], what they must do “to be doing the work of God,” he brushed aside the multitude of works which he saw they did in great profusion and suggested one work, saying, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” [John 6:29].

—Martin Luther
“Freedom of a Christian,” Works, 31:346–347.

Faith is not the human notion and dream that some people call faith. When they see that no improvement of life and no good works follow—although they can hear and say much about faith—they fall into the error of saying, “Faith is not enough; one must do works in order to be righteous and be saved.” This is due to the fact that when they hear the gospel, they get busy and by their own powers create an idea in their heart which says, “I believe”; they take this then to be a true faith. But, as it is a human figment and idea that never reaches the depths of the heart, nothing comes of it either, and no improvement follows.

Faith, however, is a divine work in us which changes us and makes us to be born anew of God, John 1:12–13. It kills the old Adam and makes us altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers; and it brings with it the Holy Spirit. O it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them. Whoever does not do such works, however, is an unbeliever. He gropes and looks around for faith and good works, but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Yet he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it a thousand times. This knowledge of and confidence in God’s grace makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures. And this is the work which the Holy Spirit performs in faith. Because of it, without compulsion, a person is ready and glad to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, out of love and praise to God who has shown him this grace. Thus it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire. Beware, therefore, of your own false notions and of the idle talkers who imagine themselves wise enough to make decisions about faith and good works, and yet are the greatest fools. Pray God that he may work faith in you. Otherwise you will surely remain forever without faith, regardless of what you may think or do.

—Martin Luther
Works, 35:370–371 (Preface to Romans).

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. – Gal 3:11-12

Now, the prophet [Habakkuk] had spoken about the chastisements and judgments that God would send on the people; therefore, having examined the situation, we might well have concluded that all was lost. Then he says that the pride of the wicked will swell and increase, but that their feet are in a slippery place and they will stumble in the way. The more they seek to exalt themselves, the more grievous will be their fall. This is what the prophet pronounces upon the wicked. On the other hand, he says of the just that they shall ‘live by faith’. Notice he says that the just shall live, implying that God’s children will not find life here below. Even if they were to travel all over the world, and search high and low, they would soon realise that there is death and decay everywhere and in everything. However, though they do not enjoy this ‘life’ at the present time, they look forward to a life to come, and cherish it in their hearts and minds by faith. The prophet is seeking to draw the minds of God’s elect away from both the world and themselves, so that they may cleave entirely to God, finding his grace alone sufficient for their salvation.

—John Calvin
Sermons of John Calvin: A Selection of Thirty Six Various Sermons, “We All Stand Condemned by the Law”

I will this day try to live a simple, sincere, and serene life; repelling promptly every thought of discontent, impurity, and self-seeking; cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence; exercising economy in expenditure, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a childlike faith in God.

—John Vincent

There are two ways of beholding the glory of Christ

The one is by faith, in this world,—which is “the evidence of things not seen;” the other is by sight, or immediate vision in eternity, “We walk by faith, and not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). We do so whilst we are in this world, “whilst we are present in the body, and absent from the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). But we shall live and walk by sight hereafter. And it is the Lord Christ and his glory which are the immediate object both of this faith and sight For we here “behold him darkly in a glass” (that is, by faith); “but we shall see him face to face” (by immediate vision). “Now we know him in part; but then we shall know him as we are known” (1 Cor 13:12).

What is the difference between these two ways of beholding the glory of Christ?

It is the second way—namely, by vision in the light of glory—that is principally included in that prayer of our blessed Saviour, that his disciples may be where he is, to behold his glory (John 17:24). But I shall not confine my inquiry thereunto; nor doth our Lord Jesus exclude from his desire that sight of his glory which we have by faith in this world, but prays for the perfection of it in heaven.

It is therefore the first way in which we must labor:

1. No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight hereafter, who doth not in some measure behold it by faith here in this world. Grace is a necessary preparation for glory, and faith for sight.

2. The beholding of Christ in glory is that which in itself is too high, illustrious, and marvellous for us in our present condition. It hath a splendour and glory too great for our present spiritual visible [visive] faculty; as the direct, immediate sight of the sun darkens our sight, and doth not relieve or strengthen it at all.

3. Herein, then, our present edification is principally concerned; for in this present beholding of the glory of Christ, the life and power of faith are most eminently acted. And from this exercise of faith doth love unto Christ principally, if not solely, arise and spring. If, therefore, we desire to have faith in its vigour or love in its power, giving rest, complacency, and satisfaction unto our own souls, we are to seek for them in the diligent discharge of this duty;—elsewhere they will not be found.

Herein would I live;—herein would I live;—hereon would I dwell in my thoughts and affections, to the withering and consumption of all the painted beauties of this world, unto the crucifying all things here below, until they become unto me a dead and deformed thing, no way meet for affectionate embraces.

—John Owen
Adapted from The Works of John Owen, 1:288-291.

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