We live in a world that values hard work, achievement, and success. Most of us have experienced the pressure to perform. Have you ever:
…practiced and practiced more to earn the starting position on the team (because you’re easily replaceable)?
…studied hard enough to land at a reputable University (because how else will you land a good job)?
…worked long hours to pursue the raise or promotion (because your family needs it)?
This is how our physical world operates—we are conditioned to work hard to achieve results. And whether consciously or not, we sometimes carry this approach into our faith, to our own detriment.
But as Martin Luther rediscovered in the sixteenth century, there is great news for those of us who fall back into relying on our own efforts instead of on faith. Here’s how the CSB Everyday Study Bible explains living by faith in our hard-working world:
Whenever “faith” is set beside “works” it recalls the theological conflicts that shaped the Reformation of the sixteenth century. To this day these conflicts largely account for the division of the western church between Roman Catholic and Protestant. Martin Luther’s rediscovery of the gospel included a recovery of the apostle Paul’s insistence that “no one will be justified in his [God’s] sight by the works of the law” (Rm 3:20). Instead, “you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9).
1. Trusting Christ, not our effort, is our only hope for righteousness.
The faith that saves, Luther realized from his study of the Bible, is not mere historical faith (Lat. fides), a bare belief that what the Bible declares as true is in fact true, a faith that, according to John Calvin, merely “flits in the brain” and saves no one. Of such faith James could say: “Even the demons believe—and they shudder” (Jms 2:19).
No, the faith that saves the soul is trusting faith (Lat. fiducia), so that salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. This trusting faith is the faith “in his [Christ’s] blood” (Rm 3:25) of which Paul spoke; faith that relies upon the death of Jesus Christ on the cross in the place of sinners. There Jesus bore the punishment of sinners upon himself so that now God promises to treat as righteous those who believe in his name.
Just as “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness” (Rm 4:3), so now all who repent of their sins, abandon hope of being made right with God on the basis of their own good works, and trust only in the mercy of God offered in the death of Jesus Christ in their place, will be saved.
2. When we trust hard, we work hard.
Then what of good works? Have they no place in the Christian life? James anticipates and answers this question: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works” (Jms 2:18).
While God’s salvation is all of grace, including the faith that saves, which “is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9), Paul follows this assertion with a word about works: “For we are his [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do” (Eph 2:10). So good works follow saving faith. Salvation is not gained through works but rather good works are the fruit of saving faith in Jesus Christ.
This article is an excerpt from the CSB Everyday Study Bible.