Pushing Christ Out of the Middle

Pentecost 18 Wednesday

Luke 16:9

“Make friends for yourselves by means of the unjust mammon so that they, when you suffer want, may receive you in the eternal booths.”

Based on this verse, our opponents say: “You say that we should not do good works for the sake of eternal life–look, this verse says the opposite!” What about this verse, then? There are many verses here and there about how we will have merit. By those verses, they want to refute God’s mercy and lead us to satisfy God’s righteousness by good works. Beware! Stick with God’s pure grace and mercy, saying: “I am a poor sinner, o God, forgive my sin; I will gladly pass over my merit in silence if you pass over your judgment in silence.” David says accordingly in Psalm 143:2: “Do not enter into judgment with your servant; for no one living will be righteous before you.” And this is why Christ was given as a Mediator. Now, if we want to enter into God’s judgment with our good works, we push Christ out of the middle; then we cannot remain before God. Thus, let him be the Mediator and stay under his wings, as it says in Psalm 91:4: “He will cover you with his pinions, and your confidence will be under his wings.” Therefore, say this: “O God, I do not want to merit anything before you with my works, but direct them only toward service to my neighbor and I will cling to your bare mercy.” This is why you must realize that two things pertain to eternal life: Faith and what follows faith. When you go and believe and do the neighbor good, eternal life must follow, even when you never think about it. Just like the taste must follow when you have a good drink. This is also true of hell: The condemned does not seek it, yet it follows unsought and undesired, and he must enter it willy-nilly…This is, then, how Scripture says here that we should do
good to be saved. It does not mean to say that we must first merit it by our works. What it means to say is that when we believe, it will follow by itself. Note well, then, lest you take the result for the seeking, and stay away from the merit based on good works. Should God give heaven to us in exchange for our works? No, no; he already gave it freely, out of mercy. Thus, give to the poor so that the eternal booth may follow, not in order to merit it by your giving. Note well, then, that these verses are understood in two ways: First, that we should seek eternal life by works, and that is wrong; second, that we should take it as a result. This is why you must not seek heaven by doing some work, but only do your works freely,
then the result, eternal life, will come by itself, without your seeking…All glory be to God, not to my merit; he offered up his Son to destroy my sin and also hell.

St. Louis ed., 11:1452-1453.

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