False Faith and Genuine Faith

Pentecost 18 Friday

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.”

Why are there verses in the bible like this one that urge works so strongly? There are those who hear or read the gospel and what we say about faith and quickly embrace it. They call their thoughts “faith.” But they think no farther than that faith is something that is in their power to have or not to have, as if it were like any other natural human work. Therefore, they think they have faith as soon as they manage to conjure up a thought in their heart that says: “Truly,
the doctrine is right, and I believe that it is so.” Yet, when they see and experience in themselves and others that there is no change and the works do not follow and they remain in their old way of life-like before, they think that faith is not enough; there must be something more, something bigger. That’s when they fall away and scream and say: “Faith alone does not do it!” Why? Because there are so many people who believe and do not do more than before and do not find a different attitude in themselves. These are the ones Jude calls “dreamers” in verse 8 of his epistle, since they deceive themselves by their own dream. For what is such a thought of theirs which they call faith other than only a dream and
nightly apparition of faith which they themselves have generated in their hearts without God’s grace? These will be worse later than they were before. For they are like those the Lord talks about in Matthew 9:17 in that they put the new wine in
old wineskins and burst: They hear God’s Word and do not comprehend it; this is why they burst and only get worse. However, the true faith we talk about cannot be manufactured by our thoughts, but is God’s work alone, without any contribution of ours, as Paul says in Romans 5:15: It is God’s gift and grace purchased by Christ. This is also why faith is a mighty, active, restless, busy thing that renews man, as it were; it lets him be born again and leads him in a completely new way of being, so that it is impossible that he should not do good without ceasing…It is for these dreamers and for this made-up faith, then, that Scripture contains such verses about works–not to teach us that we should become good by means of works, but to provide outward evidence for faith and be able to distinguish between false faith and genuine faith. For if faith is genuine, it does good; if it does not do good, it is certainly a dream and a false delusion of faith.

St. Louis ed., 11:1458-1460.

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