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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

The Entire Christian Life is About Faith and Love

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The following is from Blessed Dr. Martin Luther’s Church Postil Sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, Luke 11:17-19: The Cleansing of the Ten Lepers.

As we conclude, we see that this Gospel reading sufficiently instructs and depicts the entire Christian life with all its accidents and suffering, for the two chief points are faith and love. Faith receives benefits; love gives benefits. Faith offers us to God as His own; love gives us to our neighbor as his own. Now, when this kind of life has begun, then God sets about improving improving it through temptation and trial, through which a person increases more and more in faith and love, so that through his own experience God becomes so sincerely dear and sweet to him that he no longer fears anything. From this, then, hope grows, which is certain that God will not leave it. St. Paul says about this: “We also boast about our distress, because we know that distress brings patience, but patience brings experience,” so that the person is found to be fundamentally good, just as fire verifies that the gold is good, “but experience brings hope, and hope does not let us be put to shame” (Romans 5 [:3–5]). He always cites these three points in his Epistles. He says to the Colossians (1 [:3–5]): “We thank God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and always pray for you, after we heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and about your love for all the saints, because of the hope which is set aside in heaven for you.” Again to his Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1 [:2–3]): “We always thank God for all of you and unceasingly mention you in our prayers, as we remember your work in faith and your labor in love and your patience in hope, which is our Lord Jesus Christ before God, our Father,” etc.

He divides the three points very nicely, so that faith is connected with work, love with labor, and hope with suffering or patience. It is as if he means to say: “Your faith is not a dream or a vision, but it is life and action. Your love does not rest, nor is it idle, but it does much for your neighbor. Even though all this happens in good things, your hope is exercised in suffering and patience. All of this is in Christ, for there is no faith or love or hope outside of Christ.” Thus a Christian life proceeds well amid evil until the end and does not seek revenge; rather, it lets God rule, judge, and take revenge. It only grows more and more in faith, love, and hope.

Love, which naturally follows faith, is divided into two parts: she loves God, who does so much for her through Christ in faith; she loves her neighbor and does for him as God has done for her. For this reason, all works of such a person go to his neighbor for the sake of God who loved him, and he does no works which are due to God except to love and praise Him. He confidently confesses this before the world, for God needs no other works. Thus all real worship is located in the mouth, even though what we do for our neighbor is also called serving God. However, I am now speaking about the service which God alone does, in which no man can take part; his duty is only to love and praise, even if he must do so completely in all adversity. What more would you want to know about how to be a Christian? Have faith and love, remain in them, and then you have and can do everything. All the rest will be taught and given to you on its own.

A Year in the Gospels with Martin Luther (CPH:2018), p. 936.

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