The Only Good Work

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Daily Reformation, James 2:1-17

From the Reformer

The first and highest, the most precious of all good works is faith in Christ, as He says (John 6) when the Jews asked Him: “What shall we do that we may work the works of God?” He answered: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent.” When we hear or preach this word, we hasten over it and deem it a very little thing and easy to do, whereas we ought here to pause a long time and to ponder it well. For in this work all good works must be done and receive from it the inflow of their goodness, like a loan. This we must put bluntly, that men may understand it.

—Martin Luther, Treatise on Good Works

Pulling It Together

If you separate the hydrogen from the oxygen, it is no longer water. Just so, when one separates faith and works it can no longer be said that there is “pure religion.” (James 1:27) Visit orphans and widows all you want, or cast out demons and do other wonders, but these will not be pure acts in the sight of God apart from faith. (Matt 7:21-23) The two are inextricably entwined so as to form a strong cord. The one who works toward God without the aid of faith will fail because he lacks divine assistance.

With faith in God, true good works are possible. Without faith, good works are futile. The best good work—the only truly good work—is to believe in the One whom God sent to save you. This is the trust that assists the weak (and we are all weak) to still believe when his works fail him and eventually to realize that his works will always fail him. But God has not failed you; his Son is the proof.

Work hard for God but never trust in what you do for him. Trust in what he has done for you.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers

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