I’ve been glancing through C.F.W. Walther’s “Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel” and I fell up on his tenth thesis, let me share it with you:
“In the tenth place, God’s Word is not rightly divided when faith is demanded as a condition of justification and salvation, as though a person becomes righteous before God and is saved not only through faith, but also because of faith, for the sake of faith, and in view of faith.”
For me, Walther has a way of weaving his words which sometimes leaves a reader confused, so I’ll do my best, God willing, to break down what he is trying to articulate. Dr. Walther, I believe, is warning against what some call “reflective faith” and others deem “faith in faith”. You can really see “reflective faith” in American Evangelicalism’s “Decision Theology”. For example, how many times have you heard this pious comment, “I’m saved because I put my faith in Jesus”, or how about, “God votes yes for you, Satan votes no, and you cast the deciding vote”? Basically, your faith makes the contribution to your salvation, and in the end, we get rewarded and congratulated for making a great choice on salvation. Are you beginning to see the error? For American evangelicals, faith is a work. Some people, I have discovered are actually ok with this notion (God gives 98%, and we must give 2), but I must say, if this is the foundation a Christian is standing on, then they are in BIG trouble. Question: What happens to a Christian on the day when he realizes that all of his sin is rooted in unbelief? Answer: Satan, the accuser will arrive and challenge his salvation saying, “You’re no Christian, I saw what you did. How can you really be sure that you are saved?” Speechless and with a stopped mouth, our Evangelical friend walks away in dejection and despair.
But if a Christian’s hope is in the promises of the Gospel, that Christ gave His very body and blood to satisfy the curse of the law for you, then our Christian is standing on the Rock of Christ with a properly constructed shield of faith. Satan will still accuse, but we deflect his flaming arrows saying, “I have been baptized into Christ’s death, He has clothed me with His righteousness, He has promised me salvation, and He is no liar.” Can you see the difference between Evangelicalism, and proper Christianity?
Proper Christianity understands that faith by itself can never save, but rather, it is the object of faith which saves. Faith needs an object, and for Christians, it is Jesus Christ. Faith is the subject, and Jesus is the object. Faith saves because faith grasps Christ, it looks to Christ, it hopes in nothing but Christ, and with boldness it declares, “The body and blood of Christ which I now take are given and shed for me.” This is the faith which only Jesus can give, if left up to ourselves we would be without hope, but a Merciful God lifts us to the Rock of Salvation and points us to our crucified and risen Lord, and on the Rock of Christ our Hope and Comfort shine forth with a Holy radiance.
I’ll leave you with two quotes to meditate upon. The first comes from Bishop Bo Giertz, a Swedish Lutheran, and William Romaine an English Anglican Evangelical.
“Faith does not dwell in the brain or in our thoughts. Faith is not a work which we accomplish; it is not a gift we give to God. Being made righteous by faith does not imply that faith is some kind of payment that will serve as well as our almsgiving and good works. Is it not written that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are poor in spirit? Faith is, then, a poverty of spirit, a hunger and thirst, a poor empty heart opening toward God so that He can put His grace into it. When God bestows His grace upon us, we are born anew and become partakers of the new life.”
-Bo Giertz, taken from the novel “The Hammer of God”
“You want comfort, and you look to your faith for it. If faith could speak it would say, ‘I have none to give you, look unto Jesus, it is all in Him’. Indeed my friend it is.”
– William Romaine, taken from his “Select Letters”
For more information on William Romaine, please visit our friends at Indelible Grace Blog, and thank Rev. Kevin Twit for letting me share William Romaine.