Lent and Vocation

Daniel Siedell, in the course of discussing the Russian film The Passion of Andrei Rublev (1966), about an icon maker who returns to his craft when he helps a child, makes some important connections between Lent and Vocation.  (Notice too how Luther’s doctrine of vocation–with his focus on loving and serving the neighbor–is different from that of other theologies.)

Lent is an observance that reveals our weakness and failure in remarkable ways. Each year we vow to “keep” it better, each year we fail, often in unexpected ways—either in the mounting sense of pride we experience in our self-sufficiency, dedication, and discipline or in the despair that our failures somehow reveal God’s true assessment of us.

And so it is appropriate to consider vocation during this most sensitive time of the year, a time in which are reminded that we are unable to set aside those things that so easily ensnare us, like food, drink, Twitter, and sin. Lent reminds us that the Christian, as Martin Luther says, “lives not in himself, but in Christ and neighbor,” in Christ through faith and in the neighbor through love. Lent reminds us just how much we live in ourselves. And our work is one of the most explicit ways in which we do so.

We are trained in the church to think about the work that we do—our vocation—as a means by which we please, honor, or otherwise show God our gratitude. In short, we are trained to regard our work as a form of justification before God—to make God love us or to keep him loving us. Our work is a matter between God and us—it’s a private “spiritual” affair—a matter of “worship.”

Yet the work that we do is unable to justify us. Because we are justified by faith, apart from works (Rom. 3. 28) God doesn’t need our work. But, as Gustaf Wingren observed in his ground-breaking study, Luther on Vocation (1942), even though God doesn’t need our good works, our neighbor does.

For Luther, the doctrine of justification freed the Christian to work not for God but for his neighbor. It freed the Christian to be content to make a good shoe and sell it at a fair price. Our vocations, the work that we do, whether coaching a football team, shuffling papers, or painting pictures, exists for our neighbor. Vocation is, then, merely the outgrowth of the implications of the doctrine of justification. For justification by faith is the means by which we live in Christ and vocation is the means by which we live in our neighbor.

This is especially difficult for artists to understand. They’ve been trained to think about art as a private, devotional, priestly affair, the result of a special encounter with God. But Rublev’s breakthrough occurs when he discovers his neighbor—not God—in his vocation. Through Boriska—observing and comforting him and promising to care for him as a father—by being Christ to his neighbor, as Luther once said—Rublev receives his vocation anew. He receives it liberated of the burden to justify himself through paint before the face of God.

Sitting in the mud with a broken, grieving orphan, Rublev is truly free.

He is free to paint icons.

May God use this season of Lent, and the failures it brings, to set us free to see the face of our neighbor.

via “You Will Make Bells & I Will Paint Icons”.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Grace

    Some Believers are given more than one gift. That would mean they they were gifted in several, or more positions, to be used as God see’s fit.

    When you narrow it down to a “vocation” as one gift, you are limiting what God has given to an individual.

    Dr. Veith, you write: “For Luther, the doctrine of justification freed the Christian to work not for God but for his neighbor.”

    We are always under God’s watchful eye. It’s best to keep with HOLY Scirpture, rather than take, what Luther would choose to define as “justification” -

  • Grace

    Dr. Veith

    ““For Luther, the doctrine of justification freed the Christian to work not for God but for his neighbor.”

    We work to please God ALMIGHTY, not our neighbor. Our neighbor might like us to do that which is not right in the sight of God. What stronghold does our neighbor have over us, that is mighter than God?

    We are told to:

    37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

    38 This is the first and great commandment.

    39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
    Matthew 22

    It’s about LOVE, not WORKING. God is first, our neigbbor is second. There are two commandments, our neighbor doesn’t overshaddow the LORD.

  • Pete

    Okay – Grace has, once again, poked a skunk here. I’ll do a little bit of spraying but, having an actual vocation, won’t be able to log the hours of keyboard time required to engage her fully. Some of you other guys/gals chime in.

    Grace said, “we work to please God ALMIGHTY, not our neighbor.” A good thorough reading of the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that our work doesn’t get us very far – pretty much gets us all (rich, poor, wise, foolish) a tombstone. Grace should treat herself some Sunday to a visit to a Lutheran church and note that, rather than professing their profound love of God in repetitive praise choruses, the congregation will typically, at one point in the service, confess to God in unison that they have a) NOT loved Him with their whole heart, nor have they, b) loved their neighbor as themselves. Whereupon that member of the congregation whose vocation is that of minister of God’s word delivers that word in the absolution. There’s a bit of a paradox here – something that comes up frequently in Christianity: It’s the “simul justus et peccator” thing. It turns out that I really DO love God wholeheartedly as well as loving my neighbor perfectly, since I have (according to the above mentioned absolution) perfect righteousness – Christ’s righteousness. Even though my sinful confession is also true.

    But me working to please God ALMIGHTY? Not so much. Lent puts a good spotlight on that one.

  • BW

    Grace,

    God doesn’t need our good works, our neighbor does. Remember, Christ’s good works were benefiting his neighbors, the people all around him in Palestine. That’s who he was showing love to. And you, as a person can have a ton of vocations. Grace, you are a wife, but you are/were also daughter. That’s just one example. I mean, I’m a son, a friend, a grandson, etc…

  • Joe

    Grace – if it were up to us to please God by our works we would all be in a very dangerous place. Our efforts do, and always, will fall short; we constantly fail. That is why Christ had to come to satisfy the law for us. If our salvation were in anyway dependent on us, we would all be in hell because hell is all we can earn.

  • Steve Bauer

    Tolkien comes close to expressing this same thing about the artist’s vocation in Leaf by Niggle.

  • SKPeterson

    Grace has it about half right. Since God has given of Himself the ability for us to do good works through the Good Work of Jesus Christ, we are then freed to do those good works for our neighbor. Not that these works earn us God’s favor or earn us some sort of merit in that we are justified by those works. Yet, in our doing those good works for our neighbors in, with and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we do perform works that are pleasing to God. However, it is because those works flow through the Work of Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that we are able to please God in our works because those works are not for our own righteousness before God, which would condemn them then as self-serving and evil, but rather from the very same righteousness of Jesus Christ.

  • Jon

    Grace has once again demonstrated the appropriateness of her name–in that she like the rest of us will indeed be saved in spite of her good works.

    But, she says, “We work to please God ALMIGHTY, not our neighbor.”

    “To please” synonyms: gratify, humor, indulge, satisfy, score, hit the mark, score, make the grade.
    “To please” antonyms: to anger, annoy, disturb, upset.

    Good works do not placate God. Especially not to entice Him to show favor to the doer.
    “Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’” Jn 6:29.
    So Jesus makes our works “good.” It’s the only reason they are “good.”

    Thinking like Grace’s is not really all that different from the RC, really.

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    One of the things I am trying to teach my congregants is when we are out an about in our daily lives and we help somebody is to not say “it’s because of Jesus.” but rather “you looked like you needed a hand” or something similar based on the what ever the situation is.

    The common mistake of pietism is the belief we can please God with our works. The only thing that has ever pleased God is the works of the only Holy one who is the Lamb of God. In him do we take on a pleasing fragrance before God not the works done for our neighbor.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Listen, this whole thing is a false dichotomy, there is no either or here. There doesn’t have to be in any case. Thing is when we serve our neighbor God does find this pleasing on account of Christ who has forgiven our good works. This is the problem, even our good works need to be forgiven by Christ to be truly good works. He alone can sanctify them and make them holy. They are not sanctified or holy on their own. This is why it is impossible to placate God with our good works, that job has already been done with the death and resurrection of Christ. But that does not mean we do not please God with our works, or serve him with them.
    There is no, we serve God or our neighbor. And it really doesn’t matter what our neighbor wants us to do, we only serve our neighbor when we are doing what God would have us do for them. And we aren’t serving our neighbor when we are doing it in order to attain our own righteousness or sanctification. That isn’t serving our neighbor, that is using our neighbor. It is rather contradictory to go about it that way, because then we are always hoping our neighbor will be in need so we have someone to use as our own little stepping stone.

  • Joe

    Thanks Bror – that was well said.

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    @#10 I am not sure we are on the same page with the discussion at hand. I agree 100% with what you said, however, my experience is that isn’t what people are thinking and saying when they say they serve their neighbor to please God. My experience has shown Jesus doesn’t even come into the equation, they believe their good works in and of themselves sans Jesus please God.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ theoldadam

    “When you did it to the least of these…you did it to me”

    Bror is right. The God project is over. Now we are free. free to serve the neighbor…(now get this )…OR NOT.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    …Or Not.
    But have you ever tried the or not aspect of the equation? Seriously, it is only possible when you think your neighbor means the guy who lives next door to you. We continually serve our neighbors, that is where vocation comes in. Working for our boss, serves our neighbor. Conjugal relations with our spouse serves our neighbor. Changing the dirty diaper on our newborn son, serves our neighbor. And in all these things we serve more than when we put five dollars in a Salvation Army Kettle! so yeah, try the or not out once, just see how long you go.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ theoldadam

    “But have you ever tried the or not aspect of the equation?”

    It’s hard for me to imagine who I am serving (besides myself) when I walk by someone in need (and do not stop)…as I have done, and continue to do, in ways small and large. This exposes me…and by the grace of God I am lead to repentance.

  • William

    Grace,
    Reading “Spirituality of the Cross” will go a long way to understanding.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ theoldadam

    ‘led’

  • Grace

     ‏

    We are going to be “judged” by our work, it’s stated very clearly in 1 Peter 1:17

    13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
    14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
    15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
    16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
    17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:
    1 Peter 1

  • Grace

     ‏

    What is a WORK?

    32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
    33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
    34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
    35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
    36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
    37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
    38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
    39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
    40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
    41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
    42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
    43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
    44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
    45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
    46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
    Matthew 25

    For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:26

     ‏

  • SKPeterson

    If we continue with 1 Peter, we have this though:

    18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
    22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for
    “All flesh is like grass
    and all its glory like the flower of grass.
    The grass withers,
    and the flower falls,
    25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
    And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

  • Grace

    SKP @ 20

    The portion of Scripture you cited DOES NOT VOID, Matthew 25, 1 Peter or James 2

  • SKPeterson

    Nor do your quotes of them invalidate the fact that it is Christ’s work that enables our work. Matthew 25, all of 1 Peter and even James, or Hebrews or 1, 2, and 3 John are all operative only because of the redemptive power of the blood of Christ. They are subsequential; the death of Christ is the enabling and motivating event – The Precursor to any actions we do. It is justification first, sanctification after.

  • Jon H.

    The reason we know no apostle was a Lutheran is that, after the Lord told them to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” not one of them said “Or not!”

  • TE Schroeder

    The Matthew 25 account is fascinating. The righteous are commended for their works. Their response: “When did we do these things?” They did not keep track. They did not view their works as a list of items to be checked off.

    On the other hand, you have the wicked who are condemned because they had done no works. Their response: “When did we NOT do these?” They DID keep track. They wanted their reward for their works.

    The righteous were cloaked in Christ’s righteousness. The status as saint also meant lives of works (a clean heart and a right spirit), even though they did not consider their works, much less boast in them. The wicked, on the other hand, were still covered in their sin. Even their righteous acts (and they sure thought they had those!) were nothing but filthy rags. Without faith, they could not please God no matter how moral, generous, or helpful they were.

    It is a vivid picture of how people will be judged and want to be judged. The righteous want to be judged based on the merits of Christ. The wicked want to be judged for their works. And the results? Well, Jesus already has announced the verdict in Matthew 25.

  • Grace

    Matthew 25 isn’t hard to understand, nor is it difficult to help others, that is what we are to do.

    And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
    Matthew 25:40

    “Works” are a dirty word in some denominations – all the Scripture stating works are ignored.

    And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. Revelation 20:12

  • dust

    “And we aren’t serving our neighbor when we are doing it in order to attain our own righteousness or sanctification. That isn’t serving our neighbor, that is using our neighbor.”

    good enough, but to the poor soul that could use the $10 we toss in his can, or a hot meal they have not had in days or weeks, they could care less about our motivation or “purity” of purpose.

    no go ahead and do your good works and don’t stress about it, the guy on other end will thank you for it just the same, and no matter how you judge it, it’s still a good thing and the world needs more of it :)

    cheers!

  • kerner

    Grace:

    Maybe you and some of the others are at cross purposes (or maybe not, which is why I will ask you the following questions).

    Do you believe that it is possible for an unsaved person, that is a person who is not redeemed by grace through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, to do a work that pleases God?

    Why or why not?

    Just so you will know that I am not trying to trick you, I will tell you my answer is “no”. The reason I believe that no unsaved person can do a work that God would consider “good” is set forth in the following Scriptures:

    John 15:5
    “5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. ”

    Hebrews 11:6
    “6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. ”

    Romans 4:5
    “5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, ”

    Romans 14:23
    “… For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. ”

    Isaiah 64:6
    “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

    I believe that, while we are commanded to do good works, these scriptures teach that all our “righteous acts” are like “filthy rags” (i.e. NOT pleasing to God, not really good). Apart from faith we can do nothing that God would consider “good”, because without faith it is impossible to please [God].

    Therefore, only saved people can do a work that God will consider truly “good”.

    Do you agree or disagree?

  • dust

    Kerner…am not a theologian (which will be obvious soon enough) but it seems just as God created our governments to do certain things necessary to the maintenance and order of a civil society and most likely does not “judge” their efforts as good or bad in the sense that they “please” Him as “pure” in thought and deed, or please Him as regarding the salvation of that governmental institution (which of course, salvation does not pertain to those kinds of things) perhaps so too are the “good works” done by both believers and unbelievers? meaning that, although the work may not count anything towards anyone’s salvation, it perhaps is “pleasing” to God in the sense that it is helping someone, right here, right now and in that sense making the world a better place (but of course, not in any sense of “redemption” which cannot be done by any human works).

    in that sense, perhaps neighbor to neighbor good works, can be seen as similar to the works of a government, but on the most local level possible?

    in any case, there’s lots of them that need to be done and really can’t wait for us to make sure we are doing them for exactly the right reasons!

    to paraphrase the good dr. luther….go and “do good works” boldly :)

    cheers!

  • Grace

    Kerner “Do you believe that it is possible for an unsaved person, that is a person who is not redeemed by grace through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, to do a work that pleases God?”

    Yes, an unsaved person can do a work that pleases God, but that doesn’t mean he has faith in Christ. They KEY here is, that they are not saved, but at the same time, have done something that helps someone who needs help, I don’t believe that displeases God. There are many people who give to charity, science, medicine, that don’t believe in God or HIS Son, but that doesn’t mean what they have given is unpleasing to God. The other part AGAIN is, they are not Believers having faith in God – one without the other doesn’t work.

    No one can please God, if they don’t believe in HIM, this is another point all together. They are not going to receive Eternal Life.

    What you’re doing Kerner, is mixing things together, in order to avoid “good works” –

    What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? James 2:14

     ‏  ‏  ‏ ➜ Go to verse 26 at the bottom for the answer –

    Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. James 2:17

    Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. James 2:18

     ‏  ‏  ‏ ➜ Above is the answer to your earlier question.

    But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? James 2:20

    For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:26

     ‏  ‏  ‏ ➜ The passage above is the answer, the KEY to “faith” and “works”

  • Grace

    Dust

     ‏‏  ‏‏  ‏‏ ➜ “no go ahead and do your good works and don’t stress about it, the guy on other end will thank you for it just the same, and no matter how you judge it, it’s still a good thing and the world needs more of it

    Dust my friend, you’re right!

     ‏‏

  • Grace

     ‏‏

    Below is a passage of Scripture to add :idea: light to this discussion:

    Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
    Matthew 5:16

    Obviously we know what are good works, and whether ours are good.

     ‏‏

  • Grace

    Last sentence @ 31 should have read:

    Obviously we know what good works are, and whether ours are good.

  • TE Schroeder

    Grace @ 29 said, “Yes, an unsaved person can do a work that pleases God…” God disagrees with you. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)

  • dust

    TE….am not sure, but perhaps God differentiates between the act and the person?

    That is, God can be pleased with the act, but not pleased with the motivation behind the act?

    But as said earlier, to the recipient of the good deed, it makes no difference why you did it!

    Is God pleased when we toss a few bucks into the beggars can? Even if our heart is not in the right place? If not, then better to just ignore them? God forbid!

    Is God pleased with a new life brought into this world? What if the parents were not married? If not, then perhaps one should rethink their position on abortion, God forbid!

    Is God pleased when someone prevents an abortion? Even if that person is not a Christian?

    Is God pleased when someone knows the end is near, but chooses to plant a tree, rather than spend those last minutes preaching the Gospel and perhaps saving one last soul?

    As fws likes to say, is God pleased when someone goes to Church on Sunday and hears a sermon? Even if that person is not “saved” that day?

    You know when my family is sick or needs help, we get some help from folks we know don’t like us so much, or at least as much as our true family and friends, or perhaps are doing it just because they want to be seen as doing the right thing….but to us it does not make a difference, we are pleased that they helped in their own way, and we thank them sincerely and hope it brings back good for them someday.

    So perhaps God is like that in some way too? He is pleased to see good done on His Earth, but not necessarily pleased with us, especially regarding our salvation? It’s no reason to not try and do those good works nonetheless!

    Again to paraphrase the good Dr. Luther….go and “do good works” boldly :)

    Cheers!

  • Grace

    Dust @ 34 “So perhaps God is like that in some way too? He is pleased to see good done on His Earth, but not necessarily pleased with us, especially regarding our salvation? It’s no reason to not try and do those good works nonetheless!”

    I read your entire post with joy. You certainly are one of the most thoughtful people on this blog. I don’t always agree 100% with you, however the points you made tonight are brilliant.

    God bless you dear friend.

  • Grace

    TE Schroeder @ 33 ” God disagrees with you. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)”

    You TE, did not FINISH the passage, which would have given the whole story. Below you will see the part you left out BOLDED:

    But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
    Hebrews 11:6

    There are many who do not believe as of yet, but also want to help others, they give with an open heart, it doesn’t make them a Believer in Christ. They are not, if they continue to disbelieve, enter into Eternity with the LORD. That is a given TD.

    For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
    James 2:26

  • Grace

    Pete @ 3

    ➜ “Grace said, “we work to please God ALMIGHTY, not our neighbor.” A good thorough reading of the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that our work doesn’t get us very far – pretty much gets us all (rich, poor, wise, foolish) a tombstone.”

     ‏‏ What I, Grace stated was:

      ➜ “We work to please God ALMIGHTY, not our neighbor. Our neighbor might like us to do that which is not right in the sight of God. What stronghold does our neighbor have over us, that is mighter than God?

     ‏‏ ➜ The part Pete avoids, and cuts off is very important:

     ‏‏ ➜ “Our neighbor might like us to do that which is not right in the sight of God.”

     ‏‏

    Cutting off posts, to suit an argument serves no purpose, but to bolster an argument an individual doesn’t have.

     ‏‏

  • TE Schroeder

    Grace, let’s try this again: “There is no one who does what is good, not even one.”

    You disagree.

    As far as God being pleased with the works but not the person, that’s kind of like the statemetn that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. But God sends sinners to hell, not sins. In a similar vein, while God may work good through the acts of anyone regardless of their motives, God still cannot be pleased with a person who is outside of Jesus. If we can please God apart from Jesus, then Jesus was useless.

  • kerner

    Grace: You said:

    “There are many people who give to charity, science, medicine, that don’t believe in God or HIS Son, but that doesn’t mean what they have given is unpleasing to God.”

    But if God considers those “righteous acts” (and they clearly ARE righteous acts) to be like flthy rags, how can you conclude that He is pleased with them?

    If God’s Word says that “…EVERYTHING that does not proceed from faith is SIN”, then how can someone that has no faith produce anything but sin? Even if it seems to be outwardly good?

    I’m not trying to mix anything. I’m just reading the sriptures. Do you know of any scriptures that say that the righteous acts of an unsaved person are pleasing to God? I can’t think of any, but if you know of such a verse I’ll be happy to reconsider.

    I think the foundation for these verses are the general principles that all the law and the prophets come from the two commandments “Love God with all your heart”, etc., and “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Without the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, no human being can do either of those two things. Therefore, God will not be pleased with the works (any of the works) of someone whose heart is not changed by the Holy Spirit.

  • Pete

    Sheesh! Why is this so hard? ANYBODY can do good to their neighbor. I bet Stalin held a door open for an old lady once. And to that old lady, it was good. But it didn’t advance Stalin’s standing before God one bit. An atheist or Buddhist or Muslim dentist can pull my abscessed tooth and it’s all good by me. Doesn’t help the dentist, in God’s eyes. For that matter, if the dentist is Christian it doesn’t help him in God’s eyes – his being “in Christ” is all he needs.

  • Grace

    TE Schroeder

    Read my post @ 36 again. People who are not Believers often times do good things to help their neighbtor – that doesn’t mean they are going to heaven.

    There are those who have faith, but don’t lift a finger to help anyone.

    For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
    James 2:26

    TE, from the passage above you can see the two. “faith” without works is dead also. That’s key to understanding. I know it’s difficult for you to understand “works” but they are mentioned often in the Bible. Cutting off verses in the middle, as you did earlier, doesn’t make your point.

  • Grace

    Kerner,

    I’ve answered your question at 29 -

  • Grace

    Pete @ 40

    You miss the entire point of “works” which is stated clearly in Jame 2 and Matthew 25. If you are unable to grasp the meaning, there is nothing more I can say. All the “Sheesh!” in the world won’t help you understand James 2, unless you open your Bible and study it.

  • kerner

    Pete:

    Ya think we’re trying too hard here? ;)

  • dust

    Kerner (warning: bubble gum theology ahead!)…..filthy rags with respect to our righteousness and ultimately our salvation? As such, not so pleasing :(

    But they obviously serve a secular purpose that pleases God? Why else would God command us to do good works and avoid the evil that fills our world?

    The Bible says clearly that we can’t save ourselves, we know that and we know that works are useless toward that end…but the Bible also asks us to do good works and promises God’s help in doing them, not to earn our salvation, but to do good to our neighbor and make the world a little better than it would be otherwise.

    But also mostly, we should do them for the reason scripture gives in the verse Grace quoted in 31:

    Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
    Matthew 5:16

    Come on Kerner, sing along with us…..this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine :)

    cheers!

  • kerner

    Grace:

    You did not answer my question@29. James 2 addresses the works, or lack of works, of people who HAVE faith. It says nothing about the works of people who DON’T HAVE faith.

    Where is the scripture about the works of people who have no faith in Christ?

  • kerner

    Dust:

    Good answers. I have to leave for a meeting, but I hope to get back to this.

  • Pete

    So, Grace, when I open my Bible to study it and I come to James chapter two I find this: James tells us that faith without works is dead, and he proceeds to give us two examples of works grounded in faith. The examples are Abraham showing his faith by being willing to sacrifice his son at God’s command and Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho who harbored Israelite spies. In each instance, the faith preceded the work. The work certified the faith. And these were screwy works for sure – killing your son and being a prostitute harboring foreign spies aren’t works that come readily to mind as ways of improving your standing with God and your fellow man. Au contraire – both of these “works” would generally be considered capital offenses. But the one was done, in faith, at God’s command, and the other was done out of Rahab’s faith that these people claiming to be the chosen people of the true God actually were the chosen people of the true God. There is precious little incentive for a prostitute to conceal foreign spies, just as there was precious little incentive for Abraham to kill Isaac. These were works clearly predicated upon faith. The faith that permitted these particular works was not dead. Also, these were not works that would – in any kind of easily understood way – make the worker righteous. I would have a much easier time believing that Mother Teresa forsaking the ways of the world and devoting her life to the poorest of the poor in Calcutta might possibly advance her standing with God (though, for the record, I do not) than the works that James gives us here as examples – a man willing to kill his son and a prostitute lying and concealing spies.

    To summarize: works that justify are simply works that give evidence of the faith that precedes them. And true faith ( i.e. the faith exhibited by Abraham and Rahab) will inevitably produce works such as these. Screwy works. Works that don’t make much sense at all. Works like bringing your infant child to Holy Baptism and confessing that this child is now born again – born from above. Works like rolling out of bed Sunday mornings to go to church and partake of what looks like crackers and wine but agreeing with Jesus that it is His body and blood. Faith without works is indeed dead.

  • Pete

    Kerner. “Working” too hard – not trying too hard.

    ;^)

  • Grace

    Kerner @ 46 “You did not answer my question@29. James 2 addresses the works, or lack of works, of people who HAVE faith. It says nothing about the works of people who DON’T HAVE faith.”

    You’ve missed the entire point. If you read Matthew 25. Post 19 – It is stated clearly that there were two types, sheep and the goats - one group did not the works they could have done, the other group did the works. However, one must have faith in order for works to be of value to God. Even if the works, benefit others, without faith, there is no salvation. However “faith without works is dead also”

    For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
    James 2:26

    “Works” are very difficult for some individuals and denominations, however Matthew 25 is a stellar example of loving ones neighbor and works –

    Without “works”. James 2:26 makes it crystal clear that “faith without works is dead also”

  • SKPeterson

    Grace @ 50 – Of the two groups, the sheep and the goats, which group had faith in Jesus Christ and did works in response to the grace of God and which group had faith in their own works as a way to Jesus Christ? You answer it yourself in your sentence that follows: “However, one must have faith in order for works to be of value to God.” Who then is the author of that faith? Lutherans will say the author is God, and that the faith He creates leads to works pleasing to God. If the author of the faith is the person then their faith will not lead to works pleasing to God, because those works are not of, by, and through Him.

    Finally, I agree that “works” are difficult for some individuals and denominations. That’s because most of them aren’t very Lutheran and therefore lack the proper understanding of the dynamics between grace, justification, faith, sanctification and works in the life of the believer and their relationships with their neighbors.

  • Grace

    SKP,

    Of course the LORD is the author of our Faith, I’ve never said otherwise.

    SKP, when you go down this road:

    “Finally, I agree that “works” are difficult for some individuals and denominations. That’s because most of them aren’t very Lutheran and therefore lack the proper understanding of the dynamics between grace, justification, faith, sanctification and works in the life of the believer and their relationships with their neighbors.”

    As far as “works” go, I don’t believe for a moment that Lutherans are more apt to consider “works” –
    Most Lutherans, detest the word “works” they confuse it on a regular basis, just as I’ve observed on this thread.

  • Grace

    SKP 51
    After asking me the question: “Who then is the author of that faith? Lutherans will say the author is God, and that the faith He creates leads to works pleasing to God.”

    I would have thought you would KNOW the passage that answers the question, it’s from the Word of God, not Luther, or Lutherans. Believers know that “Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” is the answer

    1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

    2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

    3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
    Hebrews 12

  • Abby

    A good work may be good done by anybody (acts of kindness). But, if not from faith in Christ, God considers them “dead.”

    Dead works
    “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” (John 7:7)

    “They (Pharisees — who prided themselves on their good works.) answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did (from faith), but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “ …We have one Father—even God.”
    “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:39-41, 43-44)

    “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)

    “. . . how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14)

    “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.” (Revelation 3:1-2)

    http://www.esvbible.org/search/Revelation+2%3A2-7/ Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. (Revelation 2:5-6)

    Good works
    “. . . but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” (Acts 26:20)

    “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

    “. . .(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:9-11)

    “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:18-19)

    ‘. . . let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” (Hebrews 10:22-24)


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