New Creation Is Not Left Without A Purpose
Piggybacking a bit off of my last post, I want to continue putting down my thoughts on the relationship between faith and works in Ephesians (which I completely neglected to talk about in my previous post despite pretty much writing a thesis toward it).
There is always talk from Lutherans about preaching “Law and Gospel,” that is, to preach the full weight of the Law that condemns the sinner—meant to kill and crush—followed by the Gospel, the good news that Jesus died for sinners—which grants repentance and makes alive by the Spirit and Word.
There has been a divide in Lutheran thought in the last few years (or centuries, depending on who you ask) on how exactly the Law is to be preached to the Christian. Some might argue that what should be preached is a heavier emphasis on the 2nd use of the Law, that which shows us sin, the good that we cannot fulfill, and condemns us. Following this with the salvation in the Gospel is what motivates the Christian to good works, for the Law only condemns (in this thought process).
While it is true that the Holy Spirit through His means of Word and Sacraments empowers us to do good works, it is not traditionally Lutheran to exclude the exhortation and commands of God’s Law to the Christian (see the Epitome of the Formula of Concord, Article VI). Instead, the Law in its fullness is to be preached according to the text at hand alongside the sweetness of the Gospel. The Christians who hear these sermons must be also encouraged to do good works according to the holy Law of God, which still accuses, but can no longer condemn those who have been redeemed by Christ and are indwelled by His Spirit (Rom. 8:1).
The reasons why Christians must be called upon to do works and why that is made abundantly clear in the Lutheran Confessions is because it has its basis in the Scriptures. More to the point of this article, it has roots in the book of Ephesians.
I wrote at length about the contrast St. Paul made in the first two chapters of Ephesians regarding our existence before and after we were Christians. God brought us from death to life, sinners to saints, children of wrath to children of God, all through Christ. He shifted the very nature of our being in salvation, enlightening us by His Spirit, Who brings us to the knowledge and faith in Christ.
God saved us by grace through faith, but not in a vacuum. The predestination of the Father, through the redemption of the Son, and by the enlightening of the Holy Spirit—this is the work of God that has recreated us in Christ Jesus:
“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
God’s work in our own salvation was our creation in Jesus. His grace has crafted something new, something better, something good. And that something is you, in Jesus. And this new creation is not left without a purpose: we are created to do good works, that which is consistent with the new nature that God has created within us in Christ.
God’s Law tells us what good and bad is. Therefore, consistent with the new nature God has created in us, the Christian is to be told to do good in accordance with the Law of God, even as St. Paul does to the church at Ephesus:
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in manner worth of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (4:1-3)
These good works mentioned and outlined in Ephesians are clearly predicated and presuppose the forgiveness of sins and the recreation of the heart through and in Christ. And having been redeemed by the blood of Christ, and indwelled by His Spirit, the Christian can freely and spontaneously do good works without the fear of condemnation, but instead, do good with the assurance that they have been made new in Christ through the loving work of God by grace.