Luther on Justification by Faith Alone

A few weeks ago, while over at my favorite bookstore (Westminister Seminary), I saw a new version of a devotional called Faith Alone based on the writing and preaching of Luther. My wife was kind enough to get it for me for Christmas.

The first several days focus on justification by faith, and I've been struck with how simple the Gospel is, and how simple it is to grasp of this subject (which unfortunately is often bypassed in our presentation of the "gospel").

In today's reading, Luther says:

Instead we should conclude with Paul that we are justified by faith alone, not through faith formed by love. So we shouldn't attribute the power of justification to something formed in us that makes us pleasing to God. We must attribute it to faith, which takes hold of Christ the Savior and keeps him in our hearts. This faith justifies us apart from love and prior to love. We concede that we must also teach about good works and love. But we only teach these at the proper time and place - when the question deals with how we should love, not how we are justified.


JP said...


Hope your Christmas/New Years was pleasant for you and yours. I have a question for you in regards to "faith alone". What exactly is "faith alone"? Is that just a mere mental acknowledgement of Christ as Savior or is does faith alone also entail, repetance and our obedience..... inquiring mind really wants to know.
God Bless.

Peter Bogert said...


Good to hear from you again. Faith is embracing what God says to be true. I don't think it is mere mental assent.

At the same time, when you add anything to the command to believe, you add a work. If I have to do something as a condition of being made right with God, no matter how religiously noble it is, I believe we have circumvented the Gospel.

A true understanding of the Gospel will involve an awareness of sin and guilt. If that is what you mean by repentance, then I would suggest that goes with faith, and is part of the content of what we believe.

However, repentance and obedience are both worked out over the longer term. As such, I would see them as the fruit of being justified, not a condition of it.

I hope this helps.