Summary: One of the most siginificant paradoxes of our faith is that we’re saved by God’s grace alone; yet God created us for good works.
Martin Luther himself picked up on the important place of our response to what God has done for us in his explanation to the first article of the Apostles’ Creed in the Small Catechism, when he said: “Therefore I surely ought to thank and praise, SERVE AND OBEY HIM (i.e. God).” Serving and obeying God obviously refers here to an active faith; a faith that responds to saving grace by doing good works. This ability to recognize someone or something for who and what it is I believe is a powerful witness to the world. For example, I’m convinced that even some atheists and agnostics have a difficult go of it trying to deny the validity of the good works of say a Mother Teresa or an Albert Schweitzer. Good works DO REVEAL TO THE WORLD GOD’S SAVING ACTIVITY IN AND THROUGH US. If that’s the case, then we’ve got a lot of good work ahead of us to do! But again to emphasize—NOT BECAUSE WE’RE SAVED BY WORKS, BUT BECAUSE WE’RE SAVED BY GRACE AND WILL TRULY WANT TO DO SOMETHING IN HUMBLE GRATITIUDE TO EXPRESS THE REALITY OF WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US; BECAUSE WE’RE DESIGNED, WE’RE CREATED FOR GOD WORKS BY GOD WE WILL DO THEM. A PERSON OR A THING USUALLY DOES WHAT THEY ARE DESIGNED TO DO—OTHERWISE THEY MISS OUT ON LIFE’S MEANING AND PURPOSE.
Once there was a rooster who crowed at sun-up each morning without fail. One day, the barnyard dog said to the rooster, “I guess you think your crowing raises the sun into the sky everyday. Well, I’ve got news for you. The sun will come up whether you crow or not.”
The rooster looked at the dog with surprise, and said, “I know that! I didn’t make the sun, and I can’t raise the sun. Only God can do that.”
“Then why in the world,” asked the dog, “do you get up in the dark every day to holler your lungs out?”
The rooster eyed the dog disdainfully and said, “God gave me a voice. If God is going to raise the sun into the sky, the least I can do is to use my gift to show my appreciation.” 2
Only God can create us; only God can save us; only God can give us the ability to do good works our whole life long; which is our response to what Christ has done for us all on the cross. For that, thanks be to God! Amen.
1 Cited from: Emphasis March 1985, Vol. 14, No. 10, (Lima, OH: C.S.S. Publishing Co., Inc., 1985), p. 21.
2 Cited from: Faye Neff, “Raised from the Dead,” in The Clergy Journal, January 2003, Vol. LXXX, No. 3 (Inver Grove Heights, MN: Logos Productions Inc., 2003), p. 39.