A Lutheran Pastor’s view of good works and Martin Luther’s words

Lutheran’s attachment to the phrase Sola Fida (By Faith Alone) as the foundation of their beliefs sometimes earns them the banner of being very weak in good works. I believe it to be generally true that many Lutherans (in all their synods) shy away from the concept of good works for fear that others will view them as adding works to the salvation pot. I believe that some do it to a much greater degree than others. 

A blog I frequent named Cyber Brethren had a post about works.  http://cyberbrethren.com/2009/10/16/how-to-teach-and-preach-about-good-works/ The author of the blog is Pastor Paul McCain who is currently the publisher of Concordia Publishing House and a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor. Pastor McCain is probably the most active Chirstian blogger I read. I don’t see how he gets anything done except blogging 🙂 ! I took the liberty of editing the post and including it below. The original post has literally scores of bible verse references that were removed to help the words themselves come out clearly. Go to the blog to see the original post with all of its references.

Here is my edited and reformatted version of the post. (I don’t believe I changed, added, or deleted any of the original words):

According to the “Second Martin,” that is, Martin Chemnitz, here is how we are to go about preaching and teaching about good works:

“Luther used to present this doctrine in a fine way in three points:

1. good works should be done for the sake of God’s will, because to do them is his command and will

  • because He is our Father, that we show ourselves to be as obedient children toward Him,
  • that we be God’s disciples as he loves us and has forgiven us,
  • because Christ has given himself to us, in order that we not serve sin, but walk in the new life
  • in summary, that God be praised through our good works


2. we are to do good works for the sake of our neighbor that he thereby be helped and served in his need

  • that we give no one offense,
  • and the doctrine not be ridiculed
  • rather the mouth of the gainsayers be stopped and that others may be won through our good conduct


3. we are to do good works, for the sake of our own need, so that through them we may have a certain testimony that our faith is true, and that we are truly righteous and saved by faith

  • that we not perchance deceive ourselves with a false and dead faith
  • so that faith, the Holy Spirit, righteousness and salvation not again be lost, if we live according to the flesh
  • rather that faith be exercised and the calling made sure
  • also for this reason, because God threatens severe punishment temporally and eternally for sin against conscience and promises forgiveness of sins and blessedness, they do otherwise, however, really have rich and glorious reward in this and in the future life, not on account of the worthiness of the works, but rather on account of grace


I don’t know if all Lutherans agree with these words of Luther or not but they do help me in understanding what may be the true meaning of good works from Luther’s standpoint. But, as is the case with some Calvinists straying from the original words of their founder, I would imagine that some, but I hope not many, Lutherans today believe that these words go to far in the “works” direction.

I particularly like the third item in the list. You will do good works so that you know your faith it true. I might have used a different word than true but that one is strong enough to get the meaning across. Good works, whether they earn us salvation or not, are commanded by Jesus throughout the red letters in the Gospel text. Let us all try to do good works every day of our Christian lives.

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