Full Text for Dogmatics 3- Volume 50 - Faith and Works and Jesus as Example (Video)

No. 50 How does a proper understanding of the distinction and relationship between faith and works shape our view of Jesus Christ? Is this insight helpful for reading the Gospels? For example, I have noticed that many people today see Jesus in the Gospels primarily as an example of love. And there is some truth to that, but is it enough to speak of Jesus in this way? How should we see Christ in Scripture? What would Luther say? >>DR. LEOPALDO SANCHEZ M.: Good question, Nick. It is important to remember that for Luther, all Scripture tends towards Christ, all Scripture points to him. So Christ is the central theme and content of the Scriptures. But which Christ does the Scripture and specifically the gospels present to us? Luther was convinced that during his times, the image of Christ as an example of love as a sort of new Moses who gives laws on how to live and please God was the predominant view of Christ in peoples' minds. To address this imbalance, Luther began to speak more forcefully of grasping Christ in the Scriptures at a higher level. Namely, as God's gift of salvation. In his treatise "What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels" Luther speaks of reading the gospels in such a way that we the hearers of the story might share in Christ's life in terms both of receiving Christ as gift and of following Christ as example. For Luther Christ as gift amounts to grasping Christ's benefits by faith. He writes: See, when you lay hold of Christ as a gift, which is given you for your very own, have no doubt about it, you are a Christian. Faith redeems you from sin, death and hell and enables you to overcome all things. Therefore, make note of this, that Christ as a gift nourishes your faith and makes you a Christian. But then Luther also calls Christians to follow Christ as an example by doing good works which flow from faith. Here good works follow faith. On Christ as an example Luther writes the following: Now, when you have Christ as the foundation and chief blessing of your salvation, then the other part follows. That you take him as your example, giving yourself in service to your neighbor just as you see that Christ has given himself for you. Christ as an example exercises your works. This does not make you a Christian. Actually they come forth from you because you have already been made a Christian. Luther's treatise is helpful to guide us in our reading of the gospels in such a way that we might find in them Christ as our Savior and teacher. The treatise is also helpful to see how faith and works relate to each other in the life of the Christian. Just as we speak of sanctification as the result of justification, so we also speak of good works as a result of faith. Finally, Luther helps us to see the Christ center, the christological character of faith and good works. In other words, faith is all about receiving Christ and his benefits. And good works is all about imitating Christ's love for the needy. Although Christ as example sure displays Christ as gift in Luther's day, the reformer did not displace Christ as example all together but place him in his proper place. In fact, Luther can actually be quite strong on calling Christians to be an imitation of Christ. He puts it this way at one point in the treatise: As Saint Peter says in I Peter, Christ suffered for us thereby leaving us an example. Thus when you see how he prays, fasts, helps people and shows them love, so also you should do both for yourself and for your neighbor.