November 26, 2020

Christ’s Good Works and Mine

By Chaplain Mike

The Advent and Christmas season is traditionally a time for participating in good works and giving to those around us. For your contemplation today, here is a passage from one of Martin Luther’s Advent sermons on the subject. I find his words wonderfully down-to-earth and clear. In summary, Luther teaches:

  • To God, we are called to give faith alone as our only “work”. We trust in Christ’s works, which are sufficient. No “religious” works will avail to make us righteous in his sight. God does not call those who are rich in good works, but those who recognize their poverty.
  • In Christ, we are called to live a life of good works toward our neighbors. The life of the Christian should be devoted to loving the needy around us, not practicing “religious” works. Some, calling us to “serve God only,” direct us to “churchianity.” In Luther’s day, his attack against this was directed toward Roman Catholic leaders. Today, there are many requiring the same. However, the good works God requires are not “extraordinary” works of religion, but simple “wordly” acts of goodness for the benefit of our neighbors.

From “Sermon for the Third Sunday in Advent” (Matt 11:2-10)
A sermon by Martin Luther from his Church Postil, 1520’s

…Faith receives the good works of Christ, love bestows good works on our neighbor.

…Christ teaches us rightly to apply the works and shows us what good works are. All other work, except faith, we should apply to our neighbor. For God demands of us no other work that we should do for him than to exercise faith in Christ. With that he is satisfied, and with that we give honor to him, as to one who is merciful, long-suffering, wise, kind, truthful and the like. After this think of nothing else than to do to your neighbor as Christ has done to you, and let all your works together with all your life be applied to your neighbor. Look for the poor, sick and all kinds of needy, help them and let your life’s energy here appear, so that they may enjoy your kindness, helping whoever needs you, as much as you possibly can with your life, property and honor. Whoever points you to other good works than these, avoid him as a wolf and as Satan, because he wants to put a stumbling block in your way, as David says, “In the way wherein I walk have they hidden a snare for me,” Ps. 142, 3.

But this is done by the perverted, misguided people of the Papists, who with their religious ceremonies set aside such Christian works, and teach the people to serve God only and not also mankind. They establish convents, masses, vigils, become religious, do this and that. And these poor, blind people call that serving God, which they have chosen themselves. But know that to serve God is nothing else than to serve your neighbor and do good to him in love, be it a child, wife, servant, enemy, friend; without making any difference, whoever needs your help in body or soul, and wherever you can help in temporal or spiritual matters. This is serving God and doing good works. 0, Lord God, how do we fools live in this world, neglecting to do such works, though in all parts of the world we find the needy, on whom we could bestow our good works; but no one looks after them nor cares for them. But look to your own life. If you do not find yourself among the needy and the poor, where the Gospel shows us Christ, then you may know that your faith is not right, and that you have not yet tasted of Christ’s benevolence and work for you.

You can read the entire sermon HERE.


  1. Tomorrow is a new day. I read this and prayed for more opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ to those whose paths I cross and that I won’t fail as I did today. Thank you Chaplain Mike.

  2. Yes, it is true that we will do good works for the benefit of the neighbor (to a greater or lesser degree), but what is even better, is that we have a Savior who knows how much, and how often we are in rebellion to God’s will. And that He loves us and forgives us, anyway.

    That’s the gospel.

  3. Salsapinkkat says

    Thanks for this post- a timely reminder as to where our focus should be- thankfulness for His grace, leading to an overflowing of it from our lives into those around us… Having just finished Shane Claibornes Irrisistible Revolution I’m challenged again to look at the need around me & give what I can- it’s so tempting to ‘stay comfortable in Gods grace’- but when we’re comfortable, we’ve often left his grace long behind!

  4. Nice read, though I’m more of a Faith through works of love kind of guy. In the end though I believe both points of view end up incorporating the same things, its just where we put the emphasis from a theoligical perspective…