Thanksgiving Day dawns tomorrow. For me, and no doubt for you, the recollections of God’s blessings have been warming our hearts and filling our heads so far this week. The most powerful of those recollections is our Savior’s wondrous love displayed in his hell-deep Good Friday wounds and his heaven-pledging Easter resurrection.
In the paragraphs below, C. F. W. Walther (October 25, 1811 – May 7, 1887), one of the best Lutheran theologians in American history, reflects on the reason we Christians live out our thankfulness to God, not only on Thanksgiving Day but day after day. His conclusion: Faith in Jesus naturally compels Christians to thankfully live out God’s love.
[Luther] taught that good works do not save a person, but only faith, without good works… He did not say that, to be saved, a person must have faith and, in addition to that, good works or love.
[Luther taught] that those who would be saved must have a faith that produces love spontaneously and is fruitful in good works.
That does not mean that faith saves on account of the love which springs from it. Rather the faith which the Holy Spirit creates–faith which cannot but do good works– justifies because it clings to the gracious promises of Christ and because it lays hold of Christ.
This faith is active in good works because it is genuine faith.
The believer need not at all be exhorted to do good works; his faith does them automatically. The believer engages in good works, not from a sense of duty, in return for the forgiveness of his sins, but chiefly because he cannot help doing them.
It is altogether impossible that genuine faith should not break forth from the believer’s heart in works of love.