How to Understand the Bible’s Teaching about Good Works
“Luther used to present this doctrine in a fine way in three points:
First, good works should be done for the sake of God’s will, because to do them is his command and will (John 15); because He is our Father, that we show ourselves to be as obedient children toward Him, 1 Pet. 1; 1 Jn 3, that we be God’s disciples, Eph. 5; 1 Pet. 2; 1 Jn 2, as he loves us and has forgiven us, Col. 3; 1 John 4, because Christ has given himself to us, in order that we not serve sin, but walk in the new life, Rom. 6; Titus 2; 1 Peter 1 and 2; Eph. 2; 2 Cor. 5, and in summary, that God be praised through our good works, Mat. 5; PHil. 1, 1 Pet.
Second, we are to do good works for the sake of our neighbor that he thereby be helped and served in his need, 1 John 3, that we give no one offense, 2 Cor. 6; Phil. 2, and the doctrine not be ridiculed, 1 Tim. 6; Titus 2, rather the mouth of the gainsayers be stopped, 1 Pet. 2 and 3, Titus 2, and that others may be won through our good conduct, Mat. 5; 1 Peter 3.
Third, 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, 1 John 4; 2 Pet. 1; Gal. 5; Phil. 1;, that we not perchance deceive ourselves with a false and dead faith, 1 John 2 and 3; 1 Tim. 5; 2 Pet. 1; Js. 2, so that faith, the Holy Spirit, righteousness and salvation not again be lost, if we live according to the flesh, 1 Tim. 1; ;5 and 6; 1 Pet. 2; 2 Pet. 1 and 2; Rom. 8; Col. 3; Eph. 4; 1 Thess. 4, rather that faith be exercised and the calling made sure, Gal. 5; 2 Pet. 1, 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, 1 Tim. 4; Galat. 6; Ephes. 6; 2 Tim. 4, Mat. 5; 6; 10; 25; Mark 10; Luke 14, etc.”
The Church Order of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel
by Martin Chemnitz
Printed in Wolfenbüttel by Conrad Horn, 1569
Translated by M. Harrison and A. Smith, 2006