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Martin Luther's Definition of Faith:

An excerpt from

"An Introduction to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans,"

Luther's German Bible of 1522

by Martin Luther, 1483-1546

Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith


Johann K. Irmischer, ed. Vol. 63

(Erlangen: Heyder and Zimmer, 1854), pp.124-125. [EA 63:124-125]

August 1994

Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream

is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by

good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they

speak and hear much about faith. ``Faith is not enough,'' they

say, ``You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.''

They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working,

creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, ``I

believe.'' That is what they think true faith is. But, because

this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything

from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn't come from this

`faith,' either.

Instead, faith is God's work in us, that changes us and gives

new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us

completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits,

our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with

it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this

faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn't

stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone

asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without

ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an

unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good

works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are.

Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many


Faith is a living, bold trust in God's grace, so certain of

God's favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it.

Such confidence and knowledge of God's grace makes you happy,

joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The

Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you

freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve

everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who

has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to

separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from

fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard

against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they're smart enough

to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools.

Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without

faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.