yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified (Galatians 2:16).
We are justified through faith in Christ, not through our own efforts. We shouldn’t let anyone confuse us by saying that faith justifies people only when love and good works are added to it. If people hear that they must believe in Christ and that faith alone doesn’t justify unless love is added to it, they immediately fall from faith and think, “If faith without love doesn’t justify, then faith is empty and useless. Love alone justifies. For if faith is not formed and enhanced by love, then it’s nothing.”
In order to prove their damaging comments, my opponents point to 1 Corinthians 13:1–2: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, . . . I am nothing.” They think these verses are an impenetrable wall. But they don’t understand Paul’s teachings. We should avoid these comments as if they were poison from hell. Instead, we should conclude with Paul that we are justified by faith alone, not through faith formed by love. So we shouldn’t attribute the power of justification to something formed in us that makes us pleasing to God. We must attribute it to faith, which takes hold of Christ the Savior and keeps him in our hearts. This faith justifies us apart from love and prior to love.
We concede that we must also teach about good works and love. But we only teach these at the proper time and place—when the question deals with how we should live, not how we are justified. The question here is this: How do we become justified and receive eternal life? We answer with Paul that we are pronounced righteous through faith in Christ alone, not by our own efforts.
Adapted from Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional by Martin Luther