Only God Can Heal

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“‘If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!’  (Matthew 7:7-11)…

“For this reason have we who are evil a good Father, so that we may not always continue evil.  No evil person can make another person good.  If no evil person can make another good, how can an evil person make himself good?  Only our Father, who is good eternally, can make of an evil person a good person.

“‘Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
save me, and I shall be saved.’  (Jeremiah 17:14).”

— St. Augustine,
Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament, 11.2,
as quoted in A Year with the Church Fathers, CPH 2011, page 313.

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St. Augustine: Believing Is a Gift

Faith, like life itself, is a pure gift.  When a dead man is raised, he lives.  When a blind man is given sight, he sees.  Life and truth are not things that we earn, they are pure gifts that we can only receive.

St. Augustine wrote in his “Sermons on Selected New Testament Lessons” (81.2-3):

In order to teach us that this very believing is matter of gift, not of desert [deserving], He says,… “No man comes unto Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw him.”  [John 6:44].  He did not lead, but draw.  This violence is done to the heart, not the body.  Why then do you marvel?  Believe, and you come; love, and you are drawn.  Do not suppose here any rough and uneasy violence; it is gentle, it is sweet; it is the very sweetness that draws you.  Is not a sheep drawn, when fresh grass is shown to it in its hunger?  Yet I imagine that it is not bodily driven on, but fast bound by desire.  In such wise do you come too to Christ …

But wonderful it is, that when Christ Crucified is preached, two hear, one despises, the other ascends.  Let him that despises, impute it to himself; let not him that ascends, arrogate it to himself.  For he has heard from the True Master; “No man comes unto Me, except it were given unto him of My Father.”  [John 6:65].  Let him joy, that it has been given; let him render thanks to Him who gives it, with a humble, not an arrogant heart; lest what he has attained through humility, he lose through pride.  For even they who are already walking in this way of righteousness, if they attribute it to themselves, and to their own strength, perish out of it.

—St. Augustine, translation by R.G. MacMullen.
(Emphasis added).

There are Lutheran pastors who teach that Christians (after conversion) can choose to believe God’s word.  This post-conversion decision theology is the foundation of their ministry and methods.  Every practice that “works” is designed to entice and motivate a choice to believe.

However, it is Christ who gives faith, and it is Christ alone to whom we should look to receive faith.  (John 6:29, Luke 17:5).  When faith wavers, should we look to our own reason or strength?  Or should we look to Christ alone?  Paul wrote to already believing Christians: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this [faith & grace] is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9).

St. Augustine Quote – Imputed Righteousness

“Now if any man had it in his power confidently to declare, “I justify you,” it would necessarily follow that he could also say, “Believe in me.”  But it has never been in the power of any of the saints of God to say this except the Saint of saints, who said: “You believe in God, believe also in me;” (John 14:1) so that, inasmuch as it is He that justifies the ungodly, to the man who believes in him that justifies the ungodly his faith is imputed for righteousness.”

— St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.),
On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants,
Book I, Chapter 18.

St. Augustine Quote – Justification

“The righteousness of the law is proposed in these terms—that whosoever shall do it shall live in it; and the purpose is, that when each has discovered his own weakness, he may not by his own strength, nor by the letter of the law (which cannot be done), but by faith, conciliating the Justifier, attain, and do, and live in it.  For the work in which he who does it shall live, is not done except by one who is justified.  His justification, however, is obtained by faith;”

— St. Augustine; On the Spirit and the Letter, Chapter 51.

St. Augustine Quote – Justification

“But the statement that ‘the doers of the law shall be justified’ (Romans 2:13) must be so understood, as that we may know that they are not otherwise doers of the law, unless they be justified, so that justification does not subsequently accrue to them as doers of the law, but justification precedes them as doers of the law.”

— St. Augustine; On the Spirit and the Letter, Chapter 45.