Known for his uncompromising views on church discipline and the assertion of obedience as a mark of the church, Lutheran theologian Tilemann Hesshus (1527-1588) was often embroiled in controversies and was asked to leave numerous cities during the course of his pastoral career. In his interpretation of Romans 14:23, he follows Augustine and many of his contemporaries in arguing that good works cannot be found apart from faith, and he goes so far as to state that all things done outside faith are sinful before God.
But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
Commentary on Romans 14:23
Paul teaches that no good works precede justification and that good works are not necessary in saving us. For before faith shines in the heart, all things that exist and take place in a human being are sin, but when faith shines, a human being has already been justified before God. Therefore, since everything that is not of faith is sin, it is necessary that all human works of whatsoever sort that precede faith as well as justification are pure sins before God. For faith is the cause and root of good works. Thus Augustine says: “Good works do not precede the one who is to be justified but rather follow the one already justified.”
Romans 9–16, eds. Philip D. W. Krey and Peter D.S. Krey, Reformation Commentary on Scripture, NT Vol. VIII, 203.
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