AT THIS point in our study of Luther's theology we shall not A consider all aspects of faith. Before we can discuss the content of faith and the extent to which salvation depends on it, we must first consider God's word and its two forms of law and gospel. The meaning of faith in Jesus Christ can become clear only within the context of the doctrines of justification and of the person and work of Christ. At this point we are concerned with the essential structure of faith, that is, with its relationship to the word of God, with its personal character, and with its relationship to experience and to reason.
We cannot discuss Luther's understanding of faith without referring to God's word. Each is closely connected with the other. We cannot therefore discuss Luther's understanding of the word of God without referring to faith. For it is the nature of God's word both to call us to faith and to work faith in us. Faith however is characterized by its orientation to the word. God's word and faith are interrelated because of their very nature.
Luther's concept of faith has nothing in common with any attempt to create strength and courage within ourselves by our own efforts, such as “positive thinking,” nor is it related to a psychological condition of confidence which can exist without an object of trust and apart from a personal relationship. Faith exists only as a response to God's word. The word alone gives it its basis and content. This word is the word of “promise,” that is, of the gospel. God's law is written in the hearts of all men. Everyone knows at least something about it before it is proclaimed to him. The law is therefore not the object of faith, at least not in the same sense