“AND THOUGH I HAD ALL FAITH”
Werner Elert begins the paragraphs dealing with “love of the neighbor, of the enemy, and of the brethren” in The Christian Ethos1 by referring to the problem which Paul's statement in I Corinthians 13:2 appears to create for the evangelical doctrine of justification and renewal through faith alone. He therewith takes up a problem which Luther repeatedly discussed. Roman Catholic polemicists had often quoted this passage against Luther and the Lutherans in general in order to prove that “faith alone” is contrary to Scripture.2
At first glance, Paul's statement seems to create several difficulties for Luther. (1) The Reformer had repeatedly emphasized the entirely natural necessity which causes love to be born out of faith. Faith and love belong inseparably together. There is no true faith which does not immediately become “active through love”; and there is no true love which does not spring from faith. Faith makes us righteous and pure. How can faith then exist without love? “Wherever there is true faith, the Holy Spirit is also present. And where the Holy Spirit is present, love and everything else must be there. How can he then speak as though someone might have faith without love?”3 It is then “surprising” that Paul here speaks of a faith which is able to move mountains, and yet is without love. (2) If faith can exist without love and if the apostle explicitly states that anyone who has no love is “nothing,” then it is obvious that faith does not justify itself alone. And it was in this sense that Roman Catholic theology asserted I Corinthians 13 as an argument against Luther's doctrine of justification. “Here the Papists say that faith alone does not justify but that
1Werner Elert, The Christian Ethos, trans. Carl Schindler (Philadelphia:
Muhlenberg Press. 1957), p. 269.
2 Cf. Calvin's interpretation of this passage in Commentary on the Epistle of
Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, trans. John Pringle (Grand Rapids: Eerd-
man, 1948), I, 419 f. and Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T.
McNeill and trans. Ford L. Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), I,
553 f. Also the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, BC, 127, 218.
3WA 17II, 164