Theoretical Faith

Theoretical Faith

Luke 10:23-37 T Trinity 13




If something is theoretical, that means that thing is an area of subject and study,

but has no practical application.

The thing really exists in the mind, but not in the world.

For example, theoretical physics are series of mathematical equations that theoretically exist,

But actually, don’t have any practice or place in the real world. At least, not to our knowledge.


Theoretical faith cannot save you.

God isn’t some theory where if you believe in Him, POOF! You’re saved.

And there’s nothing to DO.

Theoretical faith acts like there’s no practicality to the faith in everyday life.

But that’s not true faith. That’s dead faith.

Because if faith isn’t practiced, it’s dead.

James 2:17 says, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”


Here, James isn’t proposing that we’re saved by our works.

Jesus, the apostles, and Paul taught that we’re saved by faith alone.

Rather, James is saying that theoretical faith can’t save you.

Faith can’t exist in the mind, but not in the actions of the body.

Faith must be practical to be faith.

In today’s Gospel lesson, the lawyer is an excellent example of what James teaches.


The lawyer questioned Jesus’ knowledge and what was in his mind.

He wanted to have sort of an intellectual sparing match with Jesus over the doctrine of salvation.


He asked, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus answered “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

By asking this question, Jesus engages the mind of the lawyer.

He’s asking, “what do you know?

You’re a lawyer, you know the Torah.

You should already know the question.”


The lawyer gave the response – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

His answer was correct!

After much study, he was able to find the correct answer to his question.

But is it enough to just know the correct answer to the question?


Jesus answered, “You have answered correctly; DO this and you will live.”

Jesus just identified the weakness of the Lawyer.

The lawyer knew God’s Law – extremely well.

But that’s all the Christian faith was to him –

an intellectual exercise, and little to nothing of practice.

Jesus thought that the schooling of this lawyer was enough –

Now it was time to put what he learned to practice.


The most learned of God’s Word and the most ignorant of God’s Word share this one weakness:

We’d rather faith be an intellectual exercise.

Just believe and be saved. Easy enough!

But no, there’s actually more to faith than knowing the right answers.

There’s love. There’s hope. There’s trust.

Thus, there’s action.


Faith without love is theoretical,

because faith is inherently practical, and must be exercised on others.

Hence, why Jesus spends so much time teaching us HOW to live the Christian life.

Because it doesn’t come natural to us.

He says – “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” and “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust destroys” and “give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” “Take, eat, this is my body” and “Take drink, this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins”

All these commands He gives out of love for the purpose of love –

for the world shall know we are His disciples by love.


Faith without hope is theoretical and useless,

because it doesn’t really trust God to care for the present, or the future,

and so, a faith without hope doesn’t really go to God as a source of refuge and strength in times of trouble and sorrow.

Faith without hope loses perspective of God’s eternal glory in the midst of their trials.

Thus, one is left with a faith without trust.


Don’t get me wrong – there’s a time for study.

Satan is prowling around looking to devour Christians.

Thus, it’s imperative to put on the whole armor of God –

Extinguishing the flaming darts of the evil one,

and combatting his attacks with the sword of the Spirit, that is the Word of God.


But then there’s a time when we’d rather study too much, with little to no action.

Martin Luther often wrote against monks – because they’d spend many hours a day in Scripture with no practicing of the faith.

And they imagined themselves to be more sanctified than the farmer on the other side of town.

But those monks were certainly an example of faith’s love only being exercised towards God, and not towards neighbor.


For the lawyer, true faith and love were vague, abstract, and theoretical concepts.

You can even see that when he asks the next question – “Who is my neighbor?”

Of course, the lawyer had a narrow view of his neighbor.

He wanted to probably pick and choose people groups and clans he got along with.

In this narrow view, he forms a sort of vague answer that includes some and not others.

And of course, when you make a vague answer, it’s hard to follow through with loving and serving your neighbor, right? Because you’re constantly questioning, is this my neighbor or not?


We do this all the time too.

You have probably heard the answer to the question “who is my neighbor?” the answer being, EVERYONE! EVERYONE IS MY NEIGHBOR!

But this answer is also abstract and vague.

You lose faces, names, and histories behind that word “neighbor”.

You literally can’t serve everyone you encounter and meet.

It’s just not possible and we don’t have that sort of energy.

We make the term “neighbor” into an abstraction, which actually prevents us from helping our neighbor.


Now, here’s a better way to answer that question:

Your neighbor is anyone that God puts in your way.

Your neighbor is someone near to you –

you can see their face, know their name, give them a hug.

Thus, anyone CAN BE your neighbor.

It certainly includes, but isn’t limited to, your co-workers, families and church folk.

Your neighbor is anyone you encounter in your daily life that needs help.

Even if that someone is laying half-dead in a road-side ditch – that’s your neighbor.

Or if God puts someone in your daily orbit that all of a sudden needs help – that’s your neighbor.


I remember when Rachel, our foreign exchange student Sara, and myself were driving to Ozark Memories Day.

We were driving on 333 towards Dover and at that spot where construction is happening,

Rachel said she thought she saw a car in the ditch, and we needed to turn around.

So, we did – thanks be to God the woman was okay,

But we drove to a place we had service and called an ambulance,

And gave her some of our water, and did what we could to help.


But this teaches us who our neighbor is.

Our neighbor is the person in front of us.

Regardless of race, belief, worldview, or if they’ve harmed us in some way –

God commands us to love those he puts in our path.

So, be attentive to the needs of those around you,

And be quick to act.


For Jesus Himself shows the love we’re to have.

He doesn’t discriminate those he loves based on race, social status, or whether or not they can pay Him back.

He loves recklessly, shows mercy without concern of Himself, and calls sinners to do the same.


Jesus gives the Good Samaritan parable to bring this lawyer’s faith away from theory and into the realm of practice.

But this is also such a beautiful picture of God’s salvation for us.

Because we fall short of God’s glory.

We often fail to “DO LIKEWISE” to our neighbors, as Jesus commands the lawyer.

Our service and love towards our neighbors all too often reside in the realm of theory and not practice.

This leaves US on the roadside dead in the ditch, due to our trespasses and sins.


Yet out of His mercy, Jesus comes to revive us back to life.

Seeing us dead in our trespasses and sins, he kneels by the road to bandage our wounds.

He puts us on the back of his donkey to bring us to the inn, that is, the church.

There, he leaves a blank check to the innkeeper and says – whatever you need to do to make him better, do it.

And so, by the gifts of Word and Sacrament here in church, we’re nursed back to health.

The medicine he uses? His body and blood sacrificed on the cross to win life for all from the grasp of death. The same body and blood now freely given out of love and mercy to you – the ones dead on the roadside – that you may be brought back to health.

Our wounds inflicted by a sinful world and sinful life will slowly overtime heal.

And God will once again make us His creatures,

That DO His Holy Will.



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