Created for What? (Bucer)

In 1523, Reformer Martin Bucer wrote a treatise called “How to Live for Others and Not for Oneself.”  I liked the title of the treatise so much I had to read it!  It’s a good read; I’ve put a helpful excerpt below:

…I will use a clear text from St. Paul to show that people with true faith have become altogether different from what they were – new creatures in Christ, who can no longer live selfishly but are compelled to live for the benefit of others and the glory of God: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Eph 2:8–10).

See how clear it is that, if we believe, we are saved through faith, that is, we have everything that is necessary, not from ourselves and our good deeds but as a free gift from God? We are thus a work of God, created through Jesus Christ for doing good deeds, not however for ourselves but in the way God prepared them to become our way of life. These works are without question those which God everywhere commands, namely, deeds by which we serve our neighbors. God demands no other works from us, and Christ has taught us no others, alluding therefore frequently to the prophet Hosea, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Hos 6:6), and declaring that he will judge us accordingly.

If believers are a work of God created for deeds of that kind, they cannot ignore such deeds and pursue solely their own advantage. What God has created through Christ Jesus must be good and right and accomplish the purpose for which it is created, just as all other works and creatures of God attend to that for which they were created: birds to flying, fish to swimming, and humans to speaking. No creature or work of God can disregard that for which it was created unless prevented by an accident. Likewise, no true Christians and believers can live without doing good works unselfishly for all people according to their disposition.

Martin Bucer, How to Live for Others and Not for Oneself in Early Protestant Spirituality, ed. Scott H. Hendrix and Bernard McGinn, trans. Scott H. Hendrix, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2009), 149–150.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

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