Article VI: Of New Obedience

Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God's will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. For remission of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also the voice of Christ attests: When ye shall have done all these things, say: We are unprofitable servants. Luke 17:10. The same is also taught by the Fathers. For Ambrose says: It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving remission of sins, without works, by faith alone.

This is not a chicken or egg issue.  Good works ALWAYS proceed faith.  Oftentimes this gets confusing and blurry.  Too often we have heard that, to be a Christian, we have to _______________ (fill in the blank).  And the blank can be anything from "join a church" to "make a decision for Jesus" to "prove that you're a good person".  The pietistic preaching of moralism in many a church leads to grave despair rather than comfort from the Gospel

But good works PROCEED faith and not the other way around.  The only good work necessary for our salvation is Christ's good work of dying on the cross for our forgiveness.

Some might insist that "you have to believe" or "you have to have faith".  While this is very true, faith is not a work unless it's turned into a work by false teaching.  Faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8) given by God, a catylast, if you will, which brings us close to God, justifies us, and opens the way to eternal life.  Faith is not original in us (doesn't start in us) for we are "by nature" hostile to God, faithless, enemies, etc. as St. Paul proclaims.  But faith is born in us when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the powerful Word of God cleanses our consciences and opens our eyes to see the truth of salvaton given to us in Christ.

Faith is truly the instrument which imputes Christ's objective justification (dying for the sin of the world) to the dead and blind sinner, making him alive, free, and destined for life eternal.  No 'decision' or 'work' or free-will of man is necessary (for these things always hinder the Word), but only the eternal promises given in the Word by the Holy Spirit (through baptism, preaching, and the Eucharist).  And because of this, our works are good and God works good through our works.