August 7, 2019

Faith vs Works, a Christian tug of War!

One of the lingering questions among Christians is the struggle between being saved by faith alone verses the necessity of doing good works for your salvation.

The Apostle Paul was very emphatic that a person is saved by faith. He writes about salvation by grace through faith in several places. From Ephesus, around 60 AD, Paul wrote Ephesians a letter meant to be circulated throughout the early church. In the second Chapter he wrote, "For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God's gift - not from works, so that no one can boast." (Eph 2:8-9 HCSB) This is a repeat of Paul's earlier statements in his letter to the Romans written in 57 AD. The dates are important because they are among the earliest writings of the New Testament. The Jewish Paul was converted to this new understanding of the relationship with God on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus when he was confronted by the risen Jesus. This experience is normally dated to AD 33-36. Since his birth is estimated to have been in 5 AD, he would have been around the age of 28-31. These dates are also important as they indicate Paul was able to talk with many of the men and women who knew Jesus when he walked the hills and valleys of Israel and Judah. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the influence of Jesus contemporaries Paul developed his understanding of what it meant to be a believer of Jesus Christ. So his statements bare the ring of authority. His understanding was that a person could not work his or her way into God's good graces and thus have eternal life with the Father. But God was willing to grant sufficient grace to those who believed the sacrifice of Jesus erased all barriers to the Godly relationship.

Salvation through works has it's authorities as well. Jesus told a parable in Matthew that strikes home. "Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." ( Matt 7:24 NIV) The italics are mine, they are not in the scriptures. I wanted to emphasize the point. I believe Jesus is saying, "If you build your spiritual life  on anything other than putting His words into action, your spiritual house will fall apart when bad time happen."

Jesus also told a parable of the final judgement. This parable is found in Matthew 25:31-46. The parable concerns the standard the King (Jesus) will use to judge between the righteous and the unrighteous. I encourage you to read the entire passage. The first is verse 40, where he replies to the righteous, "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me'" Addressing the unrighteous, the King says in verse 45, "He will reply, 'Truly,  tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'" (NIV) Italics are mine.

Perhaps the most often quoted passage relative to the faith-works issue come in the book of James. James was the leader of the new church in Jerusalem. In fact ,Paul calls him one of three Pillars of the Church. Whether James was the biological brother of Jesus is a matter of modern debate. Regardless of his linage, it is clear from the scriptures, he was instrumental in the building of the Jerusalem church and forming codes of behavior for the new church. His book, written in 45 AD, is thought to be the earliest book written. He was martyred in 62 AD.

James writes (in selected verses), "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can faith save them?(vs 14) ...In the same way, faith by itself, it not accompanied by action, is dead. (vs 17) ...You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. (vs 24) ...As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (vs 26) (all versus from the NIV) Please read the entire passage James 2:14-26, to see what I left out.

James explains himself in verses 15-17. "Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed.', but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?' In he same way, faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead."" While it is not recorded in scriptures, I suspect James would have added, "Good works without faith is also dead in terms of pleasing God."

So we have this tug of war, One says "I am saved by my faith" while the other says, "If you have no works your faith is worthless (my word)." Truth where are you? Are you at either extreme or are you somewhere in the middle?

As for me, I will have faith and I will also also have good works! May God Bless you on your journey of Faith and Good Works.


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