Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Not By Faith, Nor By Works . . .

Most of us know the line, "Faith without works is dead." James 2 says it rather bluntly. James even goes so far as to call one who believes in faith apart from works a "foolish person." He then says it was Abraham's works that justified him when he offered Isaac on the altar.
So there's an example of works justifying a person, but note it does not say works alone. "You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works..."
See, it's not faith alone, but certainly not works alone either. Faith is completed by works, by the heart of servitude, but a heart of servitude is nothing of itself. Faith; it says even the demons believe—and shudder. Faith in itself is without merit, lest we respect the demons for their belief that Christ is the Son of God.

Romans 3 seems to have another perspective on this; if we preach, if we do works in the name of God, it's nothing.
"For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin."
If we are a good person, living by the Law (Torah) of the Bible, it does no good. Therefore, Paul says, no human being will be justified by his works.
It seems to contradict, but they fit together in a puzzle of logic that, after it's realized, is quite plain. It goes back to several things Jesus spoke of, which i will reference in a moment.
Faith justifies, not works of the Law, Paul says.
Works justify, not faith alone, James says.
The contradiction melts when you see that Paul and James both amount to faith requiring a resolution. To bring one's faith to fruition, we become inclined to follow the Law of God. And in order to follow the Law, we are to love others as ourselves. This singular commandment is manifested by doing what we to align others to our own level, or else lower ourselves to theirs. This commandment, this Law, is fulfilled when we have works, not just when we say to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body.

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’"

There are the words of Jesus from Matthew 7:21-23
He makes it very clear in this that "workers of lawlessness" will be cast out. Not everyone who says to Him "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of Heaven. Not by faith, but by works.
However, many who have cast out demons and done works will also be cast out. Not by works.
The culmination here is the very seeming contradiction between Paul and James; faith is justified by works, and works justified by faith. Works alone are futile, likewise faith alone is futile.

I think most anyone reading this would know the story of the "Rich young ruler," but i'll post it anyways.
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
This is interesting to me because it emphasizes that which was said in Matthew 7; a man came to Christ and wanted to inherit eternal life. He called Jesus "Good," which was a no-no, because only God is Good. This implies he has faith.
Jesus then set out a list of commandments and said to follow them. He had since youth. This implies he has works.
He should be good. But no. One more thing is necessary. Show a work of faith. He has faith, and he has works, but he has them apart from one another. Now Jesus is calling him to have works entwined with his faith. And that's where he falters. He is not able to do works out of faith.
And he leaves very sad, because he was extremely rich.

By no works can a man enter Heaven, nor by faith alone. It's impossible for man to enter Heaven by earthly means. However, what is impossible with man, Jesus says, is possible with God. Only with God can we be saved. Do not rest on your faith, nor on your works, but let your faith change your heart and resolve it in works--and know it's not by your doing that you're saved, but by the grace of God.

No comments:

Post a Comment