"I am saved and I will always be saved no matter what I do."
"Once I am a child of God I will always be a child of God because God doesn’t cast out his children."
"I am one of the elect, I was predestined to be saved therefore I can't miss it no matter what!"
"All I have to do is receive from God, I don't have to do anything else."
Was There A War Over Justification Between James & Paul?
These are two verses that deal specifically with the same individual:
James 2:21-24~“21-Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22-Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23-And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24-Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”
Romans 4:1-3~“1-What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? 2-For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3-For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4-Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5-But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness”
First we should note that there was no war between Paul and James over this issue or any other for that matter. Both were dealing with the issue to two different audiences for two entirely different purposes. The critic asserts, that the message be the same no matter what the audience if it’s the truth?
Let’s begin by looking at what these scriptures have in common:
1- They both quote the Old Testament in relationship to the issue: Gen. 15:6~“And he believed the Lord; and he counted to him for righteousness.” James even takes it a little further quoting the last part of 2 Chron. 20:7 when Jehoshaphat called Abraham God’s “friend”.
2- Faith is presented as an essential part of salvation
3- Both scriptures deal with justification and what it means to be justified.
4- They were both written to strengthen the believers in their respective missionary endeavors.
1- James was writing to Jewish believers primarily prior to 45 AD.
2- Paul was writing primarily to Gentile believers in Rome prior to his visit during his 3rd missionary journey in 68 AD.
3- James was encouraging believers that works accompanied faith and that they were inseparable. The aim was at the personal walk, practical actions and personal works.
4- Paul was writing to his audience to build their defense against Judaizers who required newly converting Christians to accept Jewish “works of the Law” as a method to obtain righteousness.
5- James deals the resultant actions that accompany life changing faith
6- Paul deals with the circumstance of faith at the moment of salvation.
Justification~In Christian theology, justification is God's act of declaring or making a sinner righteous before God.
For the Gentile believer the message was clear that justification was by faith and they need not be entangled with anyone trying to convince them to exercise the “works of the law” in trying to obtain or solidify their salvation.
For the Jew having already believe in Jesus the message was clear that they were to continue in their good personal works and interactions towards one another. James had made known right before that the law (OT) was insufficient in and of itself because if one offended in one point one was guilty of all. (James 2:10)For James the resultant actions of faith were works whereby individuals were able to identify justification of life and of the spirit. Therefore the believers faith spoke through their actions and good works. For Paul the justification of God was instant and without assistance regardless of anyone’s ability to externally identify the work of God in the life of the believer at that moment. For both men good works in practical living were the accompaniment of such faith and justification. Paul specifically clears up any potential misunderstandings of his position regarding practical holiness and resultant work of sanctification in the life of the believer (see: Rom. 6:1-2) by saying that those who experienced the grace of salvation in Jesus could not live any longer in sin because we were now dead to sin.
Can Faith And Works Be Separated?
I will begin by saying that if faith can be separated from works (what one does because of what they believe) then salvation stands on one leg and that is the leg of either works or faith only. In the western world the idea of salvation through faith is a much more common notion because of the works of reformer Martin Luther. This notion of faith only salvation is termed Sola Fide(Latin: Faith Alone the only means in reference to justification) A scriptural text normally used to validate this doctrine is from the Pauline Epistle of Ephesians:
Ephes. 2:8-9~“8-For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: 9-Not of works, lest any man should boast”
The question is then, is what does the gospel teach about the relationship of faith and works?
Clarification Of Works From The “Works Of The Law”
One point that should be clarified right away is that when we see the word “works” in the scripture we often think of things that we can do such as being good, nice, lending a helping hand etc. These are moral interactions and duties that all people that have relationship with Christ or not perform. Their works are commendable and are worthy of noting. I have thoroughly addressed that issue in my previous post on "Works, Do They Have Any Value With God?".
However there is another understanding of works that is essential for every bible reader approaching this subject. That is understanding the difference between personal works and the “Works Of The Law” or of sacrifice to wash away sins. It is at this point that I believe that many individuals get confused. How? We know that the scripture has said that the “works of the law” have been made of noneffect. ie: There is no sacrifice such as those of bulls, goats, sheep, oxen etc. that can be rendered to save souls:
Heb. 10:3-5~“3-But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4-For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. 5-Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6-In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.”
John 19:30~“30-When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”
Heb. 9:11-14~“11-But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12-Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13-For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14-How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
Gal. 3:9-14~“9-So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. 10-For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11-But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. 12-And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. 13-Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: 14-That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
With all of that said, it is at this point that many individuals miss the further message. The area of personal actions or “works” are clear in the gospels as being not only a authenticator of salvation, but also something that runs hand in hand along with how one is saved both before God and man. The gospel is clear about such personal actions:
Mt. 5:16~“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
1- So that men could see.
2- So that the Father (God) would be ultimately glorified
Rom. 2:1-11~“1-Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. 2-But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. 3-And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4-Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5-But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6-Who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7-To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8-But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9-Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10-But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11-For there is no respect of persons with God”
1 John 3:3~“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”
Heb. 12:14~“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:”
Rev. 22: 11-14~“11-He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. 12- And behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. 13- I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 14- Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”
What is telling in all of these type of judgements, a faith position is not in question. Only the works or actions of an individuals are called into question and judged.
18-But if ye are led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19-Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20-Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21-Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22-But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23-Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24-And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."
Apostle Paul's writing to the Galations begins with an inclusio at verse 18 saying:
"But if ye are led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law"
Many theologians at this point claim that the "law" referenced is the "restraint" of the OT Law. Many assert that what is being declared is freedom from legalistic bondage of daily living. However the key is in what the chapter is talking about from the beginning. Paul begins Galations 5 talking about the "yoke of bondage". Scholars agree that this a reference to Judaism or the Levitical or ceremonial law for righteousness. It would therefore be inconsistent for Paul to switch to discuss a different aspect of the "law" at the end of chapter 5 without any notice.
With the understanding in mind that Paul is addressing the "works of the law" and Temple ceremonialism, the scripture comes to life explaining that if we are led of the Spirit we are not under the Levitical system any longer. The challenging part is the realization that he is actually saying that our deeds will keep us out of the Kingdom if we allow ourselves to live after the flesh. Nevertheless, Paul declares that what the Spirit produces within the life of the believer is evident and does not violate even the letter or intent of that law which is right relationship with God.
Treatment Of Matthew 25: 31- 46
In my previous post this was one of the most controversial and thought provoking verses:
Mt.25:31-46~ "31-When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32-And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33-And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34-Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35-For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36-Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37-Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38-When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39-Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40-And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41-Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42-For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43-I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44-Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45-Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46-And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."
This verse describes the Son Of Man (the messianic title of Jesus referencing Daniel 7:14) sitting upon the throne of his glory (actions of God) and the King (of hosts). This verse is a clear reference to God in the "Day Of Judgement". In this scenario we see both “goats” and “sheep” They were judged in relationship to actions (works) towards two groups of people
1- “the least of these my brethern”
2- “one of the least of these”
Although I am not convinced that this scripture was limited to the treatment of the apostles in their missionary work and endeavors or solely limited to how one treats Israel, I render what scholar and internet apologist J.P. Holding says about this particular verse and agree with the fact that the concept of judgement within scripture is based upon a vastly different paradigm than it is within Western society :
“Who are the "brethren"? The poor, the sick, as the soft in heart suggest? No
Matthew 12:48~But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
The poor, the sick, and so on is not a group in a one to one identity with those who do God's will. Who are those who do God's will? In the above, it is clearly the disciples of Jesus. Matthew 25:31-46 is all about judgment based on how one treated the disciples of Christ. The passage needs to be read in light of these earlier ones:
Matthew 10:14-15~And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.
Matthew 10:40-42~He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
A disciple traveling to and fro with the word in the ancient world is very likely to be in the condition of those described in 25:31-46 -- sick, poorly clothed, and as Jesus predicts, in prison.
"Well, then, what about the atheist who treats Christians nicely? So he gets to heaven, according to this, right?"
If this passage were taken in strict isolation, and meant to be taken that way, and written in the context of an individualist society like ours, one might have a case for that odd individual getting a golden ticket, but it's not so simple. The parable of the sheep and the goats draws upon a certain paradigm found within Judaism of Jesus' day [Keener, Matthew commentary, 603f], which held that the nations (cf. 25:32) would be judged based upon how they treated Israel (4 Ezra 7:37), and the related concept encouraging repressed minorities that God will judge the world based on their treatment of them. In holding this it was never assumed that this was the sole and exclusive basis for judgment. The specific matter of treatment of Israel was isolated to make a point of its importance in context (and here, the context is the end of the age of the law and the beginning of the age of the Messiah; see here -- when the Gospel message would be brought to the Gentile world as a whole).
Moreover, the identification of Jesus with the disciples draws us even closer to the "faith" position. One's response to the disciple is the same as one's response to Jesus, and in a collectivist society, one would not assist a member of a divergent party in the way described unless one accepted and agreed with their message. As Malina and Rohrbaugh note (Social-Science commentary, 151) this parable draws the classic ancient distinction between "ingroup" and "outgroup". There would be no such thing as a "friendly pagan or atheist" who would have sympathy for the Christian.” ~ Courtesy J.P. Holding Tekton Apologetic Ministries Eblock Vol. 1 No. 4 "Please Excuse This Interruption" Bart. D. Ehrman’s “Jesus Interrupted” Pre-Empted
“Works of the law” cannot justify one before God
Practical works are a natural outgrowth of saving faith and cannot truly be separated from saving faith.
Any faith that does not produce good works is unauthentic
Faith alone is specifically for the point of salvation but is ineffectual as a position in continued Christian living where there is no spiritual discipline.
Reward will be based on the works of the believer, not the faith of the believer.
The judgement of the wicked, which could include who some think are believers, will be based on their works, as what they express outwardly should be a natural outgrowth of their inward disposition.
I do not believe that faith and works can be separated. Although I don’t believe that anyone can do anything to save themselves as Jesus has done that on the cross for all those who receive it. I do believe that where there are no good works, either salvation has been lost or never received. I’m not talking about ebbs and flows within the life of the believer, I’m talking about living out the faith unto God every day in daily practice.
What do you think?