Not by Faith Alone

20 Jun

faith and worksAll Christians affirm that no one can be saved by his or her own efforts. We are saved by the free, undeserved grace of God. Amen to that!

Where some Christians differ is regarding the role of human cooperation in our salvation, as some communities stress God’s primary activity in the work of salvation without adequately accounting for our responsibility to respond to the gift of grace. The truth is that God does not save us against our will, nor does He expect us, once justified through faith and Baptism, to sit back and not allow our faith to transform all that we are and all that we do.

Following, then, are but a sampling of New Testament passages affirming the truth that we will be judged not merely on our faith alone, but on a faith that manifests itself in charitable, upright deeds.

“The Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.” –Matthew 16:27

“Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” –Matthew 25:44-46

“For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.” –Romans 2:6-8

“He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor.” –1 Corinthians 3:8

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.” –2 Corinthians 5:10

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” –Galatians 5:6

“What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?” –James 2:14

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.” –Revelation 22:12

And then there’s 2 Timothy 3:16, which is often cited to affirm the special place of Scripture in the life of the Christian. Yet, the following verse (v. 17) affirms that the purpose of Scripture is so that we may be “equipped for every good work.”

One Response to “Not by Faith Alone”

  1. rwarnell June 20, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    Some recent biblical scholars (N.T. Wright for one) are saying (and pardon me for oversimplifying this) that the term “faith” is more properly translated as “faithfulness”, first and foremost Jesus’ faithfulness to the mission of the Father, and our faithfulness in following Jesus in our continuation of his mission of reconciliation. The term “faith” all too often carries with it connotations of intellectual assent to a set of propositions.

    There are also two kinds of “works” mentioned in scripture – works of Charity, Justice, and Mercy which are the logical result of “faithfulness”, and works of the Law, i.e., religiosity and pious practices.

    Wright also maintains that our salvation is not only being saved FROM something (with which most of us are familiar), but that we are also being saved FOR something, i.e., that we be the means by which God’s Kingdom comes and His will is done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

    I would highly recommend Wright’s book “How God Became King” for a very good treatment of these themes. One thing Wright is insistent on is that the Cross is an integral part of how God’s reign is established – not just as an historical event, but a very real and necessary happening in the the lives of those of us who are engaged in that mission.

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