In a recent blog by our sister kreynolds, [link="A Living Faith"] , she says Faith versus works and works versus faith seems to be an endless, ongoing debate amongst Christians and yet I can't help but wonder why. Doesn't James make it quite clear that faith and works go hand in hand? So why do we quibble about it? If we say we have faith and yet that faith is not manifested through our actions towards others, the Word of God tells us that the faith we vigorously claim to have is dead. The same question plagues me daily. What is worse, whenever I say that works are a necessary part of our Christian lives and that faith without works is dead, I am invariably accused of preaching salvation by works. For those who know me and have read some of my posts, this is the farthest thing from the truth. Declaration or belief that one is saved means that the old man is dead and we have been resurrected into a new life and this new life is witnessed to by a regenerate mind that results in works. I am going out on a limb here but I will also say that in other words, one can believe and declare that one is saved from now till we see our Lord face to face, but unless that declaration is borne out in fact in a new life, a new way of thinking, new priorities, and a new and abiding love for God, His church, His children, and His creation ... changes that invariable become manifest in fruits and works ... we can declare till our faces are blue, that declaration will always remain suspect! This is one of the reasons why Scripture declares that many will cry out "Lord! Lord!" and He will say "Depart from Me, I do not know you." Am I being harsh or self-righteous and judgmental? God forbid! I say what I say because Scripture declares it and because I love our brothers and sisters too much to stay silent. Read and judge for yourself ... “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ -- Matthew 7:17-23 There are clearly 3 parts to understanding this Scripture. The first is from verses 15 to 20. There is very little room for misinterpretation here. Jesus was warning against false prophets who look like sheep but are really ravenous wolves. He then goes on to say unequivocally, that the way we identify them is to look at their fruits ... the outward manifestations of their lives ... WHAT THEY DO (verses 17-18). In other words, while our salvation is not by works, the authenticity of our declaration of belief and by extension, the authenticity of our salvation, is attested to by the genuine out-flowing of a changed life. It is not by what we choose to declare or even what we think we believe but by the evidence of the works that such a life produces. More significantly, Jesus declares "Every tree that does not bear good fruit" will be cut down and thrown into the fire! Hold on a minute, does Scripture not tell us that we are saved once we accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour? My answer is simple, YES IT DOES but do not be fooled ... you cannot mock God, He sees into our hearts and knows our innermost thoughts ... a true acceptance of Christ as Lord and Saviour comes out of a contrite heart and a true desire to repent ... a true acceptance of Jesus as Lord means a surrender of ourselves to Him. A true acceptance WILL result in regeneration and that regeneration WILL produce the "Fruits of the Spirit" and these WILL always result in good works. Paul echoes warning about false prophets and teachers in Romans 16:17-18 and tells us "For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people." Today, we are told a sweet story ... "Accept the Lord and you are saved, don't worry about what happens afterwards, you do not have to strive for righteousness and purity, you do not have to give up anything of what you have and were before, you do not have to give of your resources, time, and energy to do good works ... salvation is by grace alone not works!" Scripture calls this a tickling of the ears (2 Tim 4:3). In fact it has gone so far that some preach a prosperity gospel, a health, wellness, and welfare gospel ... all designed to enlarge the pockets of those who teach it and to lead sheep astray. Can a Christian hate? I do ... I hate the prosperity gospel, the health, wellness, and welfare gospel, the gospel that distorts the great gift of salvation by grace and deny the place of works. This my brothers and sister is the way of Satan, to take a truth, distort it, and deceive. The second part of the scripture in Matthew 7, reveals to us Christ's warning that many who have been deceived will cry out to Him and be rejected. Pay special heed to verse 22. So many of us are caught up in prophesying, casting our demons, and healing that we forget that these may not be doing the "will of My Father in heaven"! Moreover, those whom God never knew and rejected were doing all these in His name! Oh wow! or "Ouch!" as my student would say! If doing these things are not necessarily doing the Father's will, what is? To this I invite you to read just one Gospel, the Gospel of Matthew, carefully, the answers are right there! Of course what you will find that what is taught in Matthew echoed not only in all the other Gospels, but throughout all of Scripture. But let us just stick to Matthew for now. Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), remember the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40), pay heed to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), and consider Jesus last public sermon before He went to the cross (Matthew 24 and 25). Pay special attention to the teaching on Sheep and Goats (Matthew 31-46). Do you notice the glaring absence of miraculous acts of prophesy, healing, and the likes? Do you notice the action words, the call to do good? Am I saying that prophesy, healing, and other miraculous acts are not part of God's will? God forbid! What I am saying that we must never be devoid of works that come out of loving kindness for those less fortunate, to the poor, the sick, the lonely, and the disenfranchised. The third and final part of Matthew 7:17-23 is found in the tail end of verse 23, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! (bold added for emphasis). It is another unpopular teaching that we seldom hear in our churches today ... REPENTANCE. We have to be careful here, "lawlessness" here in the original language speaks of ongoing, habitual, unrepentant sin. Just as the person truly saved by grace will be so changed that good fruit and works will become the natural manifestation of regeneration, the opposite is also true, that change will result in repentance so that "lawlessness" can no longer exist. Least some may use this to say that the regenerate man can no longer sin at all, I remind us to consider a recent blog by our brother tchable, [link="What is Sanctification and Holiness?"] Our Sanctification, or rather, our ongoing regeneration is an ongoing process as we immerse ourselves in Him and His Word, and as we continue to present ourselves a living sacrifices to Him. In other words, as we grow in Christ, the good works we produce will increase, and our propensity for sin will decrease over time. Can we fall and sin? Of course we can and most, if not all of us will do so occasionally, but this is very different than a pattern of ongoing, habitual, unrepentant sin. How can we overcome this? How can we produce increasing good works? We do so by clinging to our Lord and Saviour, having our eyes fixed on Him, resolving to live in obedience and relying on Him to give us the strength to do all things. Hard words but necessary words. In His Name, Arisen
You will broke no argument with me on this blog and neither should anyone else who calls themselves a follower of Jesus. This is a clear explanation of how grace and works co exist together in perfect harmony.
As I commented in sister kreynolds blog the enemy loves to sow discord amongst us to keep our minds any where else but on the author and finisher of our faith. And it is not just this old hoary chest nut of a debate, for any squabble over points of doctrine is the enemies doing as such discussions, which can be heated at times, does nothing to build up the body of Christ, as they are all conducted on a 'fleshly' level.
[quote]...while our salvation is not by works, the authenticity of our declaration of belief and by extension, the authenticity of our salvation, is attested to by the genuine out-flowing of a changed life. [/quote]
I love this quote. This is what validates our claim, Chris.
I am always reminded of something which happened on the very same Sunday that I became a Christian. I was only seven years old but I remember this very well. There was a neighborhood "feud" going on amongst the children who lived on my block. It was between one family and the rest of us.
The daughter of the family, who was the same age as me, came down the street with her little brother as I was talking to my friends about what had happened that morning. She broke in as our "enemy" but she left as our friend. Why? Because I suddenly stepped forward as angry words were exchanged and told her in so many words that I didn't want to fight anymore because I had become a Christian and I wanted to be her friend and I did.
You know, the dynamics on our block changed that day. The others followed my lead and a friendless little girl was suddenly surrounded by friends. She moved away a few months later but I think about her now and then. Did she ever come to know Christ? I don't know. I hope so. I only know the look on her face when I didn't just talk about the love of God... I demonstrated it.
I believe that a changed heart cannot help but be demonstrated by what we say or do and the absence of that in our own lives should be of great concern to us. Very great concern.
As you said; this is a very needed blog. We must come to realize that works are a requirement. Not for our salvation, but as evidence of our salvation. If we do not do the works of a regenerated person and the regenerated person living in us is Christ, we have never truly accepted Christ. The love of Christ should cause us through His Spirit to accomplish all that He told us to do. As you also said: we will not be perfected right off the bat, but we should be habitually putting to the death the works of the flesh and be continually transformed into the mind of Christ.
Matthew 7:24-27, is Jesus restating in different terms exactly what He said in verses 16-23 that you mentioned above. You also mentioned those who speak of grace alone being our salvation. Their reasoning for this comes from Ephesians 2:8&9, yet the gospel of grace was taught in the Old Testament also. But one of the main places that it is taught is in John 1:16, which should make some wonder. John is where we find a teaching of Grace just as Paul taught, but John is also the book where we find the majority of Jesus' teachings of His and the Fathers requirements of obedience. Teachings such as; if you love Me you will keep My commandments, and if you love Me you will listen to my words and do them, also those who hear these words of mine and do them are my friends. Another is; those who hear these words of Mine and do not do them, it is not I who judge them, but those who consistently and continually put Me at naught (will not heed His words) the words that He has spoken will themselves judge and convict them on the last day.
There must be a change in us that shows or is evidence that we have accepted Christ or we have never accepted Him. How can we be a light on the hill if the light coming from us is exactly the same as is coming from the world? How can we be the salt of the earth if what comes out of our mouths is no different from what comes from the world?
Thanks again for a very good blog.
Love in Christ.
"while our salvation is not by works, the authenticity of our declaration of belief and by extension, the authenticity of our salvation, is attested to by the genuine out-flowing of a changed life. It is not by what we choose to declare or even what we think we believe but by the evidence of the works that such a life produces."
So well spoken. So simple. So true! Yet, so many miss the point of a changed life when we are reborn.
Luther and Bonheoffer describe those who proclaim that faith alone is sufficient as seeking "cheap grace." They seek , not for Christ, but for themselves the wonders and hope of salvation. They place themselves above Jesus and are, therefore, idolaters.
Just as we cannot have faith without works, the opposite is also true. Our deeds, without faith, are empty. They will not yield the good fruits of salvation and will fade away.
As you have stated, faith and works (thoughts and deeds) are as inseparable as anything can be when we accept Jesus and are born again.
Alive in The Word