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Faith and Works

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This is the greatest Christian debate in the last 4 centuries. It all began in 1517 a.d., when Martin Luther exposed the mistakes of the Catholic church and it started the Protestant epic. The basic doctrine of this great reformer was the salvation by faith. At this point is interesting  to note that for 15 centuries, we don't have any report about this doctrine in any teachings of Christian theologians, specially at those that are commonly called "the fathers".

My surprise consist of the fact that the first Christians,  and they had and knew the letter to the Romans, they didn't render in the same way the Paul's doctrine and we don't have any report of debates in the writings of the first Christians,   it seems that they had clear the Paul's idea. After 15 centuries instead, suddenly it arose  the dispute on how we have to understand  the Paul's words. Sincerely I believe to be unable to put an end to the debate, I saw on my life how it is easy to have different viewpoints even on the easiest and useless topics, therefore my point here will be only to think about  points that maybe they can help who is reading, to be able to find by himself his solution. .

The first question that it arise spontaneously is:" Did Christ promulgate this doctrine?"  Being the undisputed Founder of the Church and having Him  taught the Gospel, sure He wouldn't have missed to clarify this key point of the whole Gospel:" The salvation of the soul".

My second question is:"Peter and the others Apostles, they were before then Paul, did they teach this doctrine?"

Third question:" How come Paul  taught this doctrine only to the Romans? if he was speaking about the key of the salvation, the most important knowledge, He dedicated only few Chapters in all his writings.

At this point to make clear everything, it is necessary to remember that the Bible teaches :" Every word may be established in the mouth or 2 or 3 witnesses" see Matthew 18:16 II Corinthians 13:1 Hebrew 10:28 and Jesus Himself quoted this scripture to the Hebrew. It should keep on mind that every word declared from Jesus, when the subject is clear and the context sharp, clearly it will have more value then somebody else. Instead something generic out of the context it should have less value, even we have to consider  the authority, for example, Jesus first, Peter second, only after the Jesus' death.

The first scripture that I like to quote is:

II Peter 3:14-16 "Wherefore, beloved,seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable, wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction."

This is a clear warning of the chief of the Apostles in person. The topic of the chapter is the coming of the Lord  and Peter is saying to the believers to be diligent, without spot and blameless, unfortunately Peter didn't specify clearly what are the problems with the Paul's letters, but it is interesting to take note that if you misunderstand those writings you could lose your salvation.

At this point it is good to ponder a little bit what teaches the doctrine of Martin Luther. It is enough to confess " Jesus like Lord and you will be saved." or even better according to the Paul's words: " It is by grace that we are saved not by the works." Speaking with the supporters of Faith, many time you can get in  trouble talking about the commandments, even though they never say  you don't have to disobey them anyway you should obey only because you love the Lord, not for the other reason. I wrote many letters on internet to a woman, supporter the doctrine of faith, (of whose I have all the letters), she maintained that she didn't need the baptism, she was saved only by the faith in the Savior, further because it is impossible to be perfect it sounds stupid to try to obey all the commandments (she numbered all of them). At this point it is clear on my mind that if the works are essential for the salvation, if I was the Devil I will really enjoy to support this idea, it would be like put a bomb at the base of the Church. Let's think about it,all the Christians in every church accept Christ through the baptism and everybody acknowledge Him like Savior, so at this point everybody will be saved by faith, according to this doctrine of Luther, right? But if the works are necessary all of them are in trouble. I never though that the Gospel was something so passive I thought always  it was active at the best, this doctrine doesn't help to be active but passive, for this reason Peter was worried.Anyway I want to make clear that I believe, like Peter was saying, Paul was explaining something true and important, the only  problem, like Peter was explaining it could be misunderstood,   and the result could be the own destruction. My opinion is this:" In Chapter 5 Paul was speaking about universal resurrection, and without the Atonement of Jesus and His resurrection, it would have been impossible.

Romans 5:14-21  "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come. But not as the offense, so also is the FREE GIFT. For it through the offense of one many be dead (so everybody will die) MUCH MORE the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man (like Adam) Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

I'd like to clarify  here, if many for Adam meant all the men,   it was because everybody died and will die, so if  grace does much more it means the same, that everybody will be resurrected. It means not only THE BELIEVERS but everybody, in fact in verse 18 it reads :" Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." Where is the difference between a believer or not? Paul is just saying that by the grace every man will be resurrect.

I believe that the keyword is in the last verse of 21:" That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace, reign THROUGH RIGHTEOUSNESS unto ETERNAL LIFE.  (when Paul starts to speak of eternal life he adds the KEYWORDS trough righteousness, ) otherwise believers and unbelievers would be in the same condition,   we see that this is really impossible throughout the scriptures.

At this point is very interesting take a note that in the same epistle Romans 2:6,13

"Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in WELL DOING seek for glory and honor and immortality, ETERNAL LIFE."  I guess Paul was not confused, he understood what he was saying,   He knew the difference between  salvation and eternal life.

We have to take a note even that he was speaking to  believers and to them he was saying in Romans 2:13 "(for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law SHALL BE justified.)

Now I will start to quote scriptures in which the Lord Jesus taught about this topic, and I have chosen scriptures in which the subject is clear and the context too, after I will quote the Apostles, starting from Peter , since he was the chief acknowledged from Jesus Himself.  In the sermon of the Mont., about 3 chapter, Jesus gave us the foundation of His Gospel, there is nothing about salvation by faith, instead there is a long sequence  of warnings to keep the commandments. Reading those chapters I have the sensation that doing works is essential for the salvation of the people, but let's go on.

Matthew 7:21 "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord Lord shall enter in the Kingdom of God, but he hath doeth the will of my Father".

Matthew 19:16-17 "And behold, one cane and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do,that I may have eternal life?" Clear question, direct question to the Lord Himself, what great occasion to explain His personal viewpoint. " And He said unto him, why callest me good? there is none good but one, that is God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."

Mark 10:17-19 repeat the same question and answer.

Luke 18:18-20 repeat the same . We have 3 different witnesses  in the Bible from 3 different Apostles on the same topic, all of them give us  the same words without variation, Jesus gave the answer, no mention for salvation by grace, He could say "do you believe in me?  You are fine." But He gave another answer.

We have another beautiful occasion in which Jesus was yet protagonist:

Luke 10:25-28 And behold a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, what is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy hurt and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And He said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live." Same answer, we have 2 witnesses from the Bible on the same topic.  Jesus gave a clear answer on direct question there is no  discrepancy in His words.

 

Matthew 25:31-46 "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:and before him shall be gather all nations: and He shall separe them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on the right hand, but the goats on the left. 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: For I was hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me a drink: I was a stranger and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me............" Are maybe works here, or not? When the goats answered to Him their surprise show us that they knew about Him and his Gospel, but their lack of works will be judge according verse 46 "and these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Further if you don't know nothing about the law you are excused, "for where no law is, there is no transgression" "For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.

Matthew 5:20 "For I say unto you,that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in  no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" and after He continues a long sequence about commandments and several explanations about them, at the end He invites us to be perfect like His Father in Heaven. It is interesting for me because He was saying" That except your righteousness exceed............".it means that it didn't change nothing about to keep the commandments if you want to go into the kingdom of heaven and He was saying, " it is better to cut your hand, or lose an eye, then lose the kingdom of heaven"

Matthew 12:36-37  "But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment, for by thy words thou shalt be justified and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."

Where is the grace here?

Matthew 13:37-43 " He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the Devil;the harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous (not believers) shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.Who hath ears to hear, let him hear

Matthew 16:27 " For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father; and then He shall reward every man according to his works' Pretty clear, isn't it?

Matthew 18:8-9 "Wherefore, if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maime, rather than having 2 hands or 2 feet to be cast into everlasting fire.........."

Matthew 18:23-35 " Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would  take account of his servants....................So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not everyone his brothers their trespass."  Is it speaking about grace?

Matthew 25. The whole chapter is speaking about 10 virgins, all the churches agree that they are the believers, in fact also the foolish recognize the Lord, but the Lord said "Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour.'

Luke 6:46-49  "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me and heareth my sayings and doeth them, I will shew you to  whom he is like: ..................... But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.' It seems here that  the doings are the foundation of the house.

Luke 12:40-48 :" Be ye therefore ready also:for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. Then Peter said unto Him, Lord, speakest thou this parable to us, or even to all? And the Lord said, who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, my Lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for Him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will shall be beaten with many stripes. But He that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes,for unto whomsoever much is given of him be much required.............."

Consider now the parable of the prodigal son: when the faithful son was saying to his father that according his opinion he was unfair because he was obedient to him, instead the other one was receiving a gift even tough was disobedient, the father explained to him that he had to be happy for the prodigal son but he saith what it is mine is yours, so he will receive everything. so the prodigal son had   the salvation by grace, the other the exaltation.hrmove.gif  (4491 bytes)

Now I will quote scriptures regarding Peter's opinion.

I Peter 1:15-17 "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, be ye holy; for I  am holy. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work,pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.

I Peter 4:17 "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God?...........Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their soul to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator."

James and John after Peter  according  Galatians 2:9   seemed to be pillars.hrmove.gif  (4491 bytes)

James 2:14,20,24,26 This epistle is  the exact opposite of The Roman's epistle of Paul, but there is a difference between the 2 letters Paul in Romans 2:6,13,16  He seems to controvert the topic that later expands. Let's see it.

"who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life............(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified..........In the day when God shall judge  the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my Gospel."

Not fortunately the James' epistle has not any sort of this things.Anyway since it is impossible that 2 leaders of  church are in so hard difference, and keeping on mind the words of Peter, when he was saying ,regarding the writings of Paul, that they were easy to be misunderstood so it is easy to think that Paul was giving further explanations on one doctrine on which they agreed, but he was speaking about a different look on the same doctrine, for example: the resurrection is for everybody, is a gift, the eternal life is something to gain, otherwise what is the use of the commandments?

Anyway now let's read several extracts from James of whom authority should be at least even to the authority of Paul, but with a little (or great) advantage. He, like Peter and John lived the 3 years of minister of the Lord personally, therefore he knew very well by experience the basic doctrines promulgated from Jesus. I don't want underestimate the words of Paul, I want only to understand because other people give more credit to 1 chapter of him than all the others written in Gospels and epistles. Fortunately Jesus gave answers to direct questions related to the eternal life and fortunately Peter gave a warning regarding the writings of Paul, and Paul himself expressed different concepts on the same topic, I firmly believe that in a serious debate, it would be easy to have a rational conclusion.

"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?" He is not speaking about resurrection."Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say.........thou believest that there is one God: thou doest well: the devil also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, o vain man that faith without works is dead?....Ye see the now that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only?

I  John 2:17 "And the world passed away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever."

Let's analyze the Vision of John in Revelation

Revelation 2:2  "I know thy works.........nevertheless I have somewhat against thee......repent and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly and I will remove thy candlestick out of his place........To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life.....

To the church of Smyrna "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life......He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.........

To the church of Pergamos "and a thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr....... But I have few things against thee..........repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly.........To him that overcometh will I give him a white stone..........

to the church of Thyatira "these things saith the Son of God, Who hath his eyes ......I know thy works, and charity and service and faith..........And all the churches shall know that I am He which searchet the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works..... and he that oveercometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations."

To the church of Sardis " I know thy works........for I have not found thy works perfect before god. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.......He that overcometh shall be clothed in white raiment and I will not blot out of the book of life.

To the Church of Philadelphia  "I know thy works....hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown"

To the church of Laodiceans "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So because thou art luke-warm, and neither cold or hot I will spue thee of my mouth."

It seems to me that in this revelation to the 7 churches Jesus is making clear the same concept taught in all the Gospels. By the way according to Revelation 19:8 "And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints"

Revelation 20:12-15 "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened:and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judge out of those things, which were written in the books,according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and the death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works........And whosoever was not found in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." The first books are to judge the unbelievers, instead the book of life refers to the believers, in fact to the church of Sardy refers to this book, we could go also in   Malachi 3:16 "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon His name."

Revelations 7:8 "He that overcometh shall inherit all things."

Revelation 14

13
And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
THEIR WORKS do follow them

Revelation 22

12
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.

Now I will examine several other scriptures in Which Paul Himself support the same idea, showing that he understood the principle.

Galatians5:21 "Envuings, 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."

Philippians 3:18-19 "(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things."

I Timothy 4:15-16 "Meditate upon these things: give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine: continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."

Titus 1:16 "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate."

Hebrews 12:14 " Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."

Romans 11:21    Hebrew 6:4-11   2 Thimoty 2:12   Hebrew 4:1,11-13

Romans 2:6,13

"Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in WELL DOING seek for glory and honor and immortality, ETERNAL LIFE."  I guess Paul was not confused, he understood what he was saying,   He knew the difference between  salvation and eternal life.

But best of all, He didn't believe in that doctrine like the Protestants teach, I have here the book "the Mormon Illusion"   and it is declared: He that believed on the Son hath (right now) everlasting life" So the moment you believed, God said He gave you everlasting life. This is what the writer manteins.Paul didn't believe in this human's teaching. Philippians 3:11-14

11
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Hebrew 10:23-31
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
24
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
26
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
27
But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
28
He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
29
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
30
For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.
31
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Romans 14:10 clearly declares that even the saints, Paul included, will be at the judgemtn day before the Lord and verse 12 declares that each one of us, Paul included, will give and account of himself to God, please tell me where is the grace here?

Have you ever took a look at the parables?

Matthew 25

24
Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
25
And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26
His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
27
Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
28
Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
29
For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
30
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Mark 4

14
The sower soweth the word.
15
And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.
16
And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
17
And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.
18
And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
19
And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
20
And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

Maybe this study was bored but I guess necessary to try to understand better the topic, anyway the Bible is here and if somebody  has something better He is welcome. I have the last thought about it. If you are doing your best to keep the commandments, you are doing something that the scripture are saying in any place. If the doctrine of grace will be the right one you could say to the Lord that you was accepting all his words regarding  salvation, and you was trying to be perfect according His words, do you think He could condemn a person like this? But if the doctrine of works is the right one, like the scriptures are supporting, and you are the supporter of salvation by faith, what it will happen? maybe it is better don't think about it.

What will be the fate of the people who lived before of Jesus? Were they unlucky?

Those who teach the doctrine of "faith alone" are searching for an "easy road to heaven". "Belief only" is a  "lazy man's religion," for worthwhile things demand effort. Sir Wilfor Grenfell said the Gospel is " a religion of action, not diction."

All the scriptures  inherent to judgment day are talking of a judgement according to works, why? because if was true the stupid idea that people are judged by grace there would be no need for a judgment grace infact it would exclude any judgement but still the scriptures are replenish of references about judgement day or not?

Last Updated on Monday, 17 May 2010 13:39  

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