Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Salvation is of the Lord, Part 7 of 9

Paul concludes his discourse by informing us that we may walk in the Spirit if the Holy Spirit dwells in us; and that if we do not possess the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are not Christ’s. The next question to arise is simple: how do we know we possess the Holy Spirit? What must occur?

This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Galatians 3:2-5.

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory,” Ephesians 1:13-14.

The Holy Spirit then is received when one hears and believes the gospel message. No other criteria is necessary, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in us is our earnest (down payment, pledge or deposit which guarantees in the Greek) to demonstrate that we are purchased property. If the Holy Spirit is received by the hearing of faith and His reception indicates we have received eternal life then we are forced into the uncomfortable conclusion once more that salvation is a “faith only” procedure.

What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed,” Romans 9:30-33.

We have the apostle presently contrasting Israel pursuing righteousness by works, while the Gentiles received God’s righteousness by faith. The Jews found faith offensive; they did not want someone to believe in; they wanted something to do. “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent,” John 6:28-29. Faith is offensive because it insinuates that man has nothing to offer God. No innate goodness, no striving, no humanitarian deeds, no proscribed works, no self-effacement will appease God. If we have nothing to offer God then salvation is purely His gift to us based on a single criterion: will you believe God or not? If you believe Him then you may rest in the salvation He provides and sustains. If you doubt and instead believe that man’s invented insertions in the gospel of grace must somehow be made compatible you have not believed in Christ; you stumbled over Him; you are offended because of Him. I’ll merely quote the apostle again regarding the role of works in salvation.

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,” Romans 4:4-6.

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work,” Romans 11:6.

There is still a greater danger in embracing this theology of works salvation. It involves the very nature of our faith, and what said faith means. It is the object of our faith that does the effectual saving. If we trust in our works it is an unspoken assertion that some of our faith is in what we have done. Where our faith is placed is infinitely more important than how much faith we possess. When Jesus spoke about someone having faith as a mustard seed (a tiny thing), or when He asked “where is your faith?” it was not a generic statement of just possessing a positive frame of mind. Nor was Jesus impressing the point that we ought to trust in ourselves at all. It was His unspoken assumption that His audience would understand that He meant all of our faith should be placed in a container that can safely hold it. “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water,” Jeremiah 2:13. A nugget of faith in the living God can move mountains; for God alone can do such marvels. God alone raises the dead and grants eternal life to whom He will, John 5:21. So Jesus sets the standard regarding eternal life. So to whom does Christ will to give such life?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John 3:16

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life,” John 5:24.

And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day,” John 6:40.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life,” John 6:47.

Hopefully this inculcation reveals a very clear pattern. The overarching theme of Scripture is “faith only” in regards to one’s salvation; either its inception or retention. Recall the comparison between myself and Jeffery Dahlmer? I looked good because I compared myself to another man. But when we compare ourselves to God and His standard of righteousness any difference between myself and another human being—any other human being—becomes a non point. Furthermore Paul argues that if works play a hand in salvation then Jesus’ death was needless.

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain,” Galatians 2:16-21.

This passage necessitates close scrutiny. Paul insists that the works of the law will not justify a man, but that justification comes through faith in Christ; his sole reason for impressing the need for Jew and Gentile alike to believe on Him. Justification does not come through works: it comes through faith. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9. Note Galatians 2:17; Paul chooses his words carefully. If, while we seek to be justified by Christ (presumably through our works) we are found sinners, does that make Jesus a minister of sin? Note how Paul rejects the idea of continuing to seek justification after being saved by God’s grace. He refers to it as sin and transgression. For if we build again a foundation of works when Christ’s death and our faith in Him toppled this useless and hopeless endeavor we are sinners. Our trust shifts from the Son of God to legalism. We are sinning against grace by working for something Christ freely gives us when we believe. But Christ is not a minister of sin; i.e. Jesus is not a minister of works salvation. The Greek word for “minister” in this verse is “diakonos” and is a root word from where we take the term “deacon.” It can mean “a person who renders service and help to others” or “a servant.” Christ doesn’t simply “render help;” He provides absolute salvation.

[You] are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time,” 1st Peter 1:5.

Wherefore [Jesus] is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them,” Hebrews 7:25.

1 comment:

  1. Jesus did not say we would know them by their works, but by their fruit. One especially stressed fruit is that of love. John 13:35 states that one cleatly.

    Great post.


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