Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Questions about Saving Faith

Questions about Saving Faith

 There is no question that faith is the designated channel through which man is able to receive the grace of God(Rom.5:1).  Only those of faith may receive the grace of God (Heb.11:6).  All who do not have faith will not have the grace of God.  However, when we say that faith is the channel, what is the nature, content, and quality of the faith that serves as the channel?  Everyone has faith of some kind.  Atheists believe in their intellect. They believe there is no God. Buddhists believe in Buddha.  Our point is that when we say “faith is the channel”, we still have not done enough to describe the right channel for the grace of God to come to man.  So, when we talk about faith being the channel, we have to also point out that the channel must be made of the right material, have the right content, be of the right consistency before it will serve as the channel through which man can reach the grace of God.  Thus, we have to raise certain questions about the connection between faith and saving grace.


1. What is the CONTENT of saving faith?

A.       Faith in Jesus Christ.

                1. Faith in (as in direction toward) Jesus.

                2. Faith in (as existing in a certain location) Jesus.

B.  What must be believed concerning Jesus?

                1. Faith that He was a great man?

                2. Faith that He was a prophet?

                3. Faith that He is the Son of God?

C. Must we believe in our NEED for Jesus?

                 Must I believe that I am a lost sinner in need of Jesus?


D. Does a person have to believe what Jesus says?

                1. About repentance? Lk.13:3

                2. About baptism? Mk.16:16

2. When Does the Channel of Faith Actually make the Connection with Grace?

A. At what point in the timing of faith does a person actually become pardoned?

                1. When faith is pricking the heart?  Acts 2:36,37

                2. When faith decides to repent? Acts 2:38

                3. When faith submits to baptism in Jesus’ name? Acts 2:38

3. When has faith connected with grace in the past?

A. Does faith exclude obedience?

                1. By faith we understand things. Heb.11:3

                2. Abel offered....11:4

                3. Enoch “pleased God” - 11:5

                4. By faith a person “comes to God”, “diligently seeks Him” - 11:6

                5. Noah built the ark, “moved with godly fear” - 11:7

                6. Abraham “obeyed” - 11:8

                7. Abraham “offered up Isaac”. 11:17

B. Naaman met the condition for healing. 2 Kgs.5

C. The blind man washed in the pool of Siloam.  Jno.9:7

                 At what point did faith and grace meet in the healing?

D. When were the convicted people actually saved on Pentecost? Acts 2:36-41

E. When was the Ethiopian Eunuch happy?  Acts 8:35-39

F. When was the Philippian jailor happy?  Acts 16:30-34

G. When was Saul sure his sins were washed away? Acts 22:16

H. When did Saul think he got IN Christ?  Rom.6:3,4; 1 Cor.12:13

4. Is There A Valid Reason Why Baptism Cannot Be The Point In the Channel of Faith When Faith and Grace Meet?

A.      Please discuss why not, in view of the quoted verses.

B.      Look at Col.2:12 and notice the connection between faith and baptism.

a.       One is buried “with Christ” in baptism.

b.      While doing so the person being buried in baptism has “faith in the operation of God”.

                                                               i.      We go down believing that God will circumcise (cut away) the sins of the flesh.

                                                             ii.      We rise up from baptism believing he has cut them away. Acts 2:38; 22:16


All that God asks of us is to have a good and honest heart when we study His word.  Please take your Bible and go through these questions and answer by what you can see the Bible teaches in each passage.  If we have misused any verse or taken anything out of context, please love us enough to point it out to us. We do not wish to mislead anyone or to be misled ourselves.  God bless all honest hearts in this study.   Terry W. Benton

Monday, May 28, 2012

Salvation through Faith in John’s Gospel

Salvation through Faith in John’s Gospel

First, let us be clear that John’s gospel was written to churches many years after conversion to Christ, and it was written to give the church equipment to battle the doctrine that Jesus did not come in the flesh (1 John 4:1-4).  That is the larger context of the book.   If you want a book that shows specifics of how an unbeliever moves from lost to conviction of sins, repentance and baptism by faith, look at Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16 and study the cases of conversion in the book of Acts. For example Acts 2:36-41; Acts 8:33f; 18:8.  John’s gospel addresses those already converted.  A belief in Jesus that said he was only in a form that merely LOOKED like flesh was beginning to circulate. This was the beginning of gnostic belief that flesh was inherently sinful, which would mean that Jesus would not be connected to something inherently sinful.  The discussion of John to people who already were baptized by faith in Jesus Christ (Gal.3:26-27), would not need to reference all the details of the conversion process (which did indeed include repentance and baptism. See Acts 2:36-41). But, John does not need to spell all of that out to believers who were baptized through obedient faith. He will need only to speak of the general term faith to cover the whole of the details involved with conversion to Christ.

 All John would need to talk about was faith in Jesus and give evidence that Jesus did indeed show evidence of being God come in human flesh.  So, since the book is written to already- saved-people, it was not designed to be handed exclusively to an unbeliever as an essay on how an unbeliever is to move from a lost condition to a saving condition.  It will give the general term  ”faith” as an umbrella term that covers the already-understood- whole of the conversion process through repentance, confession, and baptism in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:37-38).  Faith is a verb of action in the Gospel of John. Thu,s it is far more than "intellectual ascent."  Even in John’s gospel he speaks of some who “believed” but would not confess Jesus (John 12:42).  That kind of faith is not sufficient to save.  Jesus said that those who believed would have to confess Him before men or He would not confess them before the Father (Matt.10:32).

True faith is not simply about thinking or merely accepting something;  it is about doing something. Faith is nothing if it is not about obedience.  But, the absence of the specifics of the conversion process as is described in Acts 2:36-41, is not surprising  since it is not a book designed especially to be handed to an unbeliever.  It is written to correct misguided belief in a different Jesus, a Jesus who did NOT actually come in flesh.  Jesus says that our faith must “keep the Word if we are to see life.” See John 8:51,55. Keeping His word covers a lot of territory, and ALL of “His word” is not found in the book of John.  So, to ask if one could be saved on an island with only the book of John, is to ask if someone can understand and keep His word with only the book of John.  John’s book itself declares that there would be more revealed after the death of Jesus (John 16:13). Seeing that the early Christians did NOT have only the book of John, and seeing that the book of John was NOT written to the lost, but to the already saved, it is hard to affirm something that ignores 26 other books of information and tries to set up a different context for just one book of the Bible. You see the word “belief” is like the word “obey”. What if the whole book spoke of all those who OBEY God will be saved, but did not tell you all the details of WHAT to obey specifically?  Hebrews 5:9 says that Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all those who OBEY Him.  Could a person on a stranded island take that one verse only and be saved?  It does speak the truth, just as John 3:16 speaks the truth in general terms. But, neither John 3:16 nor Hebrews 5:9 tell enough details to get a person from lost to saved just on the content of those verses.  But, let us see what we can learn about baptism and faith in the book of John.

First, we learn that people who believe and receive him are given authority to “become sons of God” and become “born of God”(1:12,13), while there is something about merely believing without confessing Jesus that is wholly insufficient (John 12:42). So, while believing can bring about a new birth, it does not bring about a new birth in every case.  Some believed without being born of God (12:42).

Secondly, there was an understanding that “baptism” would be connected with Jesus (John 1:25).  They asked John why he was baptizing if he was not “the Christ”, which implies that they understood that baptism would be connected to the Messiah.  A great indicator of the Messiah was that John the Baptist identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, and that He would also “baptize with the Holy Spirit”, a thing He did on the Pentecost of Acts 2.

Thirdly, it is not enough to believe that Jesus is a “man come from God”(John 3:1-2),  so Nicodemus could not be born again until he gets the right information and is “born of water and Spirit”(3:5).  Since the topic is that of being born again AFTER one has already been born physically, then the topic of being “born of water and the Spirit” is not about physical birth at all. “How can a MAN be born when he is old?”-Nicodemus asks for further clarification.  After physical birth and maturity a person must be “born again”, and this will be by being “born of water and the Spirit”.  Now, baptism in water and a spiritual event from within would combine in a person being “born of water and the Spirit”.  We can see example after example of this in the book of Acts (Acts 2:36-41; 8:33ff).  In each case where a person is led by the Spirit to be “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins”(Acts 2:38), we are seeing a people being “born of the water and the Spirit”.  The Spirit guided Peter in what to say, and they were “cut to the heart” and cried “what shall we do?”, and the Spirit led Peter to tell them to be born of the water and the Spirit by “repenting and being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins”. Those who “gladly received his word”(the word of the Spirit) were baptized (Acts 2:41).  Thus, they were born of the water and the Spirit.  Nicodemus knew Jesus was a “teacher come from God”, but his faith will have to take him much further than this level of faith.  He will have to start all over in his thinking and get his information from the right sources and get his information containing the right facts, and he will have to let that teaching transform him from depending on his fleshly heritage to beginning anew with a spiritual heritage.  Jesus rebuked him for not receiving “our witness”(God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit). V.11.  It will be so transforming that the person “does the truth” and his deeds change to deeds done in God (3:21).  We see people coming to Jesus and being baptized (3:22) because they were receiving the correct witness and information and were “doing the truth”.  People who are interested in “doing the truth” will be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ just as we see people “gladly received his word and were baptized”(Acts 2:41).   John bore witness that the reason people were coming to Jesus and being baptized (3:26) was because they believed they should,  and that was fine with him was because “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease”(3:30).  John had merely been preparing the way for Jesus by baptism in water,  Jesus would do that and much more.

Fourthly, believing in Jesus will involve knowing to disconnect from either Jerusalem or Samaria as the place to worship, and coming to understand that God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and truth (4:20-26). Believing in Jesus will involve “seeking the honor that comes from the only God”(5:44).  It will involve seeking Him, not for selfish and fleshly benefits (ch.6), but for the spiritual benefits(6:26-27).  Believing in Jesus would therefore involve “laboring” for the food that does not perish. Believing would involve “working the works of God”(6:28-29). It involves “hearing and learning from the Father”(6:45).  Hearing and learning from the Father would involve the right content of belief and the right source for forming concepts between Jesus and the Father. You will not believe in Jesus as a mere prophet, but will believe that He is everything we need to know about the Father as well for He exactly represents the Father to us.  Jesus would give his “flesh”(6:51).  So, believing in the right Jesus who is connected to the Father is believing in the One who actually came in the flesh. Believing will involve only those who eat His flesh and drink His blood (6:54-57). Jesus recognized that there was one who did not truly believe among his disciples (6:64). You see, belief takes much more than believing a few facts about Jesus, but it involves a deep level of obedient trust (12:42; 6:64) and spiritual intake. At this point even Jesus’ brothers did not “believe” as they would need to (7:5). You see the kind of “believing” that John 3:16 is talking about is the kind of belief that is willing to confess Him, seek Him, and obey Him, to eat his flesh and drink his blood, to commit to Him and be baptized in His name for remission of sins, to be “born of water and the Spirit”, and any kind of belief that is less than this is not belief to the saving of the soul (Heb.10:39).  Some said He was good, but none spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews (7:12,13).  These were people at the feast. They had a belief about Jesus, but it was not yet of the saving kind.

Jesus said that knowing the truth about Him would have to start with “wanting to do God’s will”(7:17). Those who truly believe would have the Spirit providing a resource that springs up as a fountain within them (7:37-39).  This would not be true of just any level of believing in Him.  Believing in Jesus would involve “following Jesus”(8:12). That involves taking steps in the same direction Jesus leads.  It does not mean just believing a few facts in John 3:16. It involves following Jesus.  You cannot do that with just John 3:16 alone as a guide.  To some who believed in Him he said that they would have to “abide in His word” to be a disciple and know the truth and be set free (8:30-32).  A John 3:16 limitation of knowledge would not be enough.  One who only has John 3:16 does not know about the flesh and blood of Jesus, and does not even know the name of Jesus.  That verse is a general truth, but that verse alone will not teach one how to know the truth about the details involved and then be set free. It takes “abiding in His word” (much more than John 3:16 imparts by itself) to know the truth and be set free from sin.  A spiritual rebirth and relationship with the Father involves “loving Jesus”(8:42). “He who is of God hears God’s words”(8:47), a thing that is not true of those who depend on the knowledge of John 3:16 alone.  It involves  “keeping Jesus’ words”(8:51), a thing not true of someone who only has knowledge of John 3:16 alone.

Fifthly, to be one of those who is safe with Jesus as the Good Shepherd, there must be much familiarity with the voice of the Shepherd. “They know His voice” and “follow Him”(John 10:3,4). Those with only knowledge of John 3:16 do not know his voice. They do not even know if the “Son” mentioned in John 3:16 is Jesus or some other person.  They need much more knowledge to get familiar with the voice of the Good Shepherd and trust that familiar voice enough to follow it. (John 10:5).   So, what have we learned about the nature of saving faith versus a faith that will not save?  We learn that faith that will be set free from sin is a faith that “abides in His words” and is very familiar with the voice of truth and follows that voice wherever it leads. If it is followed it will result in a person being “born of water and the Spirit”.  It will not be a faith that will not confess Him (12:42). It will confess Jesus openly.

Sixthly, the nature of saving faith is that it does not value physical life above eternal life.  A faith based solely on the information of John 3:16 does not know from this that they must value the eternal life enough to lose their earthly life for it (12:25) if need be.  Saving faith is the kind that “serves Jesus” and follows Him even to death (12:26).  You would not know how deeply committed the faith must be just by reading John 3:16. The kind of faith in John 3:16 is explained in all that Jesus taught, not just the words taught in the book of John alone but inclusive of much, much more than John 3:16 explains.  The word “believe” is inclusive of many more facts, commands, and promises.

Seventhly, to rely on the words of the gospel of John ALONE is not to know all that Jesus wanted people to know. There were other truths that the Spirit would give to the apostles (14:25,26; 15:26,27; 16:13). Thus, it would be wrong to expect that all one needs to know to be saved is to be found only in the gospel according to John.  Jesus plainly said to rely on what the Spirit would teach after His death, burial, resurrection and ascension.  The Spirit came on Pentecost of Acts 2 and revealed through the apostles what are the details of believing in Jesus for remission of sins.  It was clearly the case that when people were cut to the heart, were honest with the evidence presented, they had more than a John 3:16 knowledge.  They knew that JESUS was now both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36-37). They cried “what shall we do?”. The answer from Spirit guidance was “repent…and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins”(Acts 2:38).  Those who listened to the Spirit were “born of the Spirit”, and that means that they were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (which involves water – Acts 10:47; 8:33f). Thus, they were “born of the water and the Spirit”(John 3:5).  The information about what is involved with “believing” in Jesus was not fully supplied in the gospel record of John alone, especially not John 3:16 alone.  The Spirit would guide the apostles into all truth (16:13).  Those that gladly received the word of the Spirit revealed through Peter did not argue with the words of the Spirit in Acts 2:38.  They simply believed and acted upon that belief.  Those who truly believe today will act the very same way.  Those who do not, simply have the same kind of “faith” as the men mentioned in John 12:42.  It is not a saving kind of faith.

When the Ethiopian Eunuch learned about Jesus, he knew he needed to be baptized.  They came to some water and the Eunuch said, “see, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”. Philip said “if you believe with all your heart you may”(Acts 8:33f).  This man confessed Jesus and was baptized. You see, he was “born of the water and the Spirit”.  Only after this point did he have reason to rejoice. His sins were remitted just as was so with the 3,000 on Pentecost.  Only then did he have the kind of “belief” that John 3:16 is talking about.  John 3:16 is the general truth. The specifics of what is involved with the saving kind of faith is explained in such clear cases of conversion in the book of Acts. Now, we know what KIND of faith, and what is involved with believing.  Now we know it is much more than believing just a few facts about Jesus. It is a commitment of obedience to Him.

We hope that all will be honest with all that the Spirit says.  Continue in His word so that you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.  – Terry W. Benton

Friday, May 25, 2012

Three Models of Justification?

Three Models of Justification?

A preacher says there are three models of justification being taught. He rejects the first two and accepts the last. They are:

1)      Faith without works

2)      Faith PLUS works

3)      Faith THAT works

But, his bottom line is that one is justified by the first (faith without works) and that the proof (fruit) of the salvation is that it will become a “faith THAT works”.  He says that churches of Christ now teach what he formerly taught.  He says they teach “faith PLUS works” because they usually teach that you HAVE to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins”(Acts 2:37-41) in order to be justified, and he no longer believes this.  He believes that one has “faith only” and is saved or justified by grace through faith ONLY, but the fruit of that justification is a “faith THAT works”. That means that one is saved first and then repents and is baptized to SHOW that it is a faith that works (faith alone that does not remain alone).  So, this means that people will not know if they are justified unless and until it moves them to some action, ANY action.  What actions was Abraham moved to perform after he was justified?  When exactly was he justified?  Can we know when exactly he was justified and when exactly we are justified?

The Content and Conditions of Abrahams’ Justifying Faith Only

He uses Abraham as an example of justification without works and shows how his actionless faith was first justified by faith alone and then began obeying AFTER he was justified.  Well, the problem with this view is that it assumes there was a point of justification by mental belief ONLY before Abraham ever did ANYTHING, and then Abraham started doing obedient things BECAUSE he was already justified.  There is also the problem of trying to figure out how much knowledge did it take for Abraham to be justified by faith alone versus how much knowledge we must have to be justified by faith alone?  Did Abraham have to know about the name of Jesus Christ?  If not, then can we also be justified by the same level of knowledge that Abraham had?  That is, can we be justified by the same CONTENT of faith as Abraham had, or must we work a little more to know some things he did not have to know?  If a person is justified at a certain point in “faith alone”,  what is the required level of knowledge and the required attitude that one must work to have in order to be justified by “faith alone”?  Will the right attitude start up AFTER the justification?  Will proper conviction and attitude be a fruit of justification by faith alone?  Does “faith alone” include a particular amount of knowledge and conviction?  If so, what is it? Does “faith alone” include or exclude conviction of sin?  Will “conviction of sin” be a “fruit” that develops AFTER justification?  What else is included in “faith alone”?  Does it include or exclude “godly sorrow”?  Will “godly sorrow” be a “fruit” that develops AFTER justification by faith alone?  What about the command to repent?  Is repentance included in faith alone?  Or, is repentance a command to obey AFTER justification by faith alone has occurred?  What about confessing Jesus?  Is this an extra work that Abraham did NOT have to obey?  And, has the content and conditions of ‘faith alone” changed in any way since the days of Abraham?  Will our “faith only” brethren say that Abraham did not have to confess Jesus but that we do?  If so, how is it faith only apart from works of obedience?  Or, do these faith-only brethren teach that confessing Jesus is only a “fruit” that will develop AFTER one is justified by faith alone?

The Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus

There is a level of learning, hearing, considering, examining the evidence for Jesus being the Christ the Son of the Living God that we have to work through to have faith in Jesus Christ.  Abraham did not have to examine, consider, or hear the evidence of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  So, the content of his faith was different than ours.  Can we be justified on Abraham’s content of faith instead of the Christian content of faith?  Can we believe that “a Seed is coming”(like Abraham believed) instead of “the Seed has come in Jesus Christ, was crucified for our sins, was buried, and raised, and is the Son of God” (like Christians had to believe)?  Now, is there any work at all involved in examining the evidence for Jesus being the Christ, the Son of the Living God and whether His resurrection demonstrates it?

The Truth

Paul is not arguing in Romans 3-4 that Abraham was justified by faith without any effort or obedience at all.  He is contrasting two different systems of justification: 1) Works of law-keeping where grace was not needed because the works measured up to the demands of law, and 2) Faith, where grace was needed because works did not measure up to law.  He is not arguing that Abraham was justified by faith alone before he ever did ANYTHING, but that it was not dependent on any of the things that Jews boast about such a circumcision or keeping the Law of Moses or any other law only system.

It is also a fact that Paul is not using Abraham to show Christians the precise moment in faith that justification occurs. He is not using Abraham to tell us that we can be justified by the SAME CONTENT of faith as Abraham had. He has not told us about the precise moment when Abraham was convicted of sins and at what precise content and attitude of faith that God justified him. The conditions of faith and the precise content of his faith is not discussed at all.  The only point Paul is making about Abraham is that it was not on the basis of law and works of law, but on the basis of faith (whatever content and activity was required is not the issue of similarity to ours).  The similarity is that it was FAITH based, not works of LAW based. 

It is also true that Paul is not telling the Roman brethren that they were justified before they were “buried with Him in baptism”(Rom.6:1-6). Paul is not saying that obedience was not evidenced in Abraham before he was justified.  He is saying that “deeds of law” was not the basis of his justification.  Paul is not saying that the 3,000 on Pentecost were first justified and then bore the fruit of justification by repenting and being baptized in the name of the Jesus Christ.  Paul is not arguing that justification came before Abraham ever obeyed God at any point.  He is not arguing that Abraham was justified by faith alone before there was ever any obedience on his part.  He is not arguing that Abraham and we are justified by “faith alone”.  He wasn’t. (James 2).  Paul is not arguing that we can be justified like Abraham apart from learning about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is a total misuse of Romans 3-4 to make a point that contradicts “baptism into Christ”(Rom.6:3-4; Gal.3:26-27; Col.2:12) and the very point in time when Paul was justified (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor.12:13). It is a total misuse of Romans 3-4 to make a point that contradicts the clear cases of conversion.  The 3,000 Jews on Pentecost knew that they were justified by faith in Jesus Christ WHEN they repented and were baptized “for remission of sins”(Acts 2:36-41). There was no rejoicing and celebration until AFTER baptism.  The Ethiopian Eunuch knew that he was justified by faith in Jesus WHEN he confessed Jesus and was baptized (Acts 8:33f). There was no reason to rejoice until AFTER he was baptized.

Now, our brother claims that this is “faith PLUS works”.  None of the early Christians looked at it that way.  It was not faith PLUS works of law to EARN justification.  It was faith that obeyed the terms of pardon.  That is all it was.  By faith Abraham obeyed (Heb.11).  There is not one verse that says or implies that he was justified before ANY act of obedience.  He simply was not justified because of circumcision or keeping of law.  We are not bound to be circumcised and keep the Law in order to be justified either.  But, our content of faith must include MORE than Abraham had opportunity to learn and know, and the action of faith is different. We must believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and on that basis of faith be “buried with Him in baptism”(Rom.6:3-5). Abraham’s faith did not have to include all of this. Ours does.  We can be justified by faith like Abraham, but not with the same content of faith or expressions of faith.  We hope our preaching brethren realize this before they drag others into their “false gospel” and belief in “another Jesus”.  Paul did not preach THAT Jesus  that says “he that believes is saved and should then be baptized”(Mark 16:16).  Brethren, don’t let yourself be deceived by fair speeches and sympathy toward men.  Stand up for the truth and mark those who preach any other gospel  or doctrine (Rom.16:17; Gal.1:6-10).  Terry W. Benton

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Review of “Justified by Grace through Faith without Deeds of Law” –Part 2

A Review of “Justified by Grace through Faith without Deeds of Law” –Part 2

Our brother from Lagrange makes some arguments about his former beliefs in churches of Christ, provides some inaccurate remarks about the beliefs of churches of Christ, and then states his present belief. We have examined some of his points in a previous post, and encourage the reader to read that before reading this article, which is part two of a series of two.

The 3000 on Pentecost cried “what shall we do?”  Peter did not merely say “just trust what Jesus has done”.  He explained the details of trust.  One does not trust Jesus without repenting of sins as Jesus commanded, and one does not trust Jesus without being baptized in His name for remission of sins (Acts 2:36-41). Is Peter denying that salvation is by grace? No! He is affirming it. Is Peter denying that salvation is “through faith”(Eph.2:8-9)?  No! He is affirming it.  He is explaining the elements of saving faith. Repentance is an element of saving faith.  Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins is an element of saving faith.  A faith that does not confess Jesus, repent of sins, and does not submit to baptism in Jesus’ name, is not a faith that Jesus will bless with remission of sins.  Faith is not something we can boast about, but one can just as easily boast about any measure of faith as they can about being baptized.

Our brother offers us his ideas about “three models of Justification by faith”.  We want to fairly consider each of his points on this.

III. Three Models of Justification by Faith

A. Faith Without Works

1. This is the easy-believism which CoCs have traditionally and correctly opposed.

Essentially, the teaching of “easy-believism” (which proponents prefer to call “free grace,” or some similar term), asserts that the faith which saves is mere intellectual assent to the truths of the gospel, accompanied by an appeal to Christ for salvation. According to proponents of the “free grace” movement (i.e. “easy-believism”), it is not required of the one appealing for salvation that he be willing to submit to the Lordship of Christ. In fact, at least according to some proponents, the person appealing for salvation may at the same time be willfully refusing to obey the commands of Christ; but because he has intellectual faith, he will still be saved, in spite of his ongoing rebellion. -- Unquote!

Reply:  I’m glad our brother recognizes that it is correct to oppose a kind of faith that that does not obey the commands of Christ.  But, then he turns around and says:

2. Unfortunately, CoC have confused this as the classical or only expression of “faith alone.”-Unquote!

Reply: So, on the one hand our brother says he does not believe in “faith without works”, but still believes in some form of “faith alone”.  This is simply not good thinking.  If you believe in faith alone, you believe in nothing else.  We are not saved by anything ALONE.  So, let’s see how our brother develops his distinction between the “faith only” that he says we correctly oppose, and the “faith alone” that he says we unfortunately oppose.

JE: a) Volumes have been written refuting this doctrine, all by believers who affirm faith alone.

b) Paul did not ever advocate this cheap grace. 6:1-2, 12-18; 8:12-14; cf. Eph. 2:8-10  -Unquote!

Reply:  So, we are assured that Paul did not affirm the faith alone that does not obey, but somehow there is a “faith alone” that does obey.  We want to pin down the fact that faith is the only reason I would repent and be baptized, and in that sense faith alone is the motivation, but faith is not just a motivation, it is also a response and a way of bringing our lives back into connection and fellowship with God. It is not separate from repentance and baptism. Otherwise, it ceases to be faith.  When God puts repentance and baptism in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:38) between the sinner and remission of sins, then faith gladly receives the word of God and acts accordingly (Acts 2:41).  To fail to do so is to cease believing God and settling on an easy-believism that does not bring one into saving grace.

Then our brother made this charge:

B. Faith Plus Works

1. This is the doctrine of justification taught by CoCs, as abundantly attested in our writings.

a) For years I taught we are saved by faith only if and when faith obeys specific commands.

b) But is this consistent with Scripture? Ro. 3:28; 4:3-5; cf. 2Sa. 12:13; Mk. 2:4-5; Lk. 23:43 –Unquote!

Reply: I would challenge our brother to look among “our writings” and find where anyone has taught that we are saved by “faith PLUS works”.  It seems very suspect and arbitrary the way our brother has made a distinction between “faith plus works” and “faith that works”.  Now, does our brother believe that a person is first saved by faith and then after salvation they are to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ”?  Now, if they are already saved, is our brother now teaching that a person is to repent and be baptized BECAUSE they already have remission of sins?  That seems to be what he is affirming by denouncing his former teaching and now structuring it below as saving faith that begins to work after being saved.  Now, Peter taught that they would be saved by faith only if and when faith obeys the exhortation to “repent …and be baptized…for remission of sins”(Acts 2:38). Is that consistent with Romans 3:28? Absolutely!

 Rom 3:28 - Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. NKJV

On Pentecost the 3000 were justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.  The Law did not command them to repent and be baptized in Jesus’ name. But, faith in Jesus demanded it.  Even the Book of Romans acknowledges that this is what their faith in Jesus caused to happen (Rom.6:3-5). So, the appeal to Romans 3:28 does not help the case of faith apart from repentance and baptism. Rather it confirms that the faith spoken of is a faith that trusts and obeys the Savior even on His terms of pardon. That is the nature of true faith in Jesus.

It does not contradict Romans 4 because it is still an active obedient faith.  Repentance is not a work whereby God owes us, and it certainly is not a work that cancels the need for grace. Likewise, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ “for remission of sins” is not a work that cancels the need for grace. It is an appeal for the grace offered.  That is what is characteristic of believing Jesus, not works of law. How can we look at the 3,000 as working to earn justification?  Aren’t they appealing for mercy in their repentance and baptism?  How can we possibly look at them as cancelling the need for grace by doing what Peter exhorted them to do?  They are certainly showing what faith demands in a sinner seeking forgiveness of sin, justification before God.

And, is our brother making an appeal to the thief on the cross as proof of salvation without repentance and baptism in Jesus’ name?  It surely seems that he has appealed to this as proof that justification ALWAYS comes before repentance and baptism.  First, faith includes whatever terms of pardon God requires under any covenant.  If a Jew is already in covenant with God, and that covenant has not been abolished, then baptism may not be required under that covenant. For example, nobody was ever required to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ under the Old Testament. That was the covenant the thief was under.  His penitence was evident and Jesus announced his safe condition as was in harmony with the penitence required under the Old Covenant.  But, what of those who would enter into the new covenant?  The thief is not an example of someone entering into the New Covenant of Jesus.  Heb.9:15-17 shows that Jesus’ death would atone for people who lived under the first covenant and then Jesus’ NEW testament  would come into play AFTER He died.  So, can we be justified by the same terms of pardon found under the first covenant with Israel?  No!  That covenant has been fulfilled and abolished.  We have to have the same kind of faith, but the conditions of pardon are those conditions explained under the New Testament.  Those terms or pardon never applied to Abraham, David, or the thief on the cross.  But, they applied to the 3,000 on Pentecost.  Faith is now in a crucified and raised Savior and Lord.  The thief was not part of this New covenant.  The 3,000 cannot be justified like the thief. The thief could not be justified on the same terms of pardon as the 3,000, but all under either covenant could be justified by the content and conditions of faith required of them.  So, we cannot buy into our brother’s  implied argument that we are to view the 3,000 as justified by faith alone, and then repenting and being baptized to show they were already saved.  Now, saving faith under Christ is on terms of faith that repents and is baptized in His name “for remission of sins”(Matt.28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:48; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Gal.3:26-27; Col.2:12).

JE: 2. Paul says we are saved by faith apart from works; he includes acts of obedience in this category.

a) The Lord judges men guilty of sin based on intention prior to action. Mt. 5:27-28; 1Jn. 3:15

b) This view says faith is necessary but insufficient for receiving salvation. (cf. Jn. 5:24) –Unquote!

Reply:  When Paul says we are saved by faith apart from works, the context is about works of law-keeping. He is not excluding works like confessing Jesus, repenting of sins, and being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins. It is hard to believe our brother is saying this. We ask at what point in Saul (Paul)s faith in the Lord did he have justification (remission of sins)?  Was it when the Lord spoke to him and revealed WHO He was to Saul? No!  Was it while Saul was three days in prayer? No! Was it when Ananias told him to “arise and be baptized, washing away his sins, calling on the name of the Lord”(Acts 22:16) and then he did so?  Yes!  Was this action “works of law”? No!  Was it obedience of faith? Yes!  Was Saul justified by a “faith alone” apart from repentance and baptism?  Absolutely NOT!  Even with the simple cases of conversion in Acts we can see the complete harmony of salvation by faith versus those Jews who sought justification by works of law which is apart from faith in Jesus.

When our brother says that we claim faith is necessary “but insufficient for receiving salvation”, I’m wondering if he would say the same regarding the men who believed on Jesus but would not confess Him (John 12:42)?  Is this “faith necessary but insufficient for salvation”?  Surely he would call that insufficient faith. He would surely say that faith has to have a greater quality or depth than that.  Yet, the Bible says it is “faith”, and surely it is “faith only”. So, our brother is really not representing churches of Christ correctly, and even more regrettably,   he is not representing the Bible teaching correctly. 

It is a bit odd that our brother decided to separate himself from churches of Christ and put them in the category of “faith PLUS works”, and then make another category for himself called “faith THAT works”. It is strange because if the faith does not work you cannot be certain that you have been saved yet.  So, a person who wants to know if they are forgiven has to do WHAT in order to get out of the uncertainty of “faith without works”?  When is a person to know if he is saved?  Our brother leaves it in a mystery.  Peter was not so vague!(Acts 2:38). Paul was not so vague (Col.2:12; Rom.6:3-6; Gal.3:26-27). Our brother wants to call Peter’s exhortation in Acts 2 “Faith PLUS Works”.  I call it faith in Jesus Christ.  But, now let’s see if we can understand the difference between what he has falsely called “faith PLUS works” and what he called “faith THAT works”.

JE: C. Faith That Works

1. Faith is more an intellectual assent to the truths of Christianity; it is full surrender to Christ.

a) Genuine faith is always accompanied by the evidence of obedience. (cf. Ja. 2:14-26)

b) If we claim to believe but do not obey, we are not saved. (cf. Lk. 6:46; Mt. 7:21-23)

Reply:  Now, that sounds good so far. I’m wondering why he did not put “churches of Christ” in this category?  We believe in genuine faith and that it is ALWAYS accompanied by the evidence of obedience.  In fact, what I have always heard and taught is that if obedience in place, it is not genuine faith and it certainly does not bring us into saving grace.  It is really strange and puzzling to me that our brother chose to put churches of Christ into another category of faith. The above points are what I have always heard and taught.  I’ve never heard the “faith PLUS works” argument our brother attributes to churches of Christ.  And, the distinction he makes with “faith THAT works” is just a cloud of smoke. It means that one is not certain of his salvation until he can wait to see IF it will start working. “Faith THAT works” has to wait till it does something to figure out if it has gone past the “faith WITHOUT works” that he said does not save.  So, instead of being certain of when one is saved, his new position means that he will have to pick out an arbitrary point of activity to find out if his is a “faith THAT works”.  This is not good!  The 3,000 on Pentecost and the Ethiopian Eunuch knew exactly when the rejoicing should begin. It is a shame that our brother has drifted from that certainty.  His next sentence below will tell us where he is at in his own convictions. He says:

JE: 2. If Grace is the BASIS and Faith is the CONDITION, Obedience is the FRUIT of salvation.

Reply:  Get this. He now says “obedience is the FRUIT of salvation”. That means it develops AFTER one is saved by faith alone.  Well, we have to ask WHEN?  When were the 3,000 saved?  BEFORE repentance and baptism?  Or, AFTER repentance and baptism?  Well, Peter exhorts them to “be saved” by repenting and being baptized. So, they believed but were not yet saved until they repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins (Acts 2:37-41). Peter had no idea that they were saved already, and he had no idea that the fruit of obedience (repentance and baptism) would come out now that they were already saved.  So, our brother has simply muddied the water.  He seems to have been drinking from the denominational wells of “faith-only” doctrine too long.

Now, let us be clear about the “faith” that is the CONDITION for salvation.  Faith has to have the right CONTENT: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not “another Jesus”(2 Cor.11:2-4).  Faith in Jesus has to have the right knowledge of WHEN Jesus will cut away sins. The real Jesus said it would be when one repents (Luke 24:48) and is baptized (Mark 16:16).  His disciples understood this knowledge and believed it.  Paul said that when we are buried in baptism with Jesus we have “faith in the operation of God”(Col.2:12).  So, in the act of baptism we have faith that God will operate and cut away our sins. Faith in Jesus has the right knowledge of WHEN God will cut away our sins.  Faith has to have the right CONTENT and KNOWLEDGE of when God will cut away sins, and knowledge of the right BASIS, the blood of Christ given by grace.  So, attempts to separate faith from repentance and baptism and put the latter two items in the “fruit” section of AFTER-SALVATION items, is not in harmony with the apostolic teaching from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit puts salvation AFTER baptism, not before it.

Faith is an umbrella term that is to include proper content and activity of believing the facts of Jesus and the promises, conditions, and commands of Jesus.  But, let us consider the next item in our brother’s outline:

JE: a) We work from grace, not for it. Our work is the response to God’s work in us. Eph. 2:8-10

Reply:  Now, there is truth in this, except for the fact that he has already classified what churches of Christ teach about repentance and baptism as “faith PLUS works”.  So, we already know that he is claiming that repentance and baptism is to be considered “work FROM grace” already received.  It is a clever way of putting things.  I could ask “do you trust in order to obtain grace?” Do you believe from grace or for it?  You do the believing,  don’t you?  Do you believe from grace or for it?  Well, it would be both.  Grace prompts me to believe and I believe in order to enter into His grace.  The same is so with repentance and baptism.  Grace prompts me to repent and be baptized for remission of sins, AND I do it in order to be saved by grace.  After entering into Jesus Christ, grace prompts me to good deeds.  I do good deeds because of the grace received and in order to keep the grace received.  There is the offering side of God’s grace, and then there is the enjoyment of God’s grace.  Grace is what offers and prompts us, but grace is not enjoyed until it is entered on the conditions stated.  There is the grace that appears to all men, and it makes the offer of salvation upon stated terms or conditions, and then there is the acceptance and entering into God’s grace. Did the 3,000 repent BECAUSE of the remission of sins, or in order to obtain the remission of sins?  It was in order to have the remission of sins. Was it from grace or for it?  Both!  Grace offers and states the conditions.  Faith obeys whatever the conditions are. Remission of sins is offered on condition that they have the faith to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  Unbelief refuses the offer and the conditions.  So, grace prompts and compels us to meet the conditions, faith accepts and meets the conditions, and the enjoyment of grace moves us from grace to do good deeds.

JE:b) Abraham was justified by faith; his faith was justified (vindicated) by works. Ja. 2:21-24

Reply:  The word is “justified” not “vindicated”.  His faith was not justified. HE was justified. How? By works of faith.  James asks “can faith save him?”  He is not asking “can faith vindicate him”? James is asking if faith alone can save.  James, in verses fifteen and sixteen,  gives an example of one who tells a cold, hungry person to be warmed and filled, without giving them anything. He then states in verse seventeen that “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  Abraham did not have a dead faith. We are not saved or justified by a dead faith, but by a living, active, obedient faith.  If it has no activity it is not complete and alive.  Activity shows that it is alive. James’ argument culminates when he says in verse twenty-four that “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” This is the only time that the phrase “faith alone” is used in the Bible, and it is negated, not affirmed. It is the person being justified.  It is not merely vindicating a claim that one has faith, but showing that the faith is alive and of the saving kind.  Justification is what God does for us when we show the works or evidence of a living faith.  There is no doubt that Abraham had living faith even before the statement in Genesis 15.  Hebrews 11 shows that Abraham “obeyed” when he was called to go to a country God would show him.  That was Genesis 12.  Later, he believed promises too, and God “accounted it for righteousness”.  Was it ONLY because Abraham believed the promises in Genesis 15?  No! That was just further proof to God that Abraham believed.  But he believed God and obeyed God even before that point.

We have to believe God’s commands and promises too.  The 3,000 on Pentecost were justified through their active, obedient faith.  It was not “faith alone”. It was active, obedient faith.  After their baptism and salvation they kept on doing good deeds.  Finally, our brother says:

JE: Action

1. This is why Martin Luther could say, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”

2. We are not saved by what we do but by trusting in what Christ has done. If I believe, my life will prove it.

Reply:  Martin Luther was guilty of double-talk here.  Can you tell when the 3,000 Pentecostians were saved by “faith alone”?  Was it 5 minutes before they repented?  Was it before they repented and were baptized?  No! If there is anything clear in the Bible it is the fact that these people had to be exhorted with many other words to “be saved from this perverse generation”(v.40).  How? By repenting and being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins so that they could have the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Those are the necessary tools for being saved from that perverse generation.  Those are the conditions of saving faith.

Again, our brother’s last statement is off the mark of truth. He says in closing: 2. We are not saved by what we do but by trusting in what Christ has done. If I believe, my life will prove it.-Unquote!

Reply: Our brother would answer “what shall we do?”(Acts 2:37) differently than Peter.  Our brother would not say what Peter said.  Our brother would answer, “we are not saved by what we do”.  Peter had no hesitancy to tell them what to do.  They wanted to know how to be saved. They wanted to know what “trusting in what Christ has done” would require of them. Indeed, if the 3,000 gladly receive the words of instruction on how to benefit from “what Christ has done”, they will be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ without further delay.  They will know precisely WHEN they were forgiven or justified before God. They will not have to wait and see if “my life will prove it”.  They will know exactly when it took place because Peter told them exactly when it would take place.  Paul said the same thing.  They would be buried with him in baptism and be raised with Him “through faith in the working of God” (Col.2:12). 

We hope that this reply brings light, love, and understanding to the table. We hope that our brother will come back to the faith of the New Testament and will choose to discard the modern denominational doctrines of men that pervert the truth of the gospel.  If not, then my hope is to help enlighten those who are willing to learn and test all things to glory of God and the furtherance of the truth of the gospel and the defense of the faith.

Terry W. Benton

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Review of “Justified by Grace through Faith without Deeds of Law”

A Review of “Justified by Grace through Faith without Deeds of Law

In an article or outline,  a brother we care about,  tries to explain salvation by grace through faith, but it seems to me that he has not grasped the significance of saving faith and what is involved with saving faith. In his article he separates himself from churches of Christ, making some claims about what churches of Christ believe and what he now believes.  For example, he asks this misleading question: “ b) Are we saved by what we do, or are we saved by trusting in what Christ has done?”   That is misleading because it is self-contradicting.  Don’t we do the trusting?  Isn’t that something we do?  Furthermore, while we fully understand and appreciate the fact that it is only because of what Jesus has done that any of us can be saved,  the fact remains that Jesus is not going to save any of us unless we trust Him enough to OBEY His terms of pardon.  Our brother is making an unfair contrast between two ways of saying the same thing. What we do is trust and obey Jesus to receive what He has done.  Why? Because we trust Him even on the terms of pardon He has required.  Are we saved by what we do?   Yes and no!  Yes, if you mean  “are you saved by JESUS if you DO what He said to receive His grace?”  But, “no”, if you mean that doing something on our own has inherent power to save us exclusively by the mere doing of those things.  But, the question is misleading because we cannot be saved by Jesus unless we do the hearing and believing the evidence and do the repenting and being baptized in His name, and do it because we want HIM to pardon us on the terms He commanded and gave promise to.  Apart from Jesus, those activities have no saving ability any more than Naaman could dip himself in the Jordan seven times and save himself from leprosy by the mere action he took.  But, he could not be saved from leprosy by grace if he did not have the faith to do what was required of him as a condition to being healed by grace.

A little further into the outline our brother says:

a) NO BOASTING: Justification by grace thru trust in Christ eliminates any reason for boasting.

 If we are saved by obedience, we leave room to boast. (cf. Lk. 18:9-12; Mt. 7:21-23)

 We will not be saved if we do not obey God, but we are not saved by obedience.-Unquote!

Reply:   One can just as easily boast about doing the “trusting” as one can boast of repentance and baptism. In fact, one cannot really say that they “trust” Jesus at all unless they trust what He says, and trust him enough to repent and be baptized IN HIS NAME for remission of sins (remission that only HE can give us. We don’t give it to ourselves. He gives it when we trust Him obediently in this manner). It seems to be some double-talk to say:  1) we will not be saved if we do not obey God (meaning we must be saved by obeying God), but 2) we are not saved by obedience.  Well, that is cutting too jagged a line.  We are saved only WHEN we obey. Jesus is the Savior. He saves us when we obey Him, and He sets the terms of obedience so that if we obey we will be saved.  Repentance and baptism cannot be “in His name” if it is an action we take wholly on our own and apart from trusting Him to cut our sins away (Col.2:12; Acts 22:16).  Those who do it “in His name” are trusting what He says and believing that He will do the cutting away of sins as He promised.  There is no boasting in recognizing we are sinners in need of His grace and appealing to Him to forgive our sins as we obey His terms of pardon.  We are not saved by a list of things to obey (apart from any connection to Jesus), but we are saved by obedience to Jesus’ terms of pardon (because that is WHEN He will save us).  Our brother shows great confusion. 

Further, one can boast of “trusting” as easily as one can boast of repentance and baptism in Jesus’ name.  So, he solves nothing by taking up the denominational faith-only song we have heard and defeated in every debate I’ve heard or read for decades.  It is puzzling how every few decades a new group of preachers come along who think they have discovered something that the older preachers just missed entirely. 

Then a little later in his outline our brother makes this claim:

1. Many in churches of Christ have assumed Paul’s contrast in Romans/Galatians is OT vs. NT.

a) E.g. We are not saved by obeying the OT law; we are saved by obeying the law of Christ.

b) This assumes we are saved by obeying law; the only question is which law we must obey. –Unquote.

Reply:  I would not say that we are saved by obeying law (a book of rules), but by obeying Jesus’ terms of pardon(found in His law).  Now, to show the further fallacy of our brother’s reasoning we ask: 1) does the law of Christ require us to “trust” Him?  Does the law of Christ require us to believe in Jesus?  If it does, then our brother has shot his own position in the foot.  If the law of Christ requires “trust” or “faith” or “repentance” as CONDITIONS for pardon, then our brother really has not escaped the dilemma he thinks “many churches of Christ” have gotten entangled in.   Since the law of Christ is built into believing in Jesus, it is not a similar thing to the Law of Moses or moral code only.  Those are law-only codes.  The Jew refuses to believe in Jesus and claims devotion to the Law of Moses. Can that law save him? No!  A Gentile may have “law” apart from Jesus. Can his “law” save him? No!  But, a Christian does not have a law apart from Jesus, but law built into the very relationship with Jesus. It is not a separate entity as it is an expression of Jesus Himself.  A person does not enter into this law or covenant apart from trusting and believing Jesus.  Thus, it is better to think of obedience to Jesus as “faith” and to think of the systems of Jews and Gentiles who do not know and follow Jesus as totally dependent on law and works, but that their systems do not provide salvation because their systems inherently condemn them rather than saving them.  By works shall no flesh be justified.  There is no salvation apart from Jesus.  The law of Christ is not something apart from Jesus.

A little later our brother says: 2. Romans 4 does not allow us to distinguish works of merit and works of divine command. –Unquote!

Reply: But Romans four DOES allow us to distinguish works of faith from all other kinds of works.  Abraham showed works of faith and so did David.  Trust is a work of faith. Repentance is a work of faith. Baptism in Jesus’ name is a work of trust or faith, but these are not works of merit, and they are not works of divine command that one can perform apart from faith in Jesus.  So, there is a subtle mistake our brother makes here with his choice of terms. The ‘steps of the faith” of Abraham were activities of effort such as packing and traveling to a place God would show him.  Don’t say there is no “work” involved with faith. It is simply a different KIND of work than the meritorious kind of work one would have to engage if they are hoping to earn a place with God on the basis of personal merit.  Later, our brother says: 2. Paul’s contrast is not between kinds of works; his contrast is between works and faith. 4:4-5. –Unquote!   But, that is not quite right either.  It is a kind of works that Paul is contrasting because faith is a kind of works too.  A faith in Jesus kind of work is far different from mere works of law.  It takes work on our part to commit our trust to Jesus. It takes work to believe, because that demands the work of listening, studying, analyzing the evidence of God’s word so that it can convict us, and conviction demands the work of repentance, confession, and baptism in Jesus’ name.  So, a contrast between works and faith IS indeed a contrast between KINDS of works. In Galatian Paul terms is “faith working by love”(Gal.5:6). Isn’t that a different KIND of works?  Of course it is!

 One kind depends on personal merit and work that earns continued partnership with God, at least theoretically.  The other kind of works is dependent on Jesus, trusting Him, obeying Him, meeting His conditions of pardon, which means I have not worked meritoriously, which is the reason I recognize a need for pardon and am willing to meet His terms of pardon, and am calling on Him for pardon.  The man of works does not see his need of pardon, and does not need what Jesus did on the cross.  The person who believes in Jesus has works of a different nature or kind altogether. So, because it is two entirely different KINDS of works, it is best to use two different summary words to make the contrast.  The standout feature of justification by law would have to be WORK, entirely a matter of personal performance, and therefore no need of mercy. The standout feature of justification by faith is that it looks away from self to someone else. People look elsewhere because they know they cannot present a case for justification on the basis of personal performance. Thus, faith looks to someone else to provide a basis for justification before God.  Does that mean that you don’t have to believe, trust, and obey any conditions?  No! It will be works of faith, looking for justification through faith in that other person. In our case, we look to Jesus for justification. 

We work a different kind of works. They are not meritorious. They are actions of faith.  Obedience is actions that surrender to another.  So, Paul does contrast two systems, and because they are so different,  the main characteristic of each system is emphasized with one word.  But, to say that faith is not characterized by works of any kind is to overstate the case.   This can be seen by the activity of Hebrews 11.  By faith Abraham….did something. By faith Noah did something.  The main characteristic of faith is that it does what God says. It demonstrates its reality by works of obedient faith (See James 2:14ff).  So, in all reality, Paul is contrasting two different KINDS of works: 1) Works of Law where personal performance merits a just standing before God, and 2) Works of faith where Jesus provides the basis of justification on His own conditions of pardon.

Our brother then argues with the above conclusions by saying: a) But the context simply does not picture this contrast. It is not about perfection vs. grace.

b) Is man justified by what he does in obeying God or by trusting in what God has done? –Unquote!

Reply:  It does indeed contrast perfection of standing before law versus grace and its provisions through surrendered and obedient faith.  But, our brother makes a false contrast in his point b.  He asks “Is man justified by what he does in obeying God or by trusting in what God has done?”  Well, that is self-contradictory.  Does man HAVE to “trust” in what God has done?  Yes!  If he does not, God will not justify that person.  Well, if God refuses to justify a person unless they trust God and obey His terms of pardon, then it is not an either-or situation. It is a BOTH situation.  Now, the opposite side of that coin is: Is man justified solely by what he does in obeying God?  The answer is absolutely not!  The other question that comes into play on the second half of the question is: What all is involved in “trusting in what God has done”?, and, does trusting in God exclude or include such terms of pardon such as repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ?  Now, obviously what God has done is the only BASIS for our justification,  but He has done that for all people whether they believe or not.  So, the acquiring of the benefits of what God did for us in Jesus is conditioned upon something God expects from us.  If you want to summarize it, it would be belief or trust in Jesus.  But, no person really knows how to express the kind of trust God has in mind except God says what He expects.  Let us use the story of Naaman again.  Is Naaman going to heal himself by what he does in obeying God?  Yes and No! Only because God told him the conditions he has to meet, and he has to do it. But, if God had not provided the means and conditions, Naaman certainly would not choose to dip in the Jordan seven times and think that has ANY power to heal his leprosy. Likewise, if Jesus had not told us to repent and be baptized in His name for remission of sins, there is no way anyone would have ever come up with that as a means of being cleansed from our spiritual leprosy, sin.  It is the fact that God commanded it as a condition for healing that made Naaman begin to trust and obey the words of the prophet of God. ONLY when Naaman washed in the Jordan did God cleanse him of his leprosy.  And , only when the 3000 on Pentecost and later the Ethiopian Eunuch, and later Saul, were convicted and were baptized in Jesus’ name were any of them able to lay claim to faith or salvation.  So, the truth is in the middle of what our brother said. Man is justified by what he does in obeying God because in obeying God he is trusting in what God has done and what God has said. The man who does nothing to obey God’s terms of pardon does not trust God at all, for how can one truthfully say “I trust what you DID, but I don’t trust what you told me to do?” Those that gladly received his words were baptized in the manner Peter, by Spirit-guidance, commanded.  If they did not, they did not trust the Savior at all. It is very easy to tell WHEN the 3,000 Jews “trusted” Jesus and received “remission of sins”.  It was when they trusted enough to ‘repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins”(Acts 2:36-41). Be careful of straining at Romans to make a false distinction. Obviously, even in Romans Paul is not speaking of a faith that was not the kind that moved them to be “baptized into His death”(Rom.6:1-5).  We should be careful to include in “faith” all the terms of pardon that the Lord commanded. Otherwise we cannot lay claim to believing Him at all. At least not the right Jesus(2 Cor.11:-4).

(to be continued)