Three ways to live

Which is your way?

Faith and Works

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 8:03 pm on Sunday, August 19, 2007

The relationship between faith and good works is one of the most complicated concepts in Christianity. Yet, it is also extremely important, as it is one of the main things that distinguishes Christianity from other religions. We can summarize it as follows:

We are saved by faith (in the saving work of Jesus Christ) alone, not by works. Yet, good works always accompany the true understanding of the faith. Moreover, true faith is what causes these good works to appear in the first place. The opposite is also true, every truly good work has its source in faith.

Here are two important implications:

1) If you have a problem with obedience, this does not mean you are not trying hard enough. Since every good work (e.g. obedience) comes from faith, lack of obedience is the signal that there is something wrong with your faith (e.g. you misunderstand or don’t really believe it).

2) Reality is such that while a lack of good works is clear sign of the absence of true understanding of the faith, the presence of good works is not a proof of faith. This is caused by discrepancy between just good works (not caused by faith) and truly good works (caused by faith). A lot of wisdom is necessary to separate the two, something that most of us lack. It’s equivalent to seeing the true intentions of the heart rather than just the superficial actions.

John Piper pointed out a good Biblical example of this in one of his seminars, the famous story of Solomon dividing the child between two women in 1 Kings 3:16-28. Both women seem to care much about the child, yet only of them did it out of true belief that she was the mother. The other one was lying.

Making a parallel with our topic, both women had “good works” on the surface. But king Solomon showed great wisdom by giving the women a test that made their true faith come out.

Jesus also provides several good examples of this when he accuses Pharisees of superficial obedience to the law but lacking true love for God. Jesus detected the problem by noticing the lack of some important good works (justice, love, mercy) while meticulously doing less important things (Matthew 23:23). Truly good works that stem from faith always show up together.

Conclusions:

1) When you have hard time to obey, look for what’s missing in your faith
2) Don’t feel safe because you obey by serving in the church, attending a bible study, reading the Bible every morning. Chances are, your obedience might not be caused by faith but is a way to get friends, earn recognition, or feel good about yourself. Use your weaker traits to analyze your “performance”.

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