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Faithworks

February 15, 2014 by Pito

 

 

 

                                                                                                                        Faith works.

 

      There are certain things that go together that should not be separated. For instance, a husband and his wife. “What God has joined together let no man put asunder.” Of course, sinners that we are, we regularly make the mistake of doing just that. The United States has the highest divorce rate in the entire world and evangelicals are among the most guilty.

    Without going into a lot of detail, other things that should not be separated are a person from his body. We call that murder except for capital punishment or self-defense,. In addition, the Bible is clear that there should be no separation of the sign and the thing signified.

   WCF on signs of the covenant. “There is in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union between the sign and the thing signified; whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.”

  Illustrated by Genesis 17:10  :This is my covenant…every man-child shall be circumcised.”

   Mt. 26:27   “For this is my blood of the new testament…”

And Titus 3:5  “…by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit…”

  As a result of this error of separating the sign from the thing signified, we have Baptistic deformations and we have Presbyterians and Reformed who keep their children from the table. As a Christian culture we have been saturated with Greek thinking. We are predisposed to abstract thinking that regularly separates what God has joined together.

   I say all of this as an introduction to our thought for today. “Faith works” should not be separated any more than a husband and his wife should be separated. Unfortunately, faith/works are separated and the American church is floundering around like a fish out of water on this. Until the church gets this right, we will continue to confuse the world about salvation and judgment because the church herself is confused.

    While it is good to appeal to the Confession and we have already done this, it is ultimately to the law and to the testimony that we must appeal.

    Our title says it all “Faith works.” Notice I didn’t say “Faith and works,” for that can imply that they are two separate things and no I am not playing with trifles. I have a point, a biblical point to make, so stay with me.

   Biblical authors have a lot to say about “faith works” and on the surface, they may seem to disagree. For instance, Paul says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

  But James says, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith only.”

   There have been volumes written about this and explanations a many. Today in the Reformed world the debate rages and could it be that the confusion is caused by some folks embracing of Greek ways of thinking? Thinking that separates faith from works in an unbiblical way?

   I think so. Let’s look at a few other passages that handle this subject in a straightforward way.

  Remember what the Confession said about signs and the thing signified. “the names and effects of one are attributed to the other.”

Check out this passage and see if something similar is not true in the Bible’s teaching on “faith works.”

Matthew 19:16

 
16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

 

  Notice in verse 17 that Jesus said, “if thou wilt enter life, keep the commandments.” This is in answer to the rich young rulers question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

    Surely Jesus knew that we are justified by faith. How could he have made such a big mistake? I say this in irony because Jesus made no mistakes, ever. So how could he say to this man that to enter life, he must keep the commandments?

    Remember our interpretative principle, “the names and effects of one are attributed to the other.” Many times in Scripture this is so and we now look at a few of them.

    “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of the Lord.”

   How can a man enter into the joy of the Lord? He did good works. He was good and faithful, full of faith.

   Notice how Hebrews 11 handles this. No abstract separation of faith/works.

 By faith Abel offered…

By faith Abraham obeyed…

By faith Noah prepared an ark…

By faith Moses forsook Egypt…

Listen to what Jesus said to the Churches in Asia Minor.

Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.

Remember to do the first works or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place…

To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat…

And he who overcomes and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.

He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments…

He who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of My God…

To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with me on My throne…

In all of these blessing is dependent on overcoming, on good works flowing out of true faith.

      You may not have thought of this, but unbelievers also illustrate the unity of “faith works.”  

    By faith in his power, Pharoah pursued the Israelites….

   By faith in himself, Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem…

It’s everywhere.

People act on what they believe. Their conduct flows out of their presuppositions. Their faith and their actions are one, inseparable in real life.

 Let me illustrate this in this room. If I told you there was a bomb under your pew that was going to explode in 3 seconds, if you believed me what would you do? If you didn’t believe me, what would you do? You would do something.

   So what is necessary to enter into eternal life? Faith works. “Faith without works is dead.”

Be assured that we are not saying that our works merit God’s favor. We are not saying that our good works obligate God in any way.  Jesus says what we should confess that “when you have done all your duty, say to yourselves, we are unprofitable servants, for we have done only what was required.”

   With Scripture, we are saying that all of our righteousness is filthy rags. We are saying that there is none righteous, no not one.

   While works are not meritorious, they are absolutely necessary to enter heaven. Because “faith without works is dead,” and a dead faith does not lead to eternal life.The Biblical evidence for this is overwhelming.

   Hebrews 12:14  Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

   Revelation 21:7,8  He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son.  But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murders, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. . . “

     Inheriting all things is dependent on overcoming.  Notice that unbelieving is included in this list of inheritance excluding sins.  Believing is something we do.  There is no more merit for believing that for doing good works.  Without believing, no eternal life.  Without good works, no eternal life.  Faith and works are one and inseparable in real life.

     At the abortuary, how do we approach those who are murdering babies?  We bring to bear the law of God.  We remind them of the 6th commandment, that they are doing evil works.  If we can get someone to talk with us, we assure them that we are concerned for their lives, not just the lives of the babies.  Eventually, we want them to hear the full gospel.  This is our ultimate goal, but we begin with the law, just like Jesus did with the rich young ruler.

     Let us then return to the rich young ruler for a moment.  In answer to the question, “What can I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus gave him five imperatives, “Go, sell, give, take up, follow.”  He could have said as He did to the disciples, “You believe in God, believe also in me,” but He didn’t.  He  could have said, “Justification is by faith alone,” but He didn’t.  He pointed out their failure to keep God’s law.  This is a pattern that occurs frequently in the gospels during Jesus earthly ministry.

     Paul also sets forth the “faith works” unity in Galatians 6 when he says, “. .  he who sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life. . . “  The rest of chapter 6 explains what he means.  Sowing to the Spirit means . . .

     Restore a trespasser in the spirit of gentleness. .

     Let him who is taught in the word share in all good things with him who teaches.

     Do not grow weary in well-doing. .

     Let us do good to all . .

     In summary, sowing to the Spirit means keeping God’s commandments thus,

     “. . . he who keeps God’s commandments shall of the Spirit reap eternal life. . . “

     This may sound like meritorious works salvation, like what Luther faced in the Reformation, but it is not.  Jesus said to the rich young ruler and to all of us, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

     Again, Jesus could say this because He did not artificially or theoretically separate faith from works.  I encourage you to be a Berean and search the Scriptures to see if this is not so.

     In II Corinthians 5 we read, “For we shall all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

     What we do counts.  We are charged to persevere in the faith, to persevere in good works for the glory of God and for our own good.

     Remembering the warnings of Hebrews, we trust in the keeping power of our Lord.  We keep our spiritual eyes on Him to keep us, to enable us to overcome, to incline our hearts to keep His law.  Like the rich young ruler was commanded, we go, we sell, we give, we take up the cross, we follow Jesus.  We have no confidence in our flesh, but in Jesus only.

     God said to Abraham, “I am your exceeding great reward,” and John said in his gospel, “ . . . to know Him is life eternal. . . “

     At the same time Jesus said this,

     “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake,

    “but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Leaving all for the gospel’s sake is rewarded with eternal life.  This is what it says.

This is how we lay up treasure in heaven.

     We rightly believe in justification by faith alone.  But we also rightly believe that faith is never alone.

     Because we believe that He is and that He is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, we come to His table to enjoy the bread of life and the wine of forgiveness.  We do this because He said, “Do this. Do this in remembrance of me.”  We come out of duty and we come out of love.  “We love Him because He first loved us.”  We obey Him because we love Him.  We trust and we work.  We work and we trust because He alone is worthy, because without Him we can do nothing.  He is our life, our joy and our future.  Thank you Father for sending us your Son.


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