Blog # 377 Faith and Good Works
I would be surprised if I came across two otherwise normal people discussing let alone arguing whether it was more valuable to have a particular color eyes than the ability to see. Yet it seems something like this has been done in the history of Christian faith.
For several centuries now, a frequent focal point of serious discussions, arguments and
misunderstandings between Catholics and others has been the question of the relationship in God's saving plan between faith and good works. My contention is that just as in the truth of the matter there is no real competition between the color of one's eyes and the ability of a person to see, so, in the truth of the matter, there is no real competition between faith and good works.
On the physical plane, in God's creative plan, the color of one's eyes and the ability to see work together for the good of the whole person. On the spiritual plane, also in God's creative plan, Christian faith and good works blend together for the salvation of the individual believer, the good of those around us, and the glory of Jesus. Why or how can we argue over that? Yet argue, contradict, condemn, and remain divided of the issue we do, all we would like to think in the name of Jesus. It seems to be something like Moslems fighting Jews in the name of God, Irish fighting English in the name of God, Hutus fighting Tutus in the name of God, all over the world, long ago and now. It may be hard to understand or justify when you are not involved in the process. It is sad as it is real. So our arguments and division over the relationship between faith and good works.
Using the Bible as our source of ammunition, we line up on two sides and throw texts at each other as though they were poisoned arrows capable of overcoming the contradictions to 'God's word, as we see it, in one another. There is plenty of ammunition available or both sides. When we put all of our texts together in a row, we wonder how it could be possible for other side not to see it our way and follow as we all should the clear path we have discovered. One of he problems is that each side is as confident and sincere as the other. There is also the serious damage of not seeing the real problem. The real problem is not that one side is right and one side is wrong.The real problem is our division.
When we are dealing with God's plan of salvation in Jesus, as long as we are divided in our conviction as to what that plan is, all of us are missing something God desires us to have, and to this extent all of us are wrong.
Thee are several texts of Scripture that help us focus our efforts to understand one another and reconcile our differences with regard to the question of the relation ship between faith and good works.
First the side of faith. "Before faith came we were under the constraint of the law, locked in until the faith that was coming should be revealed. In other words, the law was our monitor until Christ came to bring about our justification through faith. But now that faith is here, we are no longer in the monitor's charge. Each one of you is a child of God because of your faith in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3: 23 - 26. ) "Verily, verily I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life." (Jn. 6: 47. "What must I do to be saved ?" The answer was : "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, and all your household". ( Acts 16: 30,31). "If you have faith, everything you ask for in prayer you will receive." (Mat. 21 22) .
Then on behalf of good works: "I solemnly assure you, the person who has faith in me will do the works I do..." (Jn. 14: 12). "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor lack of it counts for anything; only faith, which expresses itself through love. (Gal.5: 6). "What doth it profit . my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, or destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them "Depart in peace and be you warmed and filled, notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit? Even so, faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone." (Acts 2: 14 - 17). "When the Son of Man shall come in His glory...and before Him shall be gathered all nations...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 hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink . (Mat. 25: 31ff).
"...faith that manifests itself in love" (Gal.5:6) seems to be the Scriptural solution to any problems we may have developed with regard to the relationship between faith and good works. God's gift of salvation is not one or the other, but both. Neither one lives or is itself without the other. The eye that sees is the eye that is brown blue green or gray. The color is part of the eye's design. So faith and good works are part of one another and cannot be true without one another.
There are incidences in Scripture where faith is proclaimed and there are incidences where good works are lifted up. One of these is the story of Jesus cursing the barren fig tree. (Mat. 21:19).
Down through the ages believing Christians have used such incidences to argue, contradict, and divide ourselves. Jesus laid before us a different path. "I am the vine. you are the branches". We are called to be one in Jesus in such a close relationship that we share the same life. Then, 'He who lives in me and I in him, will produce abundantly". The beginning of it all, the essential requirement throughout our 'Christian experience is to be united with Jesus through faith. Then, united with Hm as branches are united to a vine, to the roots and to all the other branches on one single vine, we produce in Jesus the good fruit of God's love.
The prayer of the Vine for HIs disciples was this: "Father, that they may be one, even as we are one..." Then one day after Jesus had arrived home He asked the disciples what they were talking about on the way home. And you remember what it was. They were talking about who was the most important among them. (Mak 9: 33,34).