Thank you for visiting my brand-new blog! My goal is to publish a new post each Monday morning. Please read my thoughts, and then post your comments and questions if you feel the urge.
The idea of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ is foundational to my Protestant heritage: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV) That is, I can never be good enough to cause God to accept me. Only Christ’s merits are enough to purchase my salvation, and I must receive that tremendous gift with humility and trust.
But what does saving faith truly look like? Why do some people who profess to be followers of Christ still act like worldly people? What about the passages in the Bible that seem to emphasize personal responsibility in keeping God’s commandments as necessary for salvation? (e.g., “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life…” Romans 2:6-10 TNIV; “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” James 2:24 ESV)
The basic question is crucial: What does true, saving faith look like? I have come to realize that faith is never just words. I may claim that I am a great artist, but if I can only draw stick figures, than my words do not change the reality of the situation. Likewise, with faith: If I simply claim with my mouth that I am a follower of Christ but have nothing else to back it up, then chances are good that my faith is empty.
Recently I was reading a passage in Old Testament that helped me to make better sense of this. God repeats the same promise to Isaac that he made to Abraham, including the promise of land, descendants, and becoming a blessing to the world. God said, “I will do this because your faith Abraham obeyed me. He did what I said and obeyed my commands, my teachings, and my rules.” (Genesis 26:5 NCV) After reading this, it clicked for me. Abraham’s faith, which is lifted up in the Bible, was a profound trust in God that was demonstrated by obedience to God’s will. Too often we Protestants, in order to avoid works righteousness, over-emphasize salvation by mere intellectual assent (e.g., “In my mind I comprehend that Jesus was the Son of God; therefore I am saved.”) But in some ways, this emphasis has promoted a hollow, vacuous faith.
True, saving faith always issues forth in obedience. A person cannot possess true faith without works of obedience that point back to one’s trust in God (James 2:18). True, saving faith is rooted in a confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9), but that confession bears the fruit of righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God’s standards (Luke 3:8; Ephesians 2:10). Saving faith is proven and borne out in our good deeds in response to God’s grace (See Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:1-12; James 2:14-26)
That’s why the Bible is able to make the audacious claim that we can be made right with God through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:28), while at the same time demanding that we demonstrate our salvation through obedience to God (2 Peter 1:10)!
Thanks be to God for his infinite grace!