Salvation Is Not By Faith Alone

In Matthew’s Gospel account, Jesus gives us a couple of examples of what it takes to be ‘damned’. In chapter 18 he tells us about a servant who is forgiven an astronomical debt by his king. The servant then goes out and proceeds to exact legal punishment upon a man who owes him relatively nothing. The king is not pleased to hear of this ingratitude.

“For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Later, in chapter 25, Jesus talks about another king, himself, who will address two groups of his subjects, one he calls sheep, the other goats. The sheep, he is pleased with. The goats have earned his wrath and when they question him he explains.

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you.

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

In the first parable Jesus seems to be addressing us as individuals. After having been forgiven our life apart from God, the expectation is that we share in his limitless grace by forgiving others. To do otherwise is detrimental to our own salvation. In action we will likely often fall short of this goal, but the prevailing nature of our hearts should be one of unconditional forgiveness.

In the second parable Jesus expects us to actively serve those who are in need, even if we have no personal attachments to them. This is the best way for us to serve God; not on our knees, or up in pulpits or handing out tracts but in service to those who have a direct material need. Whenever we encounter those who we can help, we should do so, but from a practical perspective this may be very difficult, if not impossible. There are millions of suffering people in the world today, where do we start? Must we actively seek them out? Are we always best suited to help? Where does charity begin and where does it end?

It is telling that Jesus is talking about sheep(pl.) and goats, not the sheep and the goat. Individually we may not have the time, resources or talents to feed all the hungry, care for all the sick or assist all those in prisons. Our communities certainly do. Whether they be businesses, social organizations, governments or churches, we have it within our communities to do exactly as Jesus commanded us. For our communities to act in accordance with God’s will does not just mean responding charitably, but to take the needs of others into account before we act upon them, before we turn them into charity cases. Throughout history and certainly today, we have hellish examples of communities that have forgotten mercy and compassion.

Both of the above texts have been used by many to suggest that Jesus actually did believe in a place we call Hell. Perhaps, but more significant is what he plainly says about that which will put us there; a lack of mercy and forgiveness, a lack of compassion, a lack of sacrifice. He does not say that believing in him as Lord and Savior will in some way overcome these ‘sins of omission’.

Perhaps believing in him is not merely a profession of faith, or belief in a creed, or adherence to a doctrine but the visible actions, the performance if you will, of those who live lives of mercy, forgiveness and compassion. Jesus would seem to suggest – no- he stresses that salvation is contingent upon a reciprocal way of life. In order for God to help us we must treat others as he treats us; with love, mercy and compassion.

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 6:14

As for the communities we belong to; are they sheep or are they goats?

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  1. #1 by Born4Battle on August 13, 2008 - 6:49 am

    Not sure what you mean there, net. In the broad sense you are correct. God sent His own Son do die for our sin, in our place. “It is finished” doesn’t mean we are just waiting, because there is a response on our part to the gospel message. Due to our inability to even respond on our own ‘free will’ God draws us to Himself (Eph 2, Rom 3, John 6).

    There is this beautiful pattern that flows through the entire Bible concerning an ‘elect’ people of God that He has chosen to bring to salvation and present to His Son as His Bride.

    So yes, it is His plan for man, but not everyone will be saved. It is His plan to save a renmant out of fallen humanity, and He will let others go there merry way and continue in their rebellion and sin.

    I am only sharing what Scriptures teach, based on what they SAY. If you don’t believe that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired word of God, this might sound like nonesense. There are those who say that the threat of Hell is just cruel and cosmic child abuse. The Bible teaches it and Jesus spoke of Hell more than Heaven, I’ve heard.

    So, Christ is the Messiah sent from God to save mankind, and salvation is God’s work from beginning to end – from drawing the dead lost sinner to repentance and faith to ultimate glorification (Romans 8:29-30).

  2. #2 by Christian Beyer on August 13, 2008 - 1:50 pm

    With all due respect Born, I think you are sharing not what Scriptures teach but rather the teachings of some who have interpreted Scriptures in a certain way. There is far from a consensus within the church over this doctrine of the ‘elect’.

    Not to split hairs, but if we really want to talk about what they ‘say’ and not what they might ‘mean’ then we should start using translations that are more faithful to what was said. Jesus, and no one living in Palestine at that time ever uttered the word “hell”. This word, which has it’s roots in Northern European mythology is packed full of Mesopotamian, Greek and Norse mythology with a little help from Dante Alighieri.

    Sure Jesus paints a picture of a dismal future for those people and civilizations that disobey God’s command to love him and to love others, but is it an actual place set aside for eternal torment? None of us can say for certain.

    But, again, what are the crimes that Jesus says will earn for us this punishment? Contrary to what is usually mentioned from the pulpit, it is not about how we dress, what words we use, whether or not we drink, dance, pray, read scriptures, attend church or have sex outside of marriage Each and every one of those things could, though, have some bearing on how we fulfill his very plain command to forgive, love and serve others.

  3. #3 by logiopath on August 13, 2008 - 2:09 pm

    Is this some kind of confession, Oh ye who are without sin?

  4. #4 by netprophet on August 13, 2008 - 2:24 pm

    My simple statement, “It is finished.” was the last thing Jesus said on the cross along with “Into your hands I commit my Spirit.” For God and Jesus it is finished. Man MAY now be reconciled to God through Christ’s sacrifice, the law has been fulfilled and God is waiting patiently for mankind to realize His plan. It is now up to us to “work out our own salvation” by following ALL the teachings of Jesus.

    I don’t know how anyone can say they are following Jesus and not carry out the works Chris mentioned (in part) and Christ taught. It was Jesus that showed us the way to work it out by following His two commandments, in which are contained all the law. So I think we are all in agreement on the method of our salvation, but perhaps don’t necessarily share the same interpretations of the Scripture. If we will follow the leadings of the Holly Spirit, I believe we can have the blessed assurance that our work is pleasing to God.

  5. #5 by Christian Beyer on August 13, 2008 - 2:55 pm

    Sure it is Bruce. But that was one point of my post. We will always come up short, so it’s easy to just give up and say things like “the poor will always be with us”. That’s why I think it is important to see that Jesus in Matthew 25 is talking to us in a corporate or communal fashion. Especially since he is Jewish talking to Jews. The Jews did not see being made righteous apart from Israel. We should not see our obligations in light of our own individual efforts.

    We can be fundamentalists, liberals, Baptists, Catholic, Reformed etc and still have an overarching sense of a community that is progressively pursuing the Kingdom.

  6. #6 by Dan on August 13, 2008 - 3:42 pm

    Jesus work in redeeming the elect of God was finished on the cross. We will ‘do works’ because he saved us, out of gratitude and because he causes us to desire to ‘do works’ (that will glorify Him). Remember the verse that says “they will see your good works and golrify your Fahte in Heaven? No work of man contributes to salvation, but works of man result because we have been saved. If we say we have faith and don’t demonstrate works, we don’t have saving faith in Christ.

    Because we are saved, we are already citizens of the Kingdom on temporary assignment here to spread the gospel. I agree with the proposition that we ‘pursue’ righteousness in all things (the Kingdom being where Christ rules and reigns, in this case in our hearts. I would disagree we ‘pursue’ establishing Christ’s Kingdom on earth before His return. That’s the Dominionism false doctrine that has appeared in some places and includes a heirarchy of modern day Aposties and Prophets.

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