11 Jul 2009

Salvation Through Faith or Works?

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I was raised a Catholic, and now call myself a born-again Christian. The biggest doctrinal change is that as a Catholic, I thought that the way you “get into heaven” was by trying to live a good life, and then if God thought you made the final cut, you got onto His team. But you really couldn’t know beforehand whether or not you made it, since after all only God would know such things.

Well Protestants don’t believe that. (BTW I am by no means an expert on what various sects believe, so please correct me in the comments if I misspeak.) They think that the way you achieve eternal life is to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and savior. And if a Catholic says, “How do you know that?” they say, “Because I read the Bible and it’s plain as day. You should try it sometime.”

(BTW I am trying to be funny here. I am not ripping Catholics; in general they are much more scholarly I think than Protestants. However, it is undeniably true that in my experience–and I went to Catholic schools until college–I barely ever held a Bible in my hands. I was stunned when the [born-again] pastor who married us, showed me in the Bible that you could know what you needed to do to achieve salvation. No when had ever stressed those passages to me before, even though I had seen “John 3:16” at baseball games etc.)

Now what’s interesting is that even though the Protestant can come up with numerous, apparently airtight declarations in the New Testament about believing in Jesus as the sole thing you need to do to get into heaven, nonetheless the Catholics (if they wanted) could come right back with plenty of other declarations stressing the importance of “works.” Thus the Catholic could with good reason retort, “You guys are nuts! You’re telling me if a serial killer says ‘I accept Jesus’ that’s it? Even if he keeps killing people?”

For a while I have thought the resolution of this conundrum is the realization that belief in Jesus is an action, it is a “work.” In other words, it’s not “merely” a belief; it is a conscious choice that you make in leading your life, when you invite Jesus into your heart, accept Him as your savior, and all the other ways a Protestant describes it.

What I (re)discovered while reading the Gideon Bible in sin city during Freedom Fest is that Jesus Himself seems to agree with my take on this. Check out John 6:28-29:

Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

(Also, I’ve noted this before, but I always think it’s neat to see what John 6:66 says.)

One Response to “Salvation Through Faith or Works?”

  1. Bible study says:

    I am sure that salvation comes through faith alone in Jesus Christ, not by our own works of righteousness in the flesh. I just wish everyone else could see this truth. I think they get hung up on the commandments of God and seek to keep them by their own works, and not by faith alone in Jesus. For those who do so, please consider this, consider your ways. The bible,for example, commands us not to lie. 1 John 2:22 tells us a liar is one who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Therefore, when we believe he is the Christ, we are no longer liars according to the biblical definition of a liar in 1 John. All the commandments are kept like this one through faith in Jesus. When we believe in him, we fulfill the commandments of God which are telling us to believe Jesus is the Christ, for example we are not to lie, or deny that JEsus is the Christ in unbelief. In other words, the commandment not to lie is a commandment not to deny JEsus is the Christ, but a commandment to believe he indeed is. For it is through faith we are saved. This is God’s commandment, to believe on JEsus and abide in the faith. To see other commandments according to the biblical interpretation by rightly dividing the word of truth, please visit this bible study website. Another example, we are commanded not to steal. If we steal, we are thieves, but if not we are not thieves. In John chapter 10, Jesus told us to seek salvation any other way than through him makes us thieves. THerefore, when we climb up through faith in Jesus alone, we are not theives who steal, spiritually speaking of course, for the law of God is spiritual according to Romans 7:14. The entire bible is spiritual and is not given for private intepretation based on our own natural wisdom and understanding. We are to let God define the words of the bible. Jude speaks of those who are carnally, or naturally minded.