The False Dichotomy of Faith and Works (Part 1)
Is Salvation by Faith or by Works?
Christians certainly have great promises from God such as resurrection from the dead, eternal life, and entrance to an eternal, peaceful kingdom. So how does one become the type of person that God will allow entrance into this kingdom and what must he do? A lot of controversy today is centered on “faith” vs “works”. Those who take a strong faith alone approach practically teach that God cannot be pleased with anyone’s good deeds, or works, in the context of it being a means by which someone receives entrance into the kingdom. They major on the idea that faith is a mental action and practically speaking is simply you affirming God’s truth about Jesus in the Gospel. Good works are affirmed to be pious and good by those who take this approach, however works are taught to “come from faith” and are to be considered in a totally separate category from faith. For those who take a strong works approach the idea that is taught is that those who do God’s will and work righteousness are those whom God will bless with entrance. Faith is understood not as a onetime event in your mind, but rather a lifestyle of faithfulness to God. So who is right if either is right? Here are my thoughts for those to consider.
Back to the Basics
The resurrection of the dead first and fore mostly did not come by either man’s faith or man’s works. What often gets lost in this grand topic is what I would call the basics of salvation. The most basic thing that people forget is that the great promises did not come by either mankind’s works or by his faith. God has decided to give humanity eternal life, resurrection from the dead, and entrance into the kingdom because of His own desire. We do not annul death by basic human right, but rather by God’s grace in wanting death to be annulled. “Salvation” is totally by God’s grace in this sense and it is not by works or faith of a person. The second and most basic thing that often gets overlooked is that God chose to bring about the resurrection of the dead by the faithfulness of Jesus. The Scriptures attest many times of God’s grace in delivering up Jesus and that by Jesus’ faithfulness to God in His atonement mankind can therefore have eternal life. So to sum to this section I say that part of the reason that this topic gets so complicated is because people forget that God’s grace in Jesus is the first and foremost reason why humanity will receive the great promises in the first place.
Who Recieves the Promise?
Many will say, “Of course we believe it is by Jesus, but what must we do in order to be considered those who will receive the promises?” This is a good question because after all while all will be resurrected not all will be allowed entrance into the eternal kingdom. So then what must one do or not do to be allowed entrance into the kingdom? Well a strong theme in Scripture is that in “the end”, at the final judgment, everyone will be judged by God according to their works and receive what they deserve for what they have done. Those whose lives are categorized by disobedience and evil works will be judged with eternal punishment. So we know from these themes in Scripture that God chooses to bless the obedient but the disobedient He curses. So then what of faith? If we understand faith to be a disposition of loyalty rather than simply a onetime belief then the false dichotomy of faith vs works seems to melt away. So a person’s faith or faithfulness is made up of works therefore it is not a question of which is it, but rather what is faith in the first place? Click here to see my article for why faith should be understood as a disposition of loyalty.