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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Gospel Tension.

We see throughout the New Testament a tension between faith and works. There are numerous passages dealing with the subject of salvation through faith, and there are also those passages that pertain to the necessity of works in the life of a believer if he ever hopes to safely reach heaven. On the one hand we must beware of legalism, the futile attempt to be saved through works, and on the other, we must steer clear of antinomianism, the idea that salvation frees us from obedience to God; that it doesn't matter how we live once we are saved.

Let's look at several of these passages, starting with some statements that Jesus made concerning salvation.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:14-16 KJV
This is a well known portion of scripture that teaches us the concept of salvation by faith. Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus about the need to be born again if one is to enter the kingdom of heaven. In this passage we are the emphasis placed upon our belief in Him as the requirement to find eternal life. There are similar statements Jesus made in other occasions as well.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is past from death into life. John 5:24 KJV
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:40 KJV 
Again, we see the emphasis Jesus placed upon faith in Him. But Jesus placed as much emphasis on obedience to His commands as well, as we see in passages such as these,
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:  I am not come to destroy, but fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5:17-20 KJV
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matt 7:21-23 KJV
And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and so not do the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: he is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock: but he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. Luke 6:46-49 KJV
If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever. John 14:15-16 KJV
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that livery me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. John 14:21-24 KJV
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taken away: and every branch that beseech fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. John 15:1-6 K KJV
These are just a few of the passages of scripture in which Jesus emphasizes obedience to Him. There are others in which he lays out in no uncertain terms what is required of one who would be a disciple of His.

We find the disciples fulfilling the great commission in the book of Acts. In it we see emphasis placed on belief, as well as on obedience.
And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:21, 38 KJV
This is from Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost. In it he makes it as simple as calling on the name of the Lord, but he also exhorts his listeners to turn from their sins in repentance. Repentance was also a theme of John the Baptist's preaching, as well as that of Jesus Christ's. Simply put, repentance is giving up sin, and embracing obedience to Christ.
And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. Acts 5:32 KJV
Peter makes these statements to the household of Cornelius, a Roman centurion  desiring to know the way of salvation,
But in every nation he that heareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. 
To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. Acts 10:35, 43 KJV 
We read of the ministry of Philip in Samaria,
But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Acts 8:12 KJV
When asked by the Ethiopian eunuch what hindered him from being baptized, he answered him, "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." Acts 8:37

Paul makes this statement in Acts 13:38-39,
Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness is sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Acts 13:38-39 KJV
A careful search throughout the book of Acts would reveal many more instances where people were urged to believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation. So we see that the first Christians placed an emphasis upon faith, yet they also understood that their can be no salvation apart from obedience to Christ as well.

We find the apostle Paul placing great importance upon grace and faith in his writings. Some of the most loved and encouraging verses found in his letters are ones like these,
For what sayeth the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to Him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to Him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Romans 4:3-5 KJV
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 KJV
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man boast. Eph 2:8-9 KJV
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 2:3-7KJV
We could find others as well in Paul's epistles, but these will suffice to show that Paul, as well as Jesus, preached a gospel of grace. But again, we see that there is no hope of salvation apart from an obedient  walk with the Lord.
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? Romans 6:16 KJV
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Romans 8:13-14 KJV
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10 KJV
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. Eph 5:1-7 KJV
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thess 1:8 KJV
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. Heb 5:8-9 KJV
Salvation is a radical life change. We tend to focus on God's forgiveness of our sin, which is a vital part of our salvation, but often fail to understand the power of the gospel to set us free from the dominion of sin in our lives. An individual claiming the grace of God, while living in disobedience to God, is in rebellion, still lost in sin. John states,
If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 1 John 1:6-7 KJV
If we really believe in Jesus, we will follow Jesus. How can we say we are sorry for our sin, desire Christ to forgive us, and yet refuse to give it up? James tells us that real saving faith will express itself in obedience to Christ. If it does not, it is a dead faith.
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, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye 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. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:14-26 KJV
This is how we reconcile these two contradicting concepts. They are really two sides of the same coin. Faith in Christ will always obey Christ. Faith without obedience to Jesus is no faith at all. It is merely a license to sin. One who holds to this idea has no real salvation. To have obedience without faith is just as grave an error, leading one into a legalistic, works based Christianity that also cannot save. What really counts is faith working by love (Gal 5:6).

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