Faith Alone and world religions

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Below is a brief thought on a practical implication of how justification by faith alone helps to differentiate Christianity from other world religions.

Most world religions have a component of a works-based justification built into them. Evaluating such religious systems outside the revelation of the Christian Scriptures would call for an honest appraisal of one’s works. In this type of appraisal would be shown the constant shortfall of such works to justify anyone in any light, especially, before a holy, divine creator. This type of religion would have to continue adding more works to the previous works that were not sufficient only to be defeated in a vicious cycle.

The important Scriptural doctrine of justification by faith alone helps to set the truth of Christianity further apart from such works-based religions. In a practical sense, justification by faith more clearly shows the uniqueness of Christ and His justifying gracious work on the cross to save sinners. If Christianity only offers another works-based religion slightly different than the others then it has nothing in reality to offer.

Tags: ; Categories: Gospel,theology
The above article was posted on March 26, 2010 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jae April 8, 2010 at 1:42 am

Justification is NOT by faith alone but by FAITH WORKING THROUGH LOVE (Gal 5:6)

According to St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:3, ” NO ONE can say “Jesus is LORD” except by the Holy Spirit.” (MEANING: they are Christians, so they must have faith-comments below).

Matthew 7:21: “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who DOES the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

How much more plainer can it be? Talk is cheap. Put our action where our faith is, then we can be called sons and daughters of God (Romans 2:13, James 1:22-25, 1 John 3:18,23).

I love this verses: Matthew 25:31-40 ff

“Then the RIGHTEOUS will answer him, “LORD, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels..”

Please note that in verse 37, these people are called “righteous.” Why? Read verses 35, 36, & 40. Please note that there is no mention of faith at all in any of these passages. These people do call Jesus “LORD” and so I assume them to be Christians, so they must have had faith. But did faith alone save them? No. Read verses 35, 36, & 40 again.

Notice ALSO in verse 44 that the goats (i.e., the non-elect) also address Jesus as “LORD.” According to St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:3, ” NO ONE can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.” These goats then are obviously Christian believers who must have faith in him; yet they are damned anyway. Why? BECAUSE THEY DID NOT HAVE GOOD WORKS.

This is a direct parallel to the teaching of St. James whom everybody admits must have known Matthew’s Gospel.

Peace and Grace.

2 Rhology April 8, 2010 at 10:50 am

jae,

Justification is NOT by faith alone but by FAITH WORKING THROUGH LOVE (Gal 5:6)

Context, context, context. Justification is by faith alone, a faith that ends up working in love, thus proving itself to be true. That’s what James says, BTW – the context is justification (that is, showing itself to be true) BEFORE OTHER PEOPLE.

According to St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:3, ” NO ONE can say “Jesus is LORD” except by the Holy Spirit.” (MEANING: they are Christians, so they must have faith

Making our case for us Reformed, I see. Thanks!

How much more plainer can it be? Talk is cheap.

Definitely! So are works! See Matt 25 – sheep and the goats.
Fortunately, we dont’ believe it’s just about “talk”. Did you mean to strawman us?

Please note that in verse 37, these people are called “righteous.” Why? Read verses 35, 36, & 40. Please note that there is no mention of faith at all in any of these passages.

They worked b/c they had faith. Unless you blv that someone can do enough good stuff to overcome all the sin he has.
How does that work? What % of works need to be what % of good to make it enough? You seem to have an underdeveloped sense of how sinful sin is.

Notice ALSO in verse 44 that the goats (i.e., the non-elect) also address Jesus as “LORD.

Yes, thus adding to their blasphemy and self-deception. If they really blvd He was the Lord, they’d’ve repented of their sin and asked Him to forgive them, had faith. But they didn’t, and they’re deceivers.

Peace,
Rhology

3 Darrin April 9, 2010 at 11:15 am

As Luther stated, justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.

The works test and prove the essence of the faith, whether it is true, but are in no way salvific themselves. To assume that our right response or anything within us is capable of meriting favor from the Lord is extremely foolish and arrogant, and shows no appreciation of His holiness nor our depravity, which are both entirely scriptural.

Good post, Mark. As you wrote, this “shows the uniqueness of Christ and His justifying gracious work on the cross to save sinners”. How it glorifies the only One whose works ARE perfectly righteous by pointing us to Him who is the Author and Finisher of our faith.

4 jae April 14, 2010 at 1:15 pm

@Rhology and Darrin,

God Bless, firstly I’m commenting as a fellow christian brother in Christ and not a provocation. In fact I really admire your love for the Scriptures and Our Lord Jesus.You have raise some good points and what you ask, “What % of works need to be what % of good to make it enough?” I think this is very subjective, how about what % of faith to make it enough?

Reformed: “Reformed position stated that good works (love) are a NECESSARY part of the Justification formula.”

_Necessary means: indispensable, requisite, requirement – So, in other words, if they are NECESSARY, then it is impossible to be saved without them because that is what “necessary” means! If we are going to say that works are necessary for your salvation, then obviously it has a BEARING on your SALVATION, by definition.

I hope you don’t mind, are we saying that Paul in (Ehp.2:8-9) is excluding ALL WORK, because work of any type would nullify salvation by grace?

If that were the case, then Paul would never be able to say, as he does in Romans 2:13, “THE DOERS OF THE LAW WILL BE JUSTIFIED”, “For HE WILL RENDER TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS” (Rom 2:6)

We have to clearly differentiate between these:

1.) “Works done before faith/Legal debt of works/Works of boasting” (Rom 4:4,Gal. 2:16, Gal 3:8; Rom. 1:17, Rom. 3:22, Rom 3:28) AND…

2.) “Works done IN faith through love” that CONTRIBUTE to our Salvation as mentioned by the Bible in : (Matthew 16:27; 2 Cor 5:10; Romans 2:13; Rom 13:8 -10;Hebrews 12:14; Lk. 13:24; Heb. 4:11; 1 Cor 15:58 ;Heb 6:10, Col 3:23-24;Luke 10:27-29;Luke 6:46-49;Matthew 7:18-20;Rev 20:12; Matthew 16:27;Matthew 21:28-31;Matthew 25:44-46;Matthew 7:21;James 2:15-24;James 5:20;Matthew 19:21-23; Gal 6:7; Rev 2:23)

As it stands, Paul can say what he says in Romans 2:13 for the same reason he says in Eph 2:10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Eph 2:8-10 is one of the clearest passages of Scripture making the distinction between works of debt in which men BOAST as opposed to WORKS PERFORMED UNDER God’s gracious preparation. As the works of debt are characterized in verse 8 as “works of yourselves” or works that elicit men to “boast,” this is the same characterization of works that Paul used in Romans 4:2 when he said: “if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to BOAST about,” which he then described as a matter of “debt” in Romans 4:4. Boasting is the essence of works of debt, for in boasting we are seeking payment, on a legal basis, for our work.

“Law of works” are works of debt which require legal payment. Works of grace do not require legal payment.

Paul doesn’t use the term “all works.” He refers to “works of law” or “works of our own righteousness” or works of “boasting.” On the contrary, Paul says that the works he requires for eternal life (Romans 2:8) and justification (Romans 2:13) are the “gospel” (Romans 2:16).

A person who BOASTS of his own goodness is not, legitimately, attributing his works to God. All kinds of people SAY they attribute their works to God. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “Many will say to Me, did we not do mighty works in your name…and I will say, Depart from me.” This is the whole reason Paul condemned the “boasting” of the Jews when they did their works (Romans 2:17; 3:27; 4:2), since they thought that just by claiming God as their own they had special favor with him.

St. Paul never rejected the Law (including Ten Commandments) because the Law was, for St. Paul, the revealed will of God. His rejection is directed at the Jews who believed that they were JUSTIFIED BY THE OBSERVANCE OF THE LAW SO AS TO PUT GOD UNDER A LEGAL OBLIGATION TO SAVE THEM. Paul appeals to the history of Israel to demonstrate their reliance of the Law has not saved them from sin (Romans 2:17-24, 3:9-18). It is this type of work which he is saying is unnecessary both for Jews and for Christians. It is also Catholic doctrine that no work earns the grace of Justification, so there should no dispute between us on this point. Justification is a FREE GIFT of God that you get gratis via His grace.

Salvation is procured only when faith and works act together. That is a crucial distinction.

Good works without faith = pointless
Faith without good works = dead

Now, this is where the problem comes in with this slogan:

“FAITH INEVITABLY RESULTS IN GOOD WORKS”

I truly think this is not true. There is no Scripture verse which says that faith results in works. This is the major fallacy of Protestant thought. Rather, works must be consciously and consistently added to faith by an act of the will (gift from God). This principle is precisely why Abraham fell into some disbelief and bad works in Genesis 16 when he took Hagar as a wife, and in Genesis 17 when he laughed at the promise of God.

The idea that once the button of faith is pushed the conveyor belt of works will automatically start running. Faith does not inevitably produce good works. Faith only gives one a better disposition to do works. The whole book of James addresses the issue of Christians who have faith but are not producing the works they should. Read especially James 3-4, not to mention their despising of the poor man in both 2:1-5 and 2:15-16 after it is said that they have faith in James 2:1.

Having faith doesn’t necessarily one will do good works.That is why Paul said:

“..and if you have ALL the faith to move mountains but without LOVE (good works) you are nothing. (1 Cor 13:2).

Nothing means Nothing, worse than a sinner.

Peace and Grace.

5 Rhology April 20, 2010 at 2:08 pm

jae,

And just so you know, if you are a RC *and* hold to official RC teaching with respect to justification and the Gospel, I’m afraid you are headed for an eternity separated from God. I urge you to repent of your thinking that reduces sin to not a very big deal and that inflates your works to something that could possibly play a part in meriting your justification. Such humanistic pride!

I think this is very subjective, how about what % of faith to make it enough?

That’s why we Reformed folks don’t have to worry about this either, though that might be a good question for an Arminian.
We believe God is the source of our faith, including our saving faith, and when He grants faith, it is for a purpose – to save the sinner. So I don’t think God fails in His purposes, no.

So, in other words, if they are NECESSARY, then it is impossible to be saved without them because that is what “necessary” means!

Part of a debate is correct definition of terms. If that is how you’d like to define “necessary”, that’s fine – we’ll go with that.
In that case, no, good works would not be necessary FOR JUSTIFICATION.

are we saying that Paul in (Ehp.2:8-9) is excluding ALL WORK, because work of any type would nullify salvation by grace?

Yes, “so that no man may boast”.

If that were the case, then Paul would never be able to say, as he does in Romans 2:13, “THE DOERS OF THE LAW WILL BE JUSTIFIED”, “For HE WILL RENDER TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS” (Rom 2:6)

Eph 2:8-9 is clearly discussing justification by faith vs by faith + works.
In Romans 2, the whole point is that YOU CAN NEVER DO ENOUGH. The doers of the Law will be justified, and the point he goes on to make in Rom 3 is that NO ONE DOES GOOD. No, not one. Don’t miss the point!

2.) “Works done IN faith through love” that CONTRIBUTE to our Salvation as mentioned by the Bible in

Yes, as mentioned in the Bible in passages that DESCRIBE the outworking of the justification and regeneration/transformation of the heart that God has already worked in the believer. DEscriptive psgs, not PREscriptive. Remember the 3 rules – context, context, and context.

Boasting is the essence of works of debt, for in boasting we are seeking payment, on a legal basis, for our work.

Yes, or merit. That’s why it’s a gift, by grace, else a man might boast.

“Law of works” are works of debt which require legal payment. Works of grace do not require legal payment.

“Works of grace” is an impossibiliy. You can not work to acquire that which is a gift, else it’s not a gift, it’s a wage owed. See Romans 4:4-5 and 11:6.

Paul doesn’t use the term “all works.” He refers to “works of law” or “works of our own righteousness” or works of “boasting.”

If that’s your argument in Eph 2:8-9, then logically you’d have to say that v10 = For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works of the Law of our own righteousness that lead to boasting, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Nope.

All kinds of people SAY they attribute their works to God

Yes, like JWs, Romanists, EOx, and Mormons.

St. Paul never rejected the Law (including Ten Commandments) because the Law was, for St. Paul, the revealed will of God.

Neither do we “reject” the Law. Its declared purpose in Galatians is to be a tutor to lead us to Christ, to show us our sin. How could we reject that?

Salvation is procured only when faith and works act together

I know that’s your opinion and what you’re bound to as a disciple of Rome, but that’s not what the Scr says.

“FAITH INEVITABLY RESULTS IN GOOD WORKS” I truly think this is not true

All this time, did you miss Ephesians 2:8-10?
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

There is no Scripture verse which says that faith results in works.

Eph 2:10 does. James 2:14-17 does.

Rather, works must be consciously and consistently added to faith by an act of the will (gift from God). This principle is precisely why Abraham fell into some disbelief and bad works in Genesis 16 when he took Hagar as a wife, and in Genesis 17 when he laughed at the promise of God.

I honestly have no idea what you mean here. I do know that the Reformed recognise that we are still sinners after justification and we can fall into sin, so this is perfectly consistent with the Reformed position.

The idea that once the button of faith is pushed the conveyor belt of works will automatically start running.

Yes, that’s what Eph 2:8-10 says, and many other psgs.

Faith does not inevitably produce good works. Faith only gives one a better disposition to do works. The whole book of James addresses the issue of Christians who have faith but are not producing the works they should.

Did you miss the entire point of James 2, that those who SAY they have faith but have no works show that in fact their said faith is not a real, alive faith?

Peace,
Rhology

6 jae April 26, 2010 at 1:16 am

You said, ” I’m afraid you are headed for an eternity separated from God”, thanks for the concern, brother, i appreciate it.

I really don’t know your definition of NECESSARY is, but I take the version of the dictionary.

From Westminster Confession:(Reformed):“faith is not alone in the person justified, but is always ACCOMPANIED by all the other saving graces”

Dictionary: _Accompany means: To ADD or PUT TOGETHER.

Reformed : “If you ask whether good works are OPTIONAL or OBLIGATORY in the life of the justified, then the answer is an emphatic ‘yes’

_Optional means: NOT mandatory/NOT required; Obligatory means: required, mandatory, binding.

Don’t know about you brother but to me there exist cognitive dissonance and contradictions above.

Ephesians 2:8-10…”…For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus “FOR” good works…”So sorry brother, but I don’t see anything in the passage even remotely implying that having faith INEVITABLY or SURELY produces good work.

The whole book of James addresses the issue of Christians who HAVE FAITH but are NOT producing the works they SHOULD. Read especially James 3-4, not to mention their despising of the poor man in both 2:1-5 and 2:15-16 after it is said that they have faith in James 2:1.

2 questions:

1). Why did Paul able to say in Romans 2:13, “THE DOERS OF THE LAW WILL BE JUSTIFIED”?

Some more (Matthew 16:27; 2 Cor 5:10; Romans 2:13; Rom 13:8 -10;Hebrews 12:14; Lk. 13:24; Heb. 4:11; 1 Cor 15:58 ;Heb 6:10, Col 3:23-24;Luke 10:27-29;Luke 6:46-49;Matthew 7:18-20;Rev 20:12; Matthew 16:27;Matthew 21:28-31;Matthew 25:44-46;Matthew 7:21;James 2:15-24;James 5:20;Matthew 19:21-23; Gal 6:7; Rev 2:23)

2). Is the works of the Law of Christ (Gal 6:2, 1 Cor 15:58, Heb 6:10, Col 3:23-24 and a lot more) by which Paul supported is the same as the works of the Law (Gal. 2:16, Romans 4:4, Rom 3:28) by which Paul opposed?

We cannot separate faith and love (good works) as if one would exist without the other. Faith is useless and dead without love! and having faith doesn’t necessarily one will do good works.

In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you LOVE ME, you will OBEY MY Commandments!”…your reply is very close to, “we don’t need stinkin’ works”!

In a nutshell, Jesus gave you the check, it is up to you to cash it, don’t ask Jesus to GO TO the bank and cash it for you.

Peace.

7 Jae April 26, 2010 at 1:34 am

My understanding of the Reformed position is that regeneration precedes faith and that faith alone is necessary for salvation. As such there is no need for baptism, Eucharist, prayer, good deeds or any other “work” in order to remain a “christian” as long as one continues to believe. As Luther says, “Sin strongly; believe more strongly!” The believer usually produces good works as a result of regeneration but these are merely incidental to “salvation” and contribute nothing to it. You teach that even if the individual does not persevere in good works he will be saved anyway.

As long as a believer hold and trust unto certain doctrines (viz. Jesus is Lord, and Saviour) even with the absence of love (good works) one is saved. Very clear, it is A SYSTEM OF LEGAL DEBT SO AS TO PUT GOD UNDER A LEGAL OBLIGATION TO SAVE THEM.

“Make EVERY EFFORT to live in peace with all men and TO BE holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Addressed to believers in Christ Jesus and emphasized that we need to do our part as men with free will and cooperate with the grace of faith given by God through good works “to be holy”. What does it mean “to be holy ?” it means to make an effort to achieve the state of holiness with God’s grace.

Unless you cooperate and strive(human acts) “to be holy” with God’s grace the consequence is very severe…we “will not see the Lord”, which also means you would not be save at all.

Peace.

8 Rhology April 26, 2010 at 9:06 am

jae,

Don’t know about you brother but to me there exist cognitive dissonance and contradictions above.

1st of all, we’re not brothers. We can be friends, sure, but you are no brother, neither by blood nor by Gospel.
2nd, you need to define your terms better. Are good works necessary for justification? No (in fact, trying to be justified by good works = the anathema of Paul in Galatians 1:8-10). Are they necessary for sanctification? Yes. Are they for glorification? No. Are they for pleasing God? Yes and no – I have Christ’s righteousness, so you tell me how my pathetic works could add to Christ’s. Yet at the same time I am rewarded for good works done in faith, and it pleases God to reward His children and when they live in the grace He’s given them. It’s not contradiction, but it is sort of mysterious. Now, don’t be a hypocrite and act like there’s no room for mystery in the Romanist worldview. Accept it and let’s move on.

The whole book of James addresses the issue of Christians who HAVE FAITH but are NOT producing the works they SHOULD.

Precisely, b/c their faith is dead, not a real faith, but only a said faith. It’s easy to SAY you have faith; you need to analyse yourself.
I don’t see you dealing with James 2:10, by the way. You need to.
Christians SHOULD produce good works, definitely – if you don’t, you should check whether you’re not still faithless and unregenerate. Good works and the desire to do them are a signal of justification, not a cause of it.

1). Why did Paul able to say in Romans 2:13, “THE DOERS OF THE LAW WILL BE JUSTIFIED”?

I already told you. Why not advance the convo and actually answer what I said?

2). Is the works of the Law of Christ (Gal 6:2, 1 Cor 15:58, Heb 6:10, Col 3:23-24 and a lot more) by which Paul supported is the same as the works of the Law (Gal. 2:16, Romans 4:4, Rom 3:28) by which Paul opposed?

I’m sorry, I have no idea what this means (too many “by”s, for one thing). Could you please rephrase?

In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you LOVE ME, you will OBEY MY Commandments!”…your reply is very close to, “we don’t need stinkin’ works”!

You must have missed the distinction I made between DEscriptive and PREscriptive statements. Please, advance the convo, don’t take steps backward.

In a nutshell, Jesus gave you the check, it is up to you to cash it, don’t ask Jesus to GO TO the bank and cash it for you.

It’s good to know that you’ll at least be honest enough to tell me openly that my salvation depends on my works, on my getting the job done.
What about James 2:10 is unclear on that count?

As such there is no need for baptism, Eucharist, prayer, good deeds or any other “work” in order to remain a “christian”

It’s also good to know that you don’t think “Jesus said do it” is a good enough reason to do anything. Strange, but OK.

GOD UNDER A LEGAL OBLIGATION TO SAVE THEM.

It’s less an obligation than a recognition that God volunteered to pay, and then paid, the debt. Christ already went to the Cross and rose again; it’s not like there’s some future obligation in view. Tetelestai – it is finished!

All in all, a pretty unsatisfying response from you, jae. Here’s hoping you advance the conversation next time.
Peace,
Rhology

9 jae November 30, 2010 at 12:53 am

Again a guy who claims to be a follower of Christ called and looked down on me as “Romanist” boggles the mind. Anyways to the main subject.

Prescriptive (they tell us to do something) OR they could be viewed as descriptive (they describe actions being done). Both of these boils down on the same result, God gave you salvation as a free gift BUT you still need to “DO your part to open” the gift or else it is a wasted gift. That’s why we read these from the Scripture:

Hebrew 12:14, “Make EVERY EFFORT to live in peace with all men and TO BE holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

How could our EFFORT be worthless in our Salvation/Justification process if it is a REQUIREMENT to see the Lord? To “see” correspond to being saved by the Lord. The Lord is asking you to do your part of “MAKING AN EFFORT”.

Luke. 13:24 , Jesus said, “Make EVERY EFFORT (strive) to enter by the arrow gate for many I say will try and not be able!” Here, JESUS Himself is telling you to MAKE EVERY EFFORT or STRIVE to enter into eternal life, for many will try and not make it! The pastors are telling you just the opposite…make NO effort! Who are you going to believe?)

The saved man endures, strives, presses and perseveres.. He must do so, and he will do so….without which he is lost.

10 Rhology November 30, 2010 at 11:20 am

So Jae, do you make EVERY EFFORT? EVERY day? EVERY minute?

Also, why not answer the question for you I asked a while ago? Does Jesus honor those who lie?

11 Jae June 1, 2011 at 3:31 am

YES, with God’s grace and help I try to do every effort and very minute of my job and duty of life’s calling with love for Christ. For the second question of yours, interpretation of Scripture is a human ACT – that even heretics appeal to scripture. What separate you and the reformed theology from other sects? All claimed the clearness of scripture, same King James Bible, same Holy Ghost but arrived at diametrically opposing doctrines.

Without Apostolic Succession with the Chair of Peter at the helm, all are just mere human opinion of what they think is the right interpretation. Even adherents of tradition you cited e.g. Orthodox churches, coptics dare not claim the Apostolic Primacy of Peter.

Further reading, google “interpretive authority – ctc” by Dr. Keith mathison ( reformed) and Dr. Neil Judiscth and Bryan Cross (Catholics).

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