A discussion began in the comment section of my last post and, since I have a lot to say, I decided to continue it here. We were talking about how wonderful it is that Christians can be wrong on certain issues and still “march into heaven arm in arm.” That was Wally Fry’s phrase and I really like it.
Later Wally said, “The sad truth is, many denominations still preach a gospel of justification by faith and works, or faith with salvation being kept and maintained by works. Sadly, those who maintain hope in their own efforts as the basis for entrance into heaven…won’t be there in that march.”
The world is going to h-e-double-hockey-sticks in a hand basket and we Christians are still putting time and energy into the old separation of faith and works debate. It’s silly, if you really think about it, because faith and works cannot be separated. So let’s think about it.
James said, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”
Exactly, James, the two are intertwined. Jesus said so, too.
Remember when He separated the sheep from the goats? The sheep clothed the naked, fed the hungry, cared for the ill, visited the imprisoned. They weren’t even aware that their eternity was at stake. They just did those things because God was living in them and those are the things God does. Good trees produce good fruit. They just do.
The goats, on the other hand, thought they were fine with God. They spoke godly words: “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but they did nothing to actually bring anyone peace, warmth or nourishment. God was obviously not living in them. Bad trees can look real good and healthy and full, but if they don’t produce any fruit, what good are they really?
It’s not the works you do, the fruit you produce that saves you, it’s the fruit that shows you are already saved. They are evidence that the Holy Spirit is alive in us.
With regard to vines and branches and fruit production, Jesus said, “apart from Me you can do nothing.” So if Catholics are doing good works, it is only because they believe in Jesus and His Spirit is at work in them.
They BELIEVE in Jesus.
Paul said, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
We protestants love Paul, right? So why do we have so much trouble believing that our Catholic brothers and sisters – who have confessed with their mouths and believed in their hearts that Jesus is Lord – are really saved?
Oh, because they are adding on to their faith, and that is WRONG, wrong, wrong. Salvation = faith + NOTHING!
Faith + 0 = salvation.
Anything + 0 = the thing. So, when it comes to salvation, if all except faith = nothing, then works = nothing. Works = 0.
Therefore faith + works (0) = faith. Follow?
Adding works to faith does not negate faith. The person still has faith. The person still believes that Jesus is God and that He saves us. My Catholic grandma had a portrait of Jesus hanging in her hallway because she believed Jesus is God. Yes, the Catholic church added purgatory and penance to the mix. Yes, the Church became controlling and corrupt. But she believed in Jesus. Those who corrupted the Church will be judged according to their corrupt deeds. She will be judged according to her faith in Jesus.
But here’s the thing I really wanted to point out:
Protestants add works to their faith, too.
I know plenty of Baptists who have faith in their perfect doctrine. They put A WHOLE LOT OF WORK into defending that doctrine. One Baptist blogger accused me of not being a real Christian because I did not agree with every jot and tittle of her iron-clad doctrine, which she puts a whole lot of WORK into defending.
I used to lean legalistic. It was the doctrine I was taught. But then the Spirit pointed out to me that Jesus died for PEOPLE, not doctrine. Perfect doctrine does not save anyone. It is important to know the Scriptures in order to know the heart, character and purposes of God and, therefore, I have set my mind to understanding them. To understanding Him.
But Jesus’s final instructions to us were not to defend doctrine. That was Paul’s gig.
Jesus said, “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (italics added)
So the question is, what did He command us?
Keep the (ten) commandments.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Get to know HIM.)
Love your neighbor as yourself. Which includes:
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Hmm, the list does not include “make sure EVERYONE precisely separates works from faith.” “Actually,” He would likely say, “Please don’t.”
I don’t believe that it’s “all good” and that anything goes. And I am peeved by Christians who presume to speak for God when they are clearly unfamiliar with Scripture, who make it up as they go along, but I am certainly not going to condemn my Catholic brothers and sisters or exclude them from the march into heaven.
It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to guide me and my Catholic and Protestant brothers and sisters into all Truth, it’s my job to love them, and to enjoy a humble walk with God.
And to have an occasional respectful debate with my friend Wally.
Oh and thanks Martha Kennedy for this:
“Rumi said, ‘To those who love God, the only religion is God’ meaning there are no hairs to split, there is only God.”