Friday, July 14, 2017

We Contribute NOTHING To Our Salvation

With my past and recent blog entries on justification and the false doctrine of sola fide, it is important to reign in those slow of learning with their mental blinders in place who refuse to pay attention to what is being said and to think clearly and critically (with logic, reason, and common sense) about what is being said rather than making blind assumptions, running full speed ahead with them, and jumping off a cliff.

You see, many of my fellow Reformers and Baptists are hung up on their traditions with their blinders set in place that they refuse to pay attention to what it is I am saying or to even think deeply upon what it is that I am saying. They choose to remain ignorant and play the ignorance card, trying to falsely claim that I am trying to teach a Roman Catholic doctrine. By arguing such nonsense, they demonstrate the fact of their ignorance clearly as I have repeatedly made it clear that that is not my position.

We can contribute nothing to our salvation! Why do we contribute nothing to our salvation? Because we are saved entirely by God's grace and nothing else.
". . . (by grace you have been saved)" Ephesians 2:5

"For by grace you have been saved . . ." Ephesians 2:8
There is nothing you or I can do to add to or ensure our salvation. The moment we think that there is, we are on dangerous ground, engaging in works righteousness. When I address the fact that it is faith + works (faith in action, living faith) = justification, I imply in no way that we are to do certain works as a means of earning our salvation. Using Abraham as the example, I pose two questions:
1. When Abraham was offering Isaac as a sacrifice, was he performing some work of the Law?

2. When Abraham was offering Isaac as a sacrifice, was he performing some good deed?
If Abraham was not performing some work of the Law or some good deed, then clearly he was not doing any kind of work as a means of earning his salvation. The work he was doing is a necessary part of genuine faith. It must accompany genuine faith, working alongside it, perfecting and completing faith, proving its genuineness. The "works" I have been consistently talking about is what I like to call "faith in action," or what others might call "living faith." You see, faith without corresponding "works" (faith in action, living faith) and not resulting in good deeds is useless, dead, imperfect, and incomplete.

Genuine faith should produce good deeds, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc. Good deeds are a result of genuine faith. But genuine faith also has works that are accomplished simultaneously in order to evidence that it is genuine faith. These works must work in tandem with faith to evidence its genuineness. Without these works, it is impossible for your faith to be genuine. As John Owen has said, "Obedient faith is what saves." These works, however, have nothing to do with attempting to earn one's own salvation. They are merely evidence that your faith is genuine and not merely lip service. I have used these examples before:
  1. When the bronze serpent was raised, it was not enough that people simply believe that looking at it would heal them. They had to actually look at it. If they merely looked at it without belief, it would do nothing for them either.
  2. The woman who had the issue of blood believed that if she simply touched Jesus' clothing she would be healed. She had to actually touch His clothes. If she merely believed it and then walked away, she would not have been healed. If she merely touched His clothes without believing, she would not have been healed.
  3. When Peter asked Jesus to call to him for him to walk on the water, believing that he could do so was not enough. He had to follow through by actually stepping out on the water. If he stepped out without believing, he would have sank, which is what happened the moment he took his eyes of Jesus.
  4. Imagine you are hanging from a ledge, about to fall and hurt yourself. I come beneath you and say, "Let go of the ledge and I will catch you." If you merely believe (faith alone) that I will catch you, but do nothing, your faith means absolutely nothing. It is dead, it is useless, it is imperfect/incomplete, and it is in vain. You MUST let go (works, faith in action, living faith) of the ledge in order to perfect/complete your faith. By doing so, your faith and works are working together.
I could even include Abraham alongside these examples. If you truly and honestly believe that God sees everything you do, hears everything you say, and knows everything you think, you will live your life in such a way that evidences that belief. By doing so, your "works" (faith in action, living faith) prove that your faith is genuine. If you believe that a chair will support you and not just collapse underneath you, you actually have to sit in the chair. Sitting in the chair is the "works," the faith in action, the living faith. It proves that your faith in the sturdiness of the chair is genuine. If you refused to sit down in it, despite claiming such a faith, people would doubt the genuineness of your faith.

Everyone knows about good works resultant from faith. None of these can ever contribute to our salvation, which is something the Roman Catholics believe. The thing that is difficult to explain are works corresponding to faith, that work in tandem with faith, thereby proving that the faith is genuine. These works are inseparable from genuine faith. Christians, including myself, pay a great deal of lip service to God by claiming we believe certain things yet our actions saying otherwise about those professed beliefs.

When I look at Scripture, I see three different kinds of works: (1) works of the Law, (2) good works, or good deeds, and (3) faith in action, or living faith; works that prove the faith is genuine, perfecting and completing that faith. Good deeds can prove that particular aspects of faith are genuine, too, perfecting and completing those aspects of faith (such as the belief to feed the hungry), but good deeds can easily be turned into works righteousness, being looked at as a means of trying to earn salvation, as the Roman Catholics do. If someone mistakenly looks at good deeds in this way, the answer is not to avoid doing good deeds because somehow it is "legalistic." That is jumping to the polar opposite, swinging to the other side of the pendulum. The answer is to correct the flawed understanding. We are constantly plagued with the desire to believe that we need to do something in order to contribute to our salvation. Nevertheless, we need to accept the fact that there is nothing we can do that can contribute to our salvation in the least! We need to accept the fact that salvation is a free gift from God, one that we do not deserve and that we have not earned and cannot earn.

Anyone who reads the New Testament honestly and truthfully will admit that there are dozens of things that we as Christians are supposed to do. By being required to do these things, are we somehow trying to earn our salvation? No! God demands holiness from us, and we are to pursue holiness. Are we somehow trying to earn our salvation by striving to live holy and blameless lives the way we are commanded to? Only a fool would claim this was the case! As Christians, saved by grace, we are to be different from the world. In order to be different, that means there are certain things we are to do and certain things we are not to do. None of this is "legalism" or "works righteousness." Can we turn these things into works righteousness? We sure can! The second we think that anything we do might contribute to our salvation, we ought to be repenting and trusting Jesus alone for our salvation.

Instead of trying to put words into my mouth which I have not spoken, try paying attention to what it is that I have said and carefully looking at the examples I have provided, as well as every other instance of faith throughout Scripture. Just so that we are clear as to what I am not saying, there is nothing (zero, zilch, nada) that we can contribute to our salvation in order to earn it! Because there is nothing we can contribute to our salvation, that does not mean that you sit around doing nothing, professing faith, doing no good deeds, and bearing no fruit whatsoever as evidence of genuine faith.

Why should we ditch sola fide? Because we are not saved by faith alone, we are saved by grace alone. Our faith has nothing to do with our salvation. Faith must be granted to us from the Father in order for us to believe. If it was something that was in and of ourselves that we could do at will, then faith becomes works, of which we can boast: "Look how great my faith is! My faith saved me from the pits of Hell! My faith earned my salvation from God!" Faith, as with grace (and a great many other things), is a gift from God. Since God must first grant us faith in order for us to believe, sola fide is ridiculous. It just goes to prove that we are not saved by faith alone. Faith is merely the conduit through which God grants salvation, but He must first grant us the faith. All salvation rests in the grace of God.
". . . (by grace you have been saved)" Ephesians 2:5

"For by grace you have been saved . . ." Ephesians 2:8