Monday, July 23, 2018

Faith Plus or Faith Alone?

For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.  Gal. 5:3-5

Maybe I am opening a can of worms here, so be it. Today someone posted on social media that the gift of salvation was faith plus repentance. And in one of the comments to this post, someone said they felt like a disgrace for still needing nicotine gum. I told that person if they had believed in Christ then they were not a disgrace, whether they needed nicotine gum or not. 

How are we saved? Are we saved by walking an aisle, stop smoking and drinking, pledging to do better, turning over a new leaf? I'm afraid that that is what some are teaching today, and it is so subtle, it sounds so right. It is taught in so many churches. It is called "faith plus."

The Bible tells us to have "faith alone in Christ alone" to receive the free gift of salvation. It is good news, a message of hope.  Jesus knew in eternity past that we could not be good enough, no matter how hard we tried, and so pledged Himself to be the spotless Lamb that would take away the sins of the world. 

 If salvation comes by my faith plus works, then why did Christ die on the cross? In every other religion of the world, man is somehow trying to make himself acceptable before God. Think about making pilgrimages to Mecca or bathing in the Ganges River in the Muslim and Hindu faiths, fasting or even whipping yourself on the back like the monks did in Martin Luther's time. These are all attempts to placate God somehow, as if the cross, and the cross alone, is not enough for our salvation. But even in the Christian camp we hear that subtle message of "faith plus." It is adding something to the work of Christ, and says His work was not enough.

This makes Christianity into a religion and not based on faith. Religion means to bind, in one of the definitions. In making a promise to God, are we not binding ourselves to our own efforts to please Him rather than putting full stock in what He did that day on the cross for us?

The Finished Work of Christ is just that. It is a finished, completed work, done by Another. Nothing can be added to what He did for us in order to receive salvation. Over thirty years ago, thinking I had to add something to complete my salvation nearly drove me to being done with Christianity once and for all, because deep down, I knew I wasn't capable. I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown,  hearing how I must really be sorry, or promising to never sin again.  How sorry is enough?

In that moment of desperation, the word of God's pure grace came to me and I embraced it. Christ did the hard work of paying the sin debt for me and He is then pleased by my faith in what He alone has accomplished. 
But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Romans 3:3
It is so simple we stumble over it. But God gave Abraham, the father of our faith, righteousness at the moment that he believed what God said.

He (God) took him (Abram) outside and said, "Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them." Then He said to him, "Your offspring will be that numerous." 
Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:5-6
Paul repeats this account in Romans in one of my favorite passages in the Bible, in Romans 4. 

What can we say that Abraham, our physical ancestor, has found? If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about---but not before God. For what does the Scripture say?
 Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness.
Now to him who works, pay is not considered as a gift, but as something owed. But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness.    Romans 4: 1-5
Verse 3 says Abraham believed. In the Greek language, the word believed is in the aorist active 3rd person singular tense, which means that he believed at a point in time, and at that point God declared that he was righteous. After his faith, even though he failed later in life, God saw him only and always as righteous.

And if we are Abraham's children through faith, that is the way God sees us too. He does not see our failures, but He sees us as righteous because of Who has come to live in us, by our simple faith at a point in time. 



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