Monday, March 05, 2007

Faith & Works

Most people believe that faith is a matter of what one does.

Yet the Scriptures teach that the converse is true: what one does is a matter of faith.
Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.       (Habakkuk 2:4)

Another great reversal in human thought versus the doctrine of the Scriptures is that most people hold that by believing a person enters into a living relationship or a personal relationship with the Lord. Yet again it stands written that a person is incapable of believing until the person is regenerated in the relationship that the Holy Spirit works in the person.

Habakkuk states that pride causes a person to lift his soul above the working of the Holy Spirit so that he relies upon his own ability to find the truth and to believe it rather than hearing the calling of the Holy Spirit by which the regeneration of faith is worked in the soul. Thus, the person lives by his own works of unrighteousness even while calling out “Lord, Lord!” The person seeks to commit his life to Jesus and to make Christ the center of his life. The harder that the person focuses upon his attempts at being righteous through believing in Jesus, the more numb he becomes to the Holy Spirit’s calling.

The reverend doctor Martin Luther experienced this fully until the Holy Spirit moved him to understand Habakkuk rightly in Romans 1:17. When Luther’s focus was turned upside down by the Holy Spirit, Luther’s entire view of himself and his relationship to God was recreated. Luther began to breathe with the breath of life and he became one of the most animated leaders in the Church’s history.

St. Paul addresses this matter of misunderstanding regarding works and faith in his epistle to the Galatians:
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.       (Galatians 1:6-7)

O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?       (Galatians 3:1-2)

Also to the Ephesians, he writes:
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 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 should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.       (Ephesians 2:4-10)

Jesus explains this to Nicodemus in John chapter three. In the first chapter of John we hear:
He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.       (John 1:10-13)

Here the Holy Spirit speaks as plainly as is possible: Faith is not a choice that a person makes according to the will of the flesh, but is a miracle worked by the power of God, the miracle of rebirth into a living relationship with Him. Receiving Jesus is a passive action, just as being conceived in the womb is a passive action. In the womb, the father’s seed (spermatozoa) works mightily to enter through the cell wall of the mother’s seed (ovum), and the result is that a new person is formed. The new person grows and before long begins to respond to the life that he has received.

This is how the Scriptures declare that our life in Christ happens, too, entirely without our participation until we have been made alive. Then, once we are alive and aware of the new life that we have been given, we begin to respond to that new life in Christ. The Scriptures are replete with examples that explain this in just this way.

Salvation is by grace through faith. It is God’s work. Period. We, as His little children, receive His faith and salvation and grace and enjoy the life that He gives. What a wonderful plan! What a splendid mystery!
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.       (Matthew 11:28-30)

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