Monthly Archives: April 2015
I was talking to a friend about salvation and he advanced the argument that the evangelical claim to justification (God’s declaration of our right standing before Him) by faith alone (sola fide or faith alone is basis of the believers good standing before a righteous God) is something of a misnomer. The reason he gave is that the mere action of placing one’s faith in something is a work. Therefore he concludes that our justification is by faith and work of the believer.
On the surface this sounds like it has merit. After all, when I have faith in something it is me putting forth the effort to generate that faith. And if I have to do that to be saved is it not what we commonly refer to as a “work”? My answer to this friend was no and to make such a claim is called a categorical error.
What is a categorical error (CE)? A CE happens when when we ascribe something to a category from which it doesn’t belong. For example, the argument if all things require a creator then God requires a creator, and if God requires a creator then He is not a supreme being because His creator would be more supreme. To say that a supreme creator requires a creator is an example of a CE. The error comes in when it attempts to ask something of God for which is not possible.
This is the same thing that is happening with the argument that faith is a work. In the first place it assumes that all faith is the same. So the faith that I have in Christ’s atoning work on the cross is the same faith that this chair will not collapse under the weight of my 250 pound body? Once again on the surface it might seem so but it isn’t. Saving faith is much different.
Paul explains it this way:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the bodya and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.b 4Butc God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Quite obviously there is so much here we can talk about. However, for the purpose of the argument that is used quite frequently by Roman Catholics and others, that faith is a work, Paul has a very significant response. First he says that we are dead in trespasses and sins. That kind of spiritual death leaves us in a situation that we cannot, will not, and desire not to put faith in God. But none the less we are saved. How so? It is through faith and not of something we generated in ourselves. So how do we get it? Paul says it is a gift of God.
From this perspective, saving faith is much more different than the faith I have that this chair will hold me up. In the first place my sin doesn’t keep me from having faith that this chair will hold me up. Second, saving faith is not self generated but has to originate with God which is the reason it is not a work of our own or produced in ourselves which is the basis for boasting.
In closing, I understand the reason why some want to make human merit the basis for salvation. The fear of anti-nomianism (no lawism) is a concern because it sounds like salvation by faith alone is license to sin. That isn’t what the Bible teaches and its not what Paul teaches above. In fact the way Paul explains it above we were created for good works but those works are not without the prior saving faith. The problem as I see it is many people have trouble distinguishing justification from sanctification and hence the reason for works based salvation.
Anyway, I have said enough. Now I want your thoughts.
AUTHOR: Rico Tice, Carl Laferton
PUBLISHER: The Good Book Company (105 pages)
One of the great and final teachings of our Lord before His ascension was what we typically refer to as “the great commission.” Here Jesus commissioned the disciples to make disciples of all the nations. In a sense this was a call to go out and share the good news of the righteousness that our Lord has brought to us in His crucifixion. It was Christ’s atoning work on the cross that paid the penalty of sin, placing us in a right standing with the Father for all eternity which is really good news. As we move forward in redemptive history, we see through the power of the Holy Spirit the Early Church proclaimed the good news of this Gospel message to Jews and Gentiles in spite of persecution, oppression, and even to the point of martyrdom.
The great commission that was given to those early saints is the same for us living today. Naturally we are confronted with this great responsibility to evangelize while at the same time very significant questions regarding methodology begin to arise. When we consider the number of obstacles that lay before us in sharing the Gospel it is difficult to fathom a worthwhile attempt. Obstacles such as a culture that holds a precommitment to opposing anything that smacks of Christianity. Such opposition creates a hostile and intimidating environment for sharing the gospel.
For many believers we are excited for what Christ has done for us and about our salvation, but the thought of sharing with nonbelievers does little to warm our cockles. Such a situation is addressed head on by Rico Tice in his latest book Honest Evangelism. Tice, who happens to be a pastor and evangelist at All Souls in London speaks from experience. Tice explains that there are two halves of the evangelistic story. The first half is the opposition I discussed above which has a lot to do with the lack of evangelism that takes place. But there is a second half of the evangelistic story which is so essential for us to understand, namely “There is also an increased hunger… The same rising tide of secularism and materialism that rejects truth claims and is offended by absolute moral standards is proving to be an empty and hollow way to live”(20). Such a condition is endemic within all men. Once we understand this we can better understand the apostle Paul when he says, “I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words… I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”(21).
To add perspective Tice gives the following points as motivation for evangelism: 1. The glory of Jesus 2. The guarantee of the new creation 3. The grim reality of death Against these realities Tice says, “this is why we talk about Jesus, even though it is tough. This is why it is always worth it. As far a methodology goes Tice encourages a one-on-one personal approach which has very little methodology to it but can prove to be very relational. Tice encourages one to “be yourself. In evangelism use the character of and gifts God has deliberately given you” (83). He explains that “There is no silver bullet in evangelism… But one-to-one evangelism is nevertheless reaping a harvest” (88).
In addition to getting the gospel out we are being relational filling two basic human needs that Christianity meets, salvation and the need for relationship. This is definitely not the hard decisionalism that I was brought up with, a “turn or burn” approach, but rather it is a “long-term commitment to invest in a relationship, to pray tirelessly, and to speak the gospel over and over again, patiently and persistently. It is a journey of gospel conversations” (88).
Obviously there is much that I haven’t covered in this review; I will leave that for the reader to explore. However, in a time when the Gospel of Christ has come up against significant opposition from the culture an honest approach to evangelism will show itself to be the catalyst for making disciples of all the nations.
This book is provided to me courtesy of Christian Focus and Cross-Focused Reviewers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)