Understanding the fundamental role of faith in our Christian walk
I’m a Christian. I have been called by God to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. I believe that as a sinner, I cannot do anything to earn God’s favor. Jesus’ sacrifice gave me a standing before God that I could not have had without it. So, what now? Jesus promised that all his true followers would be with him in heaven, but what does that mean for me? Do I just focus on building my faith and not works, as it says in the book of Ephesians? Should I be living my life with ever-greater expectations that God’s providence will always come through and answer my heartfelt prayers? Or should I primarily focus on works and not faith, as it says in the book of James? Should I be out and about, always doing things to show that I am a person of faith? How can something that should be so simple be so confusing?
The debate over what justifies a believer has raged for hundreds of years. The biblical phrase, “The just shall live by faith” became the rallying cry of the Martin Luther Reformation in the 1500s. As a result, the Protestant movement was formed and never looked back. When you think about that Scripture it would seem the conclusion of living by faith over works would be a no brainer. Of course, it is not.
As a matter of fact, the Bible says three seemingly contradictory things about being justified. All three are in the New Testament. Romans 5 says we have been justified by faith. Romans 8 says it is God who justifies us. James 2 says we are justified by our works. Let the head scratching begin! Being faithful as a Christian depends on being justified. If something as basic as the way we are justified is in question, how can we have confidence in our journey? The good news is there is a sound and clear biblical explanation for all of this. The challenging news is, the answer is not necessarily plain and obvious.
It all has to do with the meaning of being justified. Here again, there are details that seem to cause trouble. Consider that Abraham was spoken of as being righteous before God. While we look at this as a good thing, we also realize that he wasn’t a follower of Jesus, and therefore was not invited to heaven. What now? Check out our December 7, 2020 podcast, “Is it Faith or Works That Gets us to Heaven? (Part I) for more. We break these challenges down one at a time. We examine the words and their context in a broad-based approach that brings us logical and harmonious answers.
The conclusion is that the just do live by faith. So, what about works? What about God’s role? Parts I and II together show how the harmony works, and what it means for you and I as we follow Christ.
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