In previous posts, I’ve challenged the notion of “faith alone.” Coming to grips with true faith has been part of my journey to know God more fully. Along the way I dealt with the fear of giving up some of my “core beliefs” about God and how He operates. Yet, every time I seriously examined one of these core beliefs, I “discovered” a more grounded, historically-supported, Bible-attested reality that previously had not even been on my radar. My fears were unfounded.[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]
You may be fearful of letting go of “faith alone.”
Off the top of my head, I came up with this list of fears you may be facing:
- I’ll become a Roman Catholic and embrace their theology. I’m living proof that this doesn’t need to happen. Don’t make this a “black & white” issue – I’m either “faith alone” or Roman Catholic. Nonsense! Living as a Christian leaves you more “options” than these two.
- I’ll become Pelagian or at least semi-pelagian. Pelagianism is the belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal [human] will is still capable of choosing good or evil without special divine aid. (Wikipedia) No. You don’t need to go here, either. Faith is always a result of the gift of grace freely given to all. Salvation is by grace because our human nature indeed has been tainted by sin.
- I’ll become a raving legalist. That’s your call. However, dismissing “faith alone” does not automatically mean you’ll become a “works only” person, either. There’s a whole lot of mysterious room between faith alone and works alone.
- I’ll diminish faith, grace, and God’s work in salvation. Actually faith and grace are enlarged when “faith alone” is dismissed. When you realize faith and grace in all efforts, you experience them more deeply and confidently. When salvation and all of the Christian life is not engaged by “faith alone,” you realize that ALL your efforts must be by grace through faith or they mean nothing.
- I’ll have to question other reformation doctrines. For example, if faith alone goes, so goes total depravity. This may happen.
- I’ll have to deal with my lethargy concerning my soul. Perhaps. No longer can you ignore the necessary efforts related to dealing with the passions of your heart.
- I’ll have to get more serious about God and about knowing God. Probably. It will no longer be enough just to believe in God. Your relationship with God will take on heightened engagement.
- I’ll have to get real with many Bible teachings I now ignore or explain away. Probably. From “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” to “for the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life,“ to “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” to “pray without ceasing,” to “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,” to “by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned,” to “by faith Abraham obeyed…,” so many passages relate faith with some kind of effort.
- I may come into conflict with my church, Christian friends, and family. This may happen. However, you can all agree that salvation is by grace through faith.
- I may have to actually come to grips with history especially church history. Conceivably. Most evangelicals I know do not know much about the church or Christian theology before the Protestant Reformation. What are the seven ecumenical councils? What did they articulate about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Church? How did the early church and her leaders view salvation and faith? What ancient writers articulated the faith and how? There’s more profit to the study of 1500 years of history than you can even imagine.
So, it’s just easier to believe in justification by faith alone, right? To do otherwise might mess with much of your life. Why would you want to “work out your own salvation” when you can merely believe? Why would you want to struggle and wrestle with issues of faith? That’s too hard. Better to ease yourself into the kingdom than try to “take it by force” [effort] (Matthew 11.12).
Or, you can march forward by grace and in faith putting forth every effort to enter the kingdom through the narrow way. That’s what Jesus taught. That’s what the Church has taught.
Don’t be afraid to follow the evidence, live by grace and faith, and work diligently at your salvation.