My family took some time, in our reading through Claiming Christ, to consider the apparent discrepancy presented in Scripture in regards to what it means to believe in Jesus. On one hand, we are told that those who believe will be saved. Then later we read that those who believe in Jesus as Lord, but don’t follow his teachings, will not enter the Kingdom.
So which is it? We are talking about salvation here, so this is no trivial matter. In fact, in times past, Christians have actually killed each other over this issue. Hopefully, we can broach the subject without comparable animosity and venture together into what Scripture actually says.
Although it is fleshed out in more detail in the book we are using for our devotional study, it may be worth highlighting a few gems of revealed truth. It is quite accurate to say that all one needs is faith in Jesus and what he did for them upon the Cross. It is also well evident in Scripture that our good deeds contribute zilch to earning divine favor or to meriting salvation, both of which are gifts.
That said, we would be guilty of denying the living word of God if we dismiss the biblical requirements placed upon followers of Jesus to apply his teachings. As our Lord himself questions, “why do you call me Lord, Lord [which implies belief], and do not do what I say?” (Lu 6:46).
The point made in our bible study was that the apparent discrepancy between faith-alone and faith-with-works can be easily reconciled when one considers the matter of spiritual maturity. For example, the thief on the cross became a genuine believer in Jesus and never had the opportunity to demonstrate his faith through works. Result? He was still good to go.
The Christian, however, to whom God grants additional breaths of earthly atmosphere, has a two-part program. The first is exactly the same as the thief: faith-alone. The second part functions only as an evidence marker and is a matter of maturing in the Spirit: faith-with-works.
As our Lord said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.” That means faith-with-works. In the same way that what comes out of our mouth reveals what is in our hearts, so our actions give evidence to the transforming presence of God–or so they should.
What we do is proof of who we are. Again, it does not make us who we are, it is simply the God-required evidence for which we have the freedom to participate in the leading of the Holy Spirit. That freedom, however, goes both ways. You and I can say yes in our daily walk in trying to imitate Christ, or we can “claim” faith while harboring our own private desires to live like the world.
And so our works, or good deeds, are meant to unveil the inner presence of the life of Jesus in us. They are intended as a function of maturity. For those given time to live out life beyond their initial profession of faith, efforts at expressing Christ-likeness in their choices and relationships will likely reveal the differences between the potential blessings Jesus referred to as 30, 60, and 100 fold.
What appears to be contradictory theology of Scripture is actually a unified plan of salvation. Faith-alone and Faith-with-works intentionally co-exist, so long as they are rightly applied to our beliefs as revealed by the Word of God.
Are you willing and eager to “show off” who you are in Christ for his glory?