Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Faith Versus Works

In Calvin's time as well as our own, so many people in the world believe in a hybrid faith+works system of righteousness and salvation.  Anytime you watch a TV show or movie where salvation is discussed, it always is often "so-and-so was a good person so he is in heaven" or "as long as you have faith in something you will go to heaven."  Usually though, it is a combination of the two.  Calvin says that when one exists (faith righteousness or works righteousness) that the other is necessarily overthrown. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:8-9, "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith."  We can have one or the other, but not both.  Once we accept faith as our righteousness, we realize that there is no amount of works that will make us righteous.

The Sophists tried to sidestep the issue by claiming that these works were not spiritual works, but good works done by non-Christians under their own will apart from God's grace.  Calvin's answer to that is that there is still no one who can achieve righteousness through their own works.  Faith righteousness is the only righteousness we can hope for.  It does not matter what title is given to works, they are still not enough.

Calvin turns his attention to the Roman doctrines which call for a combination of faith and good works.  He says, "we confess with Paul that the doers of the law are justified before God; but, because we are all far from observing the law, we infer from this that those works which ought especially to avail for righteousness give us no help because we are destitute of them."  None of us are saved by or through the Law.  None of us can live up to the Law.  Calvin continues, "As regards the rank and file of the papists or Schoolmen, they are doubly deceived here both because they call faith an assurance of conscience in awaiting from God their reward for merits and because they interpret the grace of God not as the imputation of free righteousness but as the Spirit helping in the pursuit of holiness."  They are wrong on both accounts.  We have no "good merits" for which we should expect God to reward us.  Romans 3:10-12 reads, "As it is written: 'There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.'"  We also know that God's grace the free gift of salvation, the Spirit helping us in our pursuit of holiness is sanctification.  The two processes are not the same and should not be confused.

Calvin then says several of the most important things about righteousness and justification: "But Scripture, when it speaks of faith righteousness, leads us to something far different: namely, to turn aside from the contemplation of our own works and look solely upon God's mercy and Christ's perfection."  Calvin recognizes that justification is made up of two components.  "God deigns to embrace the sinner with his pure and freely given goodness...Then God touches the sinner with a sense of his goodness in order that he, despairing of his own works, may ground the whole of his salvation in God's mercy." 

Paul taught the difference between faith righteousness and works righteousness.  Faith is able to justify because it embraces the righteousness offered in the gospel.  The Law does attribute righteousness to works, however, through faith our righteousness is apart from those works.  We can never perform enough good works to achieve salvation.

For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”(that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” Romans 10:5-13 NKJV

Tomorrow's reading: 3.11.18-3.11.23

No comments:

Post a Comment

Presbyterian Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf