Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Faith vs. Works

Even "good" works can be differentiated by quality. Some works are self-referent and so are never meritorious. They are initiated by self for the benefit of self and so are merely a selfish pursuit, even if they seem altruistic. They are only impressive among those who cannot see them for what they are, or those who do the same kind of works. They gain no favor with God.

Then there are works which are not self-referent. Those are inspired by God, bidden by God, and carried forward at his instigation, impetus and encouragement. Even though such works are not truly capable of being credited to the ones doing them, God rewards them as if they are. If God rewards them for being done they must be considered meritorious, despite the fact that in themselves they could not force his hand.

No work is meritorious of salvation, regardless of whether or not it is rewardable by God. No work has the power to erase the record of works which are not meritorious (i.e. sin). So at best, God-instigated works can be rewardable with benefits (even eternally), but never with forgiveness and righteousness. That should not be unexpected because forgiveness is an act of mercy or grace which can never be earned, or it would cease to be mercy or grace.

Faith is always referent to its object. It can be misplaced, as it would be if directed at self or at false gods, and be without any value whatsoever to God. However, if its ultimate object is God, particularly his character and power, God does reward it. There is nothing about faith in and of itself which would deserve such reward, the impetus for such lies totally in God's grace. Yet, because God responds rewardingly toward faith in him, such God-referent faith would have to be considered meritorious.

However, even saving faith is not meritorious of salvation. There is nothing in such faith which has the power to wash away sin and restore righteous fellowship with God, even though it is essential to salvation. It is merely the reaction (trust) a believer has toward God's words and deeds, and even then not unaided. God's word (of promise) is what invokes faith, while God's presence (or Spirit) is what aids it.

The Apostle Paul made it clear that works and faith are not the same sort of thing. He treated them as diametrically opposed concepts. While it is true that both faith and works can be rewardable, it is also true that neither is meritorious of salvation. So even though God promises salvation to those who put their trust in Christ, it is the blood of Christ which does the heavy lifting.

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