Faith or works?


There are some that firmly believe that the Bible is full of contradictions. Are they right, does the Bible contradict itself? The most common one that people use to proof their case the Bible contains contradictions are the writings of Paul and James. Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians writes:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Eph 2:8, 9.

Paul clearly states that believers are saved through faith in Christ Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Saving faith is a gift and it was given by God to the believers. They cannot earn it by works or any other means. Salvation is truly by God’s grace and through faith in Christ alone.

Wait a minute some argue, what about James, he seemed to think that works are required in order to be saved. Is that what James is saying and people use it to point out a contradiction to what Paul wrote?  Paul wrote “not of works.” James mentions works. “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:17, 18.

An obvious contradiction some would say. But is it really a contradiction? Let me first say that there are no contradictions in the Bible, there might be some words that got lost in translation from the Hebrew or the Greek into English where the  translators could have used a different word, but there are no contradictions.

Are these passages in conflict with each other? Did James contradict Paul when he wrote that faith without works is dead? I don’t think so at all. The most simplest way of looking at these two passages is that Paul wrote from God’s perspective or the divine level and James wrote from the human perspective, the human level.

Paul makes it very clear that man cannot save himself. No matter how hard someone might try to reach God by works or religious rituals. Salvation is a free gift of God by His mercy and grace. It is His divine action that saves the believers, not the other way around. God did what we could not do for ourselves. He made the way to be reconciled with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, our propitiation. Many times in the Bible we read “I will.” It is God that saves.

James is saying that someone can say that they have faith which cannot be seen. Anyone can say, I have faith and I believe in God, but they do not show or bear any fruit at all. They may go to church, read their Bibles, look spiritual and act holy but in reality they are unfruitful. They go through the motions and that’s what James is saying, true saving faith should be evident in the believer by how they live and how their faith in Christ produces fruit, some thirty, some sixty and some a hundred fold.
What did Jesus say about faith and bearing fruit? There are many passages of course, I will use the gospel of John to show what Jesus said.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.: John 15:1-8.
Abiding in Christ is the key, faith in Him and Him alone saves a person, not works. Good works or bearing fruit is the evidence of faith. There are many within the Christian faith that teach that works are required and in order to be saved you have to do this or that. Those are either cults or legalistic people who do not know or understand the grace of God. They are in bondage to themselves. If anyone ever comes to you with that kind of doctrine, point them to the thief on the cross. He had no works to show for that would save him, yet Jesus told him that he would be in Paradise with Him. The thief on the cross believed Jesus and had a change of mind (repentance).

“Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4. 

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Romans 4:3.  James 2:23.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16.

http://hischarisisenough.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/doesnt-james-214-18-make-it-plain-that-good-works-are-required-for-salvation-3/

The Empty Tomb.


Pontius Pilate seemed baffled as Joseph of Arimathea came to him and ask to take away the crucified body of Christ. “What do you want with his dead body?” Pilate ask. “I want to lay the body of Jesus into my own newly carved out tomb” Joseph replied. “But why”? “You are a very old man, and it takes years to carve out another tomb. You may not have enough years left and you are willing to give up your tomb?”  “Don’t worry Joseph of Arimathea replied, He only needs it for the weekend”.
Probably not the way the conversation went down on that day of the crucifixion. I believe that Joseph of Arimathea knew in his heart that Christ would rise on the third day as prophesied by Jesus to His disciples. Even if he did not fully comprehend the things that had happened, the ministry and the first coming of Christ and His brutal death on the cross. Something changed him. Joseph had become a believer.  Just as Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night, became a follower of Christ, so also Joseph of Arimathea became convinced that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Both Nicodemus and Arimathea who were well-respected Pharisees became born again. The impact of Jesus on their lives transformed these two men. They would never be the same.
Many people had a life changing transformation by meeting Jesus in the past and today.  He truly came to save the lost. The apostle Paul is another good example of a radical life transformation. Paul was a former persecutor and hater of the believers and followers of Jesus known as “The Way.” Saul/Paul was a zealous Jew who hated the Christians with a passion, persecuted them to the fullest and arrested many of the early followers of Jesus. He was directly involved with the stoning of Stephen. On the road to Damascus seeking to arrest Christians in that city, he met the risen Christ on the road. This encounter changed him forever. He became a believer and one of the greatest missionary to the gentile world. Paul of course knew about the crucifixion and the death and burial of Christ. He knew about the story that was told about the empty tomb and that Christ had risen. Paul was a changed man and he preached Christ crucified and resurrected. “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1Cr 2:2
Jesus died for the sin of the world, He rose and defeated death to give those who believe in Him forgiveness and eternal life. The Christian faith hinges on the resurrection of Jesus, if the resurrection did not occur, the Christian faith is empty. Paul addresses the death and the resurrection of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15.
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas (Peter), then by the twelve. 1Cr 15:3-5
There were those who denied the resurrection and Paul writes about the importance of the resurrection and what it means to the Christian faith.
“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” 1Cr 15:12-17
Christianity without the resurrection is dead. Paul said if Christ was not who He said He is, than we are still in our sins and the most pitiable people. Many unbelievers have tried to disprove the resurrection and failed miserably. They became believers in Christ. Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins? Do you believe that He rose and defeated death to give eternal life to those who believe? Have you ask Him for forgiveness and received Him in your heart?
Jesus is the only way to the Father. He came to die for mankind to reconcile all of those who would believe to give them peace and eternal life. If you have not received Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, may I encourage you to look t least into the claims and promises of Jesus made? Don’t just listen to the media or the intellectuals, who think that they have all the answers. Seek Him for yourself. Seek and you will find.
“In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2Cr 6:2
God does not want anybody to perish. How can you know that God loves you?  Just look at the cross and you will know how much God loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only begotten Son for you.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Jesus transformed the lives of Nicodemus, Joseph, Paul and many others throughout the centuries. He wants to do the same for you. Open your heart and ask Him for forgiveness and receive Jesus by faith. He is the only One that can truly transform a person. Not just for a little while but for eternity. He is the way, the truth and the life.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Mat 11: 28-30

The Christian Dilemma


“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…Phl 1:27

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Phl 2:1, 2

When Paul made these statement to the Church in Philippi, division and false teaching had already crept into the churches. Paul exhorted the believers to be like-minded and to be of one spirit and of one mind. Just as in the past, we see much division in the body of Christ today. We have denominations that vary in doctrine i.e. teachings. Some are so liberal that they deny the inerrancy of the scriptures. Pastors today preach a seeker friendly message from the pulpit in order not to offend anybody.

Many are driven by the prosperity gospel, thinking God is a ATM machine and others have embraced the “green gospel”.  Paul and the other apostles had to deal with a lot of false teachers, deceivers and heretics. Looking at Christianity today around the world, the picture is not much different. Some churches have completely departed from the faith, denying sin, denying the deity of Christ His blood sacrifice on the cross and they do not want to talk about hell at all. The goal is to make people comfortable and cozy by preaching a watered down gospel, which really is no gospel at all.

I heard someone say once that if John Wesley, who founded the Methodist church, would preach a sermon today,  he would be kicked out of his own church. There are so many divisions within the church today that it can get very confusing to the unbelievers who may be seeking God and instead are getting bombarded with different doctrines. How is it that if we all read the same book, come up with so many different opinions, views and teachings? Are we not suppose to have the same Holy Spirit living within us and teachings us all the same truth? How is it that some that call themselves Christians come up with false teachings, taking scriptures and twisting them to fit their own theology?

Could it be that many that claim to be Christians never really study the Bible and rather listen with itching ears what others teach? They follow men rather than the word of God. They call themselves Calvinist, Armenians, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons and the list goes on and on. Every one of them claims to have the truth, but obviously are not of the same mind and spirit as Paul exhorted us to be. The Bible is the infallible word of God and the absolute truth, by which we must abide. It is the responsibility of every believer to study the Bible and to know the word, so that they would not listen to false teachings or getting trapped into legalism.

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2Timothy 2:15

Paul is making it very clear, we as believers need to study the word with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth and if we do we will not listen to false doctrine. We who know the word will not be lead astray from the truth and we will have the knowledge to defend the truth against those who are contrary to the teaching of the Bible.  The institution of the Roman Catholic Church kept the people in darkness for over 1100 years, telling the people that they can not understand the Bible and that they need to be taught by the priest, rather than reading and learning for themselves. Until today, most Roman Catholics don’t know the Bible.

Many believers in other denominational churches are in the same boat, because they are not getting encouraged by their pastors to read and study the Bible. I believe that knowing the word of God, by studying and attending a Bible believing and teaching church is crucial to every believer. If not, many that confess to be Christian can easily be drawn into false teachings and liberal views and there is a  danger to fall into the hands of a cult or legalistic oriented church. These false fellowships are all over the place and many are drawn to these movements like the Toronto blessings, the Holy laughter movement, the emergent church headed by Brian McLaren and Rob Bell and the many seeker friendly, make me feel good churches. The Christian dilemma is that we look divided, striving with one another and are not of the same mind and spirit. To the outsider, the churches do appear to be divided and striving against each other.

That is not what the Bible teaches. We as believers are the body with Christ being the head of His church. We are to follow Christ and His teachings and not the teachings of men. Do we trust and believe in Men or do we put our faith and trust solely in Christ Jesus?

“For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” 1Cr 1:11-13

Just as in Paul’s days, today we have many that follow certain men and their teachings rather than being one and all in Christ. Christ is all-sufficient and we do not need anybody to lead us into the truth. God has given us His truth and it is not hidden or in secret for some select people. God wants us to know the truth and it is revealed in His word. Christians, I exhort you to read and study God’s word, the word of truth.

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31, 32