Round One - Mizzi

Round 1

Is whether or not we have faith, God’s sole criteria for judging us worthy of salvation?

John, your question is designed to re-word my belief in ‘salvation by faith alone’, and you expect me to answer ‘yes’. I cannot! Your question reflects a serious misunderstanding of the Protestant doctrine of ‘faith alone’. You confuse the biblical doctrine of justification by faith with the eternal foe of the gospel – antinomianism. There are heretics (not least in evangelical circles) who say: ‘I believe in Jesus for salvation; I will go to heaven whether or not I do good works.’ Sadly they are deceived with a false gospel. It does not take some gross sin to keep someone out of heaven — it is enough to do nothing. Christ calls such a person ‘wicked and lazy’. The last words he will ever hear from the mouth of Christ are horrible: ‘Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 25:14-30).

What then do we mean by ‘faith alone’? Simply this: ‘to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness’ (Romans 4:5). God justifies him who ‘believes’ and ‘does not work’! That is what ‘alone’ implies. The sinner relies by faith in Christ for justification and not on account of his works. I turn to God and say, ‘Lord God, I am not worthy of salvation. I am a guilty; I deserve wrath and hell. Please do not judge me according to my sins. Have mercy on me. I have no confidence in myself; I do not present my merits. By faith I rely on Jesus Christ your Son. Cover me with his righteousness, cleanse me with his blood.’ ‘Faith alone’ is a complete and exclusive dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ for justification.

What is the place for good works in the Christian experience? Christians are eager to do good works because God has already declared us just. He freed us from sin; we now have the liberty to live for God who loved us so much!

In Ephesians 2:8-10, the Bible teaches that we are not saved because of our good deeds (‘not of works, lest anyone should boast’). But that is only half the story. The same passage also teaches that we are saved for a very specific purpose, namely, to do good works (‘created in Christ Jesus to do good works’). Works are not the cause, but rather the result (the purpose, the fruit) of salvation. Thus good works must always accompany true faith; if they are absent there is neither living faith nor salvation.

Believers will not stand before God to be decided whether he will be ‘justified’ (declared just) or ‘condemned’ (declared guilty). ‘Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1). ‘Having been justified’ – God has already declared every believer ‘justified’. We ‘shall not come into judgment’ (John 5:24).

So why should we stand before the judgment seat of Christ at all? Principally to be rewarded for our deeds. On that Day we will not be charged before a criminal court; rather it is our graduation day! ‘Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work’ (Revelation 22:12).

I am motivated by God’s love to do the works that please him that I may become more and more like his Son. I do not perform works to merit justification – for justification is God’s gratuitous gift, purchased for us with the infinite price of the blood of Jesus, and received by faith alone.

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