Letter from a Reader
By Paul Miller
March 1, 2014
The Fivefold Appeal to be Justified by Faith Alone
Dear Amish Voice, I have been receiving your publication, The Amish Voice, for some time. Your publication has a lot to say about justification through faith only. This last one's title was "The Fivefold Appeal to be Justified by Faith Alone." In reading Hebrews chapter 11, the old patriarchs or elders through faith obtained a good report (verse 2). Ironically, it (the good report) came about through the works they did through that faith. Noah in verse 7 says, "By faith Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house by the which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." How do we know he had faith? I believe it is because of his works that we know he had faith, and the two together need to be evident.
So it also needs to be in our lives. What would have happened if Moses would have refused to hold his staff out over the water they had just gone through? Would his faith in being saved from the Egyptians been sufficient to same them and also have the enemy destroyed? Hebrews 11:30 says, "The walls of Jericho fell down by faith after they were compassed about seven days." Suppose they had walked around only six times, or not even once! A Christian's life will have evidence of both.
Faith is trusting and believing in something without the proof of it being happened. We all have, with God's help, "an ark" to build to save us and our house from the wrath of God to come. And that will take faith and works to accomplish. No, I will never work my way into heaven by my fallible attempts. Without trusting and believing in His saving grace, I will not be able to attain atonement for my sins through works alone, but by the fruits we will know the tree and with the bad fruit or no fruit I will not be recognized.
Paul Miller Replies
Thank you for your letter. It is good to know that you read the Amish Voice. We want you to know that The Amish Voice is sent to freely proclaim the good news of Jesus. We know that God's word often falls on hard paths, rocky soil, and stony soil, but we continue to scatter the seed of God's word, rejoicing that it does sometimes land on good ground and produces fruit.
As the article states to which you referred, "And now for the rest of the story." I am glad to know that you love and believe the Scriptures. It is good that we can examine the word of God together. This faith and works topic has caused many arguments throughout the centuries. For the Roman Catholic Church, it was (and still is) a matter of works and faith both being needed in order to be saved. They, too, would say that faith in Jesus is needed for salvation, but that works and faith go hand-in-hand. The Reformers, though, went back to the Bible and saw that while works are indeed evidence of one's faith and are necessary in the life of a Christian, works play no role in salvation-that is, one is born again by faith and not works. I suppose you would agree with the Reformers who re-discovered the Bible, rather than the traditions and sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church.
I do not think that we are too far off in agreement, as we both seem to want to know and follow the Bible. Perhaps the misunderstanding comes by way of a specific word or two. Maybe it is the word "salvation." Maybe it is "born again." Whatever it is, I hope that we can continue corresponding and reach an agreement on the Scriptures. Certainly you know that Paul often contrasts faith and works. He states often that no one is justified by the works of the law, that we are saved by grace through faith, and not of ourselves, etc. I do not think that you would disagree with that-that salvation, justification, being born again, are a matter of faith and do not depend upon works. That is, we can have eternal life now, as John explained and as Jesus taught, by believing in Jesus. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. John writes that we can know now that we have eternal life (I John 5:13).
You know, MG, that there is a huge chasm between mankind and God, and that gap must be bridged somehow. Now, some seem to think that we can build our own bridge and work as hard as we can on it during our lives, and then Jesus will come along at the end and take our bridge and fix what needs fixed and make our bridge work. The Bible seems to say, though, that no matter how much we work on our bridge or how big we make it, it is never close to sufficient, and can never work. Rather, Jesus has made the bridge for us-not using our own feeble attempts, but in His strength and wisdom-in His dying on the cross. The question then is, "In which bridge do we trust?" Do we trust in our own bridge and hope that Jesus can use what we have made and make it work, or do we trust in the bridge that Jesus Himself made for us and has told us is all that is needed? If I want to add my own efforts and improvements to the bridge that Jesus made, then I do not really trust Him, do I? I must have complete faith in Him. That faith is proved when I cast myself on the bridge that Jesus made-the way of salvation that He provided-and I rest my eternity on Him rather than on my own efforts. Jesus made a bridge for us, and I will trust Him and cross the bridge that He made. My faith is proved when I trust in Him alone to get across. If, however, I want to say that I must help to make that bridge, then I am not really trusting in what Jesus has done.
MG-are you trusting in Jesus alone, or do you think that you can combine your own efforts to make a better bridge than Jesus made?
Certainly it is absurd to think that I can sit on this side of the canyon and claim that I trust in the bridge that Jesus made while never being willing to step foot on that bridge. It is absurd, as you would agree, I think, for one to simply claims that he trusts in Jesus, but has no works to show that he does in fact trust in Jesus alone for salvation.
The reality of the Scriptures indicates that one is saved-born again-given eternal life-as a gift-paid for by the blood of Jesus-and that I cannot improve upon it or help it by my efforts (that would not really be trusting in Jesus, anyway, but in myself). However, once a person is born again, saved, been changed by God's Holy Spirit-then one's life should be different and should be full of good fruit as evidence of a good tree. If a bad tree cannot bring forth good fruit, then an unsaved person cannot bring forth works pleasing to God.
As for Noah's ark, it was not Noah's work in building the ark that justified him before God. The Bible states that Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD-that "Noah was a just man" and walked with God. You see, MG-Noah was justified by his faith-before God ever instructed him to build the ark. Noah trusted in God, and his works proved that as he obeyed God and built the ark. Noah's works did not justify him, for God's word states that Noah was already "just" due to his faith.
Noah was declared a just man who walked with God, long before he ever began building the ark. It is the same with us. Our efforts and works do not save us. We are justified by faith alone-and because we have been made new creations in Christ-we obey and love Him and live for Him. Faith without works is indeed dead. Works without faith are also dead. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. We are saved by faith, the Scriptures teach.
I look forward to hearing from you as we seek the Scriptures together.
- Paul Miller
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