GNB 2.49

February 27, 2023


For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ Jesus. It is the power of God to bring salvation to everyone who believes; first to the Jew and then to the Greek [read ‘to the rest of the world].” (Romans 1.16)


Let us be clear: it is not the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves one from the penalty of their sin which is eternal death and separation from God’s profound and abundant love. It is the sacrifice which Jesus as the Christ made on our behalf which is the hope of our salvation. In that regard, as we read in Hebrews, chapter 12, “Jesus is the author and perfector of our faith.” It is our faith by grace which saves us because it connects what we believe to the truth of the matter: God has saved us from a fate worse than death by sending His Son into the world; He who died for us that we might live with Him forever on earth as we will in Heaven. But, without the gospel, how would we know of this “so great a love” which is offered and lived out in authentic purpose by God through Jesus Christ? It is then imperative that we, as receivers of such a gift as this who accept Jesus as the Christ to be our Lord and Savior personally and corporately, make it known to all the world of that which is available to everyone! It is our purpose as “disciples of Christ” to make disciples of Christ of everyone who chooses to join with us in this community of faith. “Faith comes by hearing (and listening) and that by the Word of God preached.” (Romans 10.17) In the debate between Pauline theology and that of James, the brother of Jesus, concerning the balanced relationship between “faith and works,” we find this dialogue which I would identify as the dynamic of “hearing and listening.” The proposal of “hearing” places great weight on the mere proclamation of the Word as the power to effect the change needed inwardly to thereby manifest outwardly the life of faith. But, as we know from our own experience with or without children, it is far too easy to merely say “I heard it!” or “I heard you!” and still not allow the truth of the word that is spoken to take effect. Still, preaching the Word of God to the people is, as Jesus would teach, like the man who went out to sow seed with varying levels of success that were independent on the skill or the ability of the man to be a farmer. The onus rested upon the seed and the soil it fell upon. With the understanding of focus which is indicated by “listening,” we are moved into a level of response that is proposed by James, in the first chapter of his writing to the Church, “Be doers of the word and not simply hearers only and thus deceive yourselves.” He might have gone on to say as a footnote “…and don’t think you are fooling anyone because actions speak louder than words.” Now, do not misunderstand what I am saying exists between Paul’s “works without faith” and James’ “faith without works” is a polar opposite relationship. They would be, as you know I am fond of saying, “two sides of the same coin.” You cannot have one side without the other or the coin has no value at all. How do you spend or earn “half a coin”?

In that regard, salvation which is wrought by God through Jesus Christ whose faith in His Father brings us into the awareness of the Father’s desire for us to be His children, too, represents “two sides of the same coin.” It is God who designs the means of reconciling a people who desire an eternal closeness with HIm and declare “What must I do to be saved?” It is Christ Jesus whose embodiment of “the way, the truth and the life” before our very eyes shows us the course of salvation which must be engaged. Dr. Robert Shuler wrote and taught “Believe in the One who believes in You.” Jesus did exactly that believing in God who believed in Him. That mutuality of faith and belief made it possible and makes it possible for the “world” to know of salvation which is of God and to receive such salvation which Christ made possible by His sacrifice to be available to “all the world.” Of course, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t force them to drink.” In the same manner, “You can present the gospel to a person but you can’t make them believe it.” You can make it believable, thus desirable (at least intriguing enough to consider the possibility) and thus give them the opportunity to believe it and to drink it in “as a deer who pants for water.” (Psalm 42) In every aspect of this proposal that “go and do” initiative is unavoidable. If you have faith but present no evidence except to say “I have faith,” then how convincing is your testimony to the truth. By that, “faith without works is dead.” In the same manner of speaking, if you do works which lead to positive results (or good or beneficial) but have no faith then how is eternal life attained by them or through them? By that, “works without faith is dead.” So, then in our purpose as members of the community of faith in Jesus as the Christ, we must provide the evidence of our lives bound by such faith in the living out of what it means to be a true disciples of Christ. Therein lies the call to “love one another” which is specific to the community of faith in itself. This “new command” Jesus gave to the disciples was an imperative of success in the “working of our faith to do works of faith.” If the evidence does not exist that the community loves itself and its own as it is loved by the “author and perfector” of such faith which caused Him to “lay down His life for others,” then who would believe it and desire to become a part of it. And this is the evidence which should drive us as faith communities. Whether it is a local congregation, a house church, a life group, a denomination or the Church universally aligned to demonstrating its faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and the only true example of how to gain eternal life and dwell in the House of the Lord God forever, such devotion to the truth must be in evidence. Paul would remind the community of faith in Christ found in Corinth that one part of the body cannot say to another part “I have no need of you.” This makes as much sense to say as to believe you can spend “half a coin.”

Without such an active faith and finely interwoven into all we say and do, then the receiving of salvation is impossible. It is not possible for us to “save others from their sin.” That is not a work that is ours to do. That work has already been done by the “only One” who can do it, Jesus the Christ. “He who was without sin became sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5.21) Salvation is possible and it exists now. The preaching (by word and works) of such truth is what allows salvation to be presented, received and the working of the Spirit to manifest it fully into the life of the believer. So, mighty ones of God, whether we are stewards of the faith or shepherds of the faithful (now two sides of the same coin) we are living by faith and not by sight or sound. We are not testifying to “that which is dead” (works without faith or faith without works), but to “that which is alive” (God in Christ by the Spirit in the world and in us for all eternity with faith, in hope, by love.)


Father, how gracious of You to make a way for us to seek and save that which is lost and restore it to its place in Your presence. We receive the opportunity and the duty for Your will to be done in us and through us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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