Monday, July 30, 2007

faith and obedience

Is there saving faith apart from obedience? This has been debated among evangelicals, but I think it is safe to say that none of the Reformers nor the great Church before that made such a distinction. Luther and the Reformers did want to be sure that it was Christ's righteousness alone that was imputed/judicially given to the sinner who put their faith in Jesus (the Anabaptists with Menno Simons, etc., had trouble with the teaching of imputed righteousness, so differed). But faith was at least evidenced by good works in obedience to God, and the two in a sense were linked together.

I really don't like the teaching "once saved always saved" because though it does not necessarily lend itself to a separtation of faith and obedience, too often I'm afraid, it does. For me in this post it's beside the point whether "once saved always saved" is actually true. All I want to insist on is that while faith on the part of the sinner comes from God's grace, for that faith to be proved real there must follow obedience.

Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship likens this to our Lord's call to Peter to come out to him on the water. Peter, to really have faith in this word from the Lord must step out in faith. Otherwise he could say what he will, but there would be no faith in that word if there was no obedience. We see this in other calls of Jesus to others, such as in the case of the rich young ruler. In that case, of course, there was no obedience therefore there was no faith.

If I'm struggling in defeat in my life, then I have to step back and look at what's going on and ask if I really do have faith. Faith involves following Jesus, so this involves obedience to the word of Jesus no matter how difficult or impossible that call may come across to us, and of course apart from the grace of God in Christ such a command is impossible for us to obey. This amounts to the death of our old selves and of course that is never comfortable in itself. But from that comes the new life and finding our true self in Jesus. And this is a reality for us only as we really seek to live it out, our one concern to follow Christ in complete obedience.

I'm working on this and I want to do so in fellowship with other followers, but I must be sure that I'm meeting the issues in my own life as I seek to live this out with others.

What stands in the way in our lives to this simplicity of obedience to God's word in Christ? Is this thinking making faith a work? Are faith and works distinguishable in one crucial way, yet inseparable in another crucial way?

10 comments:

NaNcY said...

can we listen to God while we talk to ourselves?

Ted Gossard said...

Nancy,

That's a good question. It reminds me of the psalms in which the psalmist is talking to himself, but words that are inspired as we know. This kind of talk surely does facilitate hearing God or sensing God's voice in our lives. I like to be in the psalms and do so daily (especially on weekdays, though I need to keep this going on weekends).

Ted Gossard said...

Examples of that in the psalms are like when the psalmist addresses his soul, or himself in Psalms 42 and 43.

Every Square Inch said...

There's no saving faith apart from obedience...but there's no saving obedience either.

Ted Gossard said...

ESI, I think you're absolutely right if you mean that there's no merit in our act of obedience. But I'll think more on this, have to run....

Ted Gossard said...

ESI, Faith is not just intellectual assent, but is submissive if it is saving faith. The submissive act of obedience is an act of the faith that saves. But it's the faith that one ventures to throw their entire lives on, or at least committing themselves to God.

The man with the withered hand had to stretch it forth before Jesus healed him. There was an act there necessary for the faith to be real.

Ted Gossard said...

submission and trust as well as believing.

Ted Gossard said...

That's where I'd come down. Have to run again....

Every Square Inch said...

Ted,

Where are you running to? ;-)

My comment wasn't that profound - I just meant that I agree that saving faith results in obedience but that obedience doesn't provide any merit toward salvation

Ted Gossard said...

ESI, Running from work to home, then from home to Tiffany's schooling and back. Fun.