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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Monday, October 04, 2010
1029: Grace and Faith
I am guessing here, but I suspect that the average evangelical congregation, or even to be more specific, the average evangelical Christian, would not have a problem with a pastor who stood up one Sunday and preached from the pulpit that those who are being saved are being saved by their faith.

As someone who has preached, I have, from time to time, endured the unfortunate intellectual or academic pummelling of some carping caviler, who (however well intentioned) cannot help but express after some sermon or teaching, how much better it would have been had I expressed myself according to their fancy rather than my own.

I want (therefore) to be certain (and I want you the reader to be certain) that I am not engaging in that sort of nit pickery in the writing of this post. So I ask you in advance to be careful in how you hear what I have to say - to listen with scrutiny as it were, to chew on what is said before you attempt to digest it.

You see, I am not carping or caviling when I say that it is wrong to preach that we are saved by faith. I think, in fact, that many an error begins with just such a teaching.

Now, if you are a little confused by that statement, I hope that I will be able to both explain what I mean, and that having done so, you will not only agree with me, and be fed in the process, but more than this - that when you see the truth of it, you will find in that truth a path by which you may, should you exercise youself upon it, be drawn into a closer walk with God.

We are not justified by works, nor are we justified by works "plus" faith, nor (and here is the kicker) by faith alone. What the bible teaches is that we are saved by grace through faith. Most of us can quote Ephesians 2:8 in some form or other ("For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God"), but among those who know this passage, I suspect that many fail to see that we are saved by God's grace.

I suspect, I say, that many see grace in this passage as a theological precursor to the faith "that saves". Faith then, they reason, saves us, but it isn't a faith that comes from our own self, but a faith that springs up from grace.

I would agree, that faith does spring up from grace, but scripture presents the formula to us in this way: not that faith that saves, but rather that grace saves through faith.

If you fail to see the difference between "saved by faith" and "saved by grace", such that you believe yourself to be "saved by faith" - you are going to suffer the theological fallout of that error in discernment.

If I am saved by my faith, then, I am making faith the cause of my justification instead of God. Do you see the difference this (seemingly) small confusion introduces?

Now when I am want assurance, I do no look to the grace of God by which I was saved, instead I look to my faith. I put my trust (my hope of salvation) not in God, but in my own estimation of the legitimacy of my faith - my hope is that my faith is legitimate, rather than my hope being in God's grace.

Do you see the folly of trusting in faith? Scripture, and by extension God, does not call us to trust in our faith, but to trust in Him. Whether in the pulpit or the pew, whether we have inherited some clumsy theology, or have come to it of our own (sloppy) study, if we forget that we are saved by grace, and start saying we are saved by faith - we are in error, and that error is going to have consequences in our walk.

Oh I know for some the difference seems a trifle. What does it matter, some will argue. Sure, okay, "technically" we are saved by grace, but since we must exercise "faith" in order to be saved, the distinction is (more or less) moot. That sounds reasonable, I suppose. I mean we can be saved, and remain saved whether our understand of these things is precise or imprecise. What does it matter?

Well, if all we were concerned with was whether or not we were justified, then I suppose the distinction isn't all that important. But living the Christian life entails more than becoming justified by grace through faith - it involves being saved from sin by grace through faith.

I personally have spent a lot of time and effort showing that we are saved from sin (c.f. Matthew 1:21) just as surely as we are saved from God's wrath (c.f. Romans 5:9) - striving to show, over many posts, that sanctification is a work done by God in us through faith - but I suppose I have been neglect in showing that while this same work is the product of grace, that manifests itself in and through faith.

Why is this important to me, and why should it be important to you?

It is important because some of you who are reading are finding it difficult to plug God into your religion. You have a vibrant and perhaps even orthodox form of godliness, but you deny it's power (c.f. 2 Timothy 3:5). You are somewhat estranged from God in your affections because you either have forgotten or never properly understood that everything about your religion hinges on God's grace. It is God who is at work in you, to will and to do His good pleasure. If you are looking to your faith instead of to God, you are missing out on the relationship that ought to be the well from which you draw your strength, joy, and hope, and are instead drawing such things from the puddle of your own faith.

My hope, of course, is that if you find yourself looking to your own faith instead of to God's grace, you will adjust your gaze, and in doing so, be blessed.

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posted by Daniel @ 8:30 AM  
  • At 11:44 AM, October 06, 2010, Blogger Marcian said…

    You know, I really struggled with this for a while until I read Bonar's God's way of Holiness, where he explained that if I was going to rely upon my faith (which was imperfect), and make my faith that which saved, I would be disappointed and frustrated. And how true that was! I had to change my idea of how my salvation REALLY occurs, that it is all by God's grace, for His glory, and that I look to that grace (the cause) and not to my faith (the effect) for my salvation. That keeps it all where it ought to be: on Him. Very comforting during those trying times.

  • At 11:53 AM, October 06, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    I haven't read Bonar's way of holiness, but I will have to give it a gander. Sounds like a good read. Thanks.

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