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Faith is Not a Work, Part 2

Posted by Matt Postiff October 21, 2019 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology 

Part 1 can be found here.

Romans 10:3-6 For they [Israel] being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, "The man who does those things shall live by them." But the righteousness that is by faith says…

Once again in this text, we see that faith is set over against works as an opposing principle. The law-zealous Jew did not submit to the righteousness of God by belief. Instead, he pursued the righteousness which supposedly is achieved through the works of the law. There is a righteousness that comes from the works of the law, and there is a righteousness that comes by faith. It should be obvious then that works and faith are opposites. Faith is not a work.

What is concerning about the doctrine that "faith is a work" is this: if taken to its logical conclusion in the context of the gospel, the person who believes that doctrine would never be able to say, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." That would be, on their view, the same as saying, "Do this one particular good work [faith], and you will be saved." But that is anathema because no good work done by a sinner is the meritorious cause of salvation. The only work that procures salvation is the one that Jesus Christ did. The faith-is-a-work ‘gospel’ is so careful to avoid works that it removes the only God-ordained condition of salvation, namely, faith.

This form of the gospel is certainly not guilty of addition; but it is guilty of subtraction. In it, faith cannot even be an instrumental cause or channel of salvation, as it is presented so often in Scripture to be. That subtraction changes the gospel from the faith-emphasis given in Scripture: Mark 1:15; John 9:35, 9:38, 11:26, Acts 5:14, 9:42, 11:17, 11:21, 13:12, 13:48, 16:31, 22:19, 26:18; Romans 4:24, 10:9, 10:17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Jude 5 (and many others).

The historical, orthodox understanding of the gospel is that faith is an integral part of the initiation of salvation. However one describes it (logically preceding regeneration, logically following regeneration, or even chronologically following regeneration and inevitable), it is an essential part of the human response to gospel. The Reformation cry of "salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone" is gutted and becomes instead "salvation by grace alone in Christ alone without faith-which-is-a-work." Faith, it seems, may come at some point in the regenerate person’s life, or theoretically it may never be expressed at all. Whatever the case, this is not the gospel of Reformation theology, or covenant theology, or dispensational theology. It is an aberration.

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