Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Your Faith Has Saved You"

In a previous post I set out to tackle the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity. Is it scriptural? Is it scriptural enough that this is what God intended us to believe concerning the state of our hearts? Through my studies I was met with a resounding "YES!" The scriptures are overwhelmingly clear that humanity is completely and entirely unable to reach for (or, as I suggested, "indifferent toward") their salvation.

The thing is, although I did feel the evidence was conclusive in favor of Total Depravity, I did not find (as I would've preferred) a lack of evidence to the contrary. So, in an effort to be intellectually honest, I'm taking a look at those "problem passages" I had set aside fo a while. These are the verses which allude to man having some autonomous wisdom (Imago Dei?) buried somewhere inside him after all.

What strikes me as odd as I read through the gospels is Jesus' version of "cause and effects." What, or who instigates salvation? What about healing? Miracles? The Calvinist says, because of man's Total Depravity, Yahweh must initiate 100% of the time. I believe this to be true. But I'm not convinced Jesus taught it that way (*1). Let me explain:

Consider the woman who touched the fringe of Christ's garment. He turns to the woman and names the reason she has been healed: "Your faith has made you well." (Mt 9.20-22; Mk 5.25-34; Lk 8.43-48). Later that day, Jesus asks two blind men if they believe He is able to heal them. When they reply in the affirmative, Jesus declares. "According to your faith be it done to you." (Mt 9.27-29). In the well-known story of the paralytic whose friends lower him down through the roof to Jesus, Jesus sees their faith and decides to heal (Mark 2.5). On a different occasion, in Jericho, He heals a blind man named Bartimaeus, telling him, "Your faith has made you well." (Mk 10.52). The list goes on (*2).

Jesus even uses these same terms to describe salvation for the woman who washed His feet. He explains that she did more for Him than any of the teachers or disciples that night, for "He who is forgiven little, loves little." Then He looks at the woman and says, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace." (Luke 7.50)

So it seems that faith has, at very least, causal priority to salvation, since every time Jesus sees faith, salvation and healing is the result (*3). Stop and reflect on that. No one disagrees on this point; instead we tend to ignore it. "Yeah yeah, 'faith'... right. I'm saved, so I guess that means I've got some." My friend, your faith is the first mark of your salvation! (Ro 5.2) It's what sets you apart as elect!

How do we know we've been redeemed? Because we believe in His death and resurrection (Col 1.22). And we don't just believe it, we claim it with our lives (Php 1.29; 2 Pet 1.3,4). Because He lives, we live (Heb 7.25). So by faith, we take on the qualities of His new life (2 Cor 5.21).

Do you let your faith work itself out in love (Gal 5.6), driving us to obedience? (Jn 14.15; 2 Cor 5.14-15) Is your life marked by your faith in the living God?
"To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace os our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thess 1.11,12)


Truly, your faith has saved you. And, by His grace, it will carry you to the end. (Mt 24.13; 1 Cor 1.18) Thank God for the gift of faith today (Eph 2.8), and pray for grace to walk in it.




Footnotes:
*1 - Of course, as Pastor David Forsyth points out, "A true believer in Biblical Inerrancy holds that the words in red are no more inspired than the words in black." Or as Timothy said, "ALL Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching..." (2 Tim 3.16) Still, I can't help but notice the contrast between the way Christ and Paul present the doctrine of election.

*2 - See also Matt 15.28; Lk 8.48; Luke 17.19

*3 - But (remember freshman year, Logic 101?) priority on the time-line doesn't necessarily identify the root cause. Perhaps there is something that causes their faith. The Reformers called this point of origin "regeneration." It would be a fallacy to rule out the possibility of regeneration before the foundation of the world (Eph 1.4) just because Jesus didn't spell it out in explicit detail.

John Piper makes the observation that the gospel writers intended for their writings to be understood from the viewpoint of the cross. We know this because they each open their account with a thesis:
  • Matthew and Mark both start their first sentences by immediately calling Jesus of Nazareth the "Christ:" an idea that he could only have been confident of in perspective of His resurrection/ascension. 
  • Luke undertakes a more elaborate narrative which has a climax at the announcement of the angels to the shepherds: "Unto you is born this day... a savior." 
  • John is the most poignant writer of the bunch, dedicating his first few lines to the case of Jesus' oneness with God Himself.
It's important that we realize that Jesus was acting outside of time, and the gospel writers were writing from hindsight. So, from hindsight, their readers would already know that Jesus ministry was about calling His own to Himself (Jn 6.44, 10.27, 17.6), so they didn't need to make a case for regeneration. Luckily for us, Paul undertook that task some years later when the details of soteriology came into question (Ro 9, etc).

2 comments:

  1. A few thoughts:
    1) Can you define salvation? Because as I've read through the Gospels and other writings, I'm still having trouble defining it. How it happens, what it is, what is takes, etc.
    2) Interesting first footnote. I would definitely hold what Jesus says as higher than what Paul says. Because what Jesus says obviously is considered to be higher than other old testament verses (ie, "You have heard it said... but I say..."). So then, is God bigger than the Bible? If Jesus is God, then is Jesus higher than the bible? (Side question: do you think Jesus believed in the inerrancy of Scripture? If so, why did he institute such changes?)
    3) What about our faith? Not the persons faith who is forgiven, but OURS. Such as when Jesus says that we can forgive sins (Jn. 20:23). Does that mean that we can bestow forgiveness? Even when others aren't seeking it? Or how about the man carried to Jesus (Mk. : 3-5) and it's the men whose faith is responsible for the other?

    ReplyDelete