3/3/16 Major about 50
Are we saved because of our faith or our good works? Today we reached out to a man at Starbucks who said his name is “Major”. Despite his Catholic upbringing and current involvement in the ministries of a variety of protestant churches as a musician and a social worker (but no church home), he wasn’t sure. He rejects the “easy-believism” of those who have reduced faith to just a prayer or a statement of belief, but he knows that faith is very important in the Bible and in Christianity in general. His conclusion was that we are saved by a combination of both – that both faith and doing good works are required for salvation. In his view, Jesus’ death and resurrection happened to set the ultimate example of humility and to inspire us to make the same sort of sacrifice as we follow Him in doing good works.
I told Major that it is true that one reason for the cross is as an example of humility for us, but there is another reason even more important than that. I focused on Romans 3:26 – that the main purpose for Jesus’ death on the cross was for God “to be just and the one who justifies”. What does that mean? I told Major that God’s purpose throughout the Bible is that He will receive the glory He so rightfully deserves, and that He makes His glory known through His various attributes such as His love and His justice.
These two attributes seem to be in conflict for sinners like us. On the one hand, God loves us and wants to be merciful to us, but on the other hand He loves justice and requires a just punishment for our sins. At the cross and in the person of His Son, Jesus, God displays His justice by being just and following through with a just punishment for our sins, but he also displays His love by offering Himself to take our punishment in our place and to be the “one who justifies”.
Are we saved by good works? Yes – the good work of Jesus on the cross! Don’t trust in your own goodness or your own good works, trust in Jesus’ good work. Trust Him with the kind of faith that leads you to do the same good works. Our own good works can’t save us, but saving faith works good!