Monday, September 17, 2007

Salvation Cannot Be Earned (archived from newsletter, August 2007)

In my free time, I engage in a lot of debates. One subject that frequestly comes up, or rather, I should say, one accusation that is frequently leveled against me is that I believe that faith comes by works, simply because I believe that it can be forfeited. Whether you agree with me that it can be forfeited, let me explain why I don't believe it can be earned, and why there's a difference. Frankly, I'm simply tired of being falsely accused.

Much of my time that is not free is spent working. I'm a tile-layer by trade; I used to be a carpenter. Either profession will suit this example just fine. As a tile-layer, I often come home with fingers that have been smashed by a stack of tile, cuts on my hands from the ones that broke, and a set of lungs full of concrete and mortar dust. When I was a carpenter, my hands took even more abuse: cuts from a saw, splinters, cracked and chapped hands from dealing with dry wood. At the end of a week, I would pick up a check for my pain and trouble.

Imagine, if you will, that I decided to sign my check over to you, for no other reason than you're my (now very grateful) friend. The reason that you're getting the check is because of our relationship. If you weren't my friend, you wouldn't be getting a dime. I dare you to say, however, that you earned the money simply by being my friend, when it cost me so much pain to earn it.

Likewise, Christ's ever-more painful sacrifice cost Him dearly. No amount of loving, worshipping, serving, or praying to Him could ever add up to the price that he paid. Nor do we claim it does. We are simply his friend, acting as a friend, and recieving the gift that he wants to give us. And we should accept it, because it cost Him so very much.

One of the major problems in the earlier argument is it's definition of "works." It seems that, since the Protestant Reformation, the word "works" has come to mean something very different than it did in Paul's day. Galatians 3:2,5 and 6 pit the concepts "faith" and "works" against one another, which means that belief is something very different than earning one's salvation through the Law, which was Paul's definition of the word.

Post-publication note: I've taken a photograph of one of my hands after a particularly hard day, to illustrate this point a bit more.

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