For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
1 Corinthians 3:11-13
The foundation of salvation is Christ. There is no other name given under heaven. Every disciple must enter at the same gate and begin at the same place.
Salvation is not just something that happened to you once-upon-a-time. Of course, it is that too, but it's also an ongoing process, incremental and cumulative. Some people say "I was saved" as if that settled the matter. We don't even treat ice cream that way. If you tried ice cream once when you were eight, would you be satisfied for life? I doubt it.
The question is not "Were you saved?" but "Are you saved today?" Salvation is a foundation, yes, but it is also what we build on that foundation. (Phillipians 2:12) It's pursuing the likeness of God daily, taking up your cross, building with gold and silver and precious stones.
We can't just "know what we believe" and do the Christian thing to satisfy the status quo. That's wood and hay and stubble, and it's going to burn up. What we need is a vital awareness of God's love, God's holiness, and God's will, to empower us everyday to live sacramental lives of worship.
But wait: this sounds awfully like doing "works." We can't do "works", because we believe in "grace", and "works" and "grace" are not compatible.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.James 2:14, 17
There is no such thing as faith without works. It's like marriage without love or the ocean without water. We need to get our faith into our lives somehow. We need a faith that is lived forward, not analyzed, because sometimes what we think is analysis may actually be nothing more than an autopsy.
This brings us to another realization, which is that the whole debate about faith and works is a mirage. If we couch the question in terms of whether we are saved by grace or works, we will succeed splendidly in spinning our minds in circles, but I don't think we will find many helpful answers.
It isn't our good works that make us Christians - it's our good works that show that we are Christians. (John 13:35) Our good works do not establish or create our Christian identity, they only validate it. Indeed, they must.
You will recognize [false prophets] by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.Matthew 7:16-20
For a tree to produce good fruit does not make it a good tree, it merely shows that it is a good tree. Similarly, the good works we fulfill (Ephesians 2:10) do not make us righteous, they simply show that we are righteous. And that righteousness, though it must and will produce good works, can only have its beginning in grace. (Ephesians 2:8)
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift. Amen.
All scripture quotations from the ESV
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