The Mystery of Faith

There are mysteries in our faith, genuine paradoxes. There’s a mystery of iniquity, that anyone would ever deliberately choose to sin against God, as most everyone does as a manner of life, and also a mystery of faith (1Ti 3:16), how salvation can be by faith while God judges us by our works.

On the one hand, we’re justified before God by faith, by believing on Christ (Jn 3:18) and not by works. (Ro 3:28) On the other hand, on Judgement Day, we know God will render to everyone according to their deeds: those who’ve patiently continued in good works as a manner of life will be saved, and those who haven’t will be damned. (Ro 2:6-9) How can both be true?

The answer lies in seeing salvation as the work of God (Jn 6:29), where He regenerates the human heart (Col 2:13) and begins working in us to will and to do according to His pleasure. (Php 2:13) As God so works in our souls, we actually do persistently try to obey Him as a manner of life; we cannot live otherwise (1Jn 3:9), and no one else can live like this. (1Jn 3:10)

So, those who say they know God but aren’t, as a rule of life, trying their best to do what He says, are simply lying. (1Jn 2:4) While there are countless ways to deceive ourselves (Ja 1:22) into thinking, “carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done,” it’s hoping in Satan himself. There’s no safe place outside a life pattern of obedience to God.

Whether we live in a way that’s morally acceptable to society or not isn’t the point: neglecting God’s laws and living life our own way makes us God’s enemies. (Ro 8:7) Nearly everyone lives like this. (1Jn 5:19)

As saints, we know that we still sin (1Jn 1:8), and that our works will never be good enough for God (Ga 3:10); we find our only rest in the finished work of Christ. Yet even though we know we can’t lose eternal salvation, we won’t sin willfully, on purpose, thoughtfully, deliberately, as a manner of life. (1Jn 3:8) We’re new creatures (2Co 5:17), always trying our best to obey God, even though that may not be very good.

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3 thoughts on “The Mystery of Faith”

  1. Tim,

    Good to see, “as a manner of life” as part of the sentence in the blog:
    Yet even though we know we can’t lose eternal salvation, we won’t sin willfully, on purpose, thoughtfully, deliberately, as a manner of life.

    Appreciate the blog,

  2. God says, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” (1Co 16:22) The phrase “anathema maranatha” evidently means something like “accursed at the coming of the LORD,” a phrase which cannot describe one who is justified/saved/redeemed. Anyone who is in this state of “anathema maranatha,” must of necessity also not be justified; the two states must be mutually exclusive.

    So, it is an error to say that works are required in order to become justified. But it is also an equivalently dangerous error to claim that a man is justified who shows no evidence of this, who is not being sanctified, who is unchanged by this supernatural work of God in justification. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Co 5:17) This is not merely a positional truth, it is a practical one that produces real, substantial changes in the heart, mind and soul of the believer.

    One of the great distinctives of Christianity, especially restored via the Reformation, is salvation by grace though faith, without works. Salvation cannot be earned in any sense. But one of the great lies introduced into Christianity early on, and which I think has persisted for the most part throughout what we recognize as Christianity, even post Reformation, is that one can be saved by some ritual or formula, neglecting the need for supernatural faith. Regeneration must be a supernatural work of God, and it does immediately result in an immediate, fundamental and supernatural transformation the believer.

    So, we can and should theoretically separate justification and sanctification in an academic sense, and that it is important to distinguish between these two phenomena and understand how they are distinct and separate, but it is an error to think that either one occurs apart from the other, and to try to separate them in any practical sense whatsoever. Anyone thinking they can actually experience justification and continue unchanged, committed to a life of sin of any kind, is deceived.

    Salvation will always include both works of God: Justification and Sanctification. God never saves anyone from the penalty of sin and then leaves them under the power and dominion of sin in their practical experience. God, when He does save someone, always saves them from both the penalty and the dominion of sin. The degree of justification never varies and is complete, while the degree of sanctification varies from one soul to the next, both in timing and extent, but some significant sanctification is always present in the believer, who loves Jesus Christ with a new heart and a new mind.

    So, salvation is never experienced entirely apart from good works: works are not necessary in order to become justified, but true justification necessarily results in a supernatural transformation that produces good works, including love for God and His Son Jesus Christ.

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