S: Matthew 7:12-27
The Golden Rule
12“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.
The Narrow Gate
13“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.
The Tree and Its Fruit
15“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
21“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
Building on a Solid Foundation
24“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
O: Ephesians 2:8-9 points out, 8God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
Some Christians, e.g. Paul F. Pavao, thinks that this means you're saved by faith alone, but then after that, you're judged by works.
However, while I agree with much of what Parvao says, I stumble over passages like Galatians 3:1-4 which seem to say that the Galatians were foolish in trying to add works to their faith when it was their faith that saved them in the first place.
Traditional Evangelical doctrine, for example as expressed by this page, says works play no part in salvation at all, and that works is merely an evidence for faith, as in James 2:14-26.
Catholic theologian Christopher Malloy points out that Catholic theology only accepts justification by faith when in conjunction with charity.
A: So what do we make of all this? I take a page from the Eastern Orthodox Christians who live with mystery. Mystery in this sense isn't a mystery story, but rather, acceptance that there are things of God which are beyond human ability to understand.
Just because it is beyond our ability to understand doesn't make it untrue. For example, we can teach chimpanzees sign language and hence be able to hold a conversation with chimps. We can teach chimps how to count, and perhaps even how to add and multiply. But it is impossible to teach chimps calculus. Does that make calculus any less true? We build bridges, skyscrapers and airplanes with calculus, and they work. So a chimp's inability to understand calculus is more of a statement of the limitations of chimpanzee intellect than a statement of the truth of falsity of calculus.
So, in the end, how do we respond to this? The Bible clearly says that we are saved by grace through faith. The Bible also clearly says that we must do good works, and sometimes it says this is tied up with our salvation.
I don't understand how it all fits together, and that's OK. I do know that I must have faith in Christ, and that I must follow Biblical teachings and have good works as well. So whether you have Lutheran theology, Catholic theology, Arminian theology, Calvinist theology, Evangelical theology, we are all united in this: Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24)
P: Father, I need to continue in faith in You and Your Christ, and continue in following Your teachings. Help me to keep to the narrow path of righteousness, while not wasting time worrying but resting in Your grace through faith. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)