- "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast." (Ephesians 2: 8-9)
I bet most of you are probably surprised to see this on a Catholic blog. I started reading blogs last month and have stumbled on a few that don't think too kindly of us Catholics. Saying that, I have also come across a lot of really good Protestant blogs too. i.e. Regardless of what the writer's opinion may be about Catholics, their main objective is to love and serve the Lord and they very humbly try to bring people closer to Him.
I'd like to start this post by mentioning that I don't care if you're Catholic or Protestant. My objective in my posts is to point people to God. Please don't think I'm trying to convert people to Catholicism or that I'm trying to pick an argument. I'm just offering my opinion. You, the reader, can choose to agree or disagree.
I guess I should start out by saying that I absolutely agree with Ephesians 2: 8-9!!! I, however, have a bit of a different take on it than my Protestant brothers in Christ.
Do I have that faith?
I wish I did.
What did Paul mean when he wrote those famous words? Well, to answer that, I have been focusing my thoughts on Romans. As most of you know, Paul is trying to deliver the Truth to the gentiles. He tells us that all men are under the "domination of sin." (Romans 3:9) And that we need to turn to Christ for salvation.
By the time of Christ, the Pharisees and Sadducees had "forgotten" about God. They were still following the Mosaic laws (like circumcision for example) but they really lost the faith that Abraham had. They were following the law for the law's sake and not because of God. This is why Jesus was so angry with them in Matthew 23. (Of course, He still loves them for you can be angry at someone and still love them. I can't tell you the number of times that my parents were so pissed at me--for my own fault--and yet, they never stopped loving me. Alas, another post for another time). They lost their righteousness when they stopped believing (Matthew 23: 28) and thus broke God's covenant with them from Genesis (Romans 9: 7).
They were filled with so much pride and sin that they stood in the presence of the Lord God and nailed Him to a tree.
Because they had lost their righteousness; they lost their faith; and they didn't love God. They were still doing the things that a good Jew should do. But it's not enough.
Who did have this righteousness? Abraham.
God made Abraham a promise.
- "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you." (Genesis 12: 2-3)
Why did he do this? Because he had hope in the promise that God made to him. That he would be the father of nations. And also because this man truly loved God.
So, what does it mean to have faith? It means to be fully obedient to God's will as Abraham was fully obedient. God kept testing him and Abraham continued to respond.
So when Paul talks about faith and belief, he's not talking about simply believing in God. The Pharisees believed in God. That's not enough. Paul's faith is a faith of obedience (Romans 1: 5/Romans 16:26) to completely conform yourself to the will of Jesus Christ. To follow ALL of His commandments as Abraham followed ALL of God's. Honestly, I struggle with that every day for I am a sinner and I need to be forgiven by Him.
What does Paul mean when he talks about works? Well, again with Abraham, in Romans 4, Paul says that Abraham isn't the Father of Nations because of his actions. It's because he had that faith in God to do His will and not argue or object to any of His commands. Because he believed what God told him; he had hope in His promise and because he loved God. (Faith, Hope, and Love...the greatest of these is love) So, it wasn't his actions highlighted in Hebrews 11: 8-17 that made him righteous. It was his faith.
But above all, God didn't make him a Father of Nations because of his righteousness or his faith (or his works) but rather because of God's grace. As our faith doesn't deliver us eternal salvation but rather His grace.
So what's Paul telling us?
Well, for the gentiles, he's telling them that they don't have to get circumcised to be a Christian (which was probably a huge relief to all of those Roman guys) for Abraham was given the promise before he was circumcised and that that's not important because it's not the works of the Mosaic law which are important, but rather the obedience of faith.
Do I ever do works without faith? All the time--unfortunately. When I go to church because I have to and not because I love God. When I'm "just going through the motions" of my Christian life and not actively loving Him.
I guess in conclusion, Faith is being completely obedient to the will of God.
And as Abraham had faith in God (through his total obedience) and believed in his promise to him about becoming a father of nations, we must have faith in Christ (through total obedience to Him) and believe in His promise for everlasting life.
For anyone who has accomplished this, praise God and please pray for me for I am a humble sinner who yearns for everlasting life.
May the Lord God bless all who read this.