As I have mentioned before, my job has taken me into a lot of churches. I could probably bore you for hours about experiences and encounters I had in these various churches. Some of the stories are interesting simply because they occurred in a church. Ironically, some very un-Christian behavior occurs inside churches. Truly, if I compiled a list of the top ten meanest people I’ve met in sales, five would be from churches. Sad but true.
Some of the stories involve the strange or extremely un-Biblical things I’ve heard people say in churches. Some would just involve things I’ve seen. For example, apparently John the Baptist practiced baptism by sprinkling and not immersion. A mural I saw at a Lutheran church proves it!
T his week I saw something that really grabbed my eye. Walking up to the front door of this church, I glanced at the brick paving stones that lined the sidewalk. Churches often have these brick engraved with various names of church-members or donors or slogans or whatever. But one particular engraving grabbed my eye. It read:
“FAITH + WORKS + ALIVE” followed by some initials.
Well there you have it. My pastor had just spent the last two Sunday mornings preaching on the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith….ALONE. Martin Luther said that the doctrine of justification by faith was “the doctrine by which the church stands or falls.” I agree with both of them. So what does the Scripture say?
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)
“Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,” (Romans 4:4-5)
“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” (Romans 9:16)
Good works, to the shock of many, have nothing to do with salvation. Why?
“I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.” (Isaiah 42:8)
There will be no high-fiving or handshakes in heaven. there will be bowing and praising and singing to God, but there will be no chants of “We did it!” God, in Christ, is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:12).
No doubt this brick engraving refers to James 2:17 (“Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”) and/or James 2:26, which says basically the same thing. Both verses have been historically abused by the Catholic church to prove to protestants that our salvation is based in part on our merit. Pile up good works, don’t commit mortal sin, do your time in purgatory, and you’re in. This has also become the teaching in the major denominations (like the United Methodist church where I saw this brick) once they gave into to the corruption of liberalism.
James 2:17, 26 do not teach that works added to faith equal salvation. The very example used, Abraham, pictures a time when Abraham had ALREADY been considered righteous for his faith. His works were the PROOF, not the grounds of his salvation.
But the war machine of heresy trudges on. Sinners refuse to admit that they can’t please God. God has allowed their salvation on the ground of faith in the FINISHED work of Christ. He perfectly obeyed God’s law, died as a criminal in our place on the cross, and rose from the dead. By faith we are united with His life, death, and resurrection.
To bring our works to the table, is to come to the back door of a man’s house for dinner, covered in the blood of His freshly murdered Son, and expect to get in because we came with a check for $150. What will the Man of the House say?
He will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”
Sometimes FAITH + WORKS = DEAD.