Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Further thoughts on sheep and goats

We had a great conversation over coffee at our local chic cafe this morning about the gospel, assurance of salvation, what we believe and how we live - all issues touching on Matthew 25.

One of the things I came away more certain about is that the issue of faith and lifestyle is a tension that we resolve at our peril - and certainly at some risk to our theology.

We are saved by faith and judged by works - is that the argument of Romans 2? What we do is evidence of the reality of our faith - is that the argument of James 2? As we await the coming king in whom we have put our trust we will live lives built on and reflective of his values - is that what Matthew 25 is about?

[I think the answer to all these questions is 'yes and...']

I guess something else I've thought about since Sunday - and yet another person this morning told me how challenging they found what I'd said on Sunday morning - is that it's no one's job but God's to decide who's a goat and who's a sheep. The trouble is that we are always comparing ourselves with others and, depending on our temperament, reckoning ourselves better or worse than them.

We really should only compare to Jesus, commit ourselves to following him whatever (much like Paul in Philippians 3) and trusting him to enable us to live up to his call. By his grace we'll not go far wrong if we live this way.


graham old said...

I hate to be argumentative, but my answer to your questions would have been, 'not exactly.'

I understand the temptation (particularly for Protestants) to keep a distinction between faith and works, but I think we need to go further than saying that we are saved by faith (presumably you mean 'alone') but judged by works. I certainly think that James 2 (and even Romans 2) is saying more than that.

My understanding of the NT - and it's possible that I am trying to avoid the tension - is that our faith is not only seen in what we do, but that is how it is (literally) expressed. As Paul said, we are saved by faith working through love. With some minor distinctions, I'd want to say that our workings are our faith. However, I wouldn't know where to begin preaching that! ;-)

simon said...

In a review of Don garlington’s recent book on romans, David Da Silva says: 'the "obedience of faith" is not merely acceptance of the gospel, but the life of
submission to the demands of the gospel. Faith and obedience (doing good) are therefore not opposed, but inseparable.'

I agree.

So I think your observation is right. The quote from Galatians 5:6is helpful too. This is Paul working out the implications of the gospel, picking up 2:20 and observing that our lives offered to God look like Jesus on the cross. In other words our response to the cross is that we live like Jesus. Faith works. Our lives are offered, as Jesus' was, for the good of others - as Paul goes on to argue in the rest of Gslatians 5