Faith That Works: On the Meaning of “Justification”

As shown by the preceding post, “works” refers to far more than works of the Law of Moses — indeed, to anything that is claimed to be a path to justification other than faith in Jesus. Therefore, passages such as Galatians 2:16 do not allow us to create a New Testament version of the Law of Moses as a path to justification.

(Gal 2:15-16 ESV) 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners;  16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

The usual conservative Church of Christ response to this is to assert that “justification” is only our initial salvation and so Paul is only talking about how saved we are the moment we arise from the baptistry. After that, we’re dealing with “sanctification,” and the rules get tougher! Continue reading

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Faith That Works: On the Meaning of “Works”

Just a couple of thoughts from a couple of comments from several days ago.

Skip wrote,

In scripture, our salvation lies in whom we believe not in what we do.   Deeds are not meritorious.  Faith is the focus.   Deeds are a consequence of faith not the source of our faith.   Jesus saves because we first believe.

Romans 4:5 “However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” Continue reading

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Community Disciplines: Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, Part 12

The practice of discipline in the community of faith begins with friends who are close to one another. Words of admonition and reproach must be risked when a lapse from God’s Word in doctrine or life endangers a community that lives together, and with it the whole community of faith. Nothing can be more cruel than that leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than that severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.

(p. 105). Church discipline is a tough, tough subject because it’s so often done so very poorly. And yet the Bible addresses the topic frequently. Continue reading

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Community Disciplines: Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, Part 11

Here, bearing the burden of the other means tolerating the reality of the other’s creation by God—affirming it, and in bearing with it, breaking through to delight in it.

This will be especially difficult where both the strong and the weak in faith are bound together in one community. The weak must not judge the strong; the strong must not despise the weak. The weak must guard against pride, the strong against indifference. Neither must seek their own rights.

(p. 101). It’s a standard argument in Church of Christ debates that the strong must submit to the weak. Therefore, those insisting on this or that argue that the other side should see them as weak and thus submit to them. Continue reading

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Leadership: Mark Driscoll on Church Growth

Mark Driscoll pastors the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, which is quite a large and effective congregation. Here’s his advice on church growth —

1. Begin with the end in mind and know how large you want to be.

… Lyle Schaller, considered one of the best church consultants in the world, states in his book, The Very Large Church, that the two most comfortable church sizes are under 45 people and under 150 people, likely making them two of the hardest thresholds to pass through, in addition to the 800 mark. Continue reading

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Community Disciplines: Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, Part 10

The first service one owes to others in the community involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them. God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives us God’s Word, but also lends us God’s ear. We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them.

(p. 98). Wow. God blesses us by promising to listen to us. He doesn’t always answer in return, but we believe he always listens. Therefore, we take on the very image of God when we listen to one another. Continue reading

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Leadership: On Being Interviewed on TV and Elsewhere

Mark Woodward posted a very insightful post comparing Mark Driscoll’s TV interview by Piers Morgan with Billy Graham’s TV interview by Dick Cavett many years earlier. Driscoll came across poorly; Graham appeared masterful. Why the difference?

YouTube Preview Image

YouTube Preview Image Continue reading

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Community Disciplines: Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, Part 9

Not considering oneself wise, but associating with the lowly, means considering oneself the worst of sinners. This arouses total opposition not only from those who live at the level of nature, but also from Christians who are self-aware. It sounds like an exaggeration, an untruth. Yet even Paul said of himself that he was the foremost, i.e., the worst of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). He said this at the very place in scripture where he was speaking of his ministry as an apostle. There can be no genuine knowledge of sin that does not lead me down to this depth. If my sin appears to me to be in any way smaller or less reprehensible in comparison with the sins of others, then I am not yet recognizing my sin at all. My sin is of necessity the worst, the most serious, the most objectionable. Christian love will find any number of excuses for the sins of others; only for my sin is there no excuse whatsoever.

(pp. 97-98). This is true humility: the ability to recognize the depth of our own sin and to prefer to justify the sins of others rather than our own. The natural human tendency is to justify and excuse our own sins and to condemn as far more serious the sins of others. But true Christian humility is the exact opposite. Continue reading

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Leadership: On Being a Winner

Alabama's Trent Richardson holds up the winning trophy after the BCS National Championship college football game against LSU Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in New Orleans. Alabama won 21-0. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)The University of Alabama’s football team has won two of the last three national championships. That’s a fact. How did they do it? Well, here’s a surprising bit of insight from ESPN

  • The attendance for A-Day was 78,526 (1st in the SEC and 2nd nationally  this year to Ohio State) which was the fifth-largest in school history.  Each spring game under coach Nick Saban has had an attendance of  78,200 (2008) or higher. … Continue reading
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Community Disciplines: Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, Part 8

There is probably no Christian to whom God has not given the uplifting and blissful experience of genuine Christian community at least once in her or his life. But in this world such experiences remain nothing but a gracious extra beyond the daily bread of Christian community life. We have no claim to such experiences, and we do not live with other Christians for the sake of gaining such experiences. It is not the experience of Christian community, but firm and certain faith within Christian community that holds us together. We hold fast in faith to God’s greatest gift, that God has acted for us all and wants to act for us all. This makes us joyful and happy, but it also makes us ready to forgo all such experiences if at times God does not grant them. We are bound together by faith, not by experience.

(p. 47). Bonhoeffer has this rare blend of idealism and pragmatism that I find incredibly … true. Yes, Christian community can produce some amazing, wondrous experiences. No, that’s not the test of true community. Continue reading

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