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There are many who assume the nature of biblical faith is a mere belief in certain facts about Jesus and His work. This has led them to assume further that sanctification in a "faith working through love" is an optional lifestyle for the Christian. He should repent of evil and do what is right, but if he should choose to live in sin and do what is wrong, this says nothing as to whether he is saved.
The true nature of biblical faith, however, is that it is a transference of one's allegiance from a self lordship and pursuit to the Lordship and pursuit of Christ; and this kind of faith, then, produces further repentance and good works as its fruit. Since this type of faith, the faith that saves, produces repentance and good works, the absence of repentance and good works evidences the absence of the faith that saves. Hence, repentance from wrongdoing and turning to doing what is right is the evidence that one is saved. The lack thereof is the evidence that one is not.
What antinomians do in order to retain the almighty lord of self (because the real desire of man is not that he work toward his own salvation, but that he replace a life devoted to God as Lord with a life that is devoted to doing what he wants) the evidences of saving faith are replaced by things like whether he prayed a sinner's prayer, or his participation in the sacraments like baptism or the Lord's supper, or just a good feeling that he has about God and Christianity, etc. But none of these are the evidences of biblical faith according to the Bible. Assurance that one has truly given his life to Christ is found in his works of love toward God and his fellow Christian.
Let's go through the NT and see just how solid the antinomian view of faith and the Christian life is. What I wish to show here is that those who do good or evil are judged based upon those good and evil works, not because they are justified by works, but because their works are evidence that they do not have biblical faith, i.e., they have not truly given themselves over/switched their allegiance to Christ as Lord.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [n]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matt 7:21-23)
Notice here that it does not say that if you do not do the will of the Father, you will merely suffer some loss of an extra reward. It says that the only the one who does the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven, which is Matthew's terminology for one who will be saved. The people here consider Christ as Lord, so we are dealing with Christians here, not professed unbelievers. It is also an eisegetical practice of antimonians to read John's comment concerning justification and the will of God ("to believe on Him whom He has sent") as though that were Matthew's context. However, Matthew's context is clear that the will of the Father is the filling up of the moral law as an expression of love of God and fellow Christians. Notice that what follows this passage is commentary about the salvation and destruction of those who all hear what Christ has taught, but may or may not actually act upon it.
This reading of Matthew by antinomians is ironic, since Matthew is actually arguing against two things: the need for Gentiles to become Jewish via participating in Jewish customs and ritual law and the idea that since Gentiles are saved by grace they have no need to obey the moral law that exists as an expression of loving God and loving one's fellow covenant member. Matthew argues that both of these ideas are false, and that one who truly belongs to Christ obeys the moral law.
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours. (Matt 6:14-15)
The conditional here is clear. If one does not forgive, he will not be forgiven. Matthew is seeking to take away any idea that one can treat other Christians as enemies. Instead, one's forgiveness is contingent upon one's forgiving others. If one is not forgiven by God, what can this mean but that one is not saved? In fact, in the later episode in Chapter 18, Christ makes this even more clear when the one who was forgiven goes out and does not forgive his fellow servant. The unforgiving servant's initial proclamation of forgiveness is revoked and he is handed over to judgment to answer for all his debt. This is likely to mimic, not God forgiving and then revoking forgiveness, but the initial proclamation of forgiveness of the gospel that is given to an individual who does not have truth faith. The final verdict by God, then, is that he will not be forgiven either, as his lack of forgiveness displays his lack of true biblical faith that leads to doing good to God and fellow believers.
For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matt 16:27)
Antinomians like to imagine two judgments, one for Christians, which is not based upon works, and one that is for everyone else. However, there is no hint of that in the Bible. Even the passage in Revelation, where the different books are opened, is often taken out of context, since that entire book concerns itself with showing that true Christians are the ones who overcome the world with their persevering faith and good works. Here, then, we see a phrase that will be applied to Christians, time and again, throughout the NT. God is going to judge everyone according to what each person has done. This is because works are evidence of one's legal claim that he belongs to Christ and therefore should be saved with Christ. If Christ is his Lord, as evidenced by his works, then his claim is valid. If Christ is only said to be his Lord, but in fact is not, evidenced by his works, then his claim is invalid.
Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” (Luke 3:8-14)
Notice here that John is arguing that true repentance has a particular fruit to it. When asked what they should do to escape from God's wrath, he does not tell them to believe. Instead, he argues that they should do what is right as evidence that they have repented and believe. The label of being someone who belongs to the promise is worthless. It is one's fruit that stems from repentance that shows whether he belongs to the promise.
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26-27)
Notice here that it does not say, "If anyone does not believe he cannot be My disciple." Instead, one must consider his family and very life as second place to Christ. He must die to himself and his family, or he cannot be Christ's disciple. Discipleship here begins with a transfer of allegiance from self to Christ. This allegiance bears fruit that causes the individual to choose to obey Christ over considerations for family and self.
But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. (Rom 2:5-11)
Romans is often cited against the idea that works always stem from true faith, but Romans does nothing to negate this idea. Paul argues against being justified by works, not that works are not evidence of one's justification. In fact, notice here that the judgment is not only for those who do evil, but also for those who do good, and those who do good obtain eternal life. It is clear from the book that their obtaining eternal life is not of their own doing, but rather it is obtained by being unified with Christ through faith. Those who have true faith and are unified with Christ and those who do good works, however, are one and the same people. This is why the saved are those who do good works because those works evidence their genuine faith.
So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Rom 8:12-17)
Notice, again, here that those who are saved by faith are under obligation to live according to the Spirit and put to death the sinful deeds of the body. If one does not do this, but rather lives in the carnality of sin, he must die because he does not truly belong to the Spirit. The Spirit leads him into sanctification and suffering, and being glorified with Him is contingent upon our suffering with Him--again, something those with true faith do.
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Cor 10:1-12)
Paul here is making the argument that Christ's presence, as evidenced by the gifts of the Spirit, is not evidence that some of the Corinthians themselves are saved. Hence, he warns them that the judgments against Israel were written down to warn the church that relying on the sacraments, like baptism and the Supper, or on a feeling of God's presence, or anything else besides one's works as evidence of true faith is a serious error.
So we aspire to please Him, whether we are here in this body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive his due for the things done in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:9-10)
Here, Paul makes it even more explicit that the judgment according to works is for believers as well. "For we must all appear" makes it clear that he is talking about everyone, not just unbelievers. There is furthermore no evidence from Scripture that this judgment is merely over extra rewards. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 is often cited for this, but this passage says nothing to the issue. It is a passage dealing with whether one teaches things that are of his own opinion or of the Spirit of God. If mere human opinion, then his work will be burned up. If of the Spirit, God's instruction, it will be preserved. This has nothing to do with good works, but whether someone's building upon the gospel in his teaching is human wisdom or divine wisdom. Human wisdom does not condemn a man, but it does mean that what he builds in it may be burned up even though he is saved. The passage in 2 Corinthians, however, displays that everyone will be brought into the final judgment, which is a judgment according to one's works.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another . . . But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Gal 5:13-16; 6:7-9)
Here in Galatians we see that the faith that justifies is one that obeys the moral law, "You shall love your fellow believer as yourself," and that true faith leads to sowing to the Spirit in terms of what one does. Those who sow to the flesh, the sinful carnal life from which they were supposedly set free, evidence the absence of true faith, and hence, they will reap death, which is contrasted with the eternal life that those who sow to the Spirit in their works reap.
This is because, as Paul argues in Galatians, that faith expressing itself in circumcision and becoming Jewish is worthless, but what really counts is "faith working through love."
"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Gal 5:6)
But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; (Eph 5:3-7)
Paul continues here in Ephesians to argue that God has chosen us in eternity "to be holy and blameless before Him" (1:4). He accomplishes this by justifying one by grace through faith in distinction from any works, but as the means by which he sets us apart in our new creation in Jesus Christ "for the purpose of doing good works, which God prepared beforehand that we are to walk in them" (2:10). Hence, as he said in Romans 8, God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son, and everyone with genuine saving faith is set on that path and will pursue that goal. Those who do not evidence that they do not have saving faith, and therefore, they have no saving grace, and will not inherit the kingdom of Christ and God.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Phil 2:12-13)
If the antinomians were right, why would anyone have fear and trembling in working out their salvation? As long as one just believes the facts about Jesus and His work why the need to desire God's good pleasure and work His good pleasure as the product of one's salvation? Obviously, Paul does not see the Christian life of repentance and good works as an optional lifestyle for those who take upon the name "Christian." Instead, having saving faith leads to a sanctification that is not an optional lifestyle, but the only lifestyle possible that rightly flows from genuine faith.
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, (Col 1:9-10)
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Col 3:5-10)
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.(1 Thes 4:1-6)
God is the avenger in all these things? For those who are saved by grace? Yep. Because one who is saved by grace has genuine faith and will first seek to refrain from this evil and second seek to rectify any evil he has committed in repentance. One who is not saved, because he has not given his allegiance to Christ, will willingly engage in these crimes. Why would the Thessalonians need to be solemnly warned if worrying about one's works is merely legalism and not a matter of faith and grace?
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father counted righteous by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is counted righteous by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute counted righteous by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:14-26)
Here we have what Luther, because of his sacramentalism and overreaction to Romanism, could not reconcile. Works show genuine faith. Lack of works show absence of genuine faith. God is not merely working to declare His people righteous, but justifies them for the purpose of making them righteous, conforming them to the image of His Son. Both faith and works work together to complete this salvation via sanctification. The problem with some who misread this text is that they read "save" as "justified" in the same sense that Paul uses the term in Romans, but James' work is concerned about day to day righteousness in practice, i.e., the outflow of what Paul would call justification. Here, James uses the same term the antinomians, who take Paul out of context, uses, but applies it to the works of sanctification as the evidence of true faith.
Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. (Heb 12:14-17)
They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. (2 Peter 2:13-22)
Notice that these are people who have a profession of faith in Christ, but they are antinomians who think grace through their watered down faith that does not produce loving obedience to God, are said to be damned, not saved.
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother . . . We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him,and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (1 John 4:4-10, 14-15, 21-24)
John clearly delineates that the fruit of each person displays their allegiances and to whom they, therefore, belong. The one who does righteousness is righteous. The one who does not belongs to the devil.
Notice that the assurance of one's salvation is seen, not in some confidence in his sinner's prayer, baptism, or assurance itself, but in his giving his allegiance to the Son and loving fellow Christians (in word and deed). So what does John say? "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: anyone who does not do what is right is not God's child, nor is anyone who does not love his fellow Christian." Identification is by one's works.
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)
It is clear that these people are not denying Christ verbally, as they hang out with Christians in their meetings. So they profess Christ, as they are the same group as those in 2 Peter. Instead, they deny Christ by their works. They deny that He is their Lord by their deeds. Their works evidence their absence of true faith, and they distort the meaning of biblical grace to justify the unrepentant sin in their lives as something God considers "passable" for a true Christian. Jude says that these people are damned, however, and that they're profession to have faith in Christ is like clouds without water, a claim with no evidence to back it up.
Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Rev 2:20-23)
Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Rev 19:7-8)
Here, again, in Revelation, we have the judgment according to each Christian's deeds promised to him. Revelation is all about the promise that Christians who overcome will enter into life. Their overcoming is not merely to keep their profession, but to not partake in sexual immorality, the idolatrous festivals, and any other ungodly practice in the world. Those who do are promised an eternity of being cast out, and the churches that sanction such evil are promised that they will be removed from among Christ's church/body/bride. Instead, Christ's people are described as having garments of bright fine linen, which represent their righteous works.
It is important to note that all of these works are evidences of saving faith, not the basis upon which one is saved. The judgment is "according to works." This is an important distinction, as one is judged consistent with what one has done, but not upon the basis of what one has done. If one is truly saved by true faith in Christ, his works will be consistent with that. Hence, the judgment will render to him what is consistent with his works, i.e., that he truly belongs to Christ through faith. If his works are consistent with someone who does not have Christ as Lord, he is not considered Christ's through genuine faith, his profession is false, and he will receive the reward of one who does not belong to Christ, rather than receiving Christ's reward, as those who belong to Him will.
One of the best books that displays this is Titus. In 2:11-14 and 3:1-8, Paul states: