Keeping it real
Forty blogs of Lent
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV
Faith is not a theoretical or theological concept. It is real. Faith isn’t just something we believe, it’s something we do.
If you believe your car’s brakes don’t work do you get in the car and drive it? No. You get the brakes fixed. TheAnglican church’s baptism rite has the parents and godparents making the response, when asked if they believe and trust in te Father, Son and Holy Spirit, “I believe and trust in him.” The words and trust are there to convey in English what the writers meant when they wrote about believing when they wrote the books and letters that make up the New Testament. The idea of a faith that is not acted upon is not one found in the Bible.
James wrote,”Faith without works is dead.” James 2:17. if we don’t act on what we believe does out faith have any value?
Here’s a longer quote for context.
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 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[a] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 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. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 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. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Martin Luther didn’t like this, he called the letter of Jmes an “Epistle of straw.” It didn’t agree with the conclusions he had drawn from studying Paul’s letter to the Romans and Luther’s conclusion that salvation is by faith alone, not works.
To be fair to Luther, there was a lot wrong with the Catholic church at the time, much of his disagreement centred around the practice of selling indulgences, a practice that the Roman church soon dropped. But even St Paul wasn’t totally against works. He wrote, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Whilst we cannot work our way into heaven, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ have already paid the price to get us in, we still need to put the faith in Christ that saves us into practice – to work it out.
Like love and hope, faith is a doing word. Let’s do faith.