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Salvation by Faith alone ... or by faith AND Good works?
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The statement "all have sinned and are not good enough" when quoted to
"prove" that mankind is worthless and therefore cannot DO real good,
is taken VERY out of context and when read IN CONTEXT it does not say at
all what people mistake it for saying. Since this passage has spurned a
lot of error in the doctrine of some churches let's take a look at it more
closely. It is based on 3 places in the Bible and NONE of them are talking
about ALL MEN but ONLY about people who had either turned away from God or
refused to believe in God:
>>>>All of us are like unclean men, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; We have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind. (Man turning away from God)
But if you read this verse IN CONTEXT, Isaiah was NOT talking about ALL men but only those who have turned away from God. In the more modern translations it reads "ALL OF US HAVE BECOME LIKE" (because they turned away from God).
"there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God.
All have gone astray; all alike are worthless; there is not one who does good, (there is not) even one. "
This is the one quoted in the "letter from God" below. But if you read down to Rom 3:18 you read this:
"There is no fear of God before their eyes."
Now that should be a clue that the Bible was NOT talking about ALL men but those who do not believe in God. If you read Rom 3:10, you read these words:
10 "as it is written: "
AS IT HAD BEEN WRITTEN. It is quoting the Old Testament (which was a common thing to do). In fact Rom 3:10 and following, is what Biblical scholars call a "catena" - a hymn composed of the first lines of several psalms.
So if we look at the psalm from which the phrase,
"All have gone astray; all alike are worthless; there is not one who does good" was taken....
This part is from psalm 14: 1-4 and is talking about men who DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD (and not ALL MEN):
"Fools say in their hearts, "There is no God." Their deeds are loathsome and corrupt; not one does what is right. The LORD looks down from heaven upon the human race, To see if even one is wise, if even one seeks God. All have gone astray; all alike are perverse. Not one does what is right, not even one. " (Ps 14:1-4)
Therefore, it is INCORRECT to say that ALL MEN have fallen short and it also attacks our special and very sacred position with God as His Beloved Children who are created in the Image and Likeness of God (by saying that we are worthless), and finally, (and this is why some churches love to preach this) it seems to remove the responsibility to work hard to DO GOOD because "all our good deeds are like filthy rags".
Those churches say "well, you should do good and if you are saved, you will do good but if you don't, oh well, your works don't count anyway." And I think they do their members a great injustice by not warning them that serious sin like fornication, abortion, euthanesia, adultery might indeed threaten to sever their relationship with God and endanger their future of Heaven. People do not like to hear this but this is EXACTLY what Jesus taught:
>>>>Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.
>>>>"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?' Then I will declare to them solemnly, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.'
(Note: in this passage, Jesus actually refers to people CLAIMING to be Christian but not doing His Father's WILL i.e. they were in sin "deport from me, you evilDOERS")
And finally in the following passage, Jesus uses only ONE measure to separate those who will go to heaven and those who will go to hell and that is their good deeds:
>>>>"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
St Paul wrote in Philipians "work hard toward your salvation".
>>>>So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Finally much of James 2 is dedicated to assuring people that works are indeed important and in fact a person SHOWS their faith THROUGH their works:
>>>>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 has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, "You have faith and I have works." Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?
(James 2: 14-20)
>>>>See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route? For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
The doctrine which says "once saved, always saved" (which is suggested by the "letter from God") is called "easy salvation" and is taught by many fundamentalist churches. But it is not Biblical and could be a dangerous doctrine, misleading people to be accepting of a sinful lifestyle. Indeed I have encountered Catholics who now attend Evangelical churches because they feel that they can shack up with their boyfriends without "endangering their salvation" through serious sin.
The Catholic church protects their members by alerting them to serious sin and providing a protocol by which they can receive acknowledgement that they (if they are sorry) will be forgiven of their sins, and also, they can make recompense for their sins and also to those hurt by the sin, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation formerly called "Confession" (which is based in the Gospel of John when Jesus gave this power to the Apostles):
>>>>(Jesus) said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."
(John 20: 21-23)
The Sacrament of Reconciliation also gives the recipient strength (Sanctifying Grace) to fight against committing the sin again.
Salvation? No, not easy but salvation IS a gift from God and we SHOW
how much we love Jesus by DOING HIS WILL as much as we can and by avoiding
serious sin. If we DO fall into serious sin, the Catholic church
offers us Jesus' Sacrament of love and healing, the Sacrament of