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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Church news, 9/8: Faith without works is dead

On Sunday we considered another seeming paradox of Scripture: are we saved through faith or through works? Passages such as Ephesians 2:8 indicate what the Reformers preached: "Sola Fide", Faith Alone! But James 2:14-26 (esp.17 & 26) plainly says that faith without works is dead. So which one is it?

Fr. David pointed out that "Sola Fide" (we are saved by 'Faith Alone") was put forward in response to an emphasis on works in the Roman Catholic Church.

"Martin Luther was frustrated by his inability to rid himself of sin. No amount of works seemed to be enough. Finally he realized he couldn't be good enough, no matter what he did, no matter how many of his sins he could remember and then confess" said Fr. David. "Luther was reading Paul's letter to the Romans when the Holy Spirit flooded his life and showed him it wasn't about him or what he did. Salvation was already accomplished in Jesus' death on the Cross and is offered to us as a free gift that we receive through faith.

"So the Reformers said it's the Lord's work that counts, not ours, and this is true. But then James points out that faith will make a change in the fabric of our lives, and this is also true. The seed of salvation -- God's Word dwelling in us -- springs to life and bears spiritual fruit through faith, and is expressed through works of faith (acts of love... faith put into action) .

"This is a different kind of works -- not the kind that comes from ourselves and our self-effort." Likening works to planted seeds that grow and bear fruit, Fr. David continued by pointing to Christ's parable of the sower in Matthew 13. The seed falling onto stony ground springs up, but without deep enough roots it withers away. Seeds need to  put forth roots, shoots, and fruits. Likewise, our faith is meant to be the resource for our works: our works are meant to come forth from our faith in God. Our works cannot save us in themselves, but are effective only when they are motivated by and rooted in our faith (fruit that is borne in a cooperative effort with God).

James shows us what happens when the seed of salvation falls on good soil (when it is invested with faith). His position is, "You can't show me faith without works because works are the natural fruit of faith, like the fruit of the Spirit."

So it really isn't a case of "either/or", but a case of "both/and", Fr. David concluded. "We're compelled to faith-filled action through a heart set upon our Father God, an openness to the Holy Spirit, and faith-filed love and thankfulness to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The answer to the question "faith or works?" is answered with the faithful devotion and living application of faith AND works."

NOTES: A special collection is being taken for Shane Gormley through the end of the month. Shane is currently studying for the priesthood at Nashotah House seminary in Wisconsin. To contribute, use one of the special envelopes available at church.

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