When we read the Bible, it is very important that we try to gather from it what the Scripture really intends to teach. So, this means reading the Scripture in context and comparing Scripture with Scripture so that we are never pitting Scripture against one another. We need to be able to read Scripture as a consistent whole.
A real important part of devotional reading is to sit down and read a book from end to end. I have noticed that in online debating, we often quote mine authorities or Scripture, without really understanding the mindset of the author. The mindset of the author can only be understood by reading what he writes as a whole.
Recently, just as I have read Galatians several times over, I have done the same thing with Romans. As some have noticed here, I have been publishing a commentary of the book, pulling extensively from Chrysostom, Augustine, and Aquinas. “Behind the scenes” out in the real world, my wife and a friend have been joining me in another Bible study through Romans. We always recapitulate what we have already learned and read a chapter within the context of what the letter has already taught.
If someone undergoes a thorough investigation of what the book of Romans, or any other Biblical book teaches, we find that many objections against the “faith alone” viewpoint do not even make sense. It is extremely important if someone is going to contradict the explicit teaching of the Scripture and tradition, that we are not saved by works wrought in holiness of heart, that their contentions have to contextually make sense in light of what the book as a whole that they quote teaches.
Let’s keep that in the back of our minds as I reply to a comment to a recent article by “Al.”
I’d be curious to see how you account for these other scriptures, below, which clearly contradict what you say about “works.”
Indeed, let’s see if what they say about works really means that they earn salvation, which is the point you are actually contending for.
[Jesus says,] “watch and pray that you enter not into temptation”. This counsel of Jesus is a ‘work…’
Let’s be honest with ourselves. Does such a statement have anything to do with soteriology? Is Jesus invoking that statement when speaking of soteriology? Of course not. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, and others watch and pray. These things, in of themselves, are not sufficient to save a man from his sins. I think you fundamentally misunderstand Scripture when you take a passage telling us how to persevere in the faith, and then apply that passage to how a man can be in right relation with God. You are conflating two different things, and you would have avoided doing so if you actually read the passage in context and applied it in the sense that Jesus was actually addressing.
The quotes that contradict what you write are very numerous…
Let us see if there are any contradictions. I would venture to guess that you are misapplying the meaning of phrases and pitting that against the overall arguments of Paul and others in different Scriptures.
“For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” Romans 2:13.
Being that I already linked to a whole commentary where I exegete this verse in detail with Aquinas and Chrysostom backing me up, I’ll be brief. Indeed, those who do the Law at every point will be saved. The problem that Paul details in Rom 1 through 3 is that no one, Jew or Gentile, fits that bill. So, how do we “do” the Law? We uphold it by faith, as Paul says at the end of Rom 3.
Of course, the commenter would have us believe that this one verse contradicts Protestant soteriology. However, he is simply taking one verse and inferring an incorrect conclusion, because he is not asking himself why the verse says what it says, where it says it. As I showed in my reply, if we read Rom 1 through 3 as a continuous whole, the verse makes sense in context and does not contradict what Paul later writes in the same letter.
“He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” John 12:24, 25.
Again, is this about soteriology? Muslims blow themselves up and lose their lives, do they reap heavenly eternal life?
What is Jesus talking about? What Paul talks about in Rom 8. After Paul in detail speaks about how the whole world stands condemned for their sin, but righteousness can come by faith in Christ, Paul answers the rhetorical question, “Why not sin so grace may abound” (Rom 6:1)? Paul spends the next three chapters answering the question. His answer is that those who have died in Christ cannot and WILL NOT continue sinning because they have the Holy Spirit. Those with the Holy Spirit “set” their “minds on things of the Spirit.”
So, setting one’s mind on Spiritual things does not save someone, having the Holy Spirit is what saves them. The setting of one’s mind is the consequence, not the cause, of salvation.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7.
The above would address the inference the commenter is making from the above Scripture.
“If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” John 8:51.
Indeed! What is Jesus’ teaching? The work of the Father is to believe in the one He has sent, and to love one another. Where is the inference here for works-based salvation?
“If thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” Romans 11:22.
Indeed, because God does not save the faithless.
“If ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” 2 Peter 1:10.
Just as I addressed easier, taking a text about perseverance and then applying it to soteriology is not good exegesis. I do not see any Protestants teaching not to do the things Peter wrote.
“For we are made partakers of Christ, If we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” Hebrews 3:14.
Mr. Commenter, this goes against your point. Holding to confidence is holding to a belief. Obviously, Paul is writing about the belief in the Gospel that the Hebrews held during severe persecution.
“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: If we deny him, he also will deny us.” 2 Timothy 2:12.
Again, this goes against your point. If we presume faith alone, of course denying Christ results in damnation.
“If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15.
Indeed, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God. However, the mind set on the Spirit delights in the things of God.
“Ye are my friends, If ye do whatsoever I command you.” John 15:14.
What did Jesus command? To believe in Him and to love one another. Interestingly enough, Jesus never talked about sacraments (which in the end, is really the kind of works they would like to shoehorn into these soteriological discussions…works strangely absent from soteriological discussions in the Scripture which is why they also deny Sola Scriptura, even when Augustine doesn’t.)
The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome. But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be!
The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body will be lightsome: but if it be evil, thy body also will be darksome. Take heed therefore, that the light which is in thee, be not darkness.
•1 Timothy 4:1.
Both Scriptures are making a simple point that the commenter appears to miss. When we set our eyes upon things of the Spirit, this reveals that the Spirit is within us. If we set our eyes upon wickedness, this reveals the flesh ruling over us. Hence, the eyes are windows into the soul, reflecting the inward condition of the soul. This has nothing to do with soteriology.
The best Scripture the commenter brings up is the following:
Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.
This, and the Lord’s Prayer, make clear that our forgiveness is contingent upon how good we are at forgiving others. I believe this is the case because if we know the forgiveness of Christ, we will forgive others. If we really do not know that forgiveness, we won’t know how to forgive.