If you think of nothing but Christ, and do not set yourself to do his words, you but build your house on sand. What have such teachers not to answer for, who have turned their pupils’ regard from the direct words of the Lord, which are spirit and life, to contemplate plans of salvation tortured out of the words of his apostles, even were those plans as true as they are false! There is but one plan of salvation, and that is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; that is, to take him for what he is—our master, and his words as if he meant them, which assuredly he did. To do his words is to enter into vital relation with him, to obey him is the only way to be one with him. There can be no truth, no reality, in any initiation of at-one-ment with him, that is not obedience.
I know what the father of lies whispers to those to whom such teaching is distasteful: “It is the doctrine of works!” But one word of the Lord humbly heard and received will suffice to send all the demons of false theology into the abyss. He says the man that does not do the things he tells him builds his house to fall in utter ruin. He instructs his messengers to go and baptize all nations, “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Tell me it is faith he requires: do I not know it? But faith in what? Faith in what he is, in what he says--a faith which can have no existence except in obedience, a faith which is obedience.
Faith, Works, and Salvation
by Dave Roney
“...put away, as concerns your former manner of life, the 'old man'” (Eph. 4:22)
The reading for today divides into two paragraphs; in them I find three significant and interrelated points to have been made. And I realize that there are many among those to whom this entry will finally be circulated who do not subscribe to “Consuming Fire:The Inexorable Power of God's Love” or own the book by the same title (may I encourage you to it if that were the case?); therefore, refer to the daily entry provided and note the three points of which I speak. They are:
1. “If you think of nothing but Christ, and do not set yourself to do His words, you but build your house on sand.”
2. “There is but one plan of salvation, and that is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; that is, to take Him for what He is—our Master, and His words as if He meant them, which assuredly He did.”
3. “I know what the father of lies whispers to those to whom such teaching is distasteful: 'It is the doctrine of works.”
These points may be yet further reduced to a single sentence: “Salvation is obedience to Christ.” And what is this “obedience;” is it not, simply, to do that which you know to be the good, to do what He did and does, in the way He did and does, with the same reasons which are His, and the same heart that He had and has?
The Greek in James 2:18 is somewhat complex and perhaps a bit hard to translate precisely (I know not enough of the language to decide) but for its meaning more than its literalness I find the New Living Translation adequate, and superior to some others. It reads:
“Now someone may argue, 'Some people have faith; others have good deeds.' But I say, 'How can you show me your faith if you don't have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds'."
This echos our Lord's own words when He said “You are My friends if you do what I command!” The proposition, according to James, is that some claim faith and by it are the children of God, and some have works and consider themselves to be the children, but his estimation is that this is falsity; by belief is no man saved, but by action predicated on belief—and, in fact, there is no true belief apart from works. Even more specific is the Lord's teaching found in His great published sermon:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
And, lest anyone confute doing as alone the means of salvation, as though James and Paul teach contrary doctrines, in the following verses from Matthew our Lord makes it clear:
“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'.”
We see, then, that what we call “faith” alone cannot save, nor “works” alone, but that both are required. Those who cast out demons in the name of Christ (a good work); their doing is that of the counterfeit—He calls them the “workers of lawlessness.” And those that depend entirely on some altar-call, or the recitation of some key Bible verses, or any other declaration of belief by itself—how are they any different than the demons who also “believe” and tremble,” if in fact they only give a head nod to the truth? Such have it in their minds that they now have spiritual “fire insurance,” that they will go to Heaven and not Hell when they die. And thus comforted, go on to live their lives inwardly, and perhaps outwardly as well, in the same manner without improvement over that which they lived before their “salvation.”
Nay, brothers and sisters, we cannot go about this wrongly, for to do so will produce only wrong results; our tree will be known by its fruits. “If you think of nothing but Christ, and do not set yourself to do His words, you but build your house on sand.” And how shall we claim to be His if we do not the things He commands? That leads to the second of three points:
“There is but one plan of salvation, and that is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; that is, to take Him for what He is—our Master, and His words as if He meant them, which assuredly He did.”
Can anything be plainer said than this? First, it is to take Him as our Master, to become His slaves first, then His servants, and finally to grow up from our small childhood into that spiritual Adult that He is, and then to be worthy of being called by Him “brother,” and “sister.” And to thus grow in Him it is to take His every word spoken and to live it out in our very lives—to, then, obey Him and take to us “His words as if He meant them, which assuredly He did.” But how does MacDonald begin here? Is it not to say “There is but one plan of salvation?” That one plan is to first believe, and then to do all which He commands, the incorporation of the two elements, faith and works, in tandem as though, and with growth becoming, one thing. Which leads to the final point:
“I know” says MacDonald, “what the father of lies whispers to those to whom such teaching is distasteful: 'It is the doctrine of works'.” If he whispers it in your ear it is almost assured that he has first whispered it into the ear of your theologians and preachers, for it is more than probable that what you believe concerning salvation has been learned by you from them. In front of us are now two things; the first is salvation, and the second is obedience—and the fact that these two, which are but different ways of saying the same thing, are by us even considered as somehow different, shows the need for instruction.
I will begin with the first element, that of salvation. It is no Divine “absolvo” pronouncement, made once for all, concerning you—to think such is to misunderstand what the Greek “σῴζω” (sozo—”save”) means: it means, among several things, and chief-most, “to heal.” Salvation is not an event, then, but a process, much the same as a man ridden with some disease is not “cured” at once but heals through a process of recovery under the attendance of a physician, and by obeying what the physician commands him to do. And the manner by which every person “heals,” or enjoys salvation, is through a growing obedience to our Lord's commands, for He is our great Physician.
Now, someone will counter what I'm saying by such an argument as “Yes, but the Lord healed the blind man and he was instantly healed; there was no process such as you say involved.” But I reply that the physical healing is the outermost part of a man, and the easiest part for Him to conclude: That inner healing, of mind and how a man thinks, and especially of heart, the deepest part of a man, of how he feels, these often take time and always require from the man more than (such as is the case for his physical healing) only his passive allowance—the healing, the true salvation of a man—requires participation from him, his “works,” which is his obedience.
And that, the obedience, which is salvation—or our “healing” from a deadly infliction—is the one thing the enemy of our souls would by his lies, whispered in the ear, tell us it is not essential, that if we only believe that is enough; that, even though we ought to be obedient to God and know it, even so, if we will but only believe that will be enough to someday get us a pass through the “pearly gates.” It is a lie from Hell and perhaps the Deceiver's greatest deception! And the Lord warns, if we have ears to hear Him, that in such case He will say “Depart from Me!”
You may say “But I do not know what He commands,” and that is surely the case, at least to some degree; for not all which He commands is given in the Writ. For what is lacking there He has sent out into the world, and into us, by His Spirit for to be our Guide. But you do know what He commands, though you may not formally know it—His first command to you is to do the next thing in front of you, and do it in the selfsame manner and for the same reasons He did. If He were to never have spoken a single command, yet would you know His commands, would know them if you only studied the Gospel accounts to see what He preached and what He did—these were His works, and they are therefore yours and mine. To think His thoughts the way He thought them, to feel what He felt in the manner He felt, and to live life doing as He lived and did, and in all these things which He is still, ever, always, thinking and feeling and doing—this is the life of obedience to Him even as He was obedient to His Father and ours. By it comes our progressing salvation, our life, ever growing, finally to become what He termed as the “Abundant Life.”
Salvation is not to stand to the side and praise the Lord for taking His yoke upon Himself, as though we were spectators, and thought that by that it were enough, and that we would be saved; our salvation lies in that obedience by which we are compelled from our hearts to join with Him in His work, His doing, taking upon our shoulders His very yoke as fellow laborers, doers, with Him.
How Have We Learned Christ?
by Dave Roney
"If, indeed, Him you have heard and in Him you have been taught..."
That which passes for the "gospel" today bears small resemblance to the "good news" proclaimed by Christ. For, today, it is considered as being personal salvation, preached as an event and no process, the banner over this gospel being John 3:16. How have we learned Christ?
The gospel of Christ was the Kingdom message, His message being "Your King has come!" It is the first thing our Lord preached, ere He called to Himself His first disciple; if you doubt it, see in St. Matthew 4:17 His proclamation; "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” See it also in St. Mark 1:14; "Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand'!" This great King of all kings was an enigma to the Jews, for He presented Himself as Lion-Lamb, as He must to fulfill the Scriptures; but they desired a Lion only and no Lamb, did not realize nor accept their King, thus rejected the Lamb. How did they learn Christ?
What is the first thing every king demands of his subjects? Is it not loyalty? And is not loyalty best demonstrated through obedience? And is not obedience truest when it is willingly given? See then this great King as the veiled Lion; He is come for warfare, to fight against everything which has been corrupted, to restore His Father's creation and all within it, to fight against every evil and to, as the Lamb slain, die so that Death itself should die and Life reign throughout. Do we know it? How have we learned Christ?
This King, proclaiming everywhere the Gospel of His Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, of Heaven, and of Christ Jesus—see Him next going to the shore and calling the impious fishermen to Himself. He gives them no message, says naught to them of personal salvation, but in the majesty of His kingship commands them; "Follow Me!" He speaks as the Lion, He will teach them the Lamb. They obey, leave their nets and cast no backward glance at them as did that one who was turned into a pillar of salt; in willing obedience they forsake all and follow after Him. The natural order of fallen man is to first know, and knowing to then believe; the Divine order is a reversal of this: If we seek to know before we will believe we will never know what God would have us to know—but if we will first believe, then we will know. It is a conundrum to the skeptic who demands proof, but when he has turned from the old nets of his logic to follow after Christ, then he will begin to know aright. The skeptic has learned Christ wrongly, very badly: How have we learned Christ?
And in all the three years of His ministry, whether spoken overtly or implied, the King calls all to a willing, obedient, following after Him. It is the same with the authors of the New Testament, as with those who by them came to Christ; bona fide obedience is the litmus test; for how shall any person claim to be His apprentice if he does not do the things commanded by his great Mentor? By any other means than obedience we ask: How has such an one learned Christ?
You will see, I'm quite sure, that your entry into the Kingdom of God depends on you becoming as a small childlike child; the Lord Himself has said it, it is His command to you. You will also know that your personal salvation is your belief in Him; this He says to you and this you believe. But what is it to truly believe? Is it your mental agreement with Him? Is it an emotional rush that you feel or felt? I dare say there are demons that with their minds believe better than you, and that their emotions concerning their belief are stronger than yours; yet are they now numbered among the redeemed? God forbid the thought; they cannot enter in lest they also become willingly obedient to the Master's commands. True belief is that of the heart before the mind; from the heart a man is either obedient or self-willed; and the proof of salvation is obedience. How, then, have you learned Christ?
"There is but one plan of salvation, and that is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; that is, to take Him for what He is—our Master, and His words as if He meant them, which assuredly He did. To DO His words is to enter into vital relation with Him, to OBEY Him is the only way to be one with Him. There can be no truth, no reality, in any initiation of at-one-ment with Him, that is not OBEDIENCE."
(CAPs mine for emphasis)
For three years our Lord labored, presenting Himself as both Lion and Lamb, as Sovereign King and Sacrifice-Servant. No lord among men on earth ever lived as this Man, nor died with such humble nobility as He. On the far side of Calvary He began with the proclamation of His Kingdom, was consistent in that message, and at the doorstep of His crucifixion demanded obedience from His own, saying; "And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." They must be obedient; they must proclaim. And on this side of Calvary His final command to His disciples before Ascension was, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations." And to those who would fall under this preaching; "...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." By "observe" is meant "obey"--the command is to both disciples and all future disciples the same: Obey! How have we learned Christ?
"Tell me it is faith He requires: Do I not know it? But faith in what? Faith in what He is? in what He says?— A faith which can have no existence except in obedience, a faith that is obedience."
My question throughout has been "How have you learned Christ?" It is the most important question could be set before you; upon your answer rests your all. Did you think this salvation to be secured by your response to an "altar call?" your accord with what the preacher, by his interpretation, has told you? by your guilt ridden acquiescence to some "Roman Road" or other passage; or by submitting yourself to some rite, or ceremony or doctrine; in your mind does it depend upon your hopefulness in "eternal security," as though "once saved always saved" regardless of your life, your disobedience, your self-will, the indwelt sins which you neither can nor have a true desire to escape? I hope to make you uncomfortable if this is your case, to unsettle you if I can.
Our Lord said "Come unto Me!" And further declared "My sheep hear My voice and follow Me." Again, He with utter solemnity says “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”—Note and do not miss this: In these quotes from our Lord, and all other quotes which could be named, the essential words regarding discipleship, which infers salvation, are verbs; they are action words, "Come, Follow, Do—which is to say 'Be obedient'!"
How, then, have you learned Christ? Have you learned Him wrongly? Let nothing stand between you and Him; no doctrine, no preacher, no sect or denomination, let go any and all errant beliefs regarding Him and by a willing act of will submit your will to His Will as a small child of your Father, even as He; take up your cross, and follow Him in obedience to His commands. This is your entry into the Kingdom of Heaven, your kinship with your Redeemer, your very salvation. I have spoken of the Gospel as being first about the Kingdom of our Lord; let me end with this:
"The Kingdom of Heaven is not come, even when God's will is our law: It is come when God's will is our will. While God's will is our law, we are but a kind of noble slaves; when His will is our will, we are free children."
If we say Heaven it is to say the Heart of God; for that is Heaven. If we say the Kingdom of Heaven, that is in the hearts made after The Heart, doing the things of God our Father. And if we say both Heaven and the Kingdom of God we speak of Christ Jesus, for in Him is expressed fully the Heart of God and the Kingdom alive, working, spreading, in the hearts of His brothers and sisters, the children of His Father...