An important distinction

Pastor Steigemeyer points out an important distinction, largely missed by many so-called "Evangelicals:" we are not saved by our faith, but through our faith.

By Christ.

Faith is a gift of God, and the means by which He connects to us. It is not a good work of our own by which we merit salvation!


Sylvia said…
That is an interesting distinction. What do you think of the "Lordship salvation" stance of the Reformed? They say taht, along with faith, a committment to Christ is part of the act that connects us to Him.
Bob Waters said…
First, let's be fair: only a minority of the Reformed hold that position. Most are as horrified by it as I am, because it's blatant heresy of literally the worst kind. It's an outright denial of the Gospel.

Those who do, if one applies the test Paul uses in Galatians, have "severed themselves from Christ and fallen from grace." The idea is works righteousness, plain and simple. It's a denial of the Gospel which is arguably incompatible with salvation.

It also reflects a sub-biblical understanding of the relationship between faith and obedience- one which a great many nominal Lutherans and "Evangelicals" also share, unfortunately. Without the gift of the Holy Spirit- who simply will not allow us to be comfortable with our known sin- one cannot trust in Jesus as one's Savior at all.

Faith is not a requirement for salvation, btw. It is the means by which the gift of salvation is given, it is itself proof that the gift has been received- and it is itself a gift. There are no requirements for salvation but the ones Christ has already met! If there were, it would no longer be by grace (a point which Paul is also at pains to establish). Faith itself is grace. Faith itself is a gift. It is not a decision, a committment, the praying of a "sinner's prayer (as if any of use ever uttered any other kind!), or a good work of any kind at all by which we merit salvation. Rather it is the working of the Holy Spirit within
us whereby a spark of life is induced in the spiritually dead.

We are not saved by (or through) "faith and..." anything. To assert the contrary is to reject the central affirmation of the Reformation and of the Bible.

In charity, I think those who teach "lordship salvation" (which is, once again, nothing other than salvation by faith and works)mean to reject Antinomianism. That's a worthy goal. But like most heretics, the advocates of "Lordship Salvation" have simply reacted to one false teaching by going off the deep end on the other side.
Sylvia said…
Wow, that's a surpring answer. Now I must ask: How does saving faith differ from mere intellectual assent, which even demons have?
Sylvia said…

The above is a link for lordship salvation. It seems to provide tons of Bible verses in support of this view. I'm not sure what to make of it. But it seems like Lordship Salvation confutes faith and works.
Bob Waters said…
Faith isn't mere factual knowledge, such as the devils have. That saves nobody. It's also trust. The Lutheran Fathers spoke of it as including knowledge, assent and confidence.

The Christian Cyclopedia defines "faith as Lutheranism understands it (and as I think Paul clearly teaches in both Romans and Galatians) this

Faith as a soteriological factor (fides salvifica) may be defined or described as consisting of knowledge, assent, and confidence. Each of these concepts is a definition of faith if it is understood to imply also the other two.

Faith as knowledge is the grasp with the mind, or the mental possession of that which is communicated (Lk 1:77; Jn 14:7; 17:3; Ro 10:14, 17; 1 Ti 2:4; 2 Ptr 1:3). This salutary knowledge is not mere intellectual acquaintance (Ja 2:19) or technical knowledge (1 Co 2:14), but a product of divine grace which permeates the whole heart (1 Co 2:12; 2 Co 4:6; 2 Ti 1:12).

Faith as assent is an act of the will which accepts the exalted phenomena presented to the mind. Hence, the preaching of faith is hortatory, pleading, persuasive in its message (Acts 26:28; 28:23). Since man is by nature dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1; Cl 2:13), his coming to spiritual life is the work of God (Jn 6:29; Eph 2:1–10).

Faith as confidence means that faith is that certainty, that assurance, which is as great and as firm as though we actually had the promised things in our possession, as though we could see, feel, and handle them, as though we had not only the prospect but the substance of these things (Jn 17:8; Ro 4:18–21; 8:24; 2 Ti 1:12; Tts 3:7; Heb 11:1; 1 Ptr 1:3, 13; Ap IV, 48, 50).
Bob Waters said…
Well, it certainly confuses and conflates faith and works, and Law and Gospel!;)

Don't be impressed by the number of verses a person cites; the question is whether they really establish what he claims. And always read every verse in Scripture in the light of everything else Scripture teaches on the subject.

That explicitly includes the very center of the Faith- which that web page is written to deny.

"Lordship Theology," is finally nothing more or less than the teaching of pre-Reformation Catholicism. It's what Luther and Calvin reacted against. It's repudiation of the Reformation- and more importantly of the categorical promises of Christ and of the whole Pauline corpus.
sylvia said…
no wonder reading about lordship salvation made me so depressed. i need to get myself into a lutheran church, asap. thanks for asnwering my questions.
Bob Waters said…
You're welcome.

Look for a Missouri Synod, or an Evangelical Lutheran Synod church. Remember that not all Lutherans believe that the Faith matters, either.
Eric Phillips said…
Through, not by. Yes, a very important distinction.
Sylvia said…
I've been thinking about this, and now I'm a bit confused about where discipleship comes in. I guess Lutherans would say committment to Jesus is a result of faith, but in many places, Jesus seems to say we must be completely devoted to him to come to him in the first place -- like the story of the rich young man and the saying, "unless you take up your can not be my servant." Is there a book or something that refutes the Lordship salvation theory?
Bob Waters said…
I think your confusion is inevitable if you don't factor in one thing without which the entire Bible is a self-contradictory mess that would leave anyone confused. Missing it is theologically the way so much of the Church (not all of it) went off the tracks in the long period leading up to the Reformation. It's a key element in the Arminian defection from the biblical Faith, and it's the primary way in which Reformed Christianity (to a greater or a
lesser extent, and sometimes to no great extent at all) miss the mark (actually, its anthropology generally saves true Calvinism from missing it hopelessly and across the board; not so other forms of Christianity).

I'm talking about the distinction between Law and Gospel. Not everything in the Bible is written to address the same situation, or for the same specific purpose! It doesn't all necessarily even have the same audience!

The Law tells us what God demands of us. We have to be clear about this: there can be no compromise here. It demands perfection in thought, word, and deed, every instant we live. Fall short of that, and you've bought the eternal farm.

As we've seen, it keeps even unbelievers from abusing each other too outrageously, and it provides believers with information about how they can (imperfectly and therefore unsatisfactorally, from the Law's own point of view) behave in their utterly uncoerced desire to please God.

But it's most important function is to crush us, to deprive us of our illusions, and to drive us to Christ. Interestingly, the two examples you
cite work pretty well as a means of expanding on that- though it sounds like you've been subjected to some pretty shallow exegesis of the story of the rich young man!

No human being in the history of the world has ever been completely devoted to Jesus (see Romans 7 for an example of Paul's assessment of his own discipleship)! If that were possible, we would have no need for Jesus in the first place! Jesus does indeed demand complete and absolute discipleship, just as God has always demanded complete and absolute obedience. By definition, it's a demand we cannot meet. People can react in any of three ways to that demand.

The rich young man is a case study. "What must I do to be saved?," he asked Jesus. To begin with, that was the wrong question. But note the direction Jesus takes with him. In essence, he says, "Well, all you have to do is follow the commandments." The young man's response is exactly the wrong answer. Incredibly, he claims to have done precisely that, ever since his youth!

That's one of the reactions people can have to the Law. They can rationalize, and become self-righteous. They can become Pharisees (the young man's social status meant that he was actually probably a Sadducee, but I'm not going to get into that!;) )

So Jesus hit him with more Law in the Second Use. He upped the ante. That's the classic response to Pharisees (in the generic sense of the word). Rather than simply point out the absurdity of the young man's claim (that would have only made the young man defensive), Jesus made a demand on him that He knew he would be obviously unable to meet.

Only on the most shallow imaginable reading of the text is it possible to conclude that the young man really had reached such a state of moral perfection that he lacked only
the the renunciation of his wealth to be utterly without sin (note that the Greek word some translations render "perfect" is probably more accurately translated "complete," or "perfected" in a relative sense of the word). The whole point was that Jesus- who, as Nicodemus found out, could see into people's hearts- knew that his wealth was the one thing the young man would
not give up!And that is precisely why it was that which He asked of Him! Only by despairing of his self-righeousness was there any hope for the young man!

Pharisees react to that situation in one of two ways. The first is to be plunged into despair. That can be either good or bad, depending on what happens next. The other is to become defensive and all huffy about it.

To his credit, the young man did indeed- and at long last- react honestly to being confronted with what the absolute obedience which the Law demands required of him. He despaired. But instead of finally acknowledging his failure and his need of a Savior, he "went away sorrowing."

That Jesus comments on the obstacle the idolatry of wealth poses to salvation doesn't change the fact that the point of the story is not that the young man couldn't bring himself to make that last, necessary renunciation. It's that he couldn't bring himself, precisely at the critical moment, to recognize that he could never measure up- and recognize that his only hope (like the rest of us) was to throw himself on God's mercy!

See also the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, and ask yourself how Jesus' statement about which of the men went down to his house justified fits in with "Lordship Salvation." Consider the Thief on the Cross, as well. Finally, consider how Paul answered the very question the young man asked Jesus in a very different way when it came from a humble jailer: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, and your house."

Was Paul lying? Was Jesus lying all those times he gave that same, categorical promise to the humble? Was He lying when he said categorically that He would never cast out anyone who came to Him (in other words, who did the very thing the rich young man couldn't bring himself, in his pride, to do?).

Of course we have to take up our crosses every day and follow Jesus. To be a believer is to draw suffering and pain like a magnet draws iron filings. Contrary to the shallow, happy-clappy theology of contemporary "Evangelicalism," Jesus told us up front that a servant is not greater than his master. But that's a consequence of belonging to Jesus, not a requirement- except, perhaps, in the sense that one can always renounce the cross by renouncing Him!

"Lordship salvation" is a new name, as I indicated, for a very old heresy. You might look to St. Augustine or Luther or Calvin for writings against it- though the most devastating books refuting "Lordship salvation" were undoubtedly written by the Apostle Paul to the Romans and, in particular, to the Galatians.
However, for practical purposes, I would recommend two.

C.F.W. Walther wrote a classic book called The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel. It's lengthly, and somewhat "heavy" in places. Fortuately, Concordia Publishing House (aka CPH) also carries a popular condensation of that book called God's No and God's Yes. I highly recommend it to you.

The other book I'd recommend is The Hammer of God by Bo Giertz. It's also available from Concordia, although Augsburg-Fortress publishes it. It's a series of novellas which explore the very questions you ask from the point of view of Scripture and scriptural pastoral practice.

One final observation: if you buy into the idea that we're saved by faith and works, you can never know that God has accepted you.

Faith, strictly speaking, will be impossible- because "Lordship salvation" is a denial of the very promise which faith believes.