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Faith and Works

For what reason are Christians saved? 

Three things are important, engagement with God through faith, then engagement with His teachings/instructions, resulting in what Jews call mitzvot, good deeds.

The agonising you get in some quarters of the Christian world regarding faith and works is non-existent in Judaism. Remember what James said, faith without works is dead! Yet doesn’t it say in other places in the New Testament that our good works are not going to save us?

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. (Romans 3:28)

Yes, but that doesn’t mean that we are to refrain from doing good works! We should be doing good works because we are saved! In fact, a lack of good works is a fairly solid indicator that you possibly don’t have the Holy Spirit living in you in the first place!

Abraham Heschel puts it clearly:

“Faith is not a silent treasure to be kept in the seclusion of the soul, but a mint in which to strike the coin of common deeds. It is not enough to be dedicated in the soul, to consecrate moments in the stillness of contemplation. The dichotomy of faith and works which presented such an important problem in Christian theology was never a problem in Judaism. To us, the basic problem is neither what is the right action nor what is the right intention. The basic problem is: what is right living? And life is indivisible. The inner sphere is never isolated from outward activities. Deed and thought are bound into one. All a person thinks and feels enters everything he does, and all he does is involved in everything he thinks and feels.” (P. 295 Kindle)

It’s not just the right action or intention, it’s all about right living. L’chaim, to life! The inner life should be reflected on the outside too and good works, mitzvoth, should be performed with love and joy, not duty!

Too many Christians give the impression that all they do is measured and calculated. It’s as if they have already attained their reward (heaven), so don’t feel any need to act as if heaven is in their heart. The deed and the reward should come together, in fact there should be no thought of the reward at all. The reward of a good deed should be the good deed itself.

My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching.  Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck.  When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life, (Proverbs 6:20-23)

Lighting a lamp is not concerned with form, the oil and the wick, but in the process of the light that is created. In the same way it is the task we are performing that makes an impact in the world and can speak more about Jesus than any words you may utter. Let your lamp show He who lives within you, rather than drawing attention to yourself.

As an outsider’s view of Christianity, Rabbi Abraham senses that the central concept for Christians is personal salvation, to the exclusion of anything else. As a Jew brought up with Hebraic principles he would differ in placing the community higher than the individual and that the concept of mitzvoth is the central concept of Judaism. It is not good deeds to buy a place in heaven, it is just wanting to please God. Faith and works should be seen as a whole, they should flow together hand in hand. Hebraically, faithfulness should be a matter of how you behave, not just what you believe. It’s all about a correct relationship with God and believing and doing are part of the same package.

In an earlier article we examined what the function of a Christian should be? Ultimately our function is to become more and more like Jesus, our great example, but in the meantime God has jobs for us to do, according to our gifts and abilities. We need to identify these gifts … and get on with it! 

This is an extract from the book, Hebraic Church, available for £10 at http://www.sppublishing.com/hebraic-church-101-p.asp

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