Grace and Faith in the Freedom (?) of the Very Dead.

“It is for the abundant comfort of the saints that Christ is appointed to be their judge. The
covenant of grace, with all its circumstances, and all those events to which it hath relation, is every
way so contrived of God, as to give strong consolation to believers: for God designed the gospel
for a glorious manifestation of his grace to them; and therefore every thing in it is so ordered, as
to manifest the most grace and mercy.” (Jonathan Edwards, Works, 2, o.542)

I was in conversation with Bubby (a Jew) and Matt at the RoshPinaProject.

I said to Bubby: “If you’ll be anything, it will be a sinner saved by grace. Your Jewishness and mine will not help one tittle.”

Bubby replied: “If you are a Jew, according to Halacha (Jewish law), your “saved by grace” will not help you one tittle either. Sorry to tell you this. You are following a very distorted, pagan belief.

I asked Bubby to explain how “saved by grace” was a pagan concept. Bubby didn’t respond. Instead Matt responded. I paraphrase his response. Matt’s original post can be found here.

The problem, Matt says, is that the Christian concept of “saved” has specific connotations that does not have a clear counterpart in Judaism. According to Matt’s understanding of Christianity, humans are naturally destined for damnation. Judaism, in contrast, Matt says, does not believe that humans are naturally destined for damnation. Reward and punishment are meted out precisely according to works. For Christianity however, there is nothing that man can do to merit his salvation by his actions. His salvation is based on faith. Christian Faith isn’t really considered a “work” or an “action,” which is very strange to me, because in general Judaism considers faith, or more correctly translated, faithfulness, an action in itself.”

(I’ve italicised this section because I would like to examine it closely later on).

For Judaism, Matt continues, this wouldn’t be a terrible problem, because (the work of) “faithfulness” (which Matt regards as synonymous with “faith,”) concurs with Judaism. The Apostle James, says Matt, makes this clear in his “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Man’s actions in general are a pretty good barometer for his faith, that is, (what the Jew would call) his faithfulness. However, the faith to which Christianity refers is in “J-sus” (Matt’s spelling). What faith in J-sus means, Matt asserts, is not only that he died for people’s sins, but that he is basically deity.

Let me summarise in two sentences what Matt has suggested so far:

There is no distinction between “faith and “faithfulness.” Works is synonymous with faith/ faithfulness This is the Jewish view of the relationship between faith/faithfulness and works.

In the Wiktionary, you will find the following seven definitions of faith:

  1. Mental acceptance of and confidence in a claim as truth without proof supporting the claim.
  2. (Christian theology) Belief and trust in the Christian God’s promises revealed through Christ in the New Testament.
  3. A feeling or belief, that something is true, real, or will happen.
  4. A trust in the intentions or abilities of a person, object, or belief in spite of a lack of knowledge in the person, object, or belief.
  5. A system of religious belief.
  6. An obligation of loyalty or fidelity.
  7. The observance of such an obligation.

Numbers 6 and 7 are what both a Jew and a Christian would describe as faithfulness. In a nutshell, one is obliged to act out one’s faith (1-5) through right(eous) action – based on he commandments of God. So, faith (full of belief) and faithfulness are distinct concepts.

Matt then moves on to “Grace”: He states that salvation by grace is more in line with Calvinist philosophy, which argues that an individual’s faith is a gift given from G-d. Matt has confused the Christian understanding of the relationship between “gift,” “grace,” “faith,” and faithfulness. Let me first present Paul’s explanation of the relationship between “gift,” “grace” and “faith,” which I discussed in “What happened to faith in the Gospel of Grace?” I quote from Ephesians:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressionsit is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:1-9).

This” is in the neuter form in the Greek,where“this” in the passage refers to grace AND faith; both are a gift.

We (sinners saved by grace) were dead and rotting in our coffins six-feet under. Jesus comes, digs down to the coffin, creaks open the lid, and breathes life into the corpse. He raised us to new Life. We are born again. Faith has come to us. Without seeking but supernaturally, of course. For how can the dead seek anything?

Recall Matt’s view that salvation by grace is more in line with Calvinist philosophy, which, Matt claims, argues that an individual’s faith is a gift given from G-d. We read in Ephesians 2 above that “it is by grace you have been saved.” Matt is absolutely correct that “salvation by grace is more in line with Calvinist” thinking, but not in line with Calvinist “philosophy.” Matt’s term Calvinist “philosophy,” seems to imply that Calvin’s thinking is not scriptural but of his own making. I have shown, however, that Calvin’s view of grace is not “philosophical” but “scriptural, from first to last.

What I find interesting is that Matt has expressed the correct biblical doctrine of faith (and grace) as a gift of God. Here’s the Ephesians, 2:9 again:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

We saw how Calvin read it. Most Protestant Christians read Ephesians, 2:9 in a different way; like this:

God initiates the saving process by giving a person the gift (therefore, unmerited) of grace. With this grace also comes the free “offer” of faith. You can accept or reject the offer. If you accept, Christ raises you from death to a new life. If you reject the offer, he doesn’t open your coffin; he doesn’t breath new life into you. You’re worse than the living dead, than a Zombie; you die twice. The first time, when you died in sin (as described in Ephesians2 above); the second time when you – in your Zombie state rejected Christ. But I am not clear, because if you were dead in the first place, rotting in the coffin of your sin, how did you manage to lift even a finger to accept Christ’s offer of faith? Impossible. Therefore, even a Zombie – the living dead – even the dying dead is better off than than the very dead.

Matt lumps grace with faith and rejects the gift of both, because both grace and faith, for Matt, obfuscates what Judaism as well as Messianic Judaism is all about, namely, “faithfulness.” This, I believe in a misunderstanding. The Old Testament uses the word “faith” only about 4 times and “faithfulness” more than 80 times. The New Testament, in contrast, uses “faith” about 230 times and “faithfulness” about 50 times.

Jews (and Matt) accuse Christianity of placing more emphasis on faith (belief, trust) than on faithfulness (works). Catholics also make this accusation. Here is a typical Catholic view:

“Some non-Catholics teach that all you have to do to achieve salvation is to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, and your salvation is assured in this life. You only have to make a once in a lifetime commitment and no matter what you do for the rest of your life, you can be certain that you will go to Heaven when you die. Once you do this, it is an impossibility that you will ever lose your salvation. That train of thought, however, is not Biblical, and in reality it is a sin of presumption.
Jesus did not die just so we could sin.”

This is to mix soteriological (salvation) oranges with sanctificational (works leading to holiness) apples. Salvation is distinct from holiness. One is saved through the gift of faith (through the “gracious” love of God). Jesus said those who have faith in Him will have eternal life. The important point is that it is faith that saves you, not works. This doesn’t mean that Jesus (and the Apostles) are saying that works are not important. Works (of love) are the evidence that you do indeed have faith in Jesus. As the Apostle James said, faith without works (faithfulness) is dead. And Paul said that works without faith is of no value. There are two aspects to righteousness. The first: we are made right(eous) with God through faith in Christ; second: we grow in righteousness through our faithfulness (good works). Here are two relevant scriptures on salvation through faith alone:

Acts 16:30-31 – He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”

Romans 10:9-13  That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Matt says later on:

“Now most messianics are pretty averse to Calvinist philosophy (Dr. Michael L Brown is pretty adamant against it). I personally find Calvinist philosophy to be 1) incredibly vile (because it makes G-d appear as a capricious petty tyrant) taking away man’s free will but 2) incredibly refreshing from a perspective of evangelism since I would just tell a Calvinist evangelist that from their perspective they can just look at me as not being elect.”

First, let me comment on Dr Michael Brown’s view: I, as does Matt, hold Michael Brown in high regard; but on this point of how we come to faith, I, with Calvin (and Augustine of Hippo) disagree with him. There is an interesting debate between Michael Brown and James White on the matter. Someone described the debate as “a nice friendly debate with more light than heat.”

Second, Matt’s negative view of “Calvinist philosophy” as “incredibly vile (because it makes G-d appear as a capricious petty tyrant) taking away man’s free will.” Recall the dead man’s rotting bones in his coffin of sin. Such an entity is not free to choose anything, even death.

Third, Matt’s “refreshing” view “from the perspective of evangelism since I would just tell a Calvinist evangelist that from their perspective they can just look at me as not being elect.” Matt may tell a Calvinist evangelist that, but he won’t take your word for it, because when it comes evangelism, no Calvinist evangelist, or any evangelist, or other human being has the foggiest idea who God’s elect is. Some people show great interest in Christ, while others show disdain, even murderous opposition (for example, Paul before his conversion). What we do know is that when someone comes to faith in Christ, it’s because the Father has opened the believers heart to receive that faith. And where is the freedom in all this? It’s not complicated at all – with God’s (free) grace, that is:

John 8:

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”  34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

39″Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the things your own father does.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

The Children of the Devil

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God”.

Verse 47 is saying that belonging to God causes someone to believe, and NOT that belief in God causes you to belong to God. Jesus makes this cven clearer in John 6:

John 6

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36″But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. 37″All that the Father gives Me will come to [believe in] Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.

If we follow the simple grammar and  logic of Verses 36 and 37 we see – this is crucial (it’s what the crucifixion is about) –  that the giving of the father results in the coming (believing) of those the father has given to the Son. So the giving to the Son causes the coming of the believer, and NOT coming of the believer causes the giving to the Son.

In case the hearer (in John 6)  doesn’t get it the first time, Jesus says it again:

39″This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.

Just to make very sure (it’s so contrary to anything they or we have ever heard), Jesus says it one more time:

44″No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

The drawing of the Father causes the coming to Jesus.

And finally, I was struck by this statement from Matt:

“What faith in J-sus means, Matt asserts, is not only that he died for people’s sins, but that he is basically deity.”

Matt, has understood Jesus well.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Grace and Faith in the Freedom (?) of the Very Dead.

  1. Pingback: Thus says the Lord in the Torah. And in the Prophets? « OneDaringJew
  2. I am sorry that it takes me a while to respond to these “posts” and then my comments will not be fully documented and referenced. However this topic tickled my fancy for two reasons …
    Firstly, who on earth wants to follow Calvin? Or Judaism? Or Constantine (Christianity) for that matter? Why not just make up our minds … “Who is the Boss” … IF Yeshua is KING, then follow the KING! Every Kingdom has rules to live by … So if J’sus is Yeshua, and Yeshua is KING … Did He leave His Kingdom to be run by a crowd of Law-less, Rule-less, Regulation-less people?
    Paul’s words (incorrectly understood) can lead to chaos, why not stick to the simplicity of the men who lived with Him, learned from Him and followed Him? John in his letters states clearly that we should not sin AND he also states clearly that SIN IS THE TRANSGRESSION OF THE LAW (TORAH). This indicates to a simple minded guy like myself that I need to have a standard to follow, or I am a liar.
    Whilest I am wondering around in my ignorance of the Torah and sinning G-D’s Grace is still there, His Gifts are still there and His Mercy is still there … IT IS ME WHO IS NOT GOING TO BE THERE at the end of the DAY!! Those words will reverberate … Depart from Me, I never knew you!
    My second point is on “Emunah” = FAITHFULNESS …
    Christians always seem to stop at the half way mark … at FAITH… However, their (too)often quoted “The Just shall live by faith” … is only found once in the Tanakh (so-called “OLD” Testament) and the word emunach means Faith-fullness!
    If we (Jew by birth, Goy by adoption) are indeed children of Abraham, then let us follow his example and live like he lived, which PLEASED GOD!!!
    “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769. [Gen. 26.5]

    Shalom!

  3. Where does it say, in the Jewish Bible, that a person can be “saved by grace”?

    Where does it say, in the Jewish Bible, that salvation comes from believing in anyone?

    Where does it say, in the Jewish Bible, that the commandments of the Mosaic law are only temporary, and that G-d would revoke them later, when the messiah comes?

    Where does it say, in the Jewish Bible, that an animal sacrifice atones for sin, but only for those people who “believe in” the sacrifice?

    Where does it say, in the Jewish Bible, that a human being, or even a demi-god, would be accepted by G-d as a sacrifice in the place of a kosher animal?

    Where does it say, in the Jewish Bible, that the messiah would be fathered by G-d and not a patrilineal descendant of the house of David?

    When you acknowledge that the explicit answer to each of these questions is “nowhere”, you’ll have at last discovered an appreciation for some of the fault Jews who respect their Bible find with the Christian religion.

  4. Dear Bography,

    DO YOU PLAY RUSSIAN ROULETTE WITH YOUR SALVATION?

    What is required in order to have Jesus ABIDE in us and we in Him?

    Can we do it:

    1. By accepting Him as our our own personal Lord and Savior ?
    No. Where does the Bible say that?

    2. By the grace of GOD only? Sola Gracias?
    No. Where does the Bible say that?

    3. By faith in GOD alone? Sola Fides?
    No. Where does the Bible say that?

    It is simple common sense that since He commanded that we must do something, then doesn’t it stand to reason that He would also tell us how to do it?

    Jesus was very clear in what we must do in order to have Him ABIDE in us and we in Him.

    Jesus left this command for us in John 6:53-57:

    53 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (the taken away branch);

    54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

    56 HE WHO EATS MY FLESH AND DRINKS MY BLOOD ABIDES IN ME, AND I IN HIM.

    57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”

    http://michael-boystown.blogspot.com/

    • Hi Michael

      I looked at the first web site you recommended in your first question, which was “Can we do it: 1. By accepting Him as our our own personal Lord and Savior?”

      I have incorporated the answer to that question (found on your recommended web site) into my original post as follows. (You will notice that I pre-empted the answer to your question (which you didn’t seem to have read/understood).

      Jews (and Matt) accuse Christianity of placing more emphasis on faith (belief, trust) than on faithfulness (works). Catholics also make this accusation. Here is a typical Catholic view:

      Addition from your recommended web site:

      “Some non-Catholics teach that all you have to do to achieve salvation is to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, and your salvation is assured in this life. You only have to make a once in a lifetime commitment and no matter what you do for the rest of your life, you can be certain that you will go to Heaven when you die. Once you do this, it is an impossibility that you will ever lose your salvation. That train of thought, however, is not Biblical, and in reality it is a sin of presumption. Jesus did not die just so we could sin.”

      Original post (pre-empted answer):

      This is to mix soteriological (salvation) oranges with sanctificational (works leading to holiness) apples. Salvation is distinct from holiness. One is saved through the gift of faith (through the “gracious” love of God). Jesus said those who have faith in Him will have eternal life. The important point is that it is faith that saves you, not works. This doesn’t mean that Jesus (and the Apostles) are saying that works are not important. Works (of love) are the evidence that you do indeed have faith in Jesus. As the Apostle James said, faith without works (faithfulness) is dead. And Paul said that works without faith is of no value. There are two aspects to righteousness. The first: we are made right(eous) with God through faith in Christ; second: we grow in righteousness through our faithfulness (good works).

      Here are relevant scriptures on your first question:
      Acts 16:30-31 (NIV) He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”

      Romans 10:9-13 (NIV) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

    • I noted the “new testament” quote on your home page, Michael:

      “Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’ (John 7:38)”

      Can you please cite the passage in the Jewish Bible this verse in John is drawing on? I can’t find it. I can’t find any passage in the Jewish Bible that says water is going to flow from worshipers of Jesus. Please help. Thank you.

    • Michael

      Your question 3: Where does the Bible say by faith in GOD alone? Sola Fides?

      Here is one passage (of which there are several on justification by faith alone).

      Romans 4 (Jerusalem Bible)

      1 Then what do we say about Abraham, the ancestor from whom we are descended physically?
      2 If Abraham had been justified because of what he had done, then he would have had something to boast about. But not before God:
      3 does not scripture say: Abraham put his faith in God and this was reckoned to him as uprightness?
      4 Now, when someone works, the wages for this are not considered as a favour but as due;
      5 however, when someone, without working, puts faith in the one who justifies the godless, it is this faith that is reckoned as uprightness.
      6 David, too, says the same: he calls someone blessed if God attributes uprightness to that person, apart from any action undertaken:

      Grace alone through faith alone, where both are a gift of God appear in this verse (which appears in my post):

      “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and THIS not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:9).

      “This” in the Greek is a neutar, which means that it refers to both its antecedents – grace and faith.

      By the way, it is Sola Gratia, not Sola Gracias.

      While I’m on Gratia; to a Catholic “Ave Maria, gratia plena” means that Mary was born immaculate, that is, without original sin. If this were true then she wouldn’t have needed a saviour. So, why in the Magnificat is she rejoicing in God her Saviour?

      Luke 1 (Jerusalem Bible)
      46 And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
      47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
      48 because he has looked upon the humiliation of his servant. Yes, from now onwards all generations will call me blessed.

      (Neither does “blessed” imply sinless).

      You asked me what the Bible says. You, as a good Catholic, may argue that there are as many Bible interpretations as their are Protestant denominations, and that is why God provided the Magisterium. If this is so, there is no point in you asking me to quote words on a page, which is, of course, composed of a well-defined linguistic and contextual structure. My view is that theology is derived from scripture, that is, from the written word, which in most cases is plain and straight-forward, as are the scriptures I quoted in my post and my response to you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s