Salvation by Allegiance Alone

From a review of Matthew W. Bates’ book, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, Scot McKnight writes that among those who would most benefit from this book are…

… the pew sitter who is self-satisfied and wants to be left undisturbed in a thin discipleship, for the Zane Hodges1)Of the Free Grace Theology follower who thinks faith and repentance are largely cognitive, for the unconditional, soft love of God folks who think they are (more or less) entitled to God’s love, and for the grace-ist theologian who thinks he elevates God’s glory by over cooking grace and thereby eliminates faith as allegiance (can I hear an Amen for Bonhoeffer’s “costly grace”?) and who needs to read John Barclay’s Paul and the Gift, this book by Matthew Bates is urgently needed.

Now, at long last, someone has come along and pointed the way out of the wilderness of soft grace, a grace untethered to the teachings of Christ. Again, here’s Bates. What happens to allegiance, he asks,

When we say “faith, not works” or “just believe Jesus died for your sins.” He wonders why we then say “genuine faith produces good works” but works don’t save? Why the fumbling around? Why avoid the obvious: genuine faith includes ongoing faith. Why not just translate it with “allegiance”?

Indeed. I have long argued that saving faith is measured by works (see here and here) because works, when ordered to Christ’s teaching, are the right expression of faithfulness or, in the words of Bates and McKnight, allegiance.

References   [ + ]

1. Of the Free Grace Theology
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Obedience Arises From Faith, Not Gratitude

In Jack Kuhatschek’s book, “Applying the Bible“, the author claims that Christian obedience is the means by which we express our thankfulness for what God has done for us. In his understanding, gratitude is the motivation for obedience to God’s will. This idea is appealing and has been widely promulgated and accepted in much of today’s contemporary Christian literature and preached from Christian pulpits of many (most?) traditions.

The problem is that the idea of obedience arising from gratitude is quite simply without biblical warrant! Obedience arises from, and is the direct expression of one’s faith. The concept of obedience to God’s will as a measure of the sincerity of faith is abundantly attested in Holy Scripture. Thus, does Deitrich Bonhoeffer write,

For faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience.”

So, what does the Bible have to say?

Indeed, the Bible instructs us that Bonhoeffer was correct. The “obedience of faith“, as St. Paul wrote1)See Romans 1:5 and 16:26. NOTE: this phrase arises only in these two verses of which the NIV translates the Greek slightly differently, if not more accurately, as “obedience that comes by faith is the right and proper expression of faith, not gratitude. For example, John Piper’s reflection on the issue of obedience arising from gratitude wrote,

Nowhere in the Bible is gratitude connected explicitly with obedience as a motivation. We do not find the phrase ‘out of gratitude’ or ‘in gratitude’ for acts toward God. Christian obedience is called the ‘work of faith,’ never of the ‘work of gratitude’ (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:11). We find expressions like ‘live by faith’ (Galatians 2:20) and ‘walk by faith’ (2 Corinthians 5:7), but never any expression like ‘live by gratitude’ or ‘walk by gratitude.’ We find the expression ‘faith working through love’ (Galatians 5:6), but not ‘gratitude working through love.’ We read that ‘the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith’ (1 Timothy 1:5), but not ‘from sincere gratitude.’ We read that sanctification is by ‘faith in the truth’ (2 Thessalonians 2:13), not that it is ‘by gratitude for the truth.’ We read that ‘faith without works is dead’ (Jas. 2:26), but not that ‘gratitude without works is dead.’ And when Jesus deals with the disciples’ hesitancy to seek the kingdom first because they were worried about food and clothing, he did not say, ‘O men of little gratitude,’ he said, ‘O men of little faith’ (Matthew 6:30).”

Obedience follows faith, not gratitude because when we claim to believe in one thing but act otherwise, our belief is false, empty, and meaningless. It is without truth. Can a serial adulterer be judged faithful to his marriage vows yet still express gratitude for his/her marriage? Yes. Is a Sheriff who takes a bribe being faithful to his oath of office and still be grateful to the people he protects for his job! Yes!

If we violate God’s moral and ethical standards yet give thanks for God’s benevolence, are we being faithful to God? The answer is NO because gratitude has nothing whatsoever to do with being faithful to God.

Now, go and study.

References   [ + ]

1. See Romans 1:5 and 16:26. NOTE: this phrase arises only in these two verses of which the NIV translates the Greek slightly differently, if not more accurately, as “obedience that comes by faith
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Genesis 2:18 – The Role of Women

FormationOfEveGenesis 2:18

 וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים לֹא־טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּ֑וֹ אֶעֱשֶׂהּ־לּוֹ עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ

And the LORD God said, “For the man to be by himself is not good. I will make for him a counterpart to complement him

The detailed commentary for this verse can be found here.

However, in its broader context, the role of women as revealed by this and other narratives is manifestly not one of servitude or a divine afterthought. If you have 9 minutes or so, sit back, listen, and reflect on women and flourishing of mankind.

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Genesis 15:5-6: Are We Really Justified by Faith Alone?

righteousness-of-godIn Genesis 15:6, Scripture records Abram’s response to God’s promise to grant him as many descendants as there are stars in the sky. The Christian understanding of this verse is that God judges Abram to be righteous because of his faith.

This verse has profound theological implications because Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith [alone] rests largely on this understanding. But, is this understanding correct?

Probably not. It turns out that all English translations of Genesis 15:6 add words1)and punctuation! that are not attested in the actual Hebrew. Here for example, is a direct translation of the actual Hebrew (with no added English words):

Then he believed in the LORD and reckoned it to him righteousness.”

A straightforward reading of the actual Hebrew (above) has Abram recognizing the righteousness of God, not the other way around. It turns out that the translators of both the Septuagint and modern English Bibles beginning with the KJV felt it necessary to add additional words that were not attested in the original Hebrew. For example, compare the translation above with the NRS translation of the same verse:

(NRS) “And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.

or the KJV’s translation:

(KJV) “And he believed the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

In both of these translations, the translators added a semi-colon and a subject neither of which is attested in the underlying, actual Hebrew. A detailed analysis of this verse can be downloaded here and clearly shows that God did not justify Abram. A correct understanding is that Abram came to recognize God’s righteousness.

Now, go and study

References   [ + ]

1. and punctuation!
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