Works are born out of faith.
Faith is not born of works.
My wife and I are going through a study of Romans.
My favorite stuff in Romans is in chapters 8 and 12 but there is a lot of good stuff in the first seven chapters too. There are key scriptures in there that are familiar to us. ‘All have sinned and fallen short.’ ‘There is none righteous, no not one.’ And several others.
When you close read verse by verse it gets kind of deep. That’s the thing about Paul (and the Bible in general). You can read on one level and be enlivened and enriched. Or you can dig deeper and find stuff that excites and inspires. One process is not more righteous or more spiritual than the other. God can reach us, can minister to us, can use us wherever and whoever we are. Having said that…
This stuff in Romans 3 and 4 got me really excited. ‘Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ That’s familiar. We know that and we cling to it but I wonder if we miss the full reality of it. Abraham circumcised himself and all in his household as God had commanded but the promise was not in the circumcision. Circumcision was an outward statement of Abraham’s confidence in the promise. The promise came first. God said it. ‘Blessing I will bless you.’ ‘In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ It was not what Abraham did. It was what God said. God’s Word.
The children of Israel got it wrong over and over again. They marched through the wilderness, sacrificing and eating the right things and not eating the wrong things and keeping all the special celebrations and feast day. They came to the Jordan River but they would not cross over because they were dependent on what they did instead of what God said.
If my righteousness and my salvation and the promise of Heaven is dependent on what I do, what I do will never never never be enough. My righteousness, my salvation, the promise of Heaven are based not on what I do but on what God has said.
Somehow in the midst of Romans the Holy Spirit connected the dots for me and led me to Hebrews. I’m going to paste a rather long passage here because I think it’s important to get the whole thought covered.
16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
4 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Hebrews 3:16-4:10
Google ‘There remains a rest for the people of God’ and you will get all kinds of Greek and Hebrew and stuff about going to church on Saturday and what you can and can’t do on Sunday. I don’t know about all that. I only know what the scripture says to me and what it says is that there is a rest for me, a here and now rest.
I don’t see the other side of the Jordan as a type of heaven. There were battles to fight over there. We have battles to fight in the here and now but in the midst of the battles there is a rest for the people of God.
The children of Israel traveled in the wilderness doing the right things but never learning to trust, never learning how to rest. And when they came to the Jordan they balked because they trusted in their works instead of God’s promise and they knew that they did not measure up.
We do all the right things. We go to church. We give. We volunteer. In our desperation we witness because it’s a command and we think we will not make heaven if we don’t. And deep down we know that all our works are not enough. We have it upside down. We have it backwards. And we are not at rest.
There is a better way and that way is to put our confidence not in what we do but what God has said. All of those things happen and are effective when we find our rest in what He has said instead of what we have done.
It’s Sunday, January 22. I opened my browser this morning and everywhere I look on Google News I see things that are determined to destroy my rest. In the coming months and years it will be increasingly difficult to stay anchored in that rest if I don’t keep my focus on what God has promised. And what He has promised is that…
There is a rest for the people of God.
Works are born out of faith.
Faith is not born of works.