Genesis 15:1–6, Romans 5:1–11, 1 John 1:5–2:2
One of the ongoing struggles that people have is earning their salvation. They think they can, or that they must. This is what is often called “works” in Christian circles. Theologians have discussed what “works” is from a more philosophical perspective. Some have argued that Abraham completed a “work” when he believed. Others argue that belief is not a work as it is not an action (especially an action to receive something in return).
Paul follows Abraham when he states that we (Christians) have been declared righteous because of our faith. Because of that, we have peace between us and God. However, it’s what follows this that starts to cause problems for many. People will wear the costume of endurance, character, and hope, often treating the costume as a way (still) to earn salvation, as if faith is not enough. The other “costume” problem is that we often think of ourselves as never having enough endurance, character or hope. We then conclude we don’t have faith. This is a significant trap. If we have no improvement in the simple things, how could we hope to improve in the harder areas…like sin.
There is great freedom, if we accept in, in John’s words. There is a statement of fact: we have sinned. However, the forgiveness of our sins doesn’t rely on our effort (our works). It relies on Jesus’ sacrifice. We are to trust (i.e., have faith) that it is enough. “Works” as discipline help us train our minds and hearts away from wrong behavior. “Works” cannot save us.
1) What good are works (yes, there is good)? What is bad with works?
2) Why do you think it is bad to try to “earn” one’s salvation?
3) Why do you think Paul echoed Abraham’s story? Do you think his audience connected the stories?