Monday, August 18, 2008

Perfecting and Completing Faith

Earlier I had proposed the question, “If a man’s faith includes his own actions and will, can that faith save him?”

I have given the subject some thought and no little amount of study, although my study is imperfect and in need of much more formal training.  However, God has blessed my small efforts with some understanding.  The Holy Spirit brought to my attention two Scriptures that are encouraging in this examination, specifically Hebrews 12:2 and Philippians 1:6.

Hebrews 12:2 [...] looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

These two verses encourage me to remember that it is God who is at work within me both to will and to do His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13) Because our faith is imbued, endowed, created, sustained and supported by Christ himself, I can have confidence that the faith will grow to perfection.  More importantly, I can recognize with grace that faith can be imperfectly manifested in our corrupt flesh until such time as Christ perfects that faith and completes that work within us.

There is still the problem of confusion.  Faith in self looks a lot like imperfect faith in Christ.  Our Lord has said that we know a tree by its fruit.  The Holy Spirit wrote through James that faith produces works and we can know faith by these works.  Accordingly, I suggest now the answer to my question is most accurately:  “It depends..”

It depends on the source of the faith.  If the source of the faith within a man is Christ, then the impurity and corruption of including our own will is something that will be taken care of by Christ.  That faith will still produce good fruit.  That faith will save because it is from God.

If however, the source of the faith is in man, and the reliance is principally on man’s will and choices, then the impurity and corruption is the inclusion of Christ’s work.  That man’s master, the devil, will work to reduce and cleanse that man’s faith eventually as well.  In the end, that man will rely completely on his own good works, his own will and choices, himself as god to save himself.

Perhaps this is why the tares are allowed to grow with the wheat?  At first they both look a lot alike, almost indistinguishable.  To root up the tares risks uprooting the wheat as well.  Perhaps grace should be given to those, especially new in the faith or immature in their understanding, who add the impurity of man’s will to God’s work of salvation.  It is not an unforgivable error – after all, man’s will is set free to serve Christ by being born again.  And man’s will is exercised in obedience to Christ’s will and law.  Confusing a result of faith for the mechanism or means of faith is a childish error, but it is an easy one to make.

These are random thoughts..  please be patience as my understanding grows.  If I have written something imperfect (which I can be assured I have done) or ludicrous (which I suspect I have done at times) I pray the Lord forgives me and grants me opportunity to repent and spread truth.

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