Stairway to Heaven: Faith vs. Works
New International Version (NIV)
1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter?2If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God.3What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
4Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation.5However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
Is salvation and thus eternal union with God completely free? First, I suppose “completely free” might be considered a redundant term, in that free implies completeness by definition. I often tell my children that nothing in this world is free outside of God’s grace. Everything comes at a price for us, as would our innate tendency to rebel against God had it not been for Christ’s stand in at the cross. My childhood and early adulthood saw a growing conflict take place within. I had been taught, perhaps indirectly and without clarity, that standing with God was dependent on both Christ’s sacrifice and my behavior. I had no issue believing that Jesus did His thing. My contribution to the effort, however, increasingly fell short as I got older. I did more and more of what I felt I should not, and demonstrated an increasing trend towards it. If my contribution to a state of righteousness was truly required, I was in a bit of a jam.
Fast forward several years and a great deal of personal decline, the scenario became hopeless; hopeless until I read from Romans Ch 7, where Paul outlined a predicament equivalent to mine. The key difference being, his predicament had a solution I had not considered. That solution being, he was in no way a contributor in obtaining fellowship with God. Rather, only a recipient of complete forgiveness, none of which was earned or merited by himself. If that was true, I had a chance. Better than that actually, a guarantee. I have heard it said that pride stands in the way of accepting grace, of understanding it. That particular brand of pride did not seem to present an obstacle for me. I was perfectly willing to take a free pass if it was indeed offered.
I do continue to encounter interpretation lending itself to a conclusion that salvation is a process dependent on our continuing choices. A status, therefore, that can fluctuate over time. This opposed to a step function based on one choice, one time, which places us into God’s family once and for all. I hopefully cling to the latter of the two, simply because the “me” element does not instill any sort of security. Put another way, I am happy and hopeful to give all the credit to God and be a beneficiary, to get up every day and thank Him for cutting me a break. If He will take me as I am, work on me and shape me into what He wants me to be, then I am perfectly willing to let Him have at it. It can be all about Him as opposed to me. The only reason me even matters, then, is because of Him. That’s OK with me.