Saturday, January 10, 2009

By works are ye saved: the Sheep and the Goats

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and He will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at His right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40 And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.”’
41 ‘Then He will say to those at His left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44 Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45 Then He will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

See, it's all about helping the poor, not about accepting Christ. No???

14 comments:

Tom Gilson said...

No.

By our works we demonstrate we have been saved, or gain confirmation that we have been saved.

Jesus said in Luke 8:21 that those listen and do as he teaches are his mother and brother; they are in the family of God, that is. Works do not get us in the family, that comes by adoption, which is by faith and by grace. But to do the works of God is to show that we share a family resemblance with God the father, that we are like him because we are one of his.

Jesus' message in this passage ultimately was not about how one becomes saved, or about the difference between works salvation and faith salvation. It was about the difference between fake piety and real religion, or between hypocrisy and reality.

Gregory said...

Poverty can be both spiritual and material. To give a hungry person food, is to give "materially".

To give someone a reason to believe, give encouragement to, and/or to educate somebody in "truth", is to give "spiritually".

Because all men and women are created in the image of God, it's also true to say that they are created in the image of Christ (John 1:1-3,14). Therefore, acts done for other people, whether "material" or "spiritual", are done to Christ Himself; since it's really His "image" by which, and to which, such acts are done.

Matthew 25 is addressing who the "sheep" are and who the "goats" are....and, of course, only Christ really knows in the end.

But it seems clear, at least to me, that Christ's judgment is according to "actions" that were either taken or not taken.

Therefore, I think this verse is problematic for the "sola fide" doctrine.

See also: Romans 2:5-11, James 2:14-26

However, "faith" and "works" are interdependent in salvation. So it's also true to say that "works" without "faith" is dead too (1 Cor. 13:3).

Ilíon said...

Also, and quite oddly enough, I cannot quite put my finger on where Christ gives us justification, much less the command, to rob our fellows (and at the threat of violent death, no less) so that we may "help the poor."

Ilíon said...

Gregory: "Therefore, I think this verse is problematic for the "sola fide" doctrine."

Not really. The "sola fide" doctrine recognizes (and does not deny) that "by their fruits you shall know them;" it recognizes that good works are the natural outworking of true faith.

Ilíon said...

Here's something I just ran across that's related to the topic of this thread, and to a question VR is always asking about -- Glenn Peoples: Jonathan Edwards Comes to the Aid of Annihilationism

Joe said...

"See, it's all about helping the poor, not about accepting Christ. No???"


False dichotomy. You should do both. Jesus told people to keep God's commandments if they want to make it to heaven. He also commanded us to love each other.

When people say “believe in Jesus” I think you need to not only know that he died and rose from the dead but also some things about who was. In other words it is important to understand God was not made manifest in the form of Hitler who then died for our sins and was resurrected.

When you “believe in Jesus” you are believing in a person who taught certain things and acted a certain way. This I think is important.

If I say “you must have warm boots if you want to make it to the north pole by dogsled.”
You would be illogical if you thought that was all you needed. The sentence does not imply that is all you need. You might also want to bring clothing to cover you from the ankles up. I’m not aware of any passage in the bible that says we are saved by faith alone.

I’m aware of a passage that says “Now baptism saves you” but again I don’t think its *only* baptism. I mean to me that is like saying “those warm boots saved my life” Well again saying the boots saved me does not mean other things like my coat and hat didn’t also save me. The boots may have been necessary just like baptism may be necessary but its not that alone.

BTW: Another interesting thing about this passage is that those who are saved didn’t seem to know they were saved. It suggests to me that people who are not Christian may be saved.

Ilíon said...

Joe: "BTW: Another interesting thing about this passage is that those who are saved didn’t seem to know they were saved. It suggests to me that people who are not Christian may be saved."

Of course.

Ilíon said...

(At least of) One of the Greek words translated as 'beleve' is also translated as 'obey.' By Strong's numbering system, the word at #3982 (and its derivatives, such as #3980, #3981, #543, #544, #545), peitho, means a range of things related to belief, but also includes 'obey.'

For instance:
Romans 2:8 (KJV): "But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,"

Romans 2:8 (NIV): "But for those who are self-seeking and reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger."

and:
Romans 15:31 (KJV): "That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;"

Romans 15:31 (NIV): "Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there,"



In fact, just using a Strong's concordance for the KJV and referencing 'obey,' it appears that all the words translated as 'obey' mean at root "believing" or "attentive listening" or "harkening."

The point being that in NT terms, "to believe" and "to obey" are inseperable.

Joe said...
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Alex said...
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Alex said...

Consider the following argument:

1. God is Love
(1 Jn. 4:16 — God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him).

2. Jesus is God incarnate
(uncontroversially true for the Christen).

3. To place one's faith in love is to place one's faith in God (from 1).

4. To place one's faith in God is to place one's faith in Jesus (from 2).

5. To place one's faith in love is to place one's faith in Jesus (conjunction 3 & 4).

6. Actions are a necessary condition for true faith
(Ja. 2:14-17) What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead).

7. Merely expressing faith in Christ is not a sufficient condition for entering the kingdom.
(Mt. 7:21 — Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.)(Rebuttal premise).

8. Merely doing "works" in Christ's name is not a sufficient condition for entering the kingdom
(Mt. 7:22 — "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?")(Rebuttal premise).

9. It is possible to enter the kingdom without ever having had an explicit "accepting Christ" experience as evangelically conceived
(From 7 as well as backed up by the presence of Old Testament saints in the kingdom. Furthermore, Mt. 25:37-38 — "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?")(Rebuttal premise).

Conclusion: If one's actions are born out of a faith in love, then and only then, can one truly claim to have faith in Jesus even if this is not transparent to the individual in question (from 5-9).

If my argument is sound, then "accepting Christ" and "helping the poor out of a faith in love" are biconditional (one in the same).

Thoughts? Pushbacks?

Ilíon said...

Alex: "... 6. Actions are a necessary condition for true faith ..."

Or, at least, true faith will necessarily be reflected in actions.

Not only does an understanding of the full message proclaimed by the NT writers bear out your overall argument, but the very words they use do too. Consider:

In the vast majority of instances in the NT which are translated as 'faith,' the Greek word is 'pistis' (#4102 by Strong's numbering system), which means "assurance, belief, faith, fidelity."

And the root of 'pistis' is the word 'peitho' (#3982 by Strong's numbering system), which means "to agree, to assure, to believe, ... to make friends of, ... to persuade, to be persuaded, to trust ... *AND* to obey."


Christian belief/faith isn't about merely mental assent to some propositions or other; it is about *living* that assent, it is about believing and obeying that belief (and, incidentally, about becoming God's friend).

Ilíon said...

Alex: "... If my argument is sound, then "accepting Christ" and "helping the poor out of a faith in love" are biconditional (one in the same)."

"Accepting Christ" means "obeying Christ." But one cannot "helping the poor out of a faith in love" by looting one's fellows (neither one's fellows who profess to believe nor those who deny belief).

Christ calls *us* to do good works; he does not call us to dragoon others into doing or paying for our "good works" for us.

Christ calls *us* to help those whom we can help with what he has given us; he does not call us to spiteful envy of those who have more than we have.

Christ calls *us* to be honest and truthful; he does not call us to pretend that our envy the one who has more than us is really a concern for "social justice."

Christ calls *us* to do justice and increase justice upon the earth, but justice cannot be done by unjust means.

Ilíon said...

Alex: "7. Merely expressing faith in Christ is not a sufficient condition for entering the kingdom ... 8. Merely doing "works" in Christ's name is not a sufficient condition for entering the kingdom ... 9. It is possible to enter the kingdom without ever having had an explicit "accepting Christ" experience as evangelically conceived ... "

Yes, yes, yes!

God is just *and* merciful, and he is not a legalist; he wants to redeem all his creation. He does not go looking for reasons to condemn it; rather, he looks for reasons to spare it from the condemnation it has brought upon itself.