The “Faith Without Works” Heresy 2
When you read the Bible it is important that to keep everything in context, in order to understand what it teaches correctly. In the new testament, you read and learn that Paul established churches in various locations, and he wrote to them. These letters are divided by chapter breaks, but it is important to keep in mind that the chapter breaks are added by man, and that there were no chapter breaks in the original letters. It is important to keep the continuity going in each book (letter) and remember that the entire book is one letter. This is where people go wrong when they study the Bible. It is a common practice that they isolate individual verses, and individual chapters from the whole letter, and in so doing, they misunderstand what is being said. This is how we get various interpretations of the text, and people come away from reading the Bible with completely different understandings.
We already discussed in the first part of this topic that Paul had problems with people from the circumcision group who were trying to make the Gentiles follow the law of Moses, saying that they had to be circumcised to be saved. We looked at the first part of Romans and the first part of Galatians, where Paul was specifically dealing with this problem. I addressed these two books first, because people most commonly use them as proof texts to support the heresies that they have embraced.
Virtually all of the mainstream Christian denominations teach the salvation without works heresy because they have taken Bible verses out of context. Paul's letters to the churches are mis-interpreted and twisted at the seminaries, and. pastors are taught a distorted view of the gospel, who in turn preach a twisted gospel to their congregations, a salvation by faith alone, without works, which is a different gospel. This twisted gospel which argues in favor of sin is a gospel of lawlessness. Sadly, this heresy is not only aggressively preached in America, but all over the world, spreading a culture of lawlessness. Evangelists and missionaries are sent out in droves to spread this heresy throughout the world. The effect that this has had on society throughout the world has been devastating, because it has spread lawlessness throughout the world.
You read in Acts that Paul had to confront the circumcision group that salvation comes apart from the law (of Moses). In Acts 15, there was a council that met, and they dealt with this problem. Everywhere that Paul went, this same problem kept coming up, and he had to address it over and over again. In Ephesians, you read that Paul addressed this problem to this church, of which the congregation was predominantly Christian who had been Jews.. He starts out this letter by talking to them, saying:
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-- 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
It was the Jews who had had been the covenanted people, who had the law and the prophets. They had been near to God, and were given many spiritual blessings. Paul himself had been a Jew. That is why he used the words like “us,” and “we.” Then Paul begins to address the Gentiles:
13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.
The word “seal” in verse 13 does not mean that it can't be broken, it is a seal of identity. We see the same word used in Matthew 27: 65,66: “Take a guard, Pilate answered. Go make the tomb as secure as you know how. So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.” The same word was also used in Rev. 5: 1 where Jesus loosed the seals of the scrolls.
The Greek word for guarantee in verse 14 means a down payment. The beliefs of the translators come through here, you can see that they believed in the once saved always saved heresy, and that is why they used the word “guaranteeing” instead of conveying the idea of “down payment.” When you put a down payment on something, if you don't follow through on the payments, the agreement is forfeited. Many people in the church look at this verse and twist it to say we can't lose our salvation once we are saved. That is not what Paul was saying here. He was conveying the idea of a down payment of the inheritance, a taste of what was to come if they persevered in the faith. God's promises are not unconditional. They were conditional to the literal Jews, and they are conditional to the heirs of the promise, as well. You can see this enforced in Romans 11 where Paul taught that the branches (Jews) were broken off because of disobedience, and the Gentiles were grafted in, but if they didn't continue in obedience they would be broken off too..If the Jews repented and beaome obedient they would be grafted in again.
In Deuteronomy 28: 1-14 you can read God's promises to the Jews. But the promises were conditioned on obedience You read:
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God....” Starting from verse 15 you can read about all of the cursings that would come upon the Jews if they were not obedient. God's blessings on the Jews were not unconditional, yet there are millions of professing Christians today who think that the unbelieving Jews in Israel are God's covenanted people, that God's blessings are upon them unconditionally. You read about these same conditions on the Jews in Deuteronomy 30: When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes[a] and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you...Once again, the blessings on the Jews are conditioned on obedience.
You also read in Deuteronomy 31 about the blessings on the Jews, based on the condition of obedience. They were not given an unconditional promise to the land. They were disobedient to God, and so they forfeited on this promise. They forfeited the right to the land because of their disobedience.
11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The Jews were disobedient, and so they did not inherit the land. This promise to the land will be fulfilled to all of those who are found in Jesus, but it will not be fulfilled in a literal way. The land that they will be given will be the New Jerusalem. The land that the Jews were promised has been given to the heirs of the promise, Abraham was given the promise that his seed (Jesus) would be blessed
(Gal. 3: 14-18).
14 ..that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
Gal. 3: 26-29:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
We see in Deuteronomy that the literal Jews would not receive the promised land if they were disobedient, and we know from reading their history that they were disobedient. We see in Galations Paul taught that it wasn't those who are under the law (of Moses), the literal descendants of Abraham who would receive the promise, but the true heirs were heirs of the promise, (both Jew and Gentile) through Abraham's seed, Jesus.
Throughout the book of Galatians, Paul reinforced the idea that salvation does not come through the Hebrew law of Moses, with it's feasts and rituals, but the heirs were through the seed of the promise, Jesus, Paul emphasized that both Jews and Gentiles were one in Christ. In Ephesians 2: 3, he said; All of us (both Jew and Gentile) lived among them at one time (those who followed the ways of the world) fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. But because of His great love for us, God, in His rich mercy made us alive with Christ. Paul goes on to say: For it is by grace you are saved, through faith –and this not from yourselves, so that no one can boast. For we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Ephesians 2: 8-10).
Paul was emphasizing that it is through faith(fulness) in Christ Jesus, not through the works of the Hebrew law with all of its traditions and rituals that we are saved. The Jews liked to boast that they were children of Abraham, and so, to make his point stronger, Paul eliminated boasting altogether. You can see throughout the different books of the Bible Paul threw out the law of Moses, but he did not throw out the moral law of God. He was not saying that they didn't have to obey God to be saved. Obedience and faith are not contrasted against each other. It was not obedience to God that Paul was coming against in the book of Ephesians, it was the idea that you have to obey the law of Moses to be saved that he was against..