Many Christians wonder how they should share their faith. Many try to provide an answer by quoting worldly expressions, such as “Actions speak louder than words.” Although such sayings often contain truth and wisdom, the abundance of such extrabiblical answers is staggering. Browse through various Web sites, blogs and Christian forums that attempt to address this topic, and you will almost certainly see a pattern emerge: Very little scripture, if any, is consulted in the attempt to provide an answer to this question. Must we really go outside the Bible so often? This is ironic in evangelical culture in particular, where the Bible is enthusiastically held forth as the sole infallible authority on all matters pertaining to Christian faith and practice.

Scripture presents the gospel as the power (Romans 1:16) and the means (1 Cor. 1:17–25) through which God saves people. On the contrary, the Bible does not indicate one’s actions as the means that God uses to give people faith and a saving knowledge of Christ. Jesus and the apostles centered their public ministry on the preaching of the word; their actions shone forth as a result of who they were, not because they were a formulated strategy to win the lost.

To answer the question of how to share one’s faith, it is helpful to answer a pair of other questions first:

1.) Is it possible for someone to be saved without hearing/reading/learning the gospel message?
2.) Is it possible for someone to be saved without observing a Christian’s godly life?

IMO, the answer to the first question is no, while the second question should get a yes answer. If it is impossible to be saved apart from learning the gospel message, while salvation is possible apart from observing the lives of Christians, then it follows that the gospel message is the essential, indispensable tool we must use to bring the knowledge of Christ to those who are not saved.

One of the most popular—and most incorrect—sayings is one that most of us have probably heard at one time or another: “Preach the gospel at all times, use words if necessary.” This statement is absurd because words are not optional! In fact, the saying should be modified to read: “Preach the gospel at all times, use actions if necessary.” I cannot learn the specific truths of the gospel by observing the honesty, love or other virtuous behavior of Christians because people of other religions also can, and do, exhibit those same qualities.

This does not mean that we should feel free to communicate the gospel insensitively, obnoxiously or in any other way that would dishonor Christ. As J.I. Packer has wisely pointed out in his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, the gospel message has enough offense all on its own without our adding our own bad behavior to it.

18 Responses to Words and Actions in the Balance

  • Eldon says:

    Well said Jeromey. I believe we need to do a little less quoting of people and more quoting of God’s word. I think most of us try to win souls for Christ in the most comfortable way possible, as opposed to “What does the Bible say”. If someone has to tell you to tell others about the joy and hope of your salvation, then most likely you’re not currently living in it.

    I believe we not only need to “Talk the Talk”, we must “Walk the Walk” and often times actions should precede words in order for the words of the gospel to have an affect.

    I would like to be able tell others what Paul says in Philippians 4:9 “keep putting in practice all you learned form me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.”

  • Jeremy says:

    Eldon,

    “Walking the walk” is indeed not an option. If we claim to be Christians, we’d better be showing it in our day-to-day behavior. However, I would say that the *reason* for walking the walk is to glorify God, not as a means of evangelism. I’d have to say that the idea that our deeds give power to the gospel is not in the Bible–unless I’ve overlooked something. When Jesus and the apostles preached, they did not depend on their behavior to empower their preaching. If they did, they never mentioned it. They didn’t have to because they knew that the word of God has its own effectiveness apart from any human behavior (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12). It is the Holy Spirit who does the convicting in people’s hearts when they hear the gospel; our behavior doesn’t have that kind of power.

    The verse from Phil. 4 is a great one, but I don’t think Paul was telling his audience how to evangelize. His intention was to admonish them to encourage the believers to live godly lives, yes; but he gives no indication that he wants them to do this so their presentation of the gospel will be effective.

    The evangelical church needs to return to a strictly word-based gospel presentation and cast off all the baggage of postmodernism that has weighed it down. We need to return to a full confidence in God’s word and the power of the gospel, leaving behind our attempts to empower the gospel–as if it needed us to do that.

  • Eldon says:

    Jeremy,

    What about Matthew 5:16 that says “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” I believe living a Godly life for others to see gives convincing testimony of the saving power of God. That brings him glory.

    Also in First Peter 2:11-12 reminds us that people are observing our lives. v12; “Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors, even if they accues you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will believe and give honor to God when he comes to judge the world.”

    I think a lot of unbelievers have a false perception of Christians and largely due to actions of a lot of so-caled Christians. As Christians we need to be seen as living in a gracious, Godly and winsome behavior, and we might possible help change a few of the unbelievers perception of Christians. We should not write off those who do not understsnd Christianity, we need to show them Christ by our actions, and some day maybe a few of those who critize us will come to worship and praise God with us.

    1Peter 2:15 says that it is God’s will that our good lives should silene those who make foolish accusations against us.

    I believe the testimony of our lives can give us opportunities to share the good news of Jesus. We need to ask ourselves “What do people see in Me?”

  • Hi Eldon,

    Good verses, but I would be careful how I interpreted them, taking care not to read into them more than the authors intended. Are you sure those verses actually say that people become saved as a result of our lives? Mt. 5:16 says that our deeds can result in people glorifying God, but it doesn’t really say that they become converted, born again, and begin to have saving faith in Christ. That is a different matter. Also, it’s important to point out that Jesus’ intention in the passage was not to teach people how to evangelize. The overall context of the sermon on the mount is living a life of obedience that glorifies God. The purpose is not to teach us how to communicate the gospel.

    So, does that mean that our lives could never open up opportunities to share the gospel? Of course not. My contention, though, is that the Bible does not emphasize this as an evangelistic strategy, although much of Christendom–for some reason–has elevated the value of our good deeds to the level of having some kind of spiritual power to bring salvation to the lost. I do not find anything like this in the Bible except in only one verse, but that particular passage is speaking to believing wives who have unbelieving husbands.

    1 Peter 2:11-12, like the Matthew passage, is not intended to teach us how to evangelize. It is admonishing us to live lives that honor God before the world. It’s more helpful to use a more literal translation of the Bible, one that is closer to the original language. The NASB reads:

    12Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

    Nothing is said there about belief. People can glorify God and even praise him without actually believing in Christ.

    Also, it is not the perception of Christians that keeps people away from God; it is their own hearts that do that. The Bible describes man as loving darkness and hating the light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19) and they don’t come to the light because they are afraid their deeds will be exposed. Scripture also says that the lost do not come to Christ because they are dead in their sins and trespasses (Eph. 2:1), and that the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God and cannot submit to God’s law (Romans 8:7).

    I agree that we should not write off those who don’t understand Christianity; you are right about that. We need to bring the gospel to them, since that is the power of God for salvation. That is the best thing we can do for them.

    We need to let the Bible be our final authority on all matters pertaining to faith and practice, not the ideas of men that are floating around out there. And there are many in evangelicalism today that are drifting away from the principle of sola scriptura. Everything must be tested by Scripture.

  • Hey Eldon,

    Thanks for the lively discussion. :-) Just a clarification and follow-up. It’s true that exhibiting bad behavior can hinder the gospel. For example, when Nathan the prophet spoke to David after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, he said, “[B]y this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme.” Committing a sin openly for the world to see, as David did, will give God’s enemies a reason to blaspheme his name.

    Ultimately, though, and at bottom, people reject God because they want to. This fact, I think, always needs to be borne in mind when discussing matters like this.

    Yet, although this is true, I don’t think it is right to make our behavior part of our actual evangelism strategy, part of our outreach “game plan,” if you will. I’m afraid that’s what many have done, and are continuing to do. It’s one thing to say, “We need to be careful how we live so that the gospel isn’t hindered,” but it’s quite another to say that we should turn our godly behavior into an evangelistic tool to help bring the lost to Christ.

  • Eldon says:

    Jack,

    Thanks for your comments, but you and Jeremy seem to think you need to be on the defensive with what I have to say and I am not quit sure why. I am not saying that doing good deeds has any kind of spiritual power to bring salvation to the lost.

    I realize that Jesus’ intention in the Matthew passage was not to teach us how to evangelize or that people become converted, born again or even begin to have a saving faith in Jesus Christ., why would they? We haven’t even mentioned or presented them with the gospel yet.

    I do agree with you that much of Christendom-for some reason-has elevated the value of our good deeds to the level of having some kind of spiritual power to bring salvation to the lost.

    I did not mention the Philippians verses as a way to evangelize, or that that we should perform good deeds as an attempt to empower the Gospel or that it needs us to do that.

    I do believe as Christians we need to preach the cross of Christ, repentance, and our need for salvation. It is how we do this that is important in order to reach as many as possible.

    I believe we need a way to get others into the “Word of God” The word of God will ask and answer all the right questions. The word of God will change their destiny, for the word of God is living and active, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

    I believe we need to tell others of their need for Jesus, who is the word, It is their only hope.

    I believe we can reach more people if we do as Jesus did so often and meet their physical needs first. If some one comes to you hungry for physical food or water, you don’t hand them a Bible, you meet their physical needs and then you will have a greater opportunity to tell them of their spiritual needs.

    I have spent time standing on the corner and handing out tracts, but I feel my time is better spent mentoring kids and working with the poor in SE Washington or the poor in a third world country, or working at the homeless shelter in Falls Church city, I enjoy doing all of these but do not see them as a means of evangelizing but they do present an enormous amount of opportunities for evangelizing, more so than standing on the corner, and the ones you are evangelizing already know you really care about them and they may really want to hear what you have to say.

    I think Matthew 25:40 and Matthew 28:19 work very well together.

  • Hi Eldon,

    Actually, “Jack” and Jeremy are one and the same person. “Jack” is part of my user name on WordPress, but I wrote one post when I wasn’t logged in and the others when I was. That’s why both names showed up. Sorry for any confusion that might have caused. :-)

    Thank you for clarifying where you’re coming from; I understand better what you’ve been trying to say. You make a lot of good, strong points. Please don’t interpret my responses as being on the defensive, though; I’ve just been trying to engage you in dialogue and do some reasoning about an important topic. In particular I was responding to the way you had worded some things (more on that below).

    I’m glad to read that you’re not saying that doing good deeds has spiritual power to bring salvation to the lost. However, you did make it sound that you think that the words of the gospel are dependent on our living a certain way when you wrote: “often times actions should precede words in order for the words of the gospel to have an effect.” Although you didn’t mean it this way, that really does sound like you’re saying that the gospel could be lacking in power to save if it is not backed up by our good deeds, godly lives, etc. That was why I disagreed. I know now, though, that you didn’t mean it that way.

    I also would like to point out something else you said in your most recent reply. I’m not getting defensive now–just trying to point something out. You wrote, “I believe we can reach more people if we do as Jesus did so often and meet their physical needs first.” Meeting physical needs is important and expected of us, I would agree; and certainly if someone is lying on the sidewalk bleeding to death I wouldn’t throw a Bible and tract at him and be on my way. However, I think you are making a mistake when you say that Jesus met physical needs *first.* His primary mission was, first and foremost, to preach. He says this to his disciples in Mark 1:38: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.”

    Notice what he says: “–so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” This is not just one isolated verse; all the gospels show a pattern of Jesus preaching first when arriving in a place and *then* meeting physical needs. In most cases, the healings and miracles were actions that he did not even go looking for; instead, as far as I can tell, most of the time what happened was that he healed and performed miracles in response to a need that he encountered while carrying out his preaching mission. He went out of his way to preach without being asked, but he rarely went out of his way to heal without a need being brought before him. He didn’t go to various towns and villages specifically looking for people to heal, even though he did heal in many places. Being God and full of mercy and compassion, he wouldn’t do anything else. So, if we follow his example, we should really place our primary emphasis on teaching and preaching and strive to meet physical needs as we encounter them during our preaching and teaching.

    What do you think?

  • Eldon says:

    Jeremy, Jack,

    Thanks for clearing that up, you and Jack seemed to think very much alike, now I know why. I guess I have never seen or heard your last name until now. Anyway, I think all three of us are on the same page., our primary emphasis is on preaching and teaching the word of God, and the power that it has and I pray it is never our fault that someone does not hear the good news.

    I believe the important thing is that once we became rightly related to God by salvation and justification we realize that wherever we are and whosever presence we may be in we are put their by God; and by the way we react to circumstances around us, we will fulfill God’s purpose, as long as we keep in the light as God is in the light. It is the work that God does through us that counts, not what we do for Him.

    Numbers 6:24-26
    Eldon

  • Darlene says:

    Jeremy,

    Why polarize living the gospel and preaching the gospel? Both are necessary – not an either/or proposition but a both/and. If I am living in disobedience to Christ, then I will not have the power to speak to anyone about our Lord Jesus Christ. I will be ineffective. As a parent, I know all too well the importance of living what I believe and teach to others. Unlike you, I think obedience to Christ is necessary in order for me to be saved. Yes, I need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to do that and cannot do so in my own strength. But my actions can bring dishonor upon the Lord and actually be a poor testimony to my neighbors. Remember what Christ said to the Pharisees, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he become a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” And to the lawyers Christ said, “Woe to you lawyers! for you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

    Remember when the disciples went fishing in St. John 21, but that night they caught nothing? But when our Lord Jesus told them to “Cast the net on the right side of the boat” then they caught some. In their obedience to follow Christ’s command, they caught so many fish that they were unable to haul them in. Yes, Christ said I will make you fishers of men but we cannot be fishers of men and hypocrites at the same time, that is, professing with our lips the Christian faith yet living in disobedience with our hearts set on things opposed to Christ and His gospel.

    Our actions do have an effect upon the efficaciousness of the gospel message. Our brother Peter said in his letter “Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Our actions have an actual correlation to the gospel message. Hypocrisy shames and clouds that gospel message. When St. Paul was speaking in his letter to the Romans he knew all too well that the actions of his brethren brought shame upon the name of God when he said, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

    We as Christ’s body cannot think that somehow our actions are insignificant and have no effect upon the gospel message. It is incumbent upon us to live holy, upright and godly lives so that our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified through us.

    I do not even have the strength to commend myself to other mens’ consciences in the sight of God (II Cor. 4:2) if I am living in opposition to Christ’s commands. I cannot live a life that brings disgrace upon the name of my Lord Jesus and expect to presume that I will have success in preaching the gospel. I just might get beat up by a demon just like that fella that thought he could copy cat St. Paul and the apostles and do what they were doing without the leading of the Holy Spirit.

    Darlene

  • Hi Darlene,

    It’s great to hear from you! I hope everything is fantastic with you and John. I will never forget the great influence the two of you had on me back in those days in Allentown so long ago. I cannot sufficiently describe how deep a place there is in my heart for you two as well as other Christians who had such an influence on me during those fragile years of my early Christian life. I even remember the lady who used to hang out with you and John–I think Patty was her name.

    Anyway, on to your comments. You wrote, “Why polarize living the gospel and preaching the gospel? Both are necessary – not an either/or proposition but a both/and.”

    That statement needs to be qualified. It is an either/or proposition when it comes to the deliberate strategy we use to share the gospel. Many Christians today view the living of a righteous life as a necessary prerequisite to sharing the gospel, without which the gospel will have little or no effect. On the other hand, it is a “both/and” proposition when we speak generally about our Christian lives. We are to live godly lives before the world so that we will avoid the pitfall into which David fell. You will recall how Nathan the prophet said to him, after he had sinned with Bathsheba, that “by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt.” (2 Sam. 12:14) Although our lives will not open people’s hearts to the gospel–that is a problem over which we have no control–our sin and disobedience can give unbelievers yet another reason to “show utter contempt.”

    In other words, just because our sins might cause unbelievers to show contempt for God does not mean that the opposite is true–that our righteous lives will cause them to begin loving God and come to Christ. The former does not necessarily make the latter true.

    You wrote: “Our actions do have an effect upon the efficaciousness of the gospel message. Our brother Peter said in his letter “Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” ” Be careful. Are you sure Peter was saying that they would be saved? He does mention that they may “glorify God,” but I’m not so sure that necessarily equates to having saving faith in Christ. People can acknowledge God and glorify him even without being saved.

    Something else you said: “Our actions have an actual correlation to the gospel message.” I disagree; I don’t see any precedent for this in the Bible. What the Bible does plainly say, though, is that our sinful actions have an actual correlation to a person’s showing contempt for God. That’s quite different.

    Finally, you said: “Unlike you, I think obedience to Christ is necessary in order for me to be saved.” We are saved by Christ’s obedience alone. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of the merits of Christ alone. As Paul so clearly and beautifully wrote, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Phil. 3:7-9) Notice what Paul said: He wanted to have not his own righteousness but the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. He was speaking about an alien righteousness, something that originates and comes from outside of him–namely, God’s own righteousness. Far be it from me to say that we can add anything to that righteousness.

    Jeremy

  • Eldon says:

    Jeremy

    I tend to agree with Darlene in that I think obedience to Christ is necessary in order for me to be saved. I have spent the last three days trying to find any one scripture to support this but with no luck. Several times I thought I did but further study proved otherwise. I really thank you for starting all this and getting me into the word, it has been great. Let me tell you why I can’t help but think that obedience is necessary for me to be saved. please let me know what you think.

    When I look back to the time that I decided to make Jesus Lord and savior of my life, I remember laying in bed and reading the sinners prayer and I remember thinking it was easy to accept Jesus as my savior but what does it mean to make Him “Lord of my Life“? and can I have this free gift of salvation just by saying those words of acceptance of Jesus as my savior or is there something more I have to do.

    I believed that salvation was a free gift that can be rejected or lost through our sins. I believe that since salvation is a free gift, we can not earn it through obedience, prayer, or good works, However, like any gift, we have the free will to reject it, and I believe we can reject it through serious sin, willful disobedience to God.

    I believe it takes the Holy Spirit, The Spirit of God living within us to remind us of Jesus’ words, the Spirit convinces us of sin. Without the Holy Spirit we cannot even see our need for new life. He reveals truth to us, lives within us and then enables us to respond to that truth.

    As I said earlier, I believe salvation is a free gift, we can not earn it through obedience, prayer, or good works. But I seriously question that any one has the Spirit of God living within them if they say they are following Christ without feeling an obligation of
    obedience to Him. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says “Not everyone who says to Me Lord, Lord; will enter the kingdom of heaven, gut he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter.” “Not everyone who says”…”But everyone who does.”

    In Mark 1:17 and in many other places in the Gospels in reference to discipleship Jesus said “Follow Me”, “and then I will make you become fishers of men.” wouldn’t to follow Jesus imply to obey Him? Christ continually emphasized the difficulty of following Him. He said “The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

    I believe Salvation is by grace lone, but it is not easy, I believe it calls for knowledge of the truth, repentance, submission to Christ as Lord, and a willingness to obey His will and Word. If we say repentance is a command that must be obeyed in order to receive salvation, then to say obedience is not necessary to salvation would be to say that repentance is not necessary to salvation.

    I will end this with a prayer by Thomas Merton that I love and think is worth sharing.

    MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
    I do not see the road ahead of me.
    I cannot know for certain where it will end.
    Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
    But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
    And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
    I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
    And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
    Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
    I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

    • Hi Eldon,

      Simply put: “Salvation is of the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9)

      It’s great that you’re getting into the Bible; I’m glad that this blog has been influencing you in that direction.

      If, as you say, you cannot find any scripture to support the idea that obedience is necessary for salvation, then, in all honesty, we need to be very cautious about it. As with any other issue in the Christian life, God’s word is the *only* infallible rule for faith and practice. All the beliefs we hold must line up with scripture.

      Let me clarify this: Obedience is not necessary to *purchase* salvation. That is far too high a price for us to afford; only Christ could do that. If we tried to purchase salvation with our obedience, we would be paying for it on an eternal installment plan—in hell. It is no wonder that Paul wrote in Phil. 3 (the passage I quoted for Darlene earlier) that he did not rely on his own righteousness at all but rather on the righteousness that comes from God by faith. In fact, he said he counted his own righteousness under the law as rubbish in order to have the righteousness of Christ.

      However, obedience is necessary in the sense that God commands it. Hebrews 12:14 says that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Christ did not die for sinners so they could continue living in sin; on the contrary, he died for them so that they would no longer be slaves to sin.

      It is also necessary in the sense that it is unavoidable. By that I mean that it is impossible for anyone who is truly saved to be always disobedient. Obedience is an unavoidable fruit of true salvation. To think that believers can continue living in sin is ridiculous, as Paul made clear in Romans 6: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2)

      You wrote: “However, like any gift, we have the free will to reject it, and I believe we can reject it through serious sin, willful disobedience to God.” Is there any passage of the Bible that gives you this idea?

      Matthew 7:21 is a great verse—and a sobering one. I am reluctant to say, though, that Jesus is teaching in that passage that our obedience is necessary to purchase salvation. As I pointed out above, there is a difference—a huge difference—between these two ideas:

      1.) Our obedience is necessary to purchase salvation.
      2.) Our obedience is commanded by God.

      We make a grave error if we confuse the two. #1 is never taught in scripture; in fact, its opposite is taught in Romans 4:5, one of my favorite verses of the Bible: “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” #2 is definitely taught in scripture, and the verses/ideas you have described are really, in my opinion, a reflection of #2 rather than #1.

      You also wrote: “If we say repentance is a command that must be obeyed in order to receive salvation, then to say obedience is not necessary to salvation would be to say that repentance is not necessary to salvation.” Repentance is indeed not necessary to *purchase* salvation. The eternal debt of sin could only be paid in full by Christ’s work on the cross. When one repents in true saving faith, it is not to buy salvation—as if we had to compensate for something missing in Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice (perish the thought!). Rather, one repents out of gratitude for what Christ has done for him and also out of the new heart and new spirit God has given him. What he once loved he now hates, and what he once hated he now loves. Being born again, the true believer longs to obey God.

      Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone on the basis of the merits of Christ alone. What a great salvation!

      Eldon, do you have a book on systematic theology? I highly recommend picking one up. It is basically a large book that provides clear teaching on all the major doctrines of the faith—repentance, faith, God, sin, Christ, salvation, and so on. I have two of them myself (different authors). I’d be happy to order one for you if you like and give it to you the next time I see you. It would be my pleasure, believe me. As Christians, we need to make sure we become well versed in theology, especially since theological issues sometimes come up when doing evangelism, so I’d consider it no burden to help you along in that direction.

      Jeremy

  • Darlene says:

    Dear Jeremy,

    I think this matter of works, their place and importance, has been being debated for centuries upon centuries. Having once attended a Wesleyan College from the Methodist tradition, I’m sure you realize that the hermeneutics which they utilize in order to interpret Holy Scripture is different than the Reformed Tradition. This is why Sola Scriptura in a vacuum presents a problem for me. But that is a whole other topic left for a different time. :-)

    Let me just say that I have met committed, spirit-filled Christians on both sides of this debate/divide. While I am no longer a Methodist/Wesleyan, I do still hold to some of the teachings I learned in that tradition. I am also not a five-point Calvinist, though I attended a Reformed Baptist church for many years, in which various members tried to persuade me of the TULIP. They were not successful and in fact, the more I learned of Calvinism, the more convinced I became not to be persuaded.

    With all this said, the Holy Scriptures tell us to live peaceably with all men as much as it depends upon us. I consider you my brother in Christ despite our disagreements. I would like to persuade you [peaceably of course :-) ], to my side (although it in no way originated with me), which tends toward reflecting the view of our Early Church Fathers. Of course, I am a mere catechumen who has been learning the beauty of our Christian faith and unlearning and dispelling those things which I once erroneously believed. My desire, however, is to love my Lord Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to be increasingly changed into His likeness.

    May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

    Darlene

    • Hi Darlene,

      Since you brought it up, let me ask: What, in fact, is the Wesleyan/Methodist hermeneutic?

      Sola scriptura has nothing to do with hermeneutics, Darlene. I’m not sure if you meant it that way, but it seemed like it. SS holds forth–and biblically so–the sufficiency of the canon of scripture.

      As far as persuading me to your side–go for it. :-) Persuade away. I’d like to hear the rationale for your position. I ask only one thing, though: If it is going to be long, send it to me via private e-mail instead of here. Thanks.

      God bless,

      Jeremy

  • Eldon says:

    Jeremy,

    No, I do not have a book on systematic theology but I do appreciate your offer to order one for me and would like to take you up on the offer. You said you have two, by different authors, which one do you recommend and what would it cost to order me one. I will take your word on which one is better. If it would be easier, just send me information on one of them and I could order it myself.

    As far as this obedience and salvation I am not saying obedience is necessary to purchase salvation. You keep putting that word “Purchase” in where I never did, I don’t think I once used that word. Unless it was when I mentioned several times that I know salvation can not be purchased It is a free gift and there is nothing we can do to earn it. But I do believe that repentance, which I believe would include obedience, is necessary for, or is a part of salvation. We must be “Born Again” to be saved.

    Eldon

  • Darlene says:

    Dear Jeremy,

    I would like very much to keep the lines of communication open. Could you send me your email address?

    If in any way I seemed arrogant, as if to say “I possess the truth and you don’t,” I apologize. We are all at different places on this journey of faith. At one time, I thought I possessed THE truth and spoke it in such a shrill manner, I am surprised anyone listened. Now, the years having mellowed me with a bit more maturity, I know that I have much to discover of the truths of God. Whatever truth the Holy Spirit has been gracious enough to reveal to me cannot be communicated in a spirit of self-righteousness or triumphalism. I will leave you with an excerpt from a sermon of John Wesley entitled, “Differences of Opinion Among Christians.” It is in the same spirit that I wish to dialog with you.

    “But some may say, I have mistaken the way myself, although I take it upon myself to teach others. It is probable many will think this, and it is very possible that I have. But I trust, wherein soever I am mistaken, my mind is open to conviction. I sincerely desire to be better informed. I say to God and man, “What I know not, teach thou me!”

    Are you persuaded that you see more clearly than me? It is not unlikely that you may. Then treat me as you would desire to be treated yourself upon a change of circumstances. Point out to me a better way than I have yet known. Show it is so by plain proof of Scripture. And if I linger in the path I have accustomed to tread, and am therefore unwilling to leave it, labour with me a little; take me by the hand, and lead me as I am able to bear. But be not displeased if I entreat you not to beat me down in order to quicken my pace: I can go but feebly and slowly at best; then, I should not be able to go at all. May I not request of you, further, not to give me hard names in order to bring me into the right way. Suppose I were ever so much in the wrong, I doubt this would not set me right. Rather, it would make me run so much the farther from you, and so get more and more out of the way.

    For God’s sake, if it be possible to avoid it, let us not provoke one another to wrath. Let us not kindle in each other this fire of hell; much less blow it up into a flame. If we could discern truth by that dreadful light, would it not be a loss rather than gain? For, how far is love, even with many wrong opinions, to be preferred before truth itself without love! We may die without the knowledge of many truths, and yet be carried to Abraham’s bosom. But if we die without love, what will knowledge avail? Just as much as it avails the devil and his angels!

    The God of love forbid that we should ever make the trial. May He prepare us for the knowledge of all truth, by filling our hearts with all His love, and with all joy and peace in believing.”

    My we strive always to communicate in the spirit of Christ’s love and “count others better than ourselves.”

    In the love of our Blessed Triune God, whose love is immeasurable.

    Darlene

  • Eldon says:

    Jeremy,

    Just one more comment, I was reading Matthew 25 The Sheep and the Goats which is a glimpse of the final judgment at the end of history, when Christ will sit on His throne and judge humankind. The people gathered before Christ will be divided into two groups, the sheep and the goats. But what is surprising is that the criteria for dividing the two groups is not that the sheep confessed faith in Christ while the goats did not, but rather that the sheep had acted in tangible and loving ways toward the poor, the sick and the imprisoned , and the vulnerable, while the goats did not. Those whose lives were characterized by acts of love done to “the least of these” were blessed and welcomed by Christ into His Fathers kingdom. Those who had failed to respond, whose faith found no expression in compassion to the needy, were banished into eternal fire.

    Wouldn’t this show that there is more needed for our salvation that saying the right words and believing the right things, like living lives that are characterized by Christ’s concern for the poor. Christ’s words in this passage cannot be dismissed. I believe God has some very clear expectations for those who choose to follow Him.

    But again I say I don’t believe we are saved by piling up enough good works to satisfy God. But I think it does mean that authentic and genuine commitment to Christ will be accompanied by a transformed life, and those who talk the talk but do not walk the walk will be exposed as false. 1John 2:3-4 “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

    In the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 Jesus tells the man One thing you lack, go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me. Jesus saw the condition of his heart, he was doing all the right things on the outside but on the inside his heart was divided. He had surrendered his outward behavior to God, but his commitment to him was not absolute total surrender of self, he had not relinquished his life unconditionally. For this man, his stuff and his status had become idols. And when he heard what Jesus had to say he went away sad, because he had great wealth. He couldn’t do it, he simply could not surrender everything. He turned his back on Jesus and walked away.

    Jesus requires absolute surrender. To be a disciple means forsaking everything to follow Jesus, unconditionally, putting our lives completely in His hands. We can not say we want to be His disciple and attach a list of conditions, Jesus refuses to accept our terms. His terms involve unconditional surrender. “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?’” (Mark 8:34-36)

  • Eldon,

    Well said! I agree. Very well written, too, I might add–lucid and to the point. :-) What you present here is a very well-balanced theology, as I see it. You avoid the error of works-based salvation while also maintaining the truth that our Christian lives are not Christian at all unless they are backed up by a life of obedience and righteousness.

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