Skip to content

8 thoughts on “Faith Alone Sermon – Ephesians 2:1-10

  1. Glen

    Have a listen and ask God to show you the open arms of Jesus on the cross. When you see that they're open to you, that's faith. But it's true before and apart from your feelings about it. Christ gave Himself completely for you. The truth of His love is not found in our hearts but in His word as it directs us to His death.

    His arms couldn't be wider to you. They were nailed open!

  2. kirstindykes

    Glen, a question: what's your view on what the Bible means when it talks about Christians getting judged by their works? You had a line that was roughly 'our standing, as Christians, before God is completely unaffected by our good or bad deeds', which I'd like to be true. But then we do get judged according to our deeds, it seems (2 Cor 5:10, Rom 14:10-12, possibly 1 Cor 3, Luke 19:11-27, I'm sure there are others)...

    And then, in order to explain it, people say that that's about how Christians' deeds on earth become the basis of their rewards in Heaven. And then someone points out that THE reward in Heaven is Jesus and being brought into God's community, and the response is 'yup, how you do on earth determines *how close* to Jesus and the Triune God you get in Heaven'. That is terrifying. That is the worst news in the world. And JI Packer says it! I'm currently reading 'Knowing God', and in the chapter on judgement he says:

    "...the gift of justification does not at all shield believers from being assessed as Christians, and from forfeiting good which others will enjoy if it turns out that as Christians they have been sack, mischievous and destructive... [quote from 1 Cor 3]...'Reward' and 'loss' signify an enriched or impoverished relationship with God, though in what ways it is beyond our present power to know."

    Argh, how scary!!

    I think the 1 Cor 3 passage is not that problematic, Paul seems to be talking about judgement being passed on people's ministry, rather than on individual Christian's lives, i.e. the reward is to see the fruit of your ministry vindicated in Heaven: to see the people who you told about Jesus/discipled etc. in Heaven and how God used you to contribute to their salvation/growth. But I don't know what to do with some of the other passages. Any thoughts?

    I guess I'm actually conflating two things here: 1. what's the temporal effect of sin on how God sees us? And 2. what is the eternal effect of sin on how close we get to be to Jesus? And I'm struggling with both, but this has, inadvertently, become incredibly long - sorry - so I won't try to extricate my conflation.

  3. Glen

    Hi Kirstin,

    When using the language of "standing" I'm wanting to affirm our unshakeable *position* in Christ before the Father. We are sealed with the Spirit, a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. We are in Christ, unimproveably and eternally. We are children of our heavenly Father and will not be disowned. For God to disown us would mean Him undoing Himself for He has pledged His very being to us in Son and Spirit.

    God is not blind to the fact that we are naughty children. And sometimes naughtier than at other times. But whatever temporal discipline we might feel, it demonstrates and springs from God's love (Heb 12:5-13). It's *because* God loves us so fiercely that we experience His Fatherly discipline. So I'm not arguing for a monochrome relationship with God, but because of the intense yearning of His Spirit directed towards His children in Christ there will be subjective ups and downs.

    As for eternity - I agree that 1 Cor 3 is about the assessment of ministries - the rewards being the *people* who are touched by those ministries (cf Phil 4:1; 1 Thes 2:19 - which is also what's going on in 1 Cor 9:25, and note Luke 16:9, i.e. your friends who are won to the kingdom invite you to their eternal habitations).

    1 Cor 3 and 2 Cor 5:10 are often forwarded as a very unconvincing 1-2 combo in these discussions. But the former is the assessment of church planting ministries, the latter refers to a judgement seat we must "all" appear before (i.e. it's a universal judgement).

    I also don't think we should be disturbed by one kind of possible heavenly hierarchy (i.e. some ruling 1 city, others 10). Don't forget that even Christ will be a servant in the new creation (Luke 12:37). Different responsibilities don't mean different value.

    Having said all this, "enriched or impoverished relationship with God" is not the best phrasing - it might sound like there are different salvations, given that salvation *is* to be in relationship with God (i.e. being adopted in Christ by the Spirit). But, being generous, he just means a difference in new creation responsibilities or something?

    Sometimes I think of the plundering Israelites on the day of David's victory against Goliath. I'm sure some plundered more than others, but they all shared equally in the victory. Perhaps that's the kind of thing Packer means?

  4. kirstindykes

    Hi Glen,

    Thanks, I think I get you on the temporal bit: we can feel God's displeasure and experience His discipline here on earth when we sin because we do have a God who hates sin and loves us, and so disciplines us because of His love (go Heb 12!). And that doesn't affect our eternal perfectly-lovedness.

    What I'm really bothered by is the eternal thing. And I really don't care about having more or less cities than the guy next door. What I'm bothered by is whether people are right that how good a life we live on earth determines how close to Jesus we get to be in Heaven [a la Whitfield, e.g. (apologies, I have no idea who this guy is, but he was first to come up on a google search for the quote)]. That seems like a *huge* deal: if it's true then it really, really, *really* matters how I live now. And I'd live pretty differently (or try to) if I believed it was true, which is probably not a good commentary on my current spiritual state, but is, at least, an honest one!

  5. Glen

    Yikes - perhaps it's good that I can't seem to leave a comment on that blog. I was just going to write: "How close will I be to the throne? Pretty darned close - Rev 3:21"

    It's so easy to think "man-centredly" (to use a favourite phrase of legalists against them). To think Christ-centredly is to see that I am on the throne - seated in Christ in the heavenly places - and not just then: NOW! You can tell that the alternative is man-centred because that kind of thinking is always treating spiritual matters as means to an end. Imagine that you did set to work "being godly" for the next 50 years, inspired by the prospect of court-side tickets to the Big Event. Wouldn't that be just an elaborate form of using godliness as a means to financial gain? (1 Tim 6:5). Whereas Paul's gospel teaches you that godliness with contentment is ITSELF great gain (v6).

    The true gospel frees you to good works simply because they're good! It's a real sign of flesh-religion when we *use* works to *get* something else. Jesus IS the gospel - Got Jesus? He *is* the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:21)

  6. kirstindykes

    Excellent, I feel reassured…and relieved that I *don’t* have to embark on 50 years of “being godly”…

    But I think that what’s scary about the whole ‘how close to the throne will you be?’ thing is that it’s ultimately not about any material or immaterial reward other than God. I honestly don’t think any reward could inspire one hundredth of the fear in me that the idea of eternally missing out in some degree on relationship with God would. In that way, I don’t think it *is* about some sort of financial gain. But I *do* think that it goes against the grain of us being united to Christ, and the graciousness of our adoption. It makes a mockery of the grace of our being invited into the very community of God – justly condemned sinners as we are, if we only get *so far* into that relationship by grace, and the rest is determined by what we do. I guess it’s essentially Pelagianism in another guise.

    I found another example of this kind of thinking here: I think if you believe what he says then there’s no defence against a life lived in absolute slavery to fear of ‘missing out’ in Heaven.

  7. Glen

    Yes, when you drive a wedge between salvation and 'theosis' you misunderstand both. Salvation *is* participating in the divine nature because it's being sealed into the Son by the Spirit.

    It's not just eastern orthodoxy's problem though. As we saw with the 'inclusivism' magazine recently - protestants routinely think of salvation simply as 'not hell'. Once this 'salvation' is achieved the door to works of the flesh is thrown wide open.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Twitter widget by Rimon Habib - BuddyPress Expert Developer