A Guide to Christian Theology - Lesson 39

Faith and Works

In this lesson, you will learn about the significance of church leadership, the qualities of effective leaders, and the challenges they face. The discussion will cover biblical examples and the various roles church leaders play in nurturing the spiritual growth of their congregation. Moreover, you will explore the importance of spiritual maturity, humility, and integrity in effective leadership. The lesson will also delve into the external pressures and internal conflicts that leaders may encounter and highlight the need for prayer, fellowship, accountability, and continuing education to support and encourage them in their ministry.

Gerry Breshears
A Guide to Christian Theology
Lesson 39
Watching Now
Faith and Works

I. Encourage Others in the Word

II. The Heart of Righteousness

III. God and Jesus on Mount Zion

  • In this lesson, explore the significance of systematic theology, blending academic insight with personal devotion. Learn to interpret biblical texts, understand how theology shapes beliefs, and fortify your faith against deception. This study fosters personal, biblical, and responsible theological growth, vital for spiritual development and discipleship.
  • Learn diverse ways to tackle theological questions, focusing on Holy Spirit baptism. Understand deductive, inductive, and retro-abductive methods. Acts 17:11 and Acts 15 show how community perspectives contribute to nuanced theological discussions, promoting unity amidst differing viewpoints.
  • This lesson provides insights into theological certainty levels, categorizing beliefs into "die for," "divide for," "debate for," and "decide for," highlighting essential doctrines, divisive issues, passionate debates, and less crucial matters, while underscoring the significance of understanding diverse perspectives and theological terms across different Christian tribes.
  • Explore general revelation through creation and conscience (Psalm 19, Romans 1). Responding leads to God, though not salvation alone. Special revelation possible. Diverse salvation views, favoring knowing Jesus. Seared consciences don't always void salvation.
  • Gain deep understanding of special revelation: history, divine acts, and communication revealing God's character and redemptive plan via Messiah. Lesson highlights Bible's key role, conveying God's nature, guidance, and transformative power, emphasizing ongoing divine-human communication.
  • This lesson delves into the concept of divine inspiration in Scripture, citing 2 Timothy 3:15-16 and 2 Peter 1:16-21. It explains "God-breathed" as a term highlighting God's creative influence on words, rejecting mere concepts or dictation. Inspiration involves human authors, their personalities, and styles, conveying God's message to the entire church.
  • In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of God, including their definitions, biblical support, and implications and applications.
  • In this lesson you will gain insight into the Bible's clarity, sufficiency, and authority, and the Canon.
  • In this lesson, you'll grasp a deep understanding of God's character. His foremost quality is compassion, like a mother's love. He's gracious, patient, loving, faithful, and forgiving, extending favor even to the undeserving. Yet, He's just, not sparing the persistently rebellious. This lesson dispels misconceptions, urging contemplation of God's profound blend of love and justice.
  • This lesson delves into holiness via Isaiah 6, emphasizing dedication over separation from sin. It challenges misconceptions and calls for church reform.
  • This lesson delves into the fundamental characteristics of God, particularly the Trinity, emphasizing God's essential relational nature within Himself and its biblical implications, while also addressing theological controversies and highlighting the complexity of the Trinity.
  • This lesson explores different approaches to knowing God, inspired by Thomas Aquinas, discusses the doctrine of immutability, and highlights how God can change in his attitude and actions based on biblical evidence, emphasizing the value of in-depth Bible study and open dialogue in understanding God's nature.
  • This lesson covers key theological concepts: sovereignty, election, and free will. It explores differences between Calvinist and Wesleyan-Arminian views on God's sovereignty, impacting God's plan and human responsibility. Emphasis on defining terms to prevent disputes. Speaker is a "Calminian," blending Calvinism and Arminianism for a balanced perspective. Valuable insights into theological complexities and scripture interpretation.
  • Exploring various theological views and problematic issues surrounding the concept of providence, we will gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of prayer in providence, as well as the compatibility of God's sovereignty and human responsibility.
  • You will gain knowledge about anthropology and its biblical foundations, creation of human beings and the image of God in humans, fall and sin and their implications on human nature, redemption and sanctification, and human destiny and eschatology, including views on heaven and hell and the return of Christ.
  • This lesson offers valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of providence and its profound implications for our comprehension of God's role in the world.
  • The lesson touches upon various types of suffering, categorizing them into six different types: moral evil (e.g., rape), natural evil (e.g., cancer), persecution, sharing the suffering of another, punishment for sin, and suffering caused by the devil.
  • Learn to discern God's will by cultivating a Christ-like character, living by moral principles, seeking counsel, embracing uniqueness, and praying. It's about aligning with your long-term happiness and godly desires, offering a balanced approach to life decisions.
  • Explore Jesus' nature and incarnation. Learn how He balanced divine and human attributes, challenging traditional views. Reflect on His mission and ours, empowered by the Holy Spirit, bridging divinity and humanity.
  • This lesson delves into the incarnation of Jesus, explaining his dual nature as both God and man during his earthly mission, supported by Old Testament, Gospel, and epistle references. It acknowledges the complexity of his divinity and humanity, even after his ascension.
  • This lesson explores Jesus' dual nature, divine and human, delving into emotions, knowledge, sin, and his role as the Second Adam, offering theological insights.
  • Learn about Jesus' life and mission, challenging traditional beliefs like the virgin birth. Explore his spiritual journey, resurrection, and more, fostering critical thinking and alternative perspectives.
  • This lesson provides a comprehensive examination of atonement, its various dimensions, and the theological concepts surrounding it.
  • Learn about the Holy Spirit, baptism, and its role in Christian faith. Understand diverse perspectives on its workings in believers' lives, emphasizing its incorporation at conversion and empowering influence, supported by biblical insights.
  • Gain insight into the relationship between spirit baptism and conversion, the various terms used in Scripture, and the importance of ongoing fillings with the Holy Spirit for special ministry tasks, character, and as a command for all believers.
  • This lesson explores the role of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. It challenges traditional definitions, proposing that any ability empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in ministry is a spiritual gift. The primary gift is the Holy Spirit himself.
  • Learn about the theological debate on spiritual gifts like prophecy and miracles. Explore four perspectives: cessationism, continuationism, functional cessationism, and word of faith. The instructor, a continuationist, emphasizes discernment and scripture while promoting respectful dialogue among believers with differing views.
  • This lesson explores the Bible's view of humanity, emphasizing humans as God's unique creation, made from dust and breath, in His image. It delves into human origins, our role as covenant partners, and the interaction between spirit and body, supported by biblical passages, offering a holistic perspective on being human in God's eyes.
  • This lesson redefines humans as image-bearers of God, emphasizing the role of reflecting divine attributes in all work, gender equality, and growth in Christ-likeness. It promotes dignity for all, with potential for deeper reflection as faith matures.
  • In this lesson you will explore the origin of sin, rejecting dualism in favor of a Christian perspective where sin arises from the choices of morally responsible creatures. The lesson introduces the idea of a pre-creation rebellion by Satan, emphasizing that humans are called to engage in spiritual warfare by doing good and promoting Shalom in the world.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the nature, marks, purpose, structure, and sacraments of the Church and learn about the different views and definitions used to define it.
  • This lecture discusses the leadership offices of a church, including eldership, deacons, and church members, and how they function according to biblical principles of polity, which prioritize following what the Bible prescribes, closely following what it describes, and using wisdom and being Spirit-led in matters it is silent about, all with the aim of effectively sharing the Gospel and achieving unity and focus.
  • In this lesson, you will explore baptism's significance, modes, and theological perspectives, and learn its role in church membership, unity, discipleship, and spiritual growth.
  • This lesson provides an overview of the historical, biblical, and theological aspects of Communion, including practical considerations for its practice.
  • You will gain a good understanding of death and its theological implications, including the biblical view of death, consequences of death, and resurrection and the afterlife. The lesson covers the definition of death, cultural views, and the portrayal of death in the Old and New Testaments. You will also learn about the physical and spiritual consequences of death, as well as the Bible's teachings on resurrection and the afterlife.
  • From this lesson, you gain insight into the biblical concept of God's Kingdom, its significance in Christian theology, and its impact on eschatology, social justice, and the Church's role.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into eschatology, examine biblical perspectives, explore key events like the Rapture, Tribulation, Millennium, and Final Judgment, and learn the significance of eschatology for today's believers.
  • By studying the eternal state, you gain insights into the new heaven and earth, resurrection, judgment, and eternal life, deepening your understanding of Christian hope and assurance.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into the crucial role of church leaders, their essential qualities, and the challenges they face, while discovering the importance of support and encouragement for their growth and effectiveness in ministry.
  • In this lesson, you gain an understanding of the nature of Scripture and learn to interpret the Bible within its historical, literary, and canonical contexts while addressing challenges in biblical interpretation.
  • This lesson delves into the structure and authority of a church, examining different leadership models and emphasizing the overarching role of scripture as the final authority, while also highlighting the need for congregational involvement in decision-making processes and the unique nature of the apostles in early church leadership.
  • Learn Dr. Breshears' local church leadership principles: focus on equipping, inspiring, empowering, unifying, exemplifying, caring for, overseeing, and shepherding members. Rooted in biblical teachings, emphasizes servant leadership. The lesson discusses congregational decision-making, women in church leadership roles with respect for differing views.
  • Learn about church leadership principles, roles of elders and deacons, active membership, mutual commitment, gift utilization, and clear processes in this comprehensive lesson.
  • This lesson explores sacraments, focusing on baptism and diverse theological views. Baptism signifies a profound commitment to Christ within a believer community, emphasizing understanding and promptness post-conversion.
  • In this lesson, you'll grasp the essence of baptism, its questions, and debates. Discover belief's role, its confession, and the link to repentance and faith. Explore diverse views on baptism performers, methods, and locations. Gain insights and wisdom for informed baptism decisions in your faith community.
  • From this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of Communion, also known as the Lord's Supper or Eucharist. It will provide you with insights into the controversy surrounding its terminology and the theological background of Communion, primarily focusing on 1 Corinthians Chapters 10 and 11. You will learn about various theological perspectives on the real presence of Christ in the Communion elements and explore different viewpoints on the frequency, leadership, eligibility, and practical aspects of Communion. Overall, this lesson will equip you with the knowledge to better understand and participate in the Communion meal.
  • This lesson delves into two ends: individual death and the end of the age. It explores human death, material and immaterial aspects (Ecclesiastes 12:7, Genesis 3), fear, loss of autonomy, cremation, death determination, rewards, and urges preparation to meet Jesus, facing the undeniable reality of death.
  • Learn about the Kingdom of God, its aspects, Christ's return interpretations, and key concepts like inaugurated, Messianic, and millennium kingdoms. Emphasizing humility and mission in theological debates, it prepares you for insightful discussions on Christ's return and tribulation.
  • Learn about Christian views on heaven and hell. Hell is punishment for those who reject Jesus; heaven is eternal bliss with Him on a renewed Earth. Explore differing views respectfully.

Understand the core topics of systematic theology, from what we know about God to the future state of humankind. Special emphasis is given to such topics as Christ, salvation, the church, and the future.

A Guide to Christian Theology
Dr. Gerry Breshears
Faith and Works
Lesson Transcript

So we talked about justification. Critical, I mean, the whole argument that came out of the Reformation movement about the nature of justification. Because what happened in the Roman Catholic view is they believe that in baptism is when you're justified and you're actually made clean, you're made perfect, so justification is a making righteous. And the reason for that is in Latin, which, of course, the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages and Reformation era was all worked from the Vulgate. They translated the dikaioo of Greek into iustificari. And iustificari means to make righteous; where, dikaioo means to declare righteous. So they read these things and they said, "Well, what happens in baptism with our sacramentalism is that God makes you righteous," and then that degrades and you have to go through Eucharist and confession and such to restore the whole thing. We're not going to Roman Catholic theology here. And Luther reacted against that and went back to a purely declared righteous so he could say that Christians who are believers are both sinful and righteous. A declaration.

Well, the question that comes up here really important is, when is justification happen? So let's do a little quick look here. Romans chapter five. Romans chapter five, "Since then we have been justified through faith." Okay. So, when did justification happen? And the answer is it's past tense for all believers. So from Roman Catholic perspective, they'd agree with that, we're made righteous at baptism. But Paul's talking about this as "we have been justified" and then he talks about something that goes on in the rest of this. And I think what this is, this is dikaioo, it's we've been declared righteous. We have been righteous-ed through faith. And I think that through faith, not through baptism is a critical thing there. So I would say that justification happens at conversion.

And then another current debate that goes on, NT Wright, for example, the great British scholar, he's arguing that there's a two-stage justification, the justification that happens when we come into the community, but the real justification comes at the end of the time, have we maintained the faith, have we stayed in the community? So he makes justification a second justification. I'm simplifying a much more complicated discussion. So he's saying that you come into the family as justification, but then you have to continue in the family in order to receive the final justification. And I'm going to say that justification happens at conversion. We'll talk about, can you lose your faith? We'll talk about that a little bit later because that's another debate. So I'd say it's happening at conversion that we've been declared accepted and forgiven, would be the things I would say.

Do I still have sin after justification? Yeah. Okay, it's not hard to figure out. Yes, there is. Do I still have sinful desires after justification? Absolutely. Yeah, for sure. Do I still sin? Yes. Well, what does that mean about justification? It means you're a brat in the family and God wants you to get your stuff fixed. That sanctification comes out of regeneration and justification.

So the question that always comes up is, what about works in the Christian life? And I want to talk about this now, but we'll talk about it in the next segment when we talk about sanctification. I hear people saying all the time that the Christian life is not a performance-based life. We're not a works-based salvation. And there's an ambiguity in language here that I need to really say, "Stop it," because salvation and justification are not the same thing. Justification is an initial declaration that I've been forgiven and accepted. That is apart from any works of any kind. It is stupidly radical, as I said. But, but, but salvation is a bigger category. Justification or being saved. Saved can be justification, but salvation is a bigger thing because my salvation began long before I was born with God's working in Messiah and it continues long after my conversion through the sanctification process. It's a lifelong process of becoming more like Christ. So when I think of salvation, it's justification and sanctification and glorification and all the pre-work that happened with that. And salvation is absolutely involving works.

So Calvin said it this way, "Faith alone saves," in the sense of justification, "but the faith that saves is never alone." And I think that's a good way to say it, if you think there's faith alone saves, justifies, I'd want to be more precise, faith alone justifies, but the faith that justifies is never alone, but that's not quite as enigmatic as the paradigm there. So that when you think about that, what's the relation of works to justification? And the answer is it's irrelevant. It doesn't matter how good you are or how bad you are, justifications is my allegiance to Jesus, my trust in Him. But in sanctification, works are very much a part of that, and I'm going to argue that we make a lot of effort in that process. So I think justification is an act of God alone, but sanctification is a synergistic, it's a partnering act. So, what's the relation to works? Well, in justification, it's irrelevant, but in the salvation piece called sanctification, then there's a lot going on with that.

So if we unpack that a little bit further, one of the debates that still goes around a lot is, must I accept Jesus as Lord to accept Him as Savior? So there's a debate that's still going on that argues that I accept Jesus as Savior, period. Without any reference to personal sin, without any expectation of transformation of any kind, I'm just accepting Him as Savior. If I bring in lordship of any kind, then it becomes salvation by works. And when I think back to what I said in the Gospel thing, when I realize that I have a need, that's what brings me to the point of looking to Jesus, "Jesus, I've got this need. It's called sin, it's called garbage in my life, and I want to do something about that." Well, that's a consideration of I want to see things coming in my life that are transforming. So I like Jesus, I want to be like Jesus, and I'm going to do what it takes to do that in the community.

So I think that what happens when you think of saying, "Jesus is Lord," it doesn't mean that I need to clean up my life before I can be justified, but the justification, the conversion piece is I do want transformation in my life of some sort. I don't think you have to begin with sin. I don't think you have to begin with sin in the conversion piece. I think we can begin where the need is. We'll get the sin, but I don't think we have to begin with sin.

So a lot of the Gospel things are about forgiveness of sin. In today's world, when you tell somebody, "Hey, Jesus died to bring you forgiveness of sins because you're a sinner," all you get is defense.

"What do you mean I'm a sinner?"

Well, don't begin there. You'll get there, but begin with, "I feel lost."

"Jesus came to seek and save that which is lost. Okay, let's go there. Let's talk about belonging to a community that cares about you," and, "Well, you got some crap in your life that you need to deal with. That's called sin. We'll deal with that too. So, do you accept him as Lord?"

You don't have to clean up your life, but I have to say to Jesus, "I want to be like you," seems to me is coming in. So I think lordship and dealing with this stuff in my life is important.

Can we be justified without also being regenerated? And my answer is no, they come as a package. The new desires, indwelling Holy Spirit, new identity, child of God, new community that I'm a part of, that comes a package deal that comes out of our conversion, for sure.

So what's this salvation by works stuff? For some people, salvation by works means, "I got to keep doing my stuff to make God like me. Because if He doesn't like me, He'll kick me out of the family." And that's just total insecurity. I'm going to argue against that. Another side is, "If I follow the rules, then God is obligated to bless me and give me what I want," prosperity gospel type stuff. No. No, no, no, no, no, no. What's I find most common in today's world frankly is, "I am special. God's really lucky to have me on His team. And why, He should be singing my praises because I'm such a cool dude." I think we call it arrogance. I think we call it entitlement. And I think we find a lot of that in today's world. We find Christians who, if we don't give them the fame that they're looking for, then they feel like they're [inaudible]. So I think those are problems that come in, "I got to keep doing my stuff or God won't like me, He'll kick me out of the family. If I follow the rules, then God has to bless me," that's ritualism or moralism we call it sometimes, but the most one is, "I'm super special. God's lucky to have me on His team." These are all really misunderstandings.

What's the misunderstanding of salvation by grace? Grace is that favorable outlook that leads God to give us the gift of membership in His family. And one of the misunderstandings I think is, "If I say the right phrase, I get a free ride to Heaven. If I say the right phrases, I get a free ride to Heaven." So, "Yes, I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I believe that He died on the Cross for me." But see, that can be just saying the right phrases, not a heart, not a life change, not a commitment. And I think that's essential to this conversion package. And so this is a salvation by grace becomes a salvation by saying the right words in both people that say the right words really easily but not have any heart change behind that, no real change of identity.

Another thing is just simple, "If I believe the right truth, if I just believe that Jesus is Messiah, if I believe that His death on the Cross is satisfaction for my sin and those things, then I'm good." And James has something to say about that. He says, "Even the demons believe that." The thing of it is, do I have that connection with Him, that loyalty, that trust, that life connection with Him? It's not just believing the right truths. There is a reality to that life connection that comes through regeneration, born again.

So thinking of James, James chapter two, famous thing that led Luther to say... He threatened to take James out of his Bible, at least the story is. I don't know if he actually did or not, but he didn't like James because James seemed to contradict Paul. James chapter two, "You foolish person..." James 2:20, "You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?" Wait a minute, salvation is apart from all works. "Faith without deeds is useless," he says, "Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,'" there's the Genesis 15:6, "and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is considered righteous," or justified, "by what they do and not by faith alone."

Boy, talk about fighting words for Luther because he is so strong completely apart from all works of any kind. Well, he's not contradicting Paul. He really isn't. Keep your finger there and turn over to Titus chapter two. Just keep your finger there, turn to Titus chapter two, and we'll start it at Titus 2:10. Yeah, we could start a lot of places, but Titus 2:10 will work. Titus 2:10, he says... Well, Titus 2:11, "For the grace of God appeared that offers salvation to all people." Okay, so there it is, offering salvation to all people. "It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, to redeem us." Verse 15, "These then are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise..." Sorry, verse 14, "Who gave himself to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."

Is that salvation by works in the sense James is talking about? Yeah, yeah. See, the thing is, salvation is a bigger concept than justification. And justification has a faith, has a one side, justification when God definitely declares us part of the family, but there's another idea of justification is we declare that we're part of God's family by a changed life. And they're both talking about this here, they're both talking about justification in a sense, and it's talking about the changed life demonstrates that you have the new life in you. You don't get the new life in you because you do good works, but you do good works because you have the new life in you. And if you don't have the new life over the long haul and ordinary circumstances, then it raises questions, do you have the new life in you?

That's what Paul is saying here in Titus chapter two, the same thing James did, because he's not looking at Abraham's conversion, if you will, back in chapter 12, he's looking at his final exam, Genesis 22, when he's sacrificing Isaac, which is an incredible act of obedience. So James is looking to all of Abraham's life, from the conversion and when he follows God into Canaan. Paul in Titus 2 and three is looking at a salvation that leads us to living "self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" while we await for the appearing of Jesus Christ. So justification, see, that's the narrower piece, salvation is the bigger piece. And what I'd like to suggest to you is both Paul and James talk about a coming into the family and then also a life in the family, and we have to look at both of those to understand the whole thing.

So if you say that Christianity is a performance-free life, I think you misstate the Christian life. We are called, Ephesians 2:8, 9, and 10, he created good works for us to walk in them. Titus 2, I mean, I can show you a lot of passages, he's absolutely calling us to a transformed life, a Christ-like life. And if that transformed life is not there, it seriously questions if there's life in you, whether you have regeneration. So is Christianity a performance-based life? See, and this one of those enigmatic things, you got to parse it down. Justification, no. No, no, no, no, no. There's no works that make you justifiable, but if you're justified and regenerated, new identity, new desires, new indwelling Holy Spirit, new community, then your life will change in a more Christ-like pattern. If it doesn't, something's wrong.

So some of these fights are because we don't understand the full picture of what salvation is. And many people, because they're so protective about justification apart from works, and I am too, try to make the whole Christian life apart from works, and that's to make a serious mistake. So some of the misunderstandings of justification, some of the debates, parse them down, look at them carefully, and a lot of times the debate disappears because you're talking about different things actually. We're talking about the initial acceptance and talking about the ongoing family life; those are different pieces. So, there you go.


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