Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Justification by Faith and the Motivation to do Good Works

Almost every Sunday night I attend a church called Reality in Olympia. The church happens to have a set of the Early Church Fathers in their library at the back of the sanctuary. If I arrive early enough I will pick up a volume and read a chapter or two. I recently discovered something worth sharing while reading Clement of Rome's Epistle to the Corinthians.
Peter and Clement--buddies.
From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, “Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven.”All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

What shall we do, then, brethren? Shall we become slothful in well-doing, and cease from the practice of love? God forbid that any such course should be followed by us! But rather let us hasten with all energy and readiness of mind to perform every good work. For the Creator and Lord of all Himself rejoices in His works. For by His infinitely great power He established the heavens, and by His incomprehensible wisdom He adorned them... Having therefore such an example, let us without delay accede to His will, and let us work the work of righteousness with our whole strength.  (Chapters 32-33)
It is quite interesting to read that the man who the Roman Catholic Church identifies as one of the first Bishops of Rome (i.e. the Pope) was adamant that justification was not by works, but by faith!

We do good works not in order to be made right with God--but we do them because God does them, and we desire to emulate him! I had never heard anyone discuss works in this way previously. Our motivation is imitation! "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)

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