The Observations.net Weblog
Jesus issued direct calls to action.
A rich young guy came to Jesus and asked, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" (Mat 19:16)
Jesus responded, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me." (Mat 18:21)
Jesus did not give the young man a theological formula. He left that to Paul, who would later write "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph 2:8-9)
Does Paul's writing conflict with Jesus? No. Jesus did not teach a works salvation, in which your credits must exceed your debits, or whatever. Jesus always taught belief in Himself. Just read John 3:16. But belief in Jesus is always accompanied by a change in heart.
The rich young dude's sin was the worship of wealth and this material world. The young guy could not worship his money and follow Jesus at the same time. Jesus said that you cannot have two masters.
Jesus wanted this kid to turn away from his gross materialism. It's not that selling his possessions would earn him a place in heaven. Jesus is the Savior. We don't save ourselves. It was Christ Who would take the young man to heaven. If the young man had said "yes" to Jesus, he would have been saved at that very moment, before even having the time to sell his stuff.
Paul, as theologian, wanted us to understand that we don't save ourselves. That is why he emphasized faith over works. James, however, feared that Paul underemphasized Jesus' call to action. James said, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." (James 2:17)
Is James wrong? No. Jesus did say, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15)
Were either Paul or James perfect in their explanations? Probably not. But they did well enough. Many in our culture want the Bible to be literal with no ambiguity. But it does have ambiguity. There are passages that do seem to conflict. But so be it.
No systematic theologians are worse than the calvinists. The calvinists teach that humans are zombies, who can't even make a decision for God. God decides arbitrarily, which zombies he will save, and which he won't. As far as I'm concerned, calvinists fall outside the Christian faith. Further, do not get into the calvinist nonsense that turning away from sin or placing our faith in Jesus is a "work". We are free moral agents. Making a decision for Christ is not a work.
* posted by Robert on Sat 10/27/18