Verse 12 (Faith or Works)
|“||Faith saves (or do works save?)
Protestant Christianity often emphasizes that faith alone (sola fide) justifies God’s forgiveness. Many verses support this.
Ephesians 2:8-9 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.
Romans 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
That seems clear enough until we find the opposite claim elsewhere in the Bible. The clearest example to me is the Parable of the Sheep and Goats in Matthew 25, but there’s more.
Proverbs 24:12 If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?
James 2:14 ¶ What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
For something so important as getting into heaven and avoiding hell, the New Testament is surprisingly unclear. Addendum: Or maybe it’s repentance that saves . . . or maybe baptism? What if it’s repentance?
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
Luke 24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Or baptism? It was so essential a ritual that Jesus did it.
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
As mentioned by the Scofield Study Bible III, Ephesians 2:8-10 is the passage which brings both views together. We are saved by faith, not works, it's God's gift not man's doing, lest anyone should boast.
However, we are created by Jesus to do good works and it is God's will that we do them. The works themselves do not save, but are the outward evidence to others, and to ourselves, that we have indeed undergone an inward redemptive process of salvation.
True saving faith will ultimately produce good works as the result of a changed heart and a new spirit. Thus if a person shows no interest in doing good works once becoming a Christian, and for years lives without any change, then as James points out, that faith without works is a dead faith and no faith indeed.
Most of the verses quoted by Patheos in support of works, including Proverbs 24:12, Matthew 16:27, and Revelation 20:12 all relate to how people will be judged at the Final Judgment. Even Christians receive rewards based upon their works. However, the ultimate standard for whether one is saved is faith in Jesus Christ, no other foundation for works will be accepted. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) Works only make a difference for rewards if one first has faith in Jesus.
John the Baptist came preaching repentance before Jesus came for a reason. (Matthew 3:2) To trust in Jesus to save us from our sins (i.e. faith) we must first accept that we are sinners, and desire to change and stop doing evil; i.e. repentance. Repentance must precede faith; one cannot trust in Jesus to save us from our sins if one does not first acknowledge one has done anything wrong. One cannot call on Jesus to save them unless they desire to change with all their heart.
As for baptism, it is not the physical action which is involved in the salvation process, but baptism of the Holy Spirit, the cleansing of one's conscience. (Acts 1:25; 11:16) As Peter says, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 3:21) Baptism serves as a public declaration of faith in Christ, and in countries like ancient Rome which outlawed Christianity, was to take a dangerous step in openly proclaiming a belief in Jesus.
|“||Psalms 58:10-11 The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.
Revenge is celebrated.
Proverbs 24:17 Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:
Do not rejoice over the calamity of your enemy.
The critic's error lies in a failure to tell time, quite simply, and to discern the context of what's being referred to in both passages. The Bible is speaking of how we should not gloat over the stumbling of our enemies so that in the future Judgment God will not turn away his wrath from them. The New Testament reiterates this as well, it is stated throughout the Bible:
|“||Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Revelation 6:9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
Luke 18:7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
Deuteronomy 32:43 Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.
In context, the entire reason for not rejoicing over one's enemy in this life is so that God won't turn away wrath from them before the Judgment. However, once this life is over, God promises that those who have been wronged will rejoice at seeing that judgment.
In other words, Psalms 58 is referring to the rejoicing that will occur at the end, the Final Judgment of the wicked. This is the same thing referred to by Revelation 6:9, Luke 18:7, Deuteronomy 32:43, and the heaping of coals in Romans 12:20. Proverbs 24 warns us not to gloat over the downfall of enemies in this life but to do good to them so that at the Final Judgment they will be punished for their evil deeds by God, whose wrath will be far more severe than ours. In Romans 12 one can see the whole thing in context, we are to do good to enemies in this life that they may be punished in the next.
The critic simply ignored all of this context and jumped at the opportunity to declare a contradiction where none in fact exists. Simple as that.
- Seidensticker, P. (2018, October 20). "Top 20 Most Damning Bible Contradictions." Patheos.
- Scofield, Cyrus I. (2003). The Scofield Study Bible III. pg. 1625. Oxford University Press.
- TheThinkingAtheist. Bible Contradictions. Retrieved from http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/page/bible-contradictions.