Thursday, July 28, 2011

Salvation is not "Quid Pro Quo".

In the April 15, 1999 Watchtower, the article entitled "The Only Way to Everlasting Life" asks, "What is the only way to everlasting life?"  What's their response? How would you respond? The article provides a quotation from Romans 6:23, “The gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord”.  A good answer right?  You may have answered the same way.  Don't be fooled. 

What the Watchtower appears to give with one hand, they mercilessly take away with the other. Notice what they say next,

"Would you expect to receive God’s grand gift of everlasting life in Paradise without any effort on your part?  Is it not reasonable that God would require something?  Surely it is. God does not, in effect, just throw the gift at us.... effort is involved. Are you not thrilled that a Savior has been provided?”

Your Savior has provided?  Effort on your part?  If you have to do someting in order to get something else, then it isn't a gift. You've earned it.  It's a wage. 

"For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.' Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 'Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.'" (Romans 4:2-8 ESV)

Notice how the Watchtower continues:

"You may ask the same question the rich young ruler asked Jesus:  ‘What good must I do in order to get everlasting life?’ or that the Philippian jailer asked Paul, ‘What must I do to get saved?’"

The article then goes on to list the standard conditions for salvation that are usually given by the Watchtower, viz. take in knowledge, exercise faith, preach, etc.

"Taking such steps is completely reasonable... Staying on this cramped road takes real effort!”

This is nothing but the Law.  This isn't good news, this is not the Gospel.  The Law says, "Do this and live".  The Law works in a "quid pro quo" kind of way. It's an "If you then God..." formula. 

"For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.' Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for 'The righteous shall live by faith.' But the law is not of faith, rather 'The one who does them shall live by them.' Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith." (Galatians 3:10-14 ESV)

This kind of teaching is only going to condemn you, because the law demands perfection and we by our own fault are not perfect. "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:47-48 ESV).  "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20 ESV) "So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24)  The law shows us our sin with the express purpose to despair of ourselves and make us cling to Christ. 

The Watchtower teaches a salvation that is dependent on human ability and achievements.  They teach a salvation conditioned upon our ability to live up to God's commandments.  This is nothing but a curse and condemnation, and there is no need for a crucified and risen savior.

Now, finishing off with a rabbit trail, most Christians can see how a proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel is essential if we are to understand the Gospel.  But when it comes to sanctification, it seems many Christians are content to be put right back under the Law again. 

Notice what Paul says though:

"O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?  Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham 'believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness'?" (Galatians 3:1-7 ESV)

Sanctification is not what you do to become more holy.  It's what God the Holy Spirit does to conform you to the image of Christ. But it seems that we have to contribute something. We think this way because the Law is etched on our conscience since creation.

But I believe the Scriptures teach that the more we grow in grace, the more we despair of ourselves and recognize our need for Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit make us lose all self-confidence so we might trust in Christ alone. The foundation of our growth in grace is to despair of all hope in self and, as Paul said, to have "no confidence in the flesh".  The only way to get there is through the proper preaching of the Law, that is, show us our sin.

The gospel is the power and motivation for holy living because it points away from us to Christ. Our sanctification is no more grounded on our ability than justification. Christians should and do live lives of obedience.  Cows moo, dogs bark, and a true Christian obeys. The law commands us to live a certain way, but does not give us the power to do it. The fault is not with the law but with us. The obedience that is required of us by the Law has already been rendered by Christ. The Spirit now works in us, through the Gospel, faith and trust in the promise of Christ.  Christian obedience to the law, which has lost its condemning power, is now and always done in light of and motivated by the Cross. The Cross is the central mantle piece in true Christianity.

Christianity is not ultimately about us or about our piety, (although our piety is important), but about Christ and what He has accomplished outside of us. This destroys our pride because it crushes self reliance and removes every possibility of human contribution. Apart from this Christocentric understanding in both justification and sanctification, the law can only lead us to either hopelessness or self-righteous pride.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Why do Evangelicals teach a Doctrine of Works Righteousness?

Did I mean to say "Roman Catholics"? No. It is true that Roman Catholics do incorporate Works Righteousness into their theology but in a very different manner than Evangelicals. It is my opinion that the Evangelical Doctrine of Salvation relies more heavily on Works Righteousness than even that of the Roman Catholics! Let me explain:

Roman Catholics teach that Jesus alone saves you, but then the believer, the Christian, must do good works to complete or assist in his salvation. However, salvation itself was initially given without any merit of the sinner.
In the Roman Catholic Church, any infant (who is a sinner by way of Original Sin) brought to them with the consent of the parents or guardians, will be baptized and receive God's gift of salvation, even if the parents themselves are not believers. So what did this child do to merit salvation? Answer: he was breathing and present at the time and location that God chose to save him. That's it.

In Evangelical theology, the sinner must choose or decide that he wants to be saved. Now some evangelicals may nuance this position and state that this decision is only possible due to the work of the Holy Spirit creating faith in his heart, but bottom line, most evangelicals believe that the sinner must choose to believe. "We are not automatons or robots in the act of salvation: we have to choose to be saved!" they will say.

So who did more work to be saved in these two theologies: the Catholic baby at the baptismal font or the evangelical adult or older child who used his maturity, his intellect, and his decision-making capabilities to make a decision as a prerequisite for God to save him?