Friday, February 3, 2017

Are We Saved Through Faith Alone?

Gen 45:4  So Joseph said to his brothers, "Come near to me, please." And they came near. And he said, "I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.
Gen 45:9  Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, 'Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry.
Gen 45:13  You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here."
Gen 45:14  Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck.
Gen 45:15  And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.

Act 3:19  Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.
Act 17:30  The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

One thing you can’t help notice in the account of Joseph is the amount of space used to tell us about the elaborate effort Joseph used to see if his brother’s had changed from earlier when they hated him and sold him into slavery.  I mentioned this a couple of articles ago but want to expand on it here and show at least one reason why I think such emphasis is placed on the restoration of love and fellowship between Joseph and his brothers.

Let me point out from the start that the account of Joseph from beginning to end is recorded in part to illustrate Jesus and his work in saving a people from death.  We can’t help but see his brothers depicting the Jews of Jesus’ day as well as all mankind as is pointed out in Joh 1:10-11  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

And so his brothers represent fallen man who hate God and so hate the Son of God.  When Joseph came to his brothers in the field back in Gen. 37, they rejected him and sold him into slavery.  Yet as it turns out this would eventually be their salvation as the exalted “Brother” by his work becomes the only one who can save them from certain starvation and death.

This brings us to our text above.  When his brothers come down to buy food Joseph could have merely said, “You are forgiven; all is forgotten; everything is wonderful.  Come to Egypt and I will take care of you.”  But everything wouldn’t have been wonderful because if his brothers did not have a change of heart then there would not be any fellowship only continued estrangement.  If they were not brought to repentance of their sin against Joseph how could they have any decent relationship with him?  So Joseph put them through a series of tests to bring them to repentance, culminating in the incident of accusing Benjamin of stealing Joseph’s silver cup.  Until their attitude towards Joseph changes, they will not be brought into his kingdom and could not enjoy his presence.

This is precisely why the condition of salvation is not just believing in or trusting in Jesus but also repentance.  God saves us to bring us into a right relationship with himself so that we might know him and honor him as we should as well as appreciate and enjoy him.  Rom. 5:10 said that we were enemies of God but that through the cross we have been reconciled to God.  When the Holy Spirit converts a sinner he lays down his rebellion and submits to the Lord and loves him with all his heart, body and soul.  There are no exceptions- repentance and faith- not just repentance and not just faith, but both.  Now it can be argued that saving faith involves repentance and I would agree.  But there are those that say that if we require repentance and godliness then we are adding to faith.

“Easy-Beliefism”, which is the teaching that all a sinner has to do is believe that Jesus died for them to be saved, misses this point entirely.  They say that one can remain in rebellion and still be saved; that it is okay to “accept” Jesus as your Savior but you don’t have to accept him as your Lord.  This kind of “faith” doesn’t need a change of nature because it leaves one intact in his sinful nature.  And, of course, this works well with Arminian theology that thinks that everyone has the ability to trust in Jesus on their own.  And if you don’t need to repent then that makes perfect sense.  If I can be saved by merely believing some facts but I don’t have to have a change of heart from being a God hater to a God lover than we have lowered the bar of salvation so low that even Hitler could have been “saved” without repentance evidently.  The two verses from Acts quoted above show that we are not saved only through faith but also through repentance; both a work of the Holy Spirit on the elect.

But my point is that this is an extremely man-centered view of redemption.  It is one in which God doesn’t care if our attitude changes towards him or if we become worshippers of him; he only cares that he fills Heaven with bodies.  He doesn’t want us to go to Hell but he doesn’t seem to care too much whether we are freed from sin. 

This flies in the face of everything the Bible says about who God is.  He does all things for his own glory, including creating man, letting him fall into sin so that he could redeem him.  I will just quote one passage on this, Rom 9:22  What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, Rom 9:23  in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory

Joseph was not interested in a relationship with his brothers in which they still hated him; one in which he gave them everything and they gave him nothingNotice how his glory was part of the message in Gen 45:9  Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, 'Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. Gen 45:13  You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here."  If God is the only true glory and all other glories are derived from him then the greatest thing he can do for us is to allow us to stand in his presence and “drink” it in; to enter into the fellowship of the Trinity.  Joh 17:24  Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

I think this is the main reason why Heaven is so often depicted in movies and TVs and even in sermons many times as a place where all we do is continue to enjoy ourselves as we did on earth but you never see God there.  It is the “happy hunting grounds, the perfect golf course, or fishing hole, etc.”  If anything, God is depicted as some mean judge that everyone is afraid of.  When God means nothing to us down here, then the thought of Heaven being first of all the place where we shall see God isn’t all that attractive.  

Man was created to love, serve and worship God and he saves us to that end.  Any “Gospel” that doesn’t require a change of heart is centered around man and not God.  It says that man’s salvation from Hell is more important than God receiving the honor he is due.  There is no salvation without “conversion”, repentance and a change of nature from rebel to worshipper.

1 comment:

  1. I would add this verse-Mt.4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”