What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. - James 2: 14-17 (ESV)
One of the consequences of trying to define correct doctrine is absolutism. The sense that we have it all figured out and anyone who disagrees must be a heretic. Calvinists think Armenians are wrong. Legalists think Antinomians are wrong. Cessationists think that Pentecostals are wrong. The true reality is probably closer to the unsettling fact that we are all wrong on some level. I love the notion that any man thinks he has figured out God. That he has a complete understanding of He who spoke the entirety of everything into existence. That is simply mind boggling to me. Thankfully we have the Bible but we fail to remember sometimes that this is just a slice of the thinking of God. This is just a glimpse into who God is. I am not speculating here; it is what God told us if we would listen:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55: 8-9 (ESV)
I think we read a Scripture like this and fail to really consider what God is saying. The heavens are beyond the stars but for the sake of scale, let's take a look at the closest star to us other than our sun. That would be Proxima Centauri, which is a red dwarf star that is 4.24 light years away. For more understanding realize that our new spacecraft, which is currently heading to Pluto, travels at 60,000 kilometers per hour and will take nine years to reach Pluto. By far, this is the fastest spacecraft man has ever designed. Even at this great speed, it would take 78,000 years to reach Proxima Centauri. Next time we think we have God all figured out let us remember how far above His ways and thoughts are to ours.
Nevertheless, thank God He provided us with the insight into His thinking when He gave us the inspired Word of God. People ask me all the time - are you this or that? Do you follow this way of thinking or that? My answer is always the same. I am a Bible believing Christian. I try to see the truth and errors within whatever box man tries to put God in. I try to do so in humility understanding that my positions are not written in stone either, lest I become unteachable. There are things I believed five years ago that I no longer do. Such is the cause of someone born again into Pentecostal doctrine who then studies as the Bereans would. Our allegiance cannot be to a denomination. It cannot be to a school of thought developed a thousand years ago. It cannot be to any one man today standing in the pulpit. Our allegiance has to be to Jesus Christ and His Word even if that means we have to sacrifice some of our religiosity's sacred cows on the altar of Biblical literacy.
Which brings us to today's topic for consideration. It is a subject that I see many get wrong as they cling to their favorite pastor or pet religious theory. It is a subject I think the Bible makes very clear. You see even though the ways and thoughts of God may be an infinity away, that does not mean He has not made things clear regarding us. It is when we try to read into God motive and intent that we get into trouble. Doctrine is generally clear on most subjects. The subject for today is the relationship between faith, or our salvation, and works. Let us start with the basics of salvation:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. - Ephesians 2: 8-9 (ESV)