When I was a young girl, my mom painted pictures. She had an easel set up in the many-windowed, sunbright dining room. Her brushes, palette, tubes of oil paints, and bottles of sharp-smelling turpentine occupied a small table beneath one window. When Mom worked on a painting, she often left her palette loaded with richly colored dabs of thick paint, sitting beside a work-in-progress as she took a break to switch over the laundry or prepare lunch. I remember one occasion succumbing to the overwhelming temptation to pick up a brush and add something to one of Mom's pictures. Just a teensy something, my own personal touch. A tiny dab of crimson, applied just here, would greatly enhance Mom's painting. Somehow, Mom discovered my few, tiny brush strokes. I was sternly reprimanded, and Mom quickly removed my attempts at great art!
When my two oldest were small children, I purchased a Bible curriculum to use as part of our school. The materials were excellent; the lessons were straightforward and the assignments were teacher- and student-friendly. We would read a lesson together, and then the children would join me in producing an illustration of the material we had studied. Day by day, lesson by lesson, we were creating our own illustrated journal of Bible truths.
About two months into the school year, we came to a lesson which contained this illustration:
FAITH + GOOD WORKS ---produces---> RIGHTEOUSNESS
On the spot, I closed my big expensive teaching manual, walked across the kitchen, and dumped it into the trash. If the curriculum writer had something so fundamental so completely wrong, I couldn't trust anything else they had to say.
"Sola fide" - one of the five "solas" of the Reformation. Justification is by faith alone. We are made righteous before God only by saving faith in the substitutionary atonement of Christ on our behalf, a faith worked in us by God Himself. Our good works cannot secure our right standing before God. Nor can our good works augment or add to the righteousness that is ours in Christ. Christ's righteousness is perfect, lacking nothing, and it is ours through faith.
Our good works do not in even the smallest way make us righteous. Rather, it is God-given faith that makes us able and willing to do good works. A more accurate illustration than the one above would be:
FAITH---produces--->RIGHTEOUSNESS + GOOD WORKS
God paints masterpieces in the lives of broken, sinful people. He paints faith and life and righteousness. Let us respond to His gracious, merciful gift of faith with gratitude expressed through good works. But let us never presume to add our poor signature to the divine work of salvation that is God's alone.
3 months ago