“Bro, I gotta tell you… this goes down in history as the first time I have ever been called a Pharisee for saying that Jesus is Lord – because I believe that saying ‘Jesus is Lord’ means we should obey Jesus!”
I’m letting you into my personal message threads on Facebook here. The quote above is from me to a friend of mine who saw a post that I had written to the effect that “The Bible is the story of God’s creation – and who gets to be in charge of it forever.”
His response (copied and pasted here…):
“No! The Bible is a story about God’s love, and you’re preaching works-righteousness. If you do that, you’re a Pharisee!”
Well, the Love of God sure is a huge theme of the Bible, and central to the work of Jesus, but the work of Jesus is to take over the whole world and (lovingly) rule this planet and the human race forever, and to (lovingly) ensure that it is not forever run by an evil fallen angel or the rebellious humans who listen to him. Period.
That kingly-work has already begun, and eventually – at the return of Jesus – the full consummation of Jesus’ rule and reign will be established.
Now, back to my friend…
His final comment to me, exactly, was…
“Works (obedience to Jesus) do not save you. Only faith in Jesus saves you.” (parenthesis his!!! wow!)
This is where things get sticky with Christians. Defining our terms is everything (or at least 99.9%) when discussing theology. Thankfully, my friend defined his understanding of works for me as: “Obedience to Jesus.” And that, my friends is absolutely (cue the buzzer…) false!
Obedience and rebellion are the only possible responses to someone going around calling himself “Lord” and telling people that the whole world belongs to him, and then telling them to go around telling everyone else to obey him! (see Mat. 28:18-20 with fresh eyes).
So, what are works? Well, there are two definitions.
First – James uses works as a synonym for obedience to God, and says that without them, there is no legitimate claim to faith in God. (Check out James 2:14-26).
Second – Paul uses works as a reference to adherence to the Law-Code in the writings of Moses (especially circumcision, dietary laws, observance of holy-days, and making sacrifices). (Now read Gal. 2:16).
What my friend misunderstood (as do many believers) is that obedience to Jesus is synonymous with faith in Jesus, based on who Jesus is. Jesus is Lord. Saying, “Obey Jesus. Jesus is Lord” is not legalism. It is agreeing with God, and simply saying – “You’re a legitimate King, and I owe you my obedience.” That is faith! That (faith that is an obedient response to the Lordship of Jesus) is what justifies us, not obedience to a law-code. As the writer of Hebrews put it: “(Heb. 5:9) – He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”
Obedience to King-Jesus is the exact same thing as faith in Savior-Jesus.
Obey (follow) Jesus!
Okay – Jump in. I want to hear back from you on this one.