It matters

Published 6:16 pm Thursday, April 21, 2011

With many words and with several woes, Jesus cut to the heart of the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees.

Jesus said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith: These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matthew 23:23).

The “Woe” in this passage was an exclamation of grief. We grieve the heart of God if we omit judgment, mercy and faith. And we deceive ourselves if we think we can please God if we brush past them.

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The words of Jesus were reminiscent of the words of the prophet Micah, who said, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).

Hosea said, “Therefore turn thou to thy God: Keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually” (Hosea 12:6).

In the books of Psalms and Proverbs, “Truth” replaces “Judgment.” “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace are kindred to each other” (Psalms 85:10).

“Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart” (Psalms 3:3).

Mercy and truth preserve the king, and his throne is upholden by mercy (Proverbs 20:28).

We are not to be actors performing on a stage, acting out roles on a cue and reading from a script. This life is real.

Jesus said, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in and shall not be able” (St. Luke 13:24).

The blood and tears and heartaches of fallen humanity are real. Where do redemption and forgiveness and restoration apply if not in the church?

Did Jesus build a church that can prevail against the gates of hell, but is too holy to get its hands dirty lifting people out of their fallen condition?

Can the church risk trafficking in justice mercy, faith, patience and humility? Just where do we draw the line on those who sin: How far does judgment and mercy and faith reach?

A study of several words can yield surprising definitions and direction. The word “truth” in Psalms and Proverbs comes from the Hebrew Eh’meth meaning “stability, certainty, establishment, trustworthiness, faith, righteousness.”

When faced with a moral crisis, the church restores and stabilizes the person who has sinned. Sometimes unfavorable verdicts must be rendered, but they are always meted out with judgment (truth), mercy, faith patience and humility.

When one omits these necessary things nothing else really matters.

The Bible tells us we are saved “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).

Grace pertains to what God does for us, and faith pertains to our response to his grace. For example, because of his grace God took on human motives and died for our sins because he loved us, that is grace. It was also because of grace that he brought this gospel to our ears and offered us the opportunity to respond to it because he loved us.

Apart from this grace, which is richly showered on us from God, it is impossible to be saved.

Paul said “Faith cometh by hearing” (Romans 10:17) after he asks, “And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

If God had not laid down his life for us on the cross and then sent someone to tell us about it, we could not have had the chance to acquire the faith needed to make heaven our home. It is God’s gift to us in the sense that we could never have had it on our own.

We can conclude then that we are saved by grace through faith alone, and nothing needs to be added to our faith.

Paul emphasized this point if saying, “Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9). No one has any bases for boasting. No one deserves salvation. No one can contribute to his own salvation God has done it all. We have only received it through faith.

Do we believe in salvation by grace through faith alone? Yes indeed. It is clearly a biblical doctrine, but we must understand that biblical faith is more that a mere acceptance of truth, it requires an active response.

As James wrote, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17).

Faith must be expressed in obedience to the Gospel repenting, being baptized by full immersion in water in the name of Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues as the spirit give the utterance.

Salvation is a gift of God, it matters how we receive this gift.