So what does Jesus say in regards to works verses faith?
Well I think it would be much easier to list what Jesus says about faith than to list all of the instances that Jesus talks about good deeds. Jesus spoke way more about “works” for the Kingdom than he did faith. This isn’t to say that Jesus didn’t think of faith and belief as important, but I think when the writers of the scriptures wrote something about “believing” in Jesus they meant something a little different than what we mean today.
Take John 3:16 for example. Probably the most recognized verse in the Bible. I have heard this verse interpreted over and over again to mean that unless one “believes rightly” about God’s Son they will spend eternity in Hell. John never mentions hell in his gospel. We (all of us) often read our pre-understandings into scripture when we are interpreting the Bible. I suggest that when we read, “whosoever BELIEVES in Him should not PERISH but have everlasting life” that we should have more of a “here and now” mindset and try and forget about the whole heaven and hell thing for a minute.
When Jesus said believe in me, he wasn’t suggesting that someone merely cognitively think the right things about him, but instead was inviting people to trust in His Way of life. The Way turned everything upside down; it was based in Love and was a Way that showed us how to live life and life to the fullest.
In Matthew 7, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who DOES the will of my Father.” In other words, not everyone who merely “believed” in me will enter into the Kingdom, but rather those who actually did God’s will.
So how do verses such as these (and there are many), which deal primarily with works, fit in with our domesticated understanding of the gospel (that by believing the right things we can go to heaven)?
I will continue the conversation tomorrow.