Saturday, August 3, 2019

Does 1 Corinthians 13:2 Nullify Sola Fide (Faith Alone)?

  • Discussion:
          -This article serves as a rebuttal to a post written by Roman Catholic apologist Joe Heschmeyer titled Salvation by Faith Working in Love. We begin this critique with an excerpt from the author:

          "Now, the first two, even by themselves are meritorious. Romans 4:3 reminds us that by Genesis 15:6, Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” But from this must come the third part of faith — the obedience of faith. After all, James 2:19 notes that even the demons have these first two forms of faith."

          A true faith in God has three components: knowledge, assent, and trust. What the demons lack is the third category.

          "So Abraham is faithful not because he has just the first two forms of faith, but because he has all three. Protestants often claim that you can’t have the first two forms of faith without the third, but this is wrong — as noted, the demons do."

          The obedience of faith does not constitute the essence of faith. Rather, it is the outworking of a faith which results in justification. Moreover, the mere presence of faith is not meritorious. It is meaningless by itself. Faith only communicates merit because the object of our faith is Jesus Christ. He has merit.

          "First, Paul says that faith without love is nothing. And second, Paul speaks of the various spiritual gifts a bit later in the chapter, and says that love is greater than faith. Now, from Luther’s perspective, if you truly believed Jesus was Lord, that faith would necessarily result in love and good works. But here, Paul’s talking about people for who that just isn’t so. They believe that Jesus is Lord, they perhaps even believe He’s calling them to love, but they just don’t."

          The Apostle Paul does not issue imperatives apart from first assigning to them a solid basis in a statement concerning one's identity in Christ. Consequently, commands for Christians to love one another are always established in the believer's identity as those who are in Him. This is the purpose and reason for focusing on the priority of the Christian's identity in Jesus Christ prior to understanding what we must do as His disciples.

          Paul perceives love as greater than faith, not because of its salvific efficacy, but because it does not pass away. Love is the supreme spiritual gift because it is eternal. Faith will become as sight at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our hope will find its fulfillment. Love will continue forever as we experience fellowship directly with the object of our desires. The object of our desires is God Himself.

          "In the context of 1 Corinthians 13, Paul is explaining why out of faith, hope and love, “the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). He’s comparing real faith with real hope and real love, and saying that love still greater, because real faith, by itself, isn’t enough.

          Love proceeds from our definitive standing as justified through union with Christ. The Apostle Paul is formally speaking of the sanctified life which comes as a natural result of one getting saved. He is not addressing life which produces meritorious righteousness in the sight of God.

          A Christian, having been made righteous, will live as Christ lived through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. We will desire and work in a manner that is pleasing to God (Philippians 2:12-13). The apostle described the Church of Corinth as already having been declared washed, sanctified, and justified in the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11). His commands follow from this statement.

          Our love for God and neighbor is an indication of having been adopted an regenerated (1 John 4). Salvation is demonstrated through our actions (James 2:18). Therefore, a lack of love for Christ and His church may very well serve as evidence of not having a truly saving faith and being a part of the family of God.

          "The KJV version of Galatians 5:6 nails it: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” Paul’s phrase, also translated “faith working through love” sums everything I’ve said up succinctly: for faith to be worth anything, it must not be mere belief, or even belief combined with trust, but belief, trust and loving obedience.

          Interestingly enough, the Roman Catholic New American Bible has this footnote on this passage from Galatians 5:

          "The Greek for faith working through love or “faith expressing itself through love” can also be rendered as “faith energized by (God’s) love.”

          Faith is the root, and love is the fruit. Our faith is evidenced by our love. This message is in no way inconsistent with the doctrine of Sola Fide.

          "So where Luther was wrong was that he believed that all true seeds of faith eventually bore the fruit of good works, so that as long as you had a seed, you knew you’d eventually have fruit. That’s not true. The parable of the sower appears in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 — in all three versions, the exact same seed is thrown, and yet depending of the soil (the disposition of the hearer of the word of God), it either dies out at once, grows and then dies out, or grows and bears fruit.

          Those parables are about the Word of God being preached across the globe and the various responses to it. The seed is the gospel, not faith. God is the author and finisher of our salvation. Works always follow genuine faith because it is God’s redemptive work.

          The context of 1 Corinthians 13:2 is not about justification or how one gets right with God. Moreover, the principle of Sola Fide does not exclude emotions or fruit of the Spirit. So, this is another argument that does not hold water. The idea of a saving faith potentially existing devoid of love is not even scriptural. Paul utilizes hyperbole in 1 Corinthians 13 in emphasizing the significance of love.

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