Saturday, June 27, 2015

Losing Faith and Falling Away

This is kind of an addendum to “Three Examples of How Lutherans Deny Justification by Faith Alone: A Response, Part Two of Two.” Here are a couple other verses I thought were good examples of how 1) conversion is entirely God’s work, 2) faith comes to us a gift from God through the Word, and 3) that faith can be lost by a person’s rejection. - THL

The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter [whether it was necessary for Gentile believers to keep the Law of Moses]. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Acts 15:6-11).

What do we learn from Peter’s address to the council? First, faith is created by means of the Gospel (v. 7). Second, the Holy Spirit is, “given by God,” working when and where He will, not according to the will of man (v. 8). Third, Peter says that God cleansed the hearts of the Gentile believers by faith, showing that faith is a gift from God (v. 9), rather than through works of the law (or by any other work, including “deciding” to believe by reason), which is impossible to achieve (v. 10). Fourth, this faith is given out of his unmerited good disposition toward those on whom he bestows this gift – i.e. out of his grace – and everyone who is saved, is being saved this way (v. 11). Whew!

And you [the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae], who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister (Colossians 1:21-23).

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Paul is writing to believers at Colossae. He tells these people, whom he counts as believers, that they have been reconciled in Christ’s body of flesh by his death, “…if indeed [they] continue in the faith…” He continues on, warning them not to shift from the hope of the gospel of which he was a minister, because if they shift from that hope, if they do not remain stable and steadfast in that hope, they will no longer be reconciled. They will go back to being alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds. They will no longer be able to be presented as holy and blameless and above reproach before Christ because they will have no faith. They will have fallen away. Faith in Christ must continue, just as it began – by hearing the Gospel[1].

[1] Engelbrecht, Rev. Edward A., ed. The Lutheran Study Bible. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2009.