A Soterian Gospel Test

A Soterian Gospel Test November 25, 2011

Some folks have reshaped the Bible and the gospel so that it is driven by the plan for personal salvation. The Greek word for salvation is soteria so it is accurate to refer to such thinkers as soterians and their gospel as the soterian gospel. There are ways of detecting whether we are soterians or truly evangelical, and by that I mean letting the gospel be shaped by the gospel text 1 Corinthians 15 or the gospel sermons in Acts or the Gospels (which are in fact the gospel itself), but one rather simple way is to ask how one explains judgment texts.

Here’s the thesis: No one in the Bible, when described in a judgment scene, is asked if they accepted, trust, or embraced the soterian gospel. In other words, “Did you accept Jesus into your heart consciously?” or “Did you walk the aisle to receive Christ?” or “Did you accept that Christ was your righteousness?” No one.

In fact, in every judgment scene in the Bible humans are judged not by a singular act of faith but by works. Every judgment scene indicates that, to use words I first heard from Howard Marshall years ago in a Tyndale House lecture, we may be saved by faith but we are judged by works. Of course, this is a complex issue but I believe the soterian gospel forces a reading of these texts that is not natural, while the apostolic gospel, what I call the The King Jesus Gospel, does not have the slightest trouble with the routine NT observation that we will be judged by works (and this is not about rewards but about destiny). If Jesus is king, if Jesus is the Lord who saves, if the gospel is to declare those facts about Jesus, then the response is to King Jesus, the Lord, and that means a whole-life surrender to him — and that means works are the sure sign (as Jesus teaches, as Paul teaches) that one is a kingdom citizen.

So I will simply put on the table today a few of these texts, and the test is this: Do you permit the plain reading of these texts or do they make your theology squirm some?

Matt. 7:21       “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day,a ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matt. 16:27 For the Son of Mana is going to comeb in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

Matt. 25:31       “When the Son of Man comesa in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separatea the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdoma prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me,a I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46  “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

1Cor. 3:10       By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundationb as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.  11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,  13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

2Cor. 5:6       Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.  10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

"Hello, really? "Both leading and pastoring are functions performed by various other people found in ..."

Willow Creek, What’s a Pastor?
"Do you agree that " Love " also includes correction? For who the Lord Loves, ..."

Christian Hierarchies: Yes or No?
"I've written a few times to the elders. I asked explicitly to communicate with one ..."

Willow Creek, What’s a Pastor?

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Squirming, definitely squirming.

  • David Himes

    I think yours is a false choice … and your own words demonstrate. “works are the sure sign (as Jesus teaches, as Paul teaches) that one is a kingdom citizen.”

    That statement recognizes that works are the result of our salvation, not the cause of it.

    However, I also agree with one of the implications of your post — which is, given a society, such as ours, where most people, at least, believe they know the claims of Christianity, as a religion, our evangelistic efforts would likely be more effective if we focused on loving one another, the way Jesus loved us, rather than just preaching about it.

  • Amos Paul

    I think, quite obviously, I would ask what you *mean* when you say the ‘plain reading’ of these texts ;). After all–what sorts of frameworks and narratives they sit in is extremely important.

    But, hey, here’s another monkey wrench for the pile. If the first and greatest commandment is the Shema confession of God’s identity to love Him with all that you are–then confessing in and loving God is an activity we do. It’s a work.

  • Scot McKnight

    David, #2, I don’t want to make either a false choice or separate what you have separated: In fact, I would say the soterian creates the false choice. Kingdom citizens work; no work, no kingdom citizen. (Replace salvation with kingdom citizen, we’ve got the same.)

    Many want to say salvation leads to works; that’s fine at some level. But if salvation is then radically separated from works, then we run into the soterian problem I’m discussing in this post.

    Perhaps we can say they are distinguishable at some analytical level but inseparable in reality. If we are truly in Christ, we created to do good works. If we are not doing good works, we are not in Christ. (Strong, yes, but that is how these judgment texts speak.)

  • RJS

    I find the 1 Cor. 3 passage especially interesting. This seems to allow for saved by faith yes – but as through fire if we commit wrongly to what that means. Judgment according to how well we follow.

  • I wonder what Paul was getting at in I Corinthians 15:10

    “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

    Is it grace or hard work?

  • Joe Canner

    I did a study like this after reading Brian McLaren’s book on hell. It is indeed fascinating to find that almost every reference to hell and judgement in the Gospels is based on works. I’m not read to jump to salvation by works on that basis (I like the “saved by faith, judged by works” formulation), but this study certainly made me wonder about the traditional views of hell and judgement.

  • Jason Hine

    C.S. Lewis held a view that might help here. In The Last Battle (the final chronicle of Narnia), Lewis portrays the separation of the sheep and the goats (p153) as having to do with the reaction each being has upon looking deeply into Aslan’s eyes (in Lewis’ stories, Aslan is the Christ of Narnia). Those who hate and are repulsed by what they see do not enter into the Kingdom; those who love and are drawn to what they see enter in.

    What would you see, looking deeply into the eyes of Christ? Words certainly fail, but I’ll suggest that one thing you might discern would be a deep compassion, deep enough that you would know in an instant: This one would give himself up entirely for those He loved. And that, I reckon, is the ultimate work. Add to these the many other works that Christ performs, then revisit the question:

    Is work an expression of salvation?
    Is work an act that earns salvation?
    Or are works the fruits of a compassionate heart, of which Christ’s is the ultimate model?

  • Paul Johnston

    I am certainly no theologian/scholar but I have always wondered why when you read the gospels, the implication seems to be ‘works’ focused yet when you move to the writings of Paul it seems to be all about faith.

    I know the temptation for me to dwell in the world of ‘faith alone’ is great simply because the ‘works’ may involve me changing.

  • JohnM

    It seems to me if David Himes #2 doesn’t have a point we just end up with dueling proof texts at best. Or back to the question of – just what works, and how many of you feel confident?

  • Chris

    The sheep/goats refer to the nations that ARE not following Jesus explicitly. The least of these probably refers to the disciples. So, is Jesus saying that the nations will be judged on whether or not they persecute the disciples? If so, it fits well with the idea that the nations (gentiles outside the people of God) are allowed into the eternal kingdom for healing AFTER the return of Jesus to establish the eternal kingdom (Revelation 21).

  • ScottW

    That the final judgment is by works is controversial is a sign that Reformation theology eclipsed and distorted the NT. This understanding which is evident in John the Baptizer, Jesus and Paul (cf. Rom 2:1-12),and is a staple in Psalms (e.g., Ps 62:12),is simply a reflection of traditional Jewish theology and thus it locates the writings of the NT within the map of most 2nd Temple Jewish theology.

    It’s no accident that the Epistle of James was like “kryptonite” to Martin Luther.

  • DRT

    In a bible study I was attending we read the sheep and goats and I thought he judged based on what they did. The Calvinists in the group said they were made into sheep when they accepted Jesus and the actions were a simple outworking of that decision. They were the elect so they automatically are the sheep.

    I agree with the idea that the whole works follows salvation is a false distinction. It is plainly evident that there are lots of people who do very good work that are not of the salvation tribe soterians invest with that ability.

  • DRT

    But this does not make my theology squirm, but it makes my discipleship squirm…

  • “For we have been made citizens of the kingdom as a sheer gift, through the obedience of faith, and this fiducia, this active and loyal trust, is not naturally found within you; rather, it’s fully free, not a result of our heritage, having Torah as we do (fellow Israelites), or any works or moral fortitude, for that matter (you Gentiles), lest any one of you should boast.”

  • John W. Frye

    Faith in the King Jesus Gospel works.

  • To me, this is one of the most urgent issues for the American church to definitively resolve. I don’t think it is a false choice as David #2 is saying (can you elaborate on this?). Rather, I fear a salvation-obsessed culture enables false hope. The people in the Matthew 7 passage swear they know Jesus, but the issue is does Jesus know them?

    We have countless people in our pews who take Jesus as Lord (King) and Savior mentally and emotionally, but functionally only know Jesus as Savior. And I live this way so often as well.

    When I was in school, I did the bare minimum necessary to get the grade I wanted. If surrendering to Jesus as King is optional (extra credit), how many of us are going to do that? Worst case scenario: could we have countless people who believe they are saved but are actually unknown by Jesus and therefore still condemned? That scares me.

  • I find 1 Cor 3:15 interesting. It suggests that some have their works revealed as worthless, but they still get through. They have no works to complement their faith, but they are still saved, although in a slightly embarrassing way.

  • Phil Anderson

    Two comments on reading this.
    1. What do we say to someone (a recent case) whose life was a mess of bondage to drugs and all that went with that and who is dying of cancer just a year plus after coming to trust in Jesus? She, knowing her life, was afraid of judgment as she approached her own death. How can we minister peace and assurance if forgiveness and cleansing through faith in Jesus is not enough?
    2. In Revelation 20:11-15 the final judgment is based on works recorded in the books but the factor that determines destiny is whether one’s name is in the Lamb’s book of life.
    I endeavor to preach or teach each passage as it stands in its context – the warnings against presumption as warnings and the promises to those who believe as invitations and encouragements.

  • DRT

    Which is more just? A judge who ascribes the same punishment or reward for the same action or one who ascribes reward and punishment based on the situation contextualized decision?

    I know many who feel just is providing exactly the same outcome for the same action. I am not of that bent.

    Isn’t that the point of this?

  • Craig Wright

    In the Gospels, which teaching of Jesus about hell would put Gandhi in hell?

  • John Rosko

    I think the question of salvation still rests with believe in Jesus. Those on the left asked their question of “when did we see you…” with scepticism and scorn and in effect showing their unbelief. Those on the right asked the question of “when did we see you..” with humility and belief. Those on right acted in oneness with Christ and those on the left did nothing. Belief creates alignment in action with the grace of Jesus for humanity while unbelief results in selfishness with all the concomittant results of sin in this world. God is on the side of charity not selfishness-humanity needs to know this then and now.

  • JohnM

    Craig Wright #21 – How much of scripture outside the Gospels do you reject that you would pose your question the way you did? In any case, take a look again at John 8:24. What do Jesus’ comments there imply?

    But the real at here, if I understand it, is not whether faith is necessary, but whether it is sufficient. So, how many of you will say you do, have done, and shall always do the will of the Father, and how confident are you in the sufficiency of your own works?

  • First post her ever. Cant help but feel like all of this is blowing past the point. Let me try to sketch out the way I’ve thought about this. We are created in the image of out trinitarian God (perfect love, acceptance, mutual submission, peace with God and man an earth).

    That image is broken when we believed the devil’s slandering words and false accusations: “You aren’t good enough to get what you most desire: acceptance and love in community with God” We believe that our acceptance is dependent upon proving ourselves good enough, and using works to gain whatever false sense of community or acceptance (power, influence, respect, even separation from others in denial of our deepest desires). The harder we work the more we become slaves to our works, to the need to prove ourselves, to fill our deepest desire through our own effort. We sacrifice to all these false gods. Twisted pictures of love and unconditional acceptance. Of course no matter how hard we work we cannot earn this. As we focus on our need to be accepted and loved it is impossible to unconditionally love and accept others. They are either tools or barriers for our gain.

    The good news is that God provides. He demands that we are holy a he is, but he provides the way. Just as he provided a ram to Abraham On the mountain in Christ he essentially stays our hand as we sacrifice in the way the rest of the world does. Christ is god’s ultimate demonstration of his his own love for us.

    An understanding of the gospel inevitably leads to the revelation that our work is unnecessary. We are united with Christ, forgiven, accepted, loved, our ultimate need is met and we are freed from ever having to earn acceptance.

    If I really trust this, that I don’t have to work for acceptance, I am finally freed to love others unconditionally. I do not have perceived needs that I am waiting for them to fill. I am at peace with God. I am free from having to work and prove myself.

    So, it’s not that good works flow from salvation, and it’s not that we are kingdom citizens to the extent that we show good works, it’s that working for acceptance and love and peace is antithetical to knowing in our soul that we are already loved accepted and at peace with our all living god.

    The kingdom of God is restored as we believe in Christ – that he demonstrates god’s love for us and we participate in the kingdom as we live that knowledge. In every moment that we remember the gospel – our peace, love relationship, and acceptance in Christ, it is impossible to concurrently be working to earn power, prestige, (or any other perversion of gods character) by oppressing others, seeking revenge, or harbiring jealousy. It’s just impossible. we will naturally want others to experience the peace that we are and the works that God has prepared for us are to act as Christ’s representatives – dying to ourselves and trusting in gods proclamation of our innocence in Christ.

    So, of I am a “soterian” and believe that a prayer has guaranteed my salvation and I don’t have to do works, but this knowledge gives me the peace to cease striving and to love others unconditionally then my salvation is secure.

    Onthe other hand, i think that we can focus on serving Jesus as “King” and spend all our energy working because it is what we are commanded to do and miss out on the gospel – that God is one who has provided and does not demand of us in exchange for relationship.

    So, after all that rambling, my point is that is really isn’t as complex as we make it. The gospel is that Christ demonstrates gods love for us, that kingdom living is finally possible because, in Christ, we are assured that we no longer have to love in fear that we are at odds with God. In every moment that we fully live in this knowledge kingdom works will be the default and sin will be impossible. Those who assent to the truth that because of Christ we no longer need to work, and choose to accept that fact will not be able to help living as citizens of the kingdom in this age and in the age to come. Those who cannot accept this and continue to work for their own gain will subject themselves to Hell (separation from all that is good) now and in the age to come.

    The works of the kingdom are

  • Craig Wright

    JohnM #23
    The Gospel of John never mentions hell. There is judgment and wrath. According to Paul, God’s wrath starts here on earth. Paul never mentions hell either. The reason I posed my question this way is that it is often stated that Jesus mentioned hell so often.
    From what I’ve read, Gandhi tried to enter a church in South Africa to hear a visiting evangelist from England, but was prevented by the white ushers to enter the church. It makes you wonder about a post-mortem confrontation between the two parties.
    By the way, I do not reject any scripture outside of the Gospels. John 8:24 mentions dying in sin, but does not elaborate on the consequences.

  • Jerry Sather

    Scot, what you are doing with the King Jesus Gospel is absolutely necessary. Thank you for the book and this series of posts. It is a vital corrective to a church culture that has gone off course. Reading your book and Wright’s Simply Jesus in tandem has made a huge impact on me and my ministry.

  • James B

    Perhaps “works are the sure sign….” could be understood less as a road sign, an arrow pointing you towards the reality, and more as the vital signs of life; have they got a pulse, pupils dilate etc. These signs to not tell you about the full health of the person, but give you a good indication. Could our works be this type of sign, one that both points to and is part of the reality.

  • Mick Porter

    Nate, that’s a common line of reasoning but it doesn’t seem to account for the gospel as actually outlined in the NT – the Apostles just don’t seem to connect “gospel” so directly with our acceptance in Christ. You’d do really well to read Scot’s King Jesus Gospel.

    Scot, I really appreciate you raising this issue. I mentioned something similar to a friend recently and he responded that judgment would involve good looking at his elect and setting Jesus in their place. A real shame when we can’t let scripture speak for itself but instead steamroll it with systematics 🙁

  • Mick Porter

    That would be “God looking…”

  • JohnM

    Craig Wright #25 – I’m glad to hear you don’t reject any scripture outside of the Gospels. So often in this forum people seem to find it convenient to emphasize only the words recorded as being spoken by Jesus, and the way you asked the question made me wonder.

    In my post above I did think about noting the fact that John 8:24 does not mention hell by name and asking if it really needs to. I’m not sure, but it seems like part of your issue here is with the idea of hell, which I believe is a related but separate issue from the question at hand.

    Even IF dying in one’s sins does not imply hell where does John 8:24 leave those who conciously reject Jesus’ claim that “I am He”? It surely doesn’t leave the Gandhi’s of the world in good position, regardless of their reasons for rejection. But this really isn’t all about Gandhi. Even if wrath and judgment imply something other than hell to you, who are the subjects of God’s wrath and judgment, who will NOT be, and why not?

    For all, look again at Luke 18:9-14. How many of you are “not like other people”? For those of you who want to place the emphasis on works, where do you hope God places the emphasis?

  • Craig Wright

    JohnM, others in this blog brought up that the specific mentions of hell in the Bible always have to do with judgment by works, and belief is not mentioned. I believe there are consequences for not believing, such as wrath, judgment, and destruction, but the challenge is to our traditional teaching on hell, which we don’t have time and space to go in to.
    The context of John 8 is a confrontation with the Pharisees that were seeking to kill Jesus. I don’t think that it applies to Gandhi.

  • Brian Considine

    Judgment according to works that determines our destiny certainly seems to me to be a works based faith similar to other works based religions such as Judiasm and Islam. How do we know when our works are sufficient? Where is the grace of God in determining our destiny? What good works are needed? When that question was posed to Jesus, our Lord responded to believe in Him (John 6:28-29). Isolating a few verses out of Scripture to build this arguments seems very eisegetical to me, Scot.

    Let’s not forget that Jesus did say that a person needed to be “born again” of the Spirit (John 3:3-7),that salvation is by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), but that while we are created in Christ to do good works (Ephesians 2:10) we have to actually be in Christ to do the appropriate works of making disciples which is the task that Jesus gave us to do (Matthew 28:19-20).

    Clearly there is more to the Gospel than personal salvation that remains individual for we are born-again into a community of believers called the Church and each part must take responsibility for its role in spreading the Good News to everyone who hasn’t heard. But we are not saved by works that anyone should boast so we are are then not judged eternally by our works. Our works are tested by fire not for jugdment but for reward (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus and Paul, following the Jewish concept of reward, all mention this numerous times (the Gospel of Matthew mentions reward 12 times alone, Paul speaks for reward for good works in 1 Cor 3:14, Eph 6:8, Col 3:24). However in order to be rewarded we must first be in Christ, putting our faith, hope and trust in the Jesus Christ alone for our salvation.

    It seems to me, Scot, that you are heading in an unBiblical direction with your ideas expressed here. We are indeed saved to good works not by good works. That many Evangelicals do not live in such a way as to demonstrate this truth doesn’t change the Gospel of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13) to a works oriented religion. What you have presented against those whom you are calling “soterians” is in fact a poorly constructed straw man. The issue is not with the Gospel but an American culture that lifts up individualism. We have lost an emphasis on a growing community of believers who considered the needs of others before their own and had everthing in common (Acts 2:44).

    When we start looking beyond the simplicity of the Gospel we quickly add things that are not part of the Gospel. Yes, we are to live a Shema life, put others first, live out Micah 6:8. But now we can do all that because Jesus has made it possible through the sending forth of His Holy Spirit to empower us to live a life worthy of our calling. We don’t need to change or add to the Gospel to achieve that, we need to teach others to obey all that Jesus commands to find the life of shalom God desires for us. Good works aren’t about judgment but our greatest joy!


  • JohnM

    Craig Wright – One more and I’ll let this one be. If Jesus had said to the Pharisees “unless you stop trying to kill me, you will die in your sins” the unbelieving might need not worry about the passage, whatever “die in your sins” portends. As for the relationship between faith and works, there is one and others have addressed it. I’ll ask everybody one more time; How confident are you in the sufficiency of your own works?

  • Brian Considine

    “In fact, in every judgment scene in the Bible humans are judged not by a singular act of faith but by works.”

    Scot, two questions: what “humans” are you talking about? And, what “works?”

    In Revelation 20, we have the final judgment scene for the “dead.” However to read this to include those who are “in Christ” is to contradict John’s earlier vision of the great multitude representing “every nation, tribe and tongue” gathered around the throne alive in Christ (Rev 7:9, Rev 19:1). Paul tells us that for those in Christ who die physically, to be absent the body is to be present with Lord (2 Cor 5:8). Was Paul looking forward to being judged for his works when he was torn between remaining in the flesh or departing to be with Christ? (Phil 1:23). How would he know that even his “works” were sufficient to merit eternal bliss? Or was it his personal faith in Christ, one that produced good works, makes Paul confident of being with Christ eternally? (1 John 5:13).

    I think we might need to change the conversation to one of perseverance of the Saints and that it is in fact possible to loss “salvation” based on a rejection of the atoning work of Christ. This would fit well with Jesus definition of “good works” in John 6:28-29. So its not a signular act of faith, nor is it a life of works, but the continuance of being in Christ, alive to Christ, obeying Christ that keeps us for salvation. Paul tells us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. It is believing that makes the difference, not what we do. But true faith is expressed by a life that bears good fruit.

  • scotmcknight

    Brian, how would you explain the texts I quote?

  • Brian Considine

    Scot, in context and with extensive exegesis. Your asking us to argue from an eisegesis and form conclusions based on what you deem a plain reading of the verses you have isolated. A text without a context is a pretext is as plain as it gets.

  • ScottW

    I think there is a confusion here I see in many posts:”salvation” is used to denote everything from conversion/initiation (faith-baptism) to the eschatological judgment. The latter is elided into the former,which has distorted latter.

    There is consistency on the issue of the final judgment from the OT to John the Baptizer to Jesus and Paul. Once one is in the community of the Messiah they are to live out this life will be vindicated in the end. This means living in concert to the vision of the Sermon on the Mount (which includes living as forgiving people just as we’ve been forgiven and incorporated into the people of the Messiah;for only those who “do the will of the Father” will be vindicated at the end.)Paul puts more emphasis on faith in initiation and the explicit role Holy Spirit but it’s still the same:”12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”(Rom 8:12-13 NIV). By the power of the Spirit we have to actualize in our lives the life of God in Christ,if not,death (i.e.,at the final judgment)will be the result.

    In the final analysis, Reformation theology (understood as “biblical”) has accentuated certain themes and thereby marginalized others and distorted the doctrine of the final judgment in the process. Ironically, there is a convergence here between “mainstream 2nd Temple Jewish theology and patristic understandings of the same.

  • Brian Considine

    ScottW, “Reformation theology (understood as “biblical”) has accentuated certain themes and thereby marginalized others and distorted the doctrine of the final judgment in the process.”

    Or is that in your understanding of “biblical” you seek to add something to the finished work of Christ? You reference Romans 8:12-13 but Paul concludes with this thought…”For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39). Paul makes an all-emcompassing statement that nothing we do can seperate we who believe from God’s love in Christ Jesus. Paul goes on to say that our “destiny” “does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:16). A “works” oriented religion to avoid the judgment would directly contradict Paul here.


  • ScottW

    Brian #38

    You will see this as circular reasoning but the point you are making is a specific grading of the text of Romans, in particular. My broader point is that the so-called “biblical” (i.e.,Reformation understanding)flies in the face of largely 2nd Temple Jewish reading and is anachronistic,and didn’t reflect the interests and judgments of the patristic writers. In any case, the point you’re making from Rom 8 is spurious, IMO,since it has to do with those things that are outside of a person and represents powers which could separate us from God.No power outside ourselves can separate us from God in Christ but giving ourselves over to the flesh as a believer, at the end will lead to death. That would be of our own volition, over the protests of the Holy Spirit.Of course, Paul’s rhetoric is such that he is calling them to be, in practice, what they are by call and state in Christ. That has to be actualized in our lives by our efforts through the Holy Spirit.

  • Brian Considine

    #39 ScotW, “since it has to do with those things that are outside of a person and represents powers which could separate us from God”

    I’m sorry but what Paul is clearly saying is that nothing can seperate us from God except a denial of the saving work of Christ due to the saving grace of God which is the major thesis of the Book of Romanns. If our “destiny” as Scot alludes to is contignent on our works, then Paul is a liar in Romans 9:16 which is completely clear as to God’s soveriegn work in salvation.

    The question that those supporting your apparent position need to answer and so far left unanswered is: “how do we know when are works are sufficiently pleasing to pass God’s judgment?” To not be able to answer that question puts a Christ follower in the same position as a faithful Jew or Muslim and leave us unsure of our salvation and renders the atoning work of Christ less than the super-sufficiency it is.

    Moreover, I’m sorry but I’m not really interested in 2nd Temple Jewish reading of the Scripture since as Paul continues in Chapter 9: “What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone…and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” (v 30-33b). Paul clearly understood something under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that makes your argument concerning the 2nd Temple Jewish understanding in error.

    Finally, what early patristic writers might you be referring to support your position and what did they say that supports a work-oriented judgment? Simply making such statements without support is a logical fallacy.


  • Craig Wright

    This is an interesting blog. Several contributors feel they have to defend the doctrine of salvation by faith, not of works. I don’t think anyone here disagrees with that. Scot merely mentioned the truth that the main passages about judgment at the end are about works. They are not about rewards, but about destiny and separation (sheep and goats, Lazarus and the rich man, even the lake of fire in Rev. 20). That is Scripture, and we have to deal with it. My stance is always to learn what I can, but whenever I have taught the Bible in church, I always try to make us stick with the text. Obviously, our works are not sufficient to save us, but these passages are all about works. This is the Bible. We didn’t make it up. We have to face the written word and sidestep it. I don’t fully understand it, but I will always point out the text, and see if it fits traditional teaching.

  • Craig Wright

    “…not sidestep it.”

  • ScottW

    Brian C #41:
    “Moreover, I’m sorry but I’m not really interested in 2nd Temple Jewish reading of the Scripture since as Paul continues in Chapter 9: “What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone…and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” (v 30-33b). Paul clearly understood something under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that makes your argument concerning the 2nd Temple Jewish understanding in error.”

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, you are eliding two different things, conversion/initiation and the final judgment. Faith/baptism are the entry into the life of the Church; the gift of the Spirit empowers one to actualize in their life what God in Christ has called us to. The Spirit is the first fruits and down payment in us which assures us of our status with God but we must live by the Spirit and persevere in that life. But the evidence is clear: Jesus and Paul believed in the final judgment by works.

  • Brian Considine

    #41 – “truth that the main passages about judgment at the end are about works.”

    Sorry, Craig, but your statement depends on the context with respect to standing with Christ. But Scot did more than point out the text, he began with a straw man argument framing his thoughts with a perjorative, defined it, and doesn’t asks what we think the highlighted text might mean for us but if they make us “squirm” theologically. Why would the Scriptures taken out of context, used eisegetically to put forth a position, make one squirm unless a person didn’t understood the grace of God or the person asking the question were somehow arguing for something? Scot even appeals to an authority to make his position known that “judgment is by works” and draws no distinction between those in Christ and those who aren’t. In fact, Scot, in using the references to make his case that judgment is by works uses 2 Cor 5:6-10 concerning the “judgment seat of Christ” that in the Greek (Bema) actually refers to a reward imagery. There is no final judgment for the “elect” but rather a reward that Jesus promises in his very last words when he says: “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” (Rev 22:12). For the “elect” good works produce reward in accordance to what they have done. I would think that Scot could do a better job of framing his post if his intent was simply to discuss what we do with the verses he quotes. Instead he chose to leads with a conclusion. It obviously caused several to pushback based on how it was presented but its Scot’s blog so he can do what he wants with it.


  • Brian Considine

    #43 ScottW, sorry but you’re in error that I’m “eliding” conversion and the final judgment, especially since I have not used the word conversion once. Your error in understanding is attritubed to this statement: “But the evidence is clear: Jesus and Paul believed in the final judgment by works.” It is you that are ediling the fact that for those in Christ there is reward for work (Rev 22:12) but for those no in Christ there is judgment based on works. You are combining the judgment to include everyone based on a faulty understanding. But since you haven’t answered any of my other questions, I will assume that your not able to which is fine.


  • Fish

    To be candid, I’ve never understood the obsession with faith over works. The idea that the most evil-acting person in the world would go to heaven if he merely held his mind right while Ghandi burns in hell is one of THE issues that kept me from Christianity. Where in the King’s words do we find that notion?

    Only an unjust King disregards all actions by the accused — the actions that brought judgement about in the first place — and judges on the basis of the accused’s thoughts.

    The very idea of accusation or sin becomes meaningless in such a scenario, when deeds become inconsequential compared to mental imagery. A judge that sees Mother Theresa as wicked as Vlad the Impaler, so that their faith becomes the only determinant He can use, is not a “judge” at all.

  • Charlie Clauss

    The idea of conversion has bearing on these discussions. The notion of “works follows salvation” might be problematic, but without conversion, how is it possible to do works that make any sort of difference?

    I don’t see how you can have works without them following “something” else. Conversion (and I define conversion broadly – gradual or instantaneous) seems like a great candidate for the something else.

    I take as an axiom of my hermeneutics that “indicative always precedes imperative.” So Passover comes before Sinai, and star-gazing faith comes before circumcision. Interestingly, in the former, it is God doing all the work, and in the latter, it is Abraham’s faith (without explicit mention of God’s initiation) that seems to be the primary thing. In either case, these is a “something” else before any requirements are given.

  • Evelyn

    Responding to the post, not the comments:

    Ephesians 2:10 seems an important text. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (NASB)

    We don’t ‘save’ ourselves by works, being ‘in Christ’ is for a purpose. John 15:1-11 sheds further light on this. In my opinion the fruit we are to bear is NOT how many ‘souls we save’ but the good works that have been prepared for us.

    Salvation is not the destination but the first step.

  • BrianMUK

    Francis of assisi is an example of someone who preached a kingdom gospel over against a soterian gospel. The Roman Catholic gospel was at the time essentially soterian: It was about avoiding hell and purgatory through the sacraments of the church and good works. Francis sought to embody a kingdom gospel through his radical mendicant lifestyle. His invention of the Christmas crib reveals his concern to tell the gospel narrative to ordinary people.