Saturday, August 06, 2016

Can Faith Alone Save Me?

Becoming Project Week 2

My goal this week was to study some verses I identified on Faith in the second half of the New Testament.

James 2:14-17
14.  What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?
15.  If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food,
16.  And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17.  Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

If we want our faith to be alive, we have to act. We must add works to faith. What does that mean? How can we know if our works are sufficient to keep our faith alive in Christ? I found this:

We hear much about benchmarks. A benchmark is “a standard of excellence [or] achievement … against which similar things [are] measured or judged.”10 There are four benchmarks that can help each of us know if our personal faith in Christ is being “made perfect” by our works. These benchmarks are:

1.      The choices we make
2.      The devotion we exhibit
3.      The obedience we practice
4.      The service we give”[1]

Ok, these are great benchmarks, but still, what is it we are supposed to be doing to meet these benchmarks? Peter seems to have answered the question well.

2 Peter 1:5-8, 10
5.      And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6.      And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7.      And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8.      For if things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
10.  … for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall

Although this lays it out fairly clearly, I thought it would be beneficial to make sure I really understood all these terms that are supposed to be added to faith. So, I turned to the inter-webs and got me some definitions.

First we need to be diligent in our faith:

Diligent: characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort.

The word energetic is interesting. While steady and earnest connote the turtle, slowly and determinedly plodding along, the word energetic indicates to me a frame of mind that has an excitement for the effort being made.

To faith we first add virtue:

Virtue: morally good behavior or character.

Then we need to add knowledge:

Knowledge: the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association.

This suggests to me the need to continually study the scriptures and the words of the prophets, and gain experience by living in a way that this knowledge dictates.

Next we need to add temperance:

Temperance: moderation in action, thought, or feeling: restraint.

Next comes patience:

Patience: bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; not hasty or impetuous; steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.

Yes, patience—easier said than done. My dad used to joke that he prayed to God for patience and God sent him six children. I guess we have to exercise patience while developing patience.

After patience we add godliness:

Godliness: believing in God and in the importance of living a moral life.

This definition surprised me. I thought godliness meant behaving like God. I read that the word godliness is translated from the Greek word for “piety,” which means “the quality of being religious or reverent.” Knowing this, adding godliness seems much easier than I had initially thought.

Now we add brotherly kindness. This one wasn’t so easy. Being a term and not one word to define, I had to do a little searching. After reading multiple commentaries on this term, I found one explanation: 

Brotherly kindness: after godliness (being religious or reverent), we have to add brotherly kindness so that your godliness isn’t sullen or morose, but kind and courteous.

But this seemed to be the main consensus:

Brotherly kindness: a love of those who are Christians.

Which makes the following virtue, charity, all the more important:

Charity: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity.

We aren’t supposed to keep our good works just within the Christian community. We need to behave this way toward all humanity; exactly as Jesus would do.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone showed brotherly kindness to all of humanity?

[1] Bishop Keith B. McMullin, Faith and Worksin a Secular Society, BYU CES Fireside Address, Nov. 5, 2006

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