Friday, November 09, 2012

Matthew on Faith versus Works

... But the most memorable parable in this [End Times] sermon is the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. After the Son of Man returns, the whole earth gathers for judgment, and Jesus divides the earth into two groups. One group are the sheep. These are those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, took in strangers, clothed the naked, and visited the sick. They enter into the kingdom.

Meanwhile, those who did not do these things enter into eternal fire along with the Devil and his angels. It is interesting that they are surprised. They are like those who cry, “Lord, Lord,” in Matthew 7 and the weeds of Matthew 13. Matthew clearly believed that many in the church were not truly in the church. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats tells us the main reason. The false brothers are those who could help but do not show their love for others in a very concrete way.

Matthew provides a strong challenge to anyone who strongly divides faith from works. The theology of Jesus in Matthew is clearly one that believes the failure to help others, especially other Christians, is an indication that someone is not a Christian at all. We can parse it in our theology how we want. For example, we could say that genuine faith leads to genuine works. But the Gospel of Matthew doesn’t care about these things. We do because of the Protestant Reformation. But such distinctions weren’t a concern for Jesus or Matthew. They would not have objected to the phrase "justification by works" any more than James 2:24.

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