Is Faith a Work?
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 7:54am
In response to a post by a facebook friend entitled “Faith Is Not A Work,” I attached the following comment:
If “works” are defined generically as “things we do,” there are two kinds: obedience to law (the commands of our law code) and obedience to the gospel. Paul uses the term “works” for the former, and separates them from justification; he uses “obey the gospel” (Rom. 10:16; 2 Thess. 1:8) for what is necessary to receive salvation, including faith and confession (see context of Rom. 10:16). Faith and confession (plus repentance and baptism) are “things we do” to receive salvation. Thus they ARE works in the generic sense, but not in the Pauline sense. Jesus clearly refers to faith as a work (in the sense of something we do) in John 6:26-29. It all depends on how we define “works.” Heirs of the (non-Lutheran) Reformation (both Calvinist and Arminian) have formulated the “sola fide” doctrine based on the Pauline USE of the term “works,” but have not followed the Pauline DEFINITION of the term. They have assumed that he is using the term only in the generic sense of “something you do.” This has resulted in untold confusion regarding the ordo salutis.
Now, for those who would like to look further into this very important subject, I refer you to my book, “Set Free: What the Bible Says About Grace” (College Press 2009), 261-272. I consider this material to be one of the most important insights I have developed in my entire career as a theologian. I have concluded that one of the greatest stumbling blocks to the true doctrine of salvation (especially the role of baptism) has been the failure to properly define the term “works.” A key passage for the proper understanding is Romans 3:26-4:8. (See my commentary on Romans for an exposition thereof.)