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prophet-jeremiahFor much of this week I have been traversing the confines of a narrow mind and understanding, and showing how, through Grace, these things were widened. Much divides us, but where I don’t find a problem is where our traditions have located it for so long – in the issues of works and faith and their relationship to salvation.

James and Paul do not disagree on works and faith, they simply mean slightly different things. Faith is not like an apple, it has two meanings, one narrow, the other broad: the narrow one is what is called intellectual assent: do we believe in Jesus? Is this intellectual assent enough to secure salvation; yes, if by salvation we mean that we are justified in the eyes of God. But there is a broader meaning to the word faith, that is inviting God into your life. There is no great intellectual trial here – the Good Thief had it on the Cross and he was received into paradise. But justification is not the same as sanctification – and becoming a Saint is the purpose of our life in Christ.

So, Paul is right, and so is James. There is not a single effort of our own which will justify us in the eyes of God; but we shall not be sanctified without our own efforts. Christ’s blood does what we cannot in any wise do – justifies us in the eyes of God. Sanctification is the process of Grace operating in us to make us more and more like Christ, so yes, if there is no faith there will be no works as a result of it: ‘For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.’ The justified person is actively involved in submitting to God’s will, resisting sin, seeking holiness, and working to be more godly.

The Scriptures teach us that we are to live holy lives and avoid sin (Col. 1:5-11).  Just because we are saved and eternally justified before God (John 10:28), that is no excuse to continue in the sin from which we were saved.  Of course, we all sin (Rom. 3:23).  But the war between the saved and sin is continuous (Rom. 7:14-20) and it won’t be until the return of Jesus that we will be delivered from this body of death (Rom. 7:24).

Salvation is by Grace alone, and it is through Grace we receive the gift of faith. I have no idea why I am able to believe. I have tested the hope that is within me for about fifty-five years, but not a thousand difficulties has given me a single doubt. This is no merit to me, it is a cause for me to thank God for his infinite mercy to this and all other sinners.

Whatever divides me from the instiution that is the Catholic Church, I am united with those Catholics who believe in Jesus, and long ago it came to me that I would rather be in a trench with an orthodox Catholic than a heterodox Protestant. I see the old dividing lines begin to fade now – for a time of trial is coming, and in it, much that we have taken for granted will be no more. As John said on Patmos:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.