His thoughts and wisdom come from years of walking steadily towards God.
This father of mine who has read the Bible through every year for years upon years, who yet still is searching and seeking, discovering new depths in this Word that he loves.
We walk through the woods, sunlight blazing through the red and yellow leaves, the sounds of fall in the leaves at our feet. In spurts, in between the happy screams of children running up and down hills, he speaks to me of his latest wonderings.
He wonders about the difference between the writings of Paul and words of Jesus.
“What if…” he feels his way forward. “What if we didn’t have Paul’s letters? What if all we had were the gospels, the words of Jesus? Jesus speaks much more of actions, of behavior, of thoughts and emotions. He almost never speaks of grace.”
He’s right. Jesus doesn’t dwell much on the beauties of grace. His business seems to be with the practical, with the fruit that a life of a disciple should bear.
Only those who do the Father’s commands will enter the Kingdom.
By your words you will be acquitted or condemned.
When asked, What must I do to be saved?, His answer is simple: Keep the commandments.
It is enough to bring despair, if that were the only way to be saved. Obedience for salvation? This is not gospel. This is not good news.
Yet when someone comes to Him for healing, Jesus tells them that it is their own faith that has saved them.
What does it mean, this faith that is a saving faith? What kind of a faith will save us?
Perhaps a clue comes from the times that Jesus tells us, Whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life.
Perhaps it does all come down to whether or not we truly believe Jesus. If we truly believe that His way is best, that He is who He says He is and therefore knows what in this crazy upside down world He’s talking about, then we will obey Him.
Not perfectly and not all the time (Which is where Paul’s grace seems to come in. Which is where Jesus’ statements like it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God…but with God all things are possible seem to bring in grace), but if you really believe then you will allow your heart to be changed.
Sometimes it is dramatic and fast, like Paul. Other times it comes slowly and painfully, small choice by small choice, like the disciples.
It does seem, at times, that there is an apparent contradiction between works and grace in the New Testament.
It also seems, though, that while we can never be good enough to earn our way in, and while it is only by the blood of Christ that we are able to come near to God at all, at the same time, once we have decided that He is truth then our lives should reflect that truth.
A life that is given up to the Lordship of Christ should bear fruit.
We do not try to obey so that we can be loved, but rather the love of Jesus allows us a beginning of the ability to obey, however imperfectly.
The grace brings about the works.
I am still learning, however, and welcome your own wisdom. What would happen if we only had the gospels and not the letters of Paul? How are grace and works reconciled, and should we put a greater emphasis on works?