Friday, October 9, 2015

Works, Faith and Salvation - or Faith and Parachutes, Part 2

We hope that those of our readers who just finished celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles enjoyed safe travels home and have been refreshed with meaningful worship and fellowship.

For those readers who have never celebrated this festival: The Churches of God descended from Herbert W Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God teach that the Feast of Tabernacles looks forward to the time that true Christians who qualified for literal deification will rule with Jesus Christ after He returns to earth.

If you celebrated the Feast, you probably heard sermons that capture the joy of that message. Some that discuss the grace by which you'll find yourselves there. And, unfortunately, possibly some prideful ones that celebrate a foretaste "making it" into God's Kingdom.

In a recent post, we explored what salvation by grace through faith means and what it doesn't mean. In light of this recent festival, which pictures the time when "true Christians" will know they have "made it," let's consider whether we will "make it" into God's Kingdom by grace through faith or by our works. How do we safely get off the crashing airplane of humanity? How can we be sure we have a parachute and not a backpack?

Just how do the writings of the apostles fit in with what we've already discussed about salvation by faith? Publications from today's Churches of God regularly cite James 2 to criticize the Protestant Christian teaching that salvation comes through faith in the shed blood of Jesus alone.

(James 2:18-20) But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

Let's do our due diligence first. The word translated as "believe" in verse 19 is the Greek word pisteuo, which can mean "to believe," "to give credit to," or to be of an opinion (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study of the New Testament, p. 930). It comes from the Greek word pistis, which is translated as "faith" in verse 18. Pistis implies a knowledge of, assent to and confidence in divine truths, especially those of the gospel, as produces good works.  Pistis can mean a simple assent to religious truths without accompanying good works, or “false faith,” but it generally indicates a “lively faith in Christ.” (Zodhiates, p. 930).

But understanding pisteuo and pistis is not nearly as important as understanding the full context of James 2:14-20, as indicated by both the Expositor’s Bible Commentary and by theologian John MacArthur. One cannot just hone in on one or two verses in a vacuum and build an entire doctrine around them, as the COGs are so fond of doing.

The key to understanding the passage is found in verse 14 – “if someone says he has faith.” The NIV makes James’ implications even more clear – “if someone claims to have faith.”

(James 2:14) What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
“James does not say that this person actually has faith, but that he claims to have it.” (The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1887). “Again, the verb’s form describes someone who continually lacks any evidence of the faith he routinely claims.”
“James is not disputing the importance of faith. Rather, he is opposing the notion that saving faith can be a mere intellectual exercise void of a commitment to active obedience.”  (The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1888.)
When we take a step back and look at the whole passage, we can see that James is not contrasting salvation by faith with salvation with a component of works. He is contrasting the behavior of someone who has genuine, saving faith in Christ with that of someone who only claims to have placed his faith in Christ. The behavior of someone who is wearing a parachute with someone who is claims to have a parachute but is only wearing a backpack.

So what role do the works play, since they are a topic of concern in this passage? The works of which James speaks are not deeds performed to earn merit with God according to Expositor’s.  Instead, works are the manifestation – the fruit – shown in the life of someone who has genuine faith.

“Faith without works cannot save; it takes faith that proves itself in the deeds it produces,” according to the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Exposition of James.

The example James gives in verses 15 through 17 – of a man who claims to have compassion on a starving brother but who gives him no food – helps illustrate what James is saying about faith and works. Compassion isn't really compassion if it doesn't move one to action. And on the flip side, giving a hungry brother food doesn't create compassion. The compassion, the state of heart and mind are already there, and the action follows. It's the same with faith - it is already there, and the evidence of that faith is visible when the opportunity arises. And when the opportunity comes, one's actions - or lack thereof - indicate what's on the inside (Luke 6:45). It shows whether or not they truly have a parachute, so to speak.

And that is the key difference between the demons’ belief and Paul’s. The demons believe in God; they have more evidence than any of us. But their belief - their direct knowledge of His existence - has not changed them. In contrast, Paul’s belief changed him to the core, and his life after the road to Damascus was the evidence of that change.

(One side note before I leave James 2. Most of the COG magazines I read this summer that quoted James 2 cited the passage to support their stance on things like keeping the 10 Commandments and Holy Days. UCG vaguely linked it to commandment-keeping and baptism earlier this year. Yet James focuses his letter on things like showing favoritism, providing for the poor and taming the tongue - areas where the track record of COG leadership is poor. Don't blame me - comments on this blog and others tell me you guys know it's true. Like I said earlier, it's theologically unwise to hone in on an individual verse and ignore everything around it).


So why would faith change us? Does conviction simply make you choose to change your behavior in the future? Does a lack of works indicate that you just need to try harder?

Saving faith goes hand-in-hand with what mainstream Christianity calls regeneration - or what some call being "born again." Regeneration occurs when God imparts new spiritual life through the Holy Spirit. In terms of our analogy, it is when you are given your parachute. Some debate whether regeneration comes before saving faith and is what allows a Christian to place full faith in Christ or whether it occurs after a Christian places his faith in Christ. Regardless, it is evident that the two go hand in hand. The fruit of this faith and regeneration is physically invisible, but the evidence will show in a man's life, as James 2 indicates. And the fruit of empty claims of faith will show in the unregenerate heart too.

Traditional Christian teachings on saving faith, regeneration and sanctification harmonize the seeming contradictions between verses like Ephesians 2:8-9 and James 2:14-19. But the COGs reject traditional teachings on regeneration; insisting that Christians are like spiritual fetuses in this life are not born again until Christ returns to earth. This teaching forces them into uncomfortable cognitive dissonance - claiming that obedient works do not save you, but that they maintain your justified status with God:

“To remain justified after being forgiven, one must behave in a righteous or just manner from that time forward.” – UCG, The New Covenant: Does it Abolish God's Law?
“Integral to salvation is the matter of justification. This term refers to being made just, right or righteous. Literally, it means being made straight—perfectly lined up (with God). We are initially justified or aligned with God when, on repentance and faith in Christ’s shed blood for atonement, we are forgiven of sin and reckoned by God as righteous. This is referred to by Paul as “imputed” righteousness (see Romans 4:20-25). (Martha's personal note - UCG is using biblical language but does not accurately portray imputed righteousness, which we will see later on in this post). Justification in this sense is also known as reconciliation. It corresponds to the past sense of salvation—in which we have been saved from sin and death as long as we continue in God’s way.
                                             – UCG, The New Covenant: Does it Abolish God's Law?
“Now we just "accept Christ" and His righteousness is somehow "imputed" to us—without any requirement for righteous works” LCG, Rod Meredith, Who or What is the Anti Christ?
 “Even though we have not yet been changed from flesh and blood to spirit and must remain faithful to God’s instructions in order to have our mortal bodies transformed, God already considers us members of His future family and Kingdom because we are voluntarily living by the laws of His Kingdom.” COGWA, “Believe in the Gospel


Why this preoccupation with works? I suspect the perennial COG fixation on the law is the culprit. If your definition of righteousness largely comes from the Sinai Covenant, you trip over the same stumbling block as the Jews. 

(2 Corinthians 3:12-16) Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech - unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." 

The Sinai Covenant made the Jews prideful. They considered themselves better than everyone else. They were God's chosen people. They had special knowledge. They knew the path to righteousness! (Does any of this sound familiar? If you're not sure, think about the typical opening or closing prayer you heard last week). Righteousness - concretely defined in the Sinai Covenant - almost seemed attainable. If they just tried a little harder, they could "make it!".

But Martha, the New Testament is referring to the Jews, not us! We're not like them. We believe Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for our sins. We know we can't earn salvation. We are totally different.

No. It would seem that anyone who believes works are a component of salvation is vulnerable to this trap, according to Romans 10:2-3:

"For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God."

If we could become righteous by submitting"God's laws," then our obedience would make us righteous. So it would seem that the righteousness of God must come from somewhere else besides obedience. I would submit to you that this "righteousness of God" is the imputed righteousness discussed in Romans and other NT books. In short, imputed righteousness, explained in Philippians 3:8-9, is the process through which Jesus' righteousness is credited to those who place their faith in Him, just like it was to Abraham, and our sin is credited to Christ.

"Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith."

The Expositor's Bible Commentary expounds on Romans 10:1-3:

"In trying to establish their own righteous standing before God, they have refused submission to God's righteousness. By looking forward to verse 4 where the law is mentioned, we see that this attempt of Israel to achieve a standing in righteousness was related to finding satisfaction in their imagined success in meeting the demands of the law of Moses. Paul is able to analyze their trouble in expert fashion, for he has been over the same route in his spiritual pilgrimage. It was a great day for him when he gave up his cherished righteousness, based on service to the law, in exchange for the righteousness that comes from God and depends on faith (Philippians 3:9). Israel's covenant relation to God and reliance upon law keeping do not add up to salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). For this reason Paul points to Christ and His righteousness as Israel's great need (verse 4).

Rather than scoffing at the doctrine of imputed righteousness as "cheap grace," or as a cheater's shortcut to artificial righteousness, we should cling to it with grateful thanksgiving. Because Israel couldn't establish their own righteousness through obedience. The COGs don't teach that Christians need to establish their righteousness based on law-keeping, but they certainly do teach that Christians must maintain it through law-keeping. But we can't, certainly not to a level that would qualify us for the Kingdom.

Focusing on a checklist only distracts us from realizing the true depth of our wickedness. It is the James 2:15-16 moments that cut us to the heart and shows us how desperately we need a Savior. When we look away from the checklist and look at our hearts and our true prognosis for righteousness, we have no choice but to cling to the cross as our only hope.

But if we fail to look into the mirror of the Law of Liberty (James 1:23-25), we will never see what kind of people we really are. We will fail to perceive our blindness, our nakedness, our bankruptcy. We will continue believing that we are almost there, that righteousness, or at least good-enough-ness, is right around the corner. We will remain fixated on the dirty rags of our works instead of praising Jesus in thanks that our salvation is not linked to our behavior.

Next time, we will look at the life of a Abraham - a man whom New Testament authors held us as an example of both faith and works. A closer look at Abraham's life will give us further insight into harmonizing Ephesians 2:8-10 and James 2:14-19

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What Did Jesus Say In Relation to the Sabbath?

Wm. Hohmann

The Sabbath: What did Jesus Say?
There has been of late a popular Christian practice of asking, in relation to one's Christian walk and behavior, "What Would Jesus Do". Bracelets with the initials WWJD were quite the fad for awhile in this regard. So then, in relation to the Sabbath I ask the logical question, "What did Jesus Say"
When it comes to important doctrinal issues, we should consider the teachings and commands of Christ above all else. We should not assume that Jesus will automatically concur with Moses and the prophets, thereby defaulting to those authors, with the potential of overlooking something important said by Jesus the Christ.
Sabbatarians are quick to claim their Jesus kept the ten commandments, with an emphasis on keeping the Sabbath. They further claim that if He had indeed broken any of ten commandment laws, He would have sinned as a result, and would have disqualified Himself as our Savior. With this rationale, the Sabbath is kept intact and inviolate for all, for Christ is, after all, our example, and we can't have a Christ who sinned. If He kept the Sabbath, we should keep the Sabbath; goes the rationale. If John wrote in John 5:18 that Jesus "broke" the Sabbath, John must have meant something else other than Jesus actually "breaking" the Sabbath.
But this begs the question, "Can God sin"? Or, to word this another way, can God sin against Himself? If God could sin, then how could He be God? God is perfect. It is man who is imperfect and subject to sin, and not God. This creates a dilemma of sorts for the Sabbatarian. If Jesus is God, and cannot sin, yet He broke the Sabbath, then there is a problem with understanding the Sabbath law, and not God. The solution grasped by the Sabbatarians was therefore to deny the divinity of Christ as God. Your first reaction may well be one of incredulity that I would make such a statement, but upon careful examination of the beliefs and teachings of Sabbatarian groups, that is exactly what they have done, albeit surreptitiously. Read on.
I would point out here that in all "Christian" cults, Jesus/God is diminished in some fashion in order to emphasize their distinctive, whatever that might be. With Sabbatarian organizations, it is, obviously, the Sabbath.
When it came to the Sabbath, Jesus went out of His way to heal people on the Sabbath. One of His greatest miracles was that of healing a man born blind on a Sabbath. It was a miracle that would be extremely difficult to deny, perhaps even more-so than raising one from the dead, for it would be a relatively easy thing to claim the dead person was not really dead after all to begin with, through a variety or circumstances and/or trickery. But a man born blind, known to untold numbers people over time, would be nearly impossible to fake.
The religious leaders of the time were faced with what seemed like an impossible dilemma. They agreed and understood that only one who was not a sinner could have performed such a miracle, yet they held Jesus to be a sinner. What possible "work around" was available to them? The modern Sabbatarian work around is to claim Jesus did not really break the Sabbath. They claim that He broke or transgressed the added prohibitions; the "fence around the Law" that the Jewish religious leaders had created in order to further prevent one from actually breaking the Sabbath, having given their added restrictions the weight of Scripture so as to conclude the transgression of their Sabbath prohibitions was to also transgress the Sabbath itself.
This indeed sounds reasonable and plausible. The problem with it though is that it is not true. The Law was quite specific regarding the Sabbath in that no one was to do "any" work. The modern day Sabbatarian Pharisees resort to Clintonian semantics in order to circumvent the plain wording of Scripture. "Any" does not really mean "any". As evidence, they cite Jesus' statement regarding pulling a sheep out of a ditch on a Sabbath, with no foul or sin being inferred, but it was still a case of breaking the Sabbath. There were times when a justification existed for breaking the Sabbath, even as David was deemed guiltless when he and those with him ate the consecrated show-bead which was not lawful for him to eat.
The problem is further compounded by Jesus' declaration that His healing people on the Sabbath was indeed "work" and that in relation to the Sabbath, even the (His) Father in Heaven, works.
Sabbatarians today insist we follow the example of Jesus in keeping the Sabbath. Jesus was following the example of the Father by working on the Sabbath.
There was tacit agreement that the Father in Heaven did work, always, but they had to turn all this back on Jesus in order to discredit Him, seeing as they already perceived of Him as being a sinner, and His attempt here at associating Himself with the Father in Heaven was the claim and distraction they needed to take the emphasis off of the Father and on to Jesus working on the Sabbath, and now associating Himself as equal to God: Blasphemy.
The Sabbath was not greater than the Father, but it had to be demonstrated that the Law; the Sabbath, was greater than the Son, and His association with the Father was blasphemous, despite His explanation cited from the Law.
So a miracle, that could only be attributed to God, was denied in favor of the Sabbath law. The Sabbath became greater than the Lord of the Sabbath. The Law, and the Sabbath, were their true "god". They served the Law. You are the servant of the one you serve. The Law and Sabbath were held in the highest regard and esteemed above all else. The Law and Sabbath were their idol, and "God" backed them up in all this, for it was, after all, "God's Law and God's Sabbath".
Our modern Sabbatarians are quick to point out that Jesus is the "Lord of the Sabbath" and that it would be incongruous for the Lord of the Sabbath to "do away" with the Sabbath. Contextually though, Jesus referred to Himself as being Lord "also" of the Sabbath. Nothing is outside His perview. With this understanding, that there is nothing Jesus is not Lord of, it is interesting that the modern day Sabbatarian argument is that Jesus is not "Lord of the first day of the week" aka "Sunday". It is claimed by many Sabbatarians, especially the Seventh-day Adventists, that this day was stolen from God by pagans for pagan sun worship, thereby forever spoiling it for any godly purpose, so much so that anyone today worshiping on this day is perceived as having received the mark of the beast of Revelation upon themselves as a result.
God is diminished in order to proffer a particular belief system. God was too weak to protect one of His days He is the Creator of and Lord of. The almighty Pagans stole that day from God, thereby forever spoiling it for any godly purpose, such as corporate worship of God.
Seeing as Jesus is the "Lord of the Sabbath" we should study the Scriptures to see what Jesus actually had to say and teach in regards to the Sabbath.
Two things of note are discussed by Jesus in relation to the Sabbath.
Judging righteous judgment:
Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? 20The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? 21Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. 22Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. 23If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? 24Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. John 7:19-24
Note if you will that Jesus referred to healing a man as "work". What is implied is that the act of performing a circumcision was also "work"; a work that took precedence over the Sabbath requirement to abstain from work.
Understand also that if righteous judgment is being contrasted to judging according to appearance, then to judge according to appearance is to judge unrighteous judgment. Defining this as such is avoided by Sabbatarians, for it exposes their belief and practice as unrighteousness. A man is judged by them as guilty of sin should a man be found working on the sabbath; the same work that on another day would not be sin. This is an enormous departure from the old covenant laws, especially the Sabbath law. It is no longer the action that follows intent one judges, but the intent only, for God, ultimately, judges the heart and intent of heart, and this holds true for God even under the old covenant. This is covered in greater detail below.
It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath:
And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. 11And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? 12How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Matthew 12:10-12
And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. 24And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? 25And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? 26How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? 27And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. Mark 2:23-28
And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. 2And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. 3And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. 4And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. Mark 3:1-4
If this declaration were not in Scripture, and asked by any critic of Sabbatarianism today, that person would quickly be accused of asking a loaded question. But it is not so easily dismissed, seeing as it was asked by Jesus of His antagonists.
Just as there was a conflict between circumcision and the Sabbath, we now have a conflict between the instructions of Moses, not to do "any" work and the declaration by Jesus that is is lawful to do good works on the Sabbath, as contrasted to evil works. The implications to Sabbatarianism are devastating. Is it any surprise that the modern day Sabbatarian leans towards Moses and their own contrived list of what is permissible and what is not in an attempt to make it look like they are accommodating and incorporating Jesus' instructions?
Here then is where the Sabbatarian dares not tread. If it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath, and not lawful to do evil, and seeing as the Hebrews were prohibited from working on that day, then the conclusion is obvious; their works were evil. Being faithless, stiff-necked and rebellious were their hallmarks.
Do we have Scriptural backing for this conclusion? Yes, we do.
For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the LORD. – Jeremiah 32:30
We also have this relevant Scripture:
And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5
According to this, those people were destroyed in the flood because of their evil hearts and the resultant thoughts and imaginations of their hearts. This is a departure from the Sabbatarian paradigm where it is the transgression of that "Ten Commandment" Law as cited in the flawed translation found in I John 3:4 in the KJV that results in sin and the resultant condemnation. A Sabbatarian reads the following, and opts for the flawed definition of sin in I John 3:4, ignoring what Jesus actually said regarding sin:
And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. Mark 7:20-23
By opting for I John 3:4, evil thoughts as sin are side-stepped by the Sabbatarian. They want sin to be a person's actions, for by "keeping" the sabbath, they can cloak their hearts and appear righteous.
What is too often overlooked in this context is how God judges mankind. It is what Jesus referred to as "righteous judgment" which he contrasted to judging according to appearance. Sabbatarians look to the law of the Sabbath and judge according to appearance. The religious leaders of Jesus' time did exactly the same. When a Sabbatarian claims one sins by "breaking" the Sabbath, unrighteous judgment results. The emphasis is placed on the action and the intent of heart is ignored. You are denied a justification for your actions solely by the whim of those who administer the Sabbath law. If you were the typical Sabbatarian legalist, judging according to appearance allows you to ignore your own heart and intent of heart. It allows you to use the Sabbath law as a means of persecuting your enemies, all the while cloaking your own evil heart of hatred. An evil motive is hidden, not by the one breaking the Sabbath, but by the one upholding the Sabbath law.
Understand; Jesus went out of His way to work on the Sabbath. And being God, His works could only be good works. He "broke" the Sabbath, not due to evil motive as the Pharisees and other religious leaders inferred, but through a godly motive of love and compassion, not unlike pulling a sheep out of a pit on the sabbath.
Are we not called to emulate Him?
What then of the work of employment? Sabbatarians desperately want to draw the line here when confronted with this good versus evil argument. They claim the end result is that no Sabbath is kept as a result. Well, that is the logical end point! Even our works of employment, being a Christian, are good works in the eyes of God. Otherwise, what do you have? God judging according to appearance, and not righteous judgment. This is what is untenable. The Sabbath letter of the law gives way to the spirit of the law; good works, performed every day for the furtherance of a Christian life. The reality here is that adherence to the Sabbath letter of the law is completely incompatible with real Christianity.
Sabbatarians are fond of citing James chapter 2 where it says, "faith without works is dead". What then of faith and works on the Sabbath? If there are no works of faith; good works on the Sabbath, then it can hardly be claimed by the Sabbatarian that their faith is "alive". Their faith is dead faith one day a week. Keeping the Sabbath in the old covenant letter of the Law results in a faithless state of being on that day. Small wonder Paul wrote that the Law is not of faith; a statement of fact incomprehensible to a Sabbatarian.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:17
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Titus 2:14
One of the nearly innumerable claims/accusations of Sabbatarians in regards to the Sabbath is that the devil will stop at nothing in order to get people to transgress the Law, especially the Sabbath. It is one of those claims designed to psychologically instill both fear and pride in the Sabbatarian. Fear of transgressing the Sabbath; pride in believing they alone "figured it out with God's help" so as to avoid sinning against "God's Sabbath".
But what is it that the devil really wants? He wants people under condemnation, and the Law serves that purpose quite nicely. It is, after all, what the apostle Paul called the ministration of death and condemnation. All who lived by the Law were condemned by the Law. All who lived by the Law broke the Law. The Law was, and is, a "dead end".
Sabbatarians believe they have thwarted the wiles of the devil by embracing and keeping the Sabbath. All they have accomplished is to develop a harder heart of stone that works against good works. Any good works they perform on the Sabbath are those on their "approved list". There is no personal decision and by extension, no personal responsibility for making said decision, in an attempt to remain safe in the never ending quest against sin; a vain pursuit that takes one's focus and goal off of Christian development and growth. One "buries" their talent/pound in a vain pursuit. How does one grow spiritually by doing essentially nothing?
The devil desires Christians, who are not under the Law, hence not under the Sabbath, to abandon good works. The Sabbath now serves his purpose in this regard also. If a Sabbatarian does a "good work" from the approved list, then that work is not motivated by the Spirit, but a list. "I can do this because it it approved by my church. I cannot do this other thing because it is not approved by my church." There is no true moral agency involved. Motive of heart is supplanted by motive through permission or restriction. If they were truly motivated by the Spirit, there would be absolutely no need for a list of what is permissible and what is not.
Everything done by Christ is undone by Sabbatarianism. The Sabbatarian theological model creates a God of contradiction, removing righteous judgment from the equation. Through redefinition of sin and how God judges, the gospel itself is the real casualty of the Sabbatarian belief system. A Christian, called to do good works always, who is seen as being dead to that Law, is resurrected back to some of it for the sole purpose of putting him or her back under the Sabbath and the resultant restrictions against "work" unless specifically addressed by the Pharisaical Sabbatarian leadership; a yardstick religion of do's and don'ts where one comes under their control and influence; the hallmark of a cult. The works of a Christian, wrought in God (John 3:21), are declared sin if wrought on a Sabbath. The Sabbatarian declares, through the use of deceptive reasoning and manipulation, that evil is good, and good is evil.
Woe unto them.
Everything is backwards in the Sabbatarian theological worldview. The Hebrews sinned by working on the Sabbath because their works were evil. Only by not working were they able to refrain from violating the sanctity of the Sabbath. If they happened to do an act of mercy or compassion, such as pulling an animal out of a ditch or pit, it was a work justifiable with no sin being associated with the action. God judged the heart and intent of heart even then as He does now. The Sabbath was "broken" but the transgressor was not deemed guilty, simply because of the situation of the heart. GOD DOES NOT CONDEMN ONE FOR DOING GOOD, EVER. To do so would be for God to violate His own nature. What then does this say about the "God" that the Sabbatarians perceive? It is a twisted, distorted, perception that produces an evil "God" who maintains a double standard and judges according to appearance and whim, just like people, or more precisely, just like Sabbatarians. Their "God" is an anthropomorphic creation of their own perversions. They make God over into their own image.
In II Corinthians chapter 3, the apostle Paul makes an observation that Sabbatarians reject out of hand, simply because they believe it impossible to be true, yet there it is, written for all to see. Those who remain in the writings and teachings of Moses have a veil before their eyes, blinding them from seeing the true Jesus. Their Jesus kept the Law. Their Jesus kept the Sabbath. Their Jesus judges according to appearance, for that is what the law of Moses is about, for the most part. Jesus brought out that there were more weighty matters of the Law; judgment, mercy, and faith. Somehow, these things get overlooked when the focus is on the letter of the Law.
Did Moses write down and teach the Ten Commandments? Yes, but to the Sabbatarian, this can't possibly be what Paul was writing about. The Sabbatarian is under a strong delusion, even a curse, for the end result of the Sabbatarian theology is ultimately a false gospel. They say they believe and teach the gospel; salvation as a matter of faith only, yet disguise their true beliefs through semantics. You have heard the arguments and rationalizations in order to justify keeping the Sabbath, as though all the Law were embodied in the Sabbath. One need only ask a simple question in order to verify their true belief regarding salvation, being works oriented and a false gospel.
What happens to your salvation should you quit keeping the Sabbath?
If one is condemned for "keeping" Sunday; worshiping God on that day, how can there not be condemnation for abandoning the "right" day?
The most often heard response is that one would not be permitted entry into paradise should they abandon the Law and begin a life of murder, adultery, theft, etc. and that the Sabbath is no different. Thus they admit to their false gospel through this back door rationalization of their true belief.
Murder is an act of hatred. Hatred is the spirit of murder. Violating any of those other laws is a reflection of a godless spirit. Violating the Sabbath and being guilty was done by being of the same spirit. Having God place His "Law" within the believer; His Holy Spirit; that "new heart of flesh", changes the dynamics. The believer's motivation is from the Spirit, and not the flesh. One's motivation is to good works. The Sabbatarian insists one is still motivated by the flesh. Why? Because this is all they truly know.
Are your works good, or evil?

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11

Friday, September 18, 2015

Does Colossians 2 Teach That You Should Keep the Holy Days?

Fall is here, and there’s so much to love about it. Crisp air. Sweaters. Pumpkin spice everything. Colossians 2.

I just might love Colossians 2 as much as I love my pumpkin spice coffee creamer. Until last year, I probably never even turned to it, except when my Church of God pastor would get up and read verses 16 and 17 almost every Holy Day.

“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is Christ.”

The COGs routinely quote this passage to support their doctrinal stances on the Holy Days, Sabbath and clean and unclean meats. Although, ironically, not new moons. Last year, COGWA did it. This year, UCG does it, in their latest issue of the Good News magazine:

 “It’s commonly thought that he was telling the Christians of Colossae to disregard Jewish criticism over their not following Jewish observances. But the reality was just the opposite. This was a gentile congregation that had not participated in such observances before. The truth is that Paul was telling the Christian converts to disregard outside criticism over how they were now observing these occasions.”                                                        - “God’s Annual Festivals: Foreshadowing Great Coming Events!” The Good News, September/October 2015.

I wish there was a gentle way to say this, but I can’t find it, so here goes nothing:

Looking closely at the Greek language and the context of the passage shows that UCG’s claims about Colossians 2:16-17 are unfounded.  I was shocked to discover how flimsy the claims were when I studied what COGWA had to say last year, and we all know COGWA and UCG got their misinformation from the same source. As did James Malm just this week on his The Shining Light.

I’m sorry, UCG, COGWA and any other COGs who makes this argument, but it’s commonly thought that Paul was telling the Christians at Colossae to disregard Jewish criticism because he WAS telling them to disregard Jewish criticism. Most of the first Christians were Jews, and many were reluctant to accept Gentile converts as their equals. The COGs are blinded to this fact because they, in large part, hold the same beliefs as the Judaizing Christians in the early church. But the New Testament gives ample evidence that Jewish Christians pressured Gentiles to adopt Jewish traditions and little evidence that the opposite happened, at least during the time frame that Colossians was written. Yes, that came later, and it is a different discussion for a different day. But it is not what Paul addressed at Colossae.

These links specifically address COGWA’s claims about Colossians 2:16-17, but they apply to what UCG and most other Churches of God teach about this passage:

  • The COGs largely ignore the historical and scriptural context of Colossians 2 to fit their narrative.  Contextual clues tell us that Paul was not simply arguing against Gnostic ascetics, but against syncretists that combined elements of Gnosticism, Judaism and Christianity – possibly an Essene sect.

      • The COGs play word games that defy logic to try to make this passage say what they want it to say. They try to shoehorn the rules of modern English into ancient texts.  They invent Greek tenses that do not exist to support their claims.

  • The COGs uphold other practices from Colossians 2:16-17 but ignore new moons, which they logically should keep if the other ordinances listed in Colossians 2:16-17 are still in place. They plead ignorance on how new moons were marked in Christ’s day, while many historical sources, including Josephus, document the 600+ year old Jewish tradition discontinued only years before the temple fell. It's possible to conclude that the Rosh Chodesh fires are only Jewish tradition and not mandatory. But if the COGs contend that Holy Days, the Sabbath and food laws are still required of Christians based on Colossians 2:16-17, then so are new moons, and they need to observe them as commanded. Not sure how? Maybe there's a reason new moons, and potentially the other commands from this passage, are murky when applied today.   But anyway, I'm sure they could find a way if they wanted to - they've established plenty of Sabbath traditions found nowhere in Exodus or Deuteronomy. I'll at least give James Malm bonus points for being consistent and advocating that new moons should be kept today.

Please understand this criticism is not aimed at you, dear reader. I know that you are trying to obey your Creator the best you can. I understand that you are depending upon your spiritual leaders to help determine the best way to do that. I was in your shoes. For decades.

Interestingly, every non-Internet source I cited in my research on Colossians 2 was on our family's bookshelf while I was in the COGs. All of them were recommended by COG ministers, which also means they are likely owned by COG ministers. Who often missed these points because they, in turn, depended upon their spiritual leaders to guide them. This is why it is so important for those in today's COGs, who may have never heard of Herbert W Armstrong, to understand where they came from. The truth - about Colossians 2, about the Churches of God, and about HWA - is out there for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Trumpets and the New Testament Church

Happy Feast of Trumpets, to those of our readers who celebrate it! We hope you will find meaningful worship and fellowship today. 

This particular festival gives me mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is probably the most Christ-centered observance in the Churches of God, excluding Passover. Fixing one’s eyes, focus and attention upon Jesus is a good thing. In case you haven’t noticed the theme, it’s my goal in almost every post. 

On the other hand, there is no example of Christians celebrating the Feast of Trumpets in the New Testament. Unlike a couple other Leviticus 23 Holy Days, which get a passing reference (for reasons I will not be getting into here), the Feast of Trumpets isn’t even named. 

Over the weekend, I saw a chart being passed among COG members this weekend that cited specific scriptures that demonstrated Holy Day keeping in the New Testament. The chart's author stated that the Feast of Trumpets was not mentioned by name, but explained  that the events the COGs believe the day pictures certainly are a part of the New Testament writings. 

Did you catch that? The author admitted there was no scriptural evidence that the New Testament Church celebrated the Feast of Trumpets, but justified observing it based on passages Herbert W Armstrong attached to the date. The first verse cited was 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, in which Paul attempts to comfort the friends of a recently deceased brother in Christ by detailing the promise of the resurrection. This passage in no way references, discusses or advocates celebrating the Holy Day. The second verse cited was Revelation 11:15 – a prophetic passage discussing the blowing of the seventh trumpet. Same story, different verse. Neither passage supports a literal Feast of Trumpets celebration for the New Testament church, the author says, but they certainly picture scriptural events worth celebrating.

Oh wait! Now I get it! The New Testament doesn’t mention the festival by name, but it pictures a remarkable scriptural event worth celebrating. That’s so cool, we have a celebration like that too! It's called Easter, and it celebrates one of most miraculous, significant moments detailed in scripture. Yet somehow ours is vile and pagan.

Might I suggest another possible reason the Feast of Trumpets is not named in the New Testament? It’s not clandestine and sexy, like a conspiracy from Rome or a ploy from Satan. It’s because the Feast of Trumpets and the other Holy Days faded into obscurity because they fulfilled the purpose for which God created them – pointing Israel to Christ. 

(Hebrews 8:10) In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

The Holy Days were part of the tutor – the Sinai Covenant – intended to bring Israel to Christ (Galatians 3:24). In a way, the Holy Days do show God’s plan of salvation. And that plan was Jesus. They were intended to show our need for Christ’s sacrifice, as shadow of the one who was to come in bodily form, who could do for mankind what the tutor couldn't. They were intended to be incomplete, to show man - especially God's chosen people, who had every advantage imaginable - his utter and complete need for a Savior.

This is perhaps best demonstrated today in the Messianic Jewish community. Messianic Jews are ethnic Jews who accept Christ’s sacrifice but continue in many of their historic religious and cultural traditions. They retain many practices, much like Peter (Acts 10:9-16) and Paul (Acts 18:21), but they knew these works did not factor into their salvation. (And, being aware of this fact, they do not pressure Gentiles like us into keeping these practices).  Groups like Jews for Jesus frequently evangelize their ethnic brothers and sisters using their common heritage to explain the incompleteness and insufficiency of the Hebrew traditions. To show how the Holy Days foreshadowed the coming of the One whose sacrifice would be sufficient, who could make them complete. 

How could these Holy Days, given by God, be incomplete? Because they were part of the tutor intended to bring us to Christ, to show our need for Him (Galatians 3:24). They were a shadow of the one who was to come in bodily form. They were intended to be incomplete, to show man - especially God's chosen people, who had every advantage imaginable - his utter and complete need for a Savior.

Click on the following links for more insight on how the meaning Messianic Jews attach to the Fall Holy Days and Feast of Booths as compared to how the Churches of God view the Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Wake-Up Call to Rod Meredith

“As a former Protestant with many family members still Protestant, I feel compelled to warn you of a soon-coming disaster!”

So begins Rod Meredith’s article, “A Wake-Up Call to All Protestants!” in the September-October 2015 issue of the Living Church of God’s Tomorrow’s World magazine.

Ok, Rod, you have my attention. I left the Church of God community and am now what you would call a “Protestant.”  What’s up?

Apparently Protestantism is becoming irrelevant because “mainstream” Christian churches are trying to fit in with the world and don’t stand for anything anymore. Gone are the faithful ministers who strongly condemn fornication, drugs, drunkenness, lying, cheating and other immoral behavior from the pulpit.

“Do such God-fearing, Bible-believing ministers still exist anywhere?”Certainly not in “mainstream” Protestantism!” Meredith contends. “For if any such faithful Bible-believing minister like this did exist in any of these churches, he would soon be fired or figuratively “run out of town”.

This is news to me, as well as the other 3,500 members of my church, who have not run my Protestant pastor out of town after he made any of the following comments from the pulpit during the last 12 months:

“God's will for you is that you would become more like Jesus, and the first thing that the Bible addresses as we seek to become more like Jesus is that we should abstain from sexual immorality. Notice that phrase: "that you should abstain from sexual immorality."  The word "abstain" there means to stay as far away from something as possible.  And the Greek word for sexual immorality there—in English, it's two words.  In Greek, it's one word.  The Greek word is "porneia."  We get our word "pornography" from that word for  sexual immorality.  It's a word that refers to any kind of sexual sin.  It covers the whole spectrum.  It covers pornography.  It covers homosexuality.  It covers adultery.  It covers marital unfaithfulness.  It covers premarital sex.  It covers dirty, lustful thoughts.  It involves filthy talk.  It covers dirty jokes.  It covers anything that is sexually impure before God.  And the Bible says we should abstain from those things.  We should get as far away from it as possible.”

“Look down in verse 7 of 1 Thessalonians chapter 4.  Notice there, the Bible casts an even broader net.  It says, "For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness."  Now, the word "porneia" is a broad word for all kinds of sexual immorality, but the word "uncleanness" there in verse 7 includes any type of immorality, whether it's sexual immorality or any kind.  The word for "uncleanness" can refer to drinking and drunkenness.  It can refer to lying.  It can refer to cheating.  It can refer to stealing.  It can refer to mistreating other people.  In short, anything that is displeasing to God—the Bible says God did not call you to that.  Listen, God did not save you so that you can indulge your life in sin.  And yet there are many Christians who think that, because they're saved, and because God's mercy has reached down and touched them, and they have been made clean by the blood of Jesus Christ, and they have a home in heaven, that they can turn around and live however they please.  And friend, it doesn't work that way."

 "I am appalled by those who call themselves Christians, and yet they've justified sins, just made excuses for all kinds of sins, from the use of alcohol and drugs to homosexuality to abortion to premarital sex.  And I believe the heart of God is broken by Christians who have called light, darkness, and darkness, light and who are even turning away and walking away from their marriages, as though their vows to God meant nothing.” 

 “Friend, as a follower of Jesus Christ, God wants you to tell the truth, to be honest and to live with integrity, whether you’re under oath or not under oath. Whether you’re talking to someone casually or whether it’s a serious conversation, whether it’s in business or it’s in school or whether it’s in a relationship. Whether it seems like a major lie or a little white lie… He wants you to be honest, to tell the truth, and to live with integrity. Because we serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and He has said, I am the way… and what? The Truth… and the life…”.

Wow. I see Rod's point. That guy is a spineless jellyfish. (Sarcasm intended).

Are there liberal Protestant churches out there? Absolutely. Probably more than there should be. But are there conservative ones that uphold moral standards? Absolutely. You might have to look around a bit to find one that “stands for something,” as Meredith's article puts it. But what he wrote is intended to discourage you from doing that.

Make no mistake. I suspect this article is not intended as a “wake-up call” to Protestants, although if it dragged a few in to add to LCG’s dwindling tithe base, Rod wouldn’t cry.  But I am willing to bet it was intended to discourage unhappy Living Church of God members from looking elsewhere (as we know many of you are). Why do I think that?

Because right after Rod gets done telling us how bad the Protestants are, he starts in on the Catholic Church. Wait a minute. I thought this article was a wake-up call for Protestants. Why is he drawing Catholics into this? Now, I’m not Catholic, but I certainly have met some Catholics in the past few years whom I respect greatly. Some who know more than me about the Bible. And the more I talk to them, the more I see that some of their traditions have more logic and less superstition than I was taught.

Though it's now a cold war instead of hot, the battle between Protestantism and Catholicism is alive and well. Alexander Hislop capitalized on it when he created his disproven theories, and the COGs are only too happy to follow in his footsteps today. COG leaders are almost giddy when they point to the un-Christian ways Catholics and Protestants have interacted throughout history (as Meredith does in this article). There's no way there could be true Christians on either side of that mess! I guess battling and slandering other churches is sin unless you happen to lead a COG splinter. And I'm not just talking about LCG.

Here's the point: If Rod Meredith can scare you into believing that anything outside of LCG is Sodom and Gomorrah, then he stands a better chance of holding onto you and your tithes. Because if all Protestant churches are shallow, immoral social clubs and the Catholic Church is the great whore of Babylon, then why rock the boat and look elsewhere, no matter how unhappy you are in LCG? It's pointless. Sit back down and keep your mouth shut. Oh, and don't forget your offering. After all, next Monday is a Holy Day.

In effort to shore up his crumbling empire, Rod Meredith impugns good men who stand for far more than he ever has; and risk far more than he ever will. Unless you consider the risk Meredith stands for bearing false witness against men of God. As a former COG member with many family members still COG, I feel compelled to warn you: Wake up yourself, Rod, and repent of your errors. Unless they're not simply errors...

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Faith and Parachutes, Part 1

Random fact for the day: Parachute prototypes have been around since the 1400s, but the backpack-style parachute that we know today was only invented in 1906. It was first used solely for entertainment; but military leaders found a variety of applications for the invention during World Wars I and II. Today we have come full-circle – parachutes are still used by the military, but most are worn by thrill-seekers who are dumb enough to choose to jump out of perfectly functional airplanes.

Why talk about parachutes, other than to rant and disclose my irrational fear of heights? Well, in my last post, we talked about sin, morality and airplanes.  Specifically; how Church of God theology on salvation teaches that if true Christians just try hard enough, pull up on the throttle enough using willpower and the "tool" of the Holy Spirit, they can pull themselves out of the death spiral in which sinful humanity finds itself. Unfortunately, pulling up using these methods doesn't get anyone off the airplane; it only prolongs their journey before hitting the ground.

Today I’d like to talk a little more about how to get off that airplane – by placing your faith for salvation in Jesus alone.  Faith in Christ is like the parachute that gets you off the plane. But you have to know how the parachute works to avoid disastrous results.  If you attend a COG, chances are good that you've been misinformed about what "so-called Christianity" teaches on this subject. I noticed that UCG, COGWA and LCG all wrote on the "faith and works" portion of James 2 this summer. One particular quote really stuck with me:

“Just agreeing with a set of facts about who Jesus is, and what Jesus has done, and what it means to believe in Him, that's not the same thing as being saved.  The devil believes everything there is to believe about Jesus—he's not saved.”

Oh wait, my mistake.  That wasn’t from a COG. That was from a sermon my deceived  Protestant pastor gave a few weeks ago. The term “saved” was probably a good clue this didn’t come from a COG publication. This was the COG quote:

“As the apostle James points out, belief is pointless unless it is backed up by action and obedience: 'You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe —and tremble' (James 2:19). If we think that belief is all we need for salvation, we are sorely mistaken. As James tells us, the demonic spirits fully believe in the existence of the one true God. They further know that Jesus is the Son of God raised from the dead. But the demons’ belief in this regard doesn’t mean they are saved!” ("Is Belief All That's Required For Salvation," The Good News, United Church of God, May-June 2015).
How disappointing. I would have expected a bigger difference between what a "so-called" Christian pastor and a minister in God's true church would have to say about James 2:19. With that thought in mind, are you sure you understand what mainstream Christianity teaches about salvation to reject it as false doctrine?


Maybe we can clear up some misunderstandings about by first exploring what salvation by grace through faith doesn’t mean:

(James 2:19) You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble!

  • Faith in Christ is not simply believing that He existed. It will not help you any more than the knowledge that  parachutes exist will help you survive a freefall.  Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Pharisees, Judas and many others knew that Jesus truly existed.  As do the demons, as James so aptly explains.

(Luke 4:41) And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, "You are the Christ, the Son of God!". And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ.

  • Faith in Christ is not simply knowing facts about Jesus, or even believing that He was the Son of God. Knowing Jesus was born in Bethlehem and lived to be 33 years old will not help you any more than knowing that a parachute is 25 feet in diameter and made of gray silk will keep you from plummeting to the ground. 

(Matthew 7:21) Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven."
  • Faith in Christ is not the same thing as just saying His name. Scriptures that allude to “calling on Christ’s name” poetically express the simplicity of accepting Christ’s sacrifice for salvation; how it depends wholly on divine effort instead of man’s.  The name itself is not magic – simply uttering syllables will not save you any more than pronouncing the word “parachute”  will keep you from hitting the ground after a skydive.

(Ephesians 2:8-9) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that is not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
  • Faith in Christ for salvation is not the same thing as believing your past sins were forgiven when you accepted His sacrifice; but that you must maintain your right standing before God through things like obedience, repentance and good works. Doing so indicates you've placed your faith in your actions, not in the parachute.  Thrashing and flapping all the way down doesn’t demonstrate faith in the parachute – it puts you at risk for tangling or breaking the cords; a mistake that’s just as deadly as the others I’ve listed.

I figured you'd have trouble with that last one. We'll talk about James 2 and the role works in part 2 of this series. But make no mistake. Misplaced trust in works as a component of salvation is no small matter. In the tragically misunderstood book of Galatians, Paul refers to just such a message as a different gospel (1:6), "no gospel at all" (1:7, NIV) and calls curses upon anyone who would teach such a gospel (Galatians 1:9). Why so serious? Did years of strict Phariseeism finally cause him to snap?

A few chapters later, Paul warns us that anyone who tries to be justified by the law is cut off from Christ (Galatians 5:4). That includes those who teach you need to maintain your justification before God with good works in order to inherit eternal life.

(Galatians 5:4, ESV) You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace." 

Severed. That's not how you want your parachute cords to be.

What is salvation by grace, through faith? Placing your faith in Christ is just that – trusting that your sins are forgiven through Christ’s shed blood alone. Renouncing any trust in, any reliance on your own efforts to increase your standing with God. Believing that you will inherit eternal life only because of what Jesus did, not what you’ve done. Faith is putting the parachute on your back, jumping, pulling the cord and trusting in the chute and only the chute to get you safely to the ground

(John 6:28-29) Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?". Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." 

With this background established, in my next post we will take an in-depth look at James 2. Until then, if you have questions about whether the book of Galatians simply discusses circumcision, please visit:

Confusing the Covenants
The Plain Truth About Peter's Hypocrisy
Galatians: Holy Days or Pagan Days?
Response to Galatians: Holy Days or Pagan Days?
Faith: What It Ain't
What Does the New Testament Teach About Law and Grace
Some Difficult Scriptures

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11