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Hopefully you came to Christian Salvation from the doctrine page. This page explains how the apostolic and early church emphasis on holy living fits in with salvation by faith and grace.
Don't be fooled into thinking that the early Christians were falling away into legalism. They understood faith.
Ignatius (A.D. 110) begins the discourse quoted on the doctrine page by saying:
The early church understood that faith was their source, even while they called for holy living.
One of the earliest of Christian writings, the anonymous Epistle to Diognetus says:
The atoning death of Jesus Christ cannot be expressed much better than that!
Yet this beautiful, poetic writer, thrilled and filled with love for the Savior who gave himself for us, adds:
This sort of doctrine is not new. It is throughout the apostles' writings (in the New Testament) as well:
It's important that we not be deceived. Paul took the emphasis on holy living very seriously. To him, true Christian salvation is found in the doctrine that produces godliness, as we saw in Titus 2. He emphasizes its importance in 1 Timothy. After giving instructions quite similar to Titus 2, he writes:
Note: I used "neurotic" to translate the Greek noseo, which metaphorically means "an ailment of the mind." It's clearly what Paul meant to say, and most modern translations translate it similarly.
We Christians—Protestants especially—are very fond of Paul's letter to the Romans. It's the height of theology, and many commentaries and books have been written on it.
I believe it really is the height of theology, but our focus on doctrine that can be taught in a classroom—rather than doctrine that is lived out—has deceived us and caused us to misunderstand what it teaches.
Where do we find the deepest theology of Romans?
Chapter three, where he tells us we're all sinners? Chapters four through six, where he introduces and explains grace? Chapters seven and eight where he contrasts self-life with spiritual life?
May I suggest that Paul started with what was most important and only then moved on to what explains it?
Paul's most important theology is in the first two chapters of Romans. There, he talks about behavior.
Paul didn't suddenly decide to talk about shame over the Gospel. There's a reason he said he wasn't ashamed. His theology and teaching were being called into question. In Romans 3:8, for example, Paul mentions people who claimed that he was teaching "let us do evil so that good may come."
Paul was horrified by this. As we've seen above, it's only the doctrine which is according to godliness which produces Christian salvation.
Paul then gives a reason for not being ashamed of the Gospel. First he says it's the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes it, and then he appeals to its results:
The results of Paul's Gospel could be seen. Real Christian salvation was revealed in it. People's lives were being changed.
It's common for modern theologians to believe in a righteousness that is merely imputed, not always imparted. Paul could not have been talking about God simply seeing us as righteous. This righteousness—real Christian salvation—is "revealed" and can be appealed to as proof of the power of Paul's Gospel
In fact, he explains in Ephesians that he could never be talking about a merely imputed righteousness:
The true doctrine of Christian salvation will teach us what we've seen the early Christians teaching: we must turn away from sin.
In fact, the grace of God itself will teach us that:
Paul's not done emphasizing behavior. We don't like to look at Romans 2 because, honestly, most of us disagree with it. We don't believe that we'll be judged by our works no matter how many times the Bible says it. (There's more on that subject on the Sola Fide page.)
The first thing Paul does in Romans 2 is tell those who are trusting in the Jewish Law that they're failing at producing righteousness. They boasted in the Law, but they were unable to fulfill its righteousness.
Then he explains Christian salvation in a way we don't like to hear. God will judge everyone according to their works. Those who have patiently continued to do good will be rewarded with eternal life (v.7, also v. 10). Those who don't will receive indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish.
Is this unspiritual? Is this against faith
Of course not! This is the very letter that emphasizes the Gospel of grace received by faith. This is the very letter that fully explains how to live a spiritual life.
However, according to the apostle Paul the very purpose of spirituality—and of Jesus' death, the heart of Christian salvation—is so that we can fulfill the righteousness that the Law revealed to us! (Rom. 8:3-4).
This is not a unique or novel interpretation of the Bible I'm giving to you. This doctrine is everywhere once you begin noticing it.
We've just seen that Romans 2 ties eternal life at the judgment to doing good. Paul does exactly the same thing in Galatians:
Doesn't "not grow weary in doing good" remind you immediately of the "patiently continue to do good" we read about in Romans 2?
And what are we to reap if we do not lose heart in this passage in Galatians? Is it not everlasting life, the very thing that was discussed in Romans 2?
Such statements are everywhere. Galatians 6:8-9 is also remarkably similar to Romans 8:13:
As I've said, it is common now to limit righteousness in Christian salvation to something imputed. Often it is described as something akin to "right standing with God."
Those definitions aren't wrong; they're just incomplete.
Righteousness is "right standing with God." There is a righteousness in Christian salvation that goes beyond simply doing righteous things. Righteousness is a gift of God.
However, it is never just imputed. It will always be imparted as well. Those who do not practice righteousness are not righteous (1 Jn. 3:7). The apostle John states it just that clearly. In fact, he says those who don't practice righteousness are not of God!
That's a little frightening, isn't it?
It is true that these things may be somewhat frightening. I don't find any evidence that this was of concern to the apostles. Your Christian salvation was of much greater concern to them:
Sorry, better you find out now than later.
My newest book, Rome's Audacious Claim, was released December 1. See synopsis and reviews on Amazon.