It is not an unknown fact to many that almost all learned Protestant preachers are among those of the most skilled apologists in the world of argumentation. However, due to some reasons, including sentimentality and inordinate adherence to their root (the Reformation), they are missing some simple and obvious truths with very easily understandable arguments. They, especially the Evangelicals as I observed it, have the necessary qualities of proclaimers that will surely benefit the whole world if they hold the accurate message of salvation.
One of the common unfavorable characteristics of the followers of Reformation is their constant habit of putting walls between two or more things that suppose to work together. It is as if they are saying “It’s either the left or the right eye,” “It’s either the heart or the mind,” or “It’s either the body or the soul”. Good things cannot go against each other since they all come from one Source. Moreover, there are things that God himself made to be bound together, or even to be interdependent.
Is it really sensible to say that it is either faith or work that we should hold on to in order to be justified in God’s eyes? Faith, according to a dictionary, is believing without proof; the same with trust and confidence. If faith is “believing”, then it is an act, or something done—a deed. Would we consider it inappropriate then to say that faith is a form of work since it is something done? Sometimes we hear other people say, “Don’t stop believing,” as if it is a state of continuous doing—which it is! Work, on the other hand, springs from faith. Everything we do (or work on, if some need to hear the term as such), we do on purpose, meaning that we believe (or have faith) that it will be done even if the present moment does not have the proof.
Abraham, when he was called by an unknown God, followed the instruction to leave the land of his father and go to where God will lead him. He did this not because he has no capability to decide for himself and his family, but because he believed the promise of the One who sent him. When God told him that many nations will come from him, he did believe; and when he was put to the test by asking his only son’s life, he did not doubt God’s promise but continued on believing the unbelievable. If Abraham did not leave his land or did not bring Isaac on Mount Moriah, will he be called the father of faith? Conversely, will Abraham leave the land or go to the mountain to offer Isaac if he did not believe? Complicating the truth to justify one’s sentiments is not doing the will of God but being idolater of one’s own idea or belief. If you say that you believe but do not leave your land (your present state) then you are fooling yourself and trying to deceive God. Believing that you can climb a treetop 10 seconds from now but not doing anything to make it is no better than not believing; it is not even any kind of belief. Literally speaking, without faith, there is no work; and without work, there is no faith.
What the Protestant Reformers have mixed up is the work that results from faith in Jesus and the work of the Law that Paul constantly emphasizes to have nothing to do with being saved or justified. The gospel relates the story of the rich young man who inquired the Teacher what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus did not ask him to believe but to sell all that he has and give the proceeds to the poor. Does it mean that this episode is not about believing? Doing is believing. Jesus said that he will have eternal life if he did what he said. This statement about doing, like any other, is indeed a matter of believing. If this man did what Jesus said, it is because he believed; but since he did not do it, his heart showed up—he has no faith. He went sad not really because he completely did not believe Jesus, for if it is the case, he will probably walk away laughing and not sad; neither it is because he is so wealthy, since if it is his richness that makes him sad, then what Jesus asked him to do will be a favorable action. Instead, he walked away sad because he wants to believe Jesus’ words but his faith in his wealth is far more greater than his will to believe to the one he called Master.
There is no contention between faith and work in the issue of justification or in any other application. It is not the work of God to make some confusion over His creation. If scientists have this “either-or” mentality that the Protestants developed and continuously adhere to, they will someday say that water is hydrogen alone or is oxygen alone. Even if one is very knowledgeable and far better than anybody else in delivering arguments, it must always be remembered that what God requires from us is humility. Heaven’s door is not tall enough to receive a person with high head, full of himself, so we need to bow down in order to enter. Let us seek God’s truth and not our own.