Recently, I bantered with a colleague about compromise. That particular conversation was about business but it stuck with me long after. In the context of faith specifically, I don't understand compromise. For quite some time now I have been what I call a Practical Absolutist. I believe in Right and Wrong, Good and Evil. That's the absolute part. But I reserve the right to switch them as necessary to keep my world view consistent and myself sane. That's the practical part. For example, murder is wrong, capital punishment is not. Eat healthy, except on vacation. Don't burden other people, but lean on friends. In my own warped way, this is how I resolve paradox. In the case of faith, I struggle with how I see the majority settle their discord over salvation.
So often we create ways to talk about our faith without obedience, our walk without perfection, our life with compromise. We seperate our faith and works to such extent so we can expose our faith while downplaying our failure to produce works. When pushed even in small ways we lean on grace and forgiveness, claiming freedom through our salvation. Don't get me wrong, my freedom does come from grace. My salvation is by grace alone! But that is only first part of the truth.
Let me digress a little on why I split this hair so finely. The gospel of forgiveness is “...to bring about the obedience of faith...", Romans 1:5. This epistle has forgiveness as a major theme but the conclusion I feel is often overlooked; “...to bring about the obedience of faith...” Romans 16:26.
Faith is not merely an assent, a decision, a recognition. Faith, by its very nature is solely defined by obedience. Faith can't be something simply talked about (Psalm 50:7-13). And it should not be merely referred to as a means to classify oneself.
The two major modern evangelical interpretations, dispensationalism and covenant theology both teach that good works accompany genuine faith. In dispensationalism the emphasis is usually upon the work and influence of the Holy Spirit. In covenant theology the emphasis is usually upon the relationship nature of works as a consequence of faith. To my mind, they are both indirectly supportive of this decline from spiritual excellence.
Paul writes twice to the Thessalonians about the “the work of faith” (I Thessalonians 1:3 and 2 Thessalonians 1: 11). Is this not the same as “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1 and 16)?
To my eyes, true faith is not merely accompanied by good works, as if they may or may not be present. True faith is itself the source which produces obedience. If we have true saving faith, it causes us to lead a life of faithfulness. Our life of faithfulness produces obedience because of the essence and nature of what faith is.