In reading Jesus’ letters to the seven churches in the Revelation, it has struck me once again, the place and indeed emphasis given to works (Revelation 2-3). There is no faith where there are no works.
It is true that a living faith is dependent on God and his underlying grace. Without grace, faith and the works that follow are impossible (Ephesians 2:8-10). At the same time we don’t do well in our theology and pastoral speak to not reflect all that scripture actually says. It is true at times that we may have to emphasize this or that to get a church or individual more on the mark. But the mark in the end is determined by the Spirit’s help to the church in the church’s reading and understanding of the sacred text, of God’s written word, scripture itself. Of course the gospel and its outworking being central in that. We have to keep going back to scripture again and again to measure our understanding as well as our practice of the faith.
Jesus seems to measure us both by what we do and fail to do. Works come from the heart. It’s never a matter of simply doing as well as avoiding this and that- lists, even those we find in scripture. It includes something of that and more. God sees our hearts, yes, his word penetrates there (Hebrews 4:12-13). What we need is a change of heart no less, before our works will by grace become more what they ought to be, even worthy in some measure in and through Jesus.
So we need to be in scripture and keep reading and listening, both as individuals and as the community of faith, the church. As we seek to live well as those who would love God fully and our neighbor as ourselves.