faith and good works for one’s own salvation (not only for the blessing of others)

There is no doubt that what God set in motion through Abraham was for the good of the world. Abraham was blessed to be a blessing. At the same time the fact that Abraham was chosen by God for this does not at all mean that Abraham didn’t need the blessing himself. Abraham needed the salvation of God from sin and death as much as anyone else. It just so happened that he was chosen to receive that not only as an individual, but as a family and a people– to pass that blessing on to others. He and his wife Sarah could not conceive and waited long years after God promised to make him into a great nation and that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him (Genesis 12).

Yes, we need to get beyond living with our own personal salvation in mind. But at the same time we are always in need of that salvation, being sinners, finite, and lost in a lot of ways, ultimately in every way left to ourselves, apart from God. Which is why the salvation given and experienced in scripture is not only past, but also present and future.

James (2:14-26) makes salvation an issue in terms of faith and works, how we need a faith which works, or we would say demonstrates its authenticity with deeds. It’s not enough to say “I believe,” or even to believe intellectually. For it to be a living faith before God, it must be a faith which is obedient to God and active in good works, in what we do.

The NIV translates “considered righteous” where most other translations put “justified.” In context I think it means the same thing. The justification spoken of here is how one is vindicated, and more precisely how their faith is vindicated as authentic, alive and according to James, saving faith.

How God makes his salvation known is in significant part through how he is saving his people. In that sense we are no better or different than the ones whom we are to bless. We need the blessing from God which saves as much as they do. God’s salvation in Jesus evident in our own lives is a vital part of the witness to the reality of the faith and the good news that is in Jesus. Not to mention the fact that we need it.

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