Dialogue 7: What is the proper balance between “faith” and “works” in salvation?

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bullets CHRISTIAN CONVERSATIONS WITH JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES—Biblical Answers To Questions Jehovah’s Witnesses Ask

(WDGR Lesson 3: “Who Is Jesus Christ?”)

“If the evidence of our faith is our good works, how many good works are enough so that we know we will be forgiven and accepted by God?” Karen challenges Cindy in regard to the Jehovah’s Witness concept that “exercising faith” through the door-to-door preaching activity proves an individual worthy of everlasting life.1.

KAREN: Hi Cindy!

CINDY: Oh, Hi Karen. I’m looking forward to our study in the Watchtower brochure What Does God Require of Us?. We’ve talked a lot about who Jesus Christ is, but why do you think Jesus came to earth as a man?2.

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KAREN: Well, Cindy, in this brochure, the Society states that one of the reasons Jesus came to earth was “to sacrifice his life to set us free from sin and death,”3. but I don’t understand, why do we need salvation in the first place?

CINDY: Karen, we need salvation, because the Bible says in Romans 3:23 that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” “By disobeying God’s command, the first man, Adam….passed on sin to all his children.…God sentenced him to death.” And “That is why we also grow old, get sick, and die.”4.

KAREN: But, I don’t understand why Jesus had to die to free us from sin. Why isn’t it enough to have our good works outweigh the bad? After all, we aren’t as bad as Adolph Hitler, are we?

CINDY: No, Karen, but it took a “perfect human life to pay for Adam’s sin.” Jesus is the only perfect human, so it is only through him that “Adam’s children could thus be released from condemnation to death. All who put their faith in Jesus can have their sins forgiven and receive everlasting life.”5.  

KAREN: Yes, but is it really faith? Doesn’t the Bible say that “…faith without works is dead”?6.

CINDY: Yes, it does Karen, but the Bible also says in Ephesians 2:8-9: “By this undeserved kindness, indeed, YOU have been saved through faith; and this not owing to YOU, it is God’s gift. No, it is not owing to works, in order that no man should have ground for boasting.”7. Can you see, Karen, why we can’t earn our salvation?

KAREN: Yes, Cindy, but please don’t think I’m being flippant with this question. I don’t mean to be, but since faith without works is dead, when it comes to paying off our sin debt, do you think that it would be accurate to say that Christ made the down payment by his sacrifice but that it’s up to us to keep up the installments by our good works?

CINDY: Yes, Karen, that’s a good illustration of the way it works.

KAREN: Well, then Cindy, how much of the debt is really paid off by Christ’s sacrifice and how much by our works?

CINDY: I’m not sure… I know our works cannot pay off the sin debt. But I think it must be that our salvation comes by faith in Christ’s sacrifice, but the evidence of our faith is our good works. When you do good works, Karen, you are showing Jehovah that you are grateful for His gift of salvation, and your works prove that your faith is acceptable.8. Does this make sense to you?

KAREN: Yes, but I’m still not sure. Cindy, if the evidence of our faith is our good works, how many good works are enough so that we know we will be forgiven and accepted by God? For example, I suppose there are Jehovah’s Witnesses who do the door-to-door ministry full time and I suppose there are Witnesses who do very little. Most are probably somewhere in the middle. If I were a Witness, how could I know I had enough faith that, if I died in the middle of the night, God would find my faith acceptable?

CINDY: I’m not sure Karen.

KAREN: Well, I think of Peter, who had enough faith to walk on the water one minute and who almost drowned the next. Jesus said at that point that he had “little faith.”9. How much is enough? How do we know we are doing enough works to prove our faith?

CINDY: Well, Karen, I’m not sure, but I know that Jehovah sees our hearts. I would think that if you are doing the best you can, Jehovah sees this and he will accept you.

KAREN: But Cindy, you’ve probably learned how to deal with this, but I don’t know if I could look at my service as evidence of my faith or whether I do good works out of gratitude to God. I’m afraid I would always be trying to do just a little more to make sure I was in God’s favor but never knowing for sure if he accepted me.

CINDY: Karen that’s something I struggle with too.

KAREN: Cindy, I look at the many people who do good works without any reference to Christ’s sacrifice. How can one know if what he is doing is truly being done from faith in Christ?

CINDY: I don’t know. . .

KAREN: Sometimes I can con myself into thinking that I’m spiritual when I’m really relying on my performance like the Pharisees did. How can I know if my works really come from faith?

CINDY: Well, humm. . .

KAREN: It’s difficult, isn’t it? The more I try to please God by being spiritual, the less I seem to be trusting in Jesus. Maybe you haven’t had that problem, but that’s something I struggle with.

COMMENTS:
Friends, the Bible says in Romans 14:23: “…Indeed, everything that is not out of faith is sin.”10.  Just as James chapter 2 verses 14, 18 and 26 state: “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has not works? Can that faith save him?…But someone may well say, ‘You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.…For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”11. The point that the apostle James is making in this passage, is that a dead faith cannot save a person anymore than a physical body can live without the spirit. Even as fruit on a fruit tree proves that the tree is alive and well, so works follow true Christian faith and proves that the faith which spiritually saves the Christian is alive. While it is true that works prove that a Christian has living faith, works do not make a person worthy of everlasting life. For the apostle Paul states at Romans 5:1, Romans 8:1, and Colossians 3:3: “Therefore having been justified [declared righteous] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.… There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.… For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”12.

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1. In this dialogue, Karen asks Cindy questions about faith and works not to try to prove that works are necessary for salvation, but rather to prove that salvation must be based upon faith alone in Christ without any reliance upon human works.  Note: Most of the content of this dialogue was taken from the Free Minds Journal article entitled: “How to Talk to a Jehovah’s Witness About Salvation” by David Englund, Free Minds Journal, July / Sept 2000, vol. 19, no. 3, pages 7-8; (Free Minds – www.freeminds.org)
2. What Does God Require of Us?, 1996, p. 6
3. What Does God Require of Us?, p. 6:2
4. What Does God Require of Us?, p. 6:3
5. What Does God Require of Us?, p. 6:4
6. SeeJames 2:14-20
7. New World Translation
8. Commentary on the Letter of James, 1979, p. 75-77
9. Matthew 14:28-33
10. New World Translation
11. New American Standard Bible
12. New American Standard Bible

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