Justification: by grace or works?

Saint Paul

Saint Paul / Bartolomeo Montagna (1481)

Does the Bible contain contradictions? It can appear so.

Paul wrote, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28), and a few lines later, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God” (Romans 4:2).

James, on the other hand, wrote, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? . . . You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:21, 24).… Read the rest

On finding contradictions in Scripture, or not


Some people say that the Bible is full of contradictions. If they’re articulate enough, secular society considers them intellectually superior to people who simply believe the Bible as it is. And they certainly do, whether society does or not. I ought to know. I used to be one of them. Funny thing, though: the more I have studied the Bible, the harder it has become to find the contradictions. As much as I strive to be humble, I can’t help thinking that if everyone else studied the Bible in enough detail to understand what each author wanted to convey and the exact meaning of the words he used, they, too, would find it harder and harder to locate contradictions.… Read the rest

Faith, hope, and love—in 1 Thessalonians

Probably anyone with a nodding acquaintance with the New Testament, believer or not, knows about the ending of 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul says that faith, hope, and love abide and identifies love as the greatest of the three.

Perhaps the very familiarity of the passage robs us of the power inherent in the juxtaposition of those three virtues. Fortunately, there are plenty of lesser-known passages where we can see the power with fresh eyes.

1 Thessalonians is the earliest extant letter of Paul. People study it less than some of the others not because it’s harder to pronounce, but because the themes that characterize Paul’s teaching are not yet fully developed.… Read the rest

Work out your salvation. Work out?

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. — Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)

Paul says to work out your salvation. Some people act like that’s all he said about it. We all know folks who try really hard to be good enough and other folks that figure salvation, whatever that may mean, isn’t worth the trouble.

I mean, I know what a workout is.… Read the rest