Tonight’s local hypercon TV show featured a message the host presented at a recent cofC-sponsored tent meeting in a nearby town. In the beginning of his talk, the host asked his audience to go home and look up Acts 26:17-20. Then he said,
“…you will hear the Apostle Paul say that you better get ready to do some work. Everybody says that Paul said that it’s faith only, that’s not in the Bible. No preacher in this town can show you the Scripture where it says “faith only”. And I can show you where the Apostle Paul said that Jesus Christ told him to preach to the Gentiles that they better turn from darkness to light, and they better do works meet for repentance, in other works to show that you have repented… that is in the book and Jesus said it to Paul…“
The interesting thing about this statement (especially with the “faith only” comments) is that the host says that works are required for salvation, and then he claims that Paul was somehow saying such a thing in this passage.
t’aint so, McGee.
This passage isn’t dealing with how to be saved – as the host even said, “work meets repentance” means that after you’ve become a believer, you will do works that prove you are a believer. Let’s look at it again.
The Greek word translated by the KJV as “meet” is the Greek word ἄξιος (“axios”) which also translates like this: “befitting, congruous, corresponding to a thing” (look here for more info on this Greek word). In other words, it isn’t saying that you have to work for your salvation, but that when you’ve turned from darkness to light, there should be work that proves your repentance.
Let’s look at that passage in a more understandable (more modern) translation:
“…that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Acts 26:20b NKJV
That’s still a bit hard to understand. Let’s look at another even more modern translation:
“that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance.” Acts 26:20b RSV
This is a point that our hypercon host and others who agree with his teaching seem to miss. The work that the writer of Acts talks about here (as well as in James) is a work that happens because we’ve become followers of Christ – it’s not a work that we do to become a Christian.
This is one of the stunning misconceptions that our hypercon friends try to propagate – that we must work our way to heaven. That we have the ability to work our way to heaven.
Well, we don’t.
I submit that our readers consider these verses with regard to the idea that we have much of anything to contribute to our salvation by way of works:
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” Romans 3:10
“I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.” Isaiah 57:12
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:27-28
“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Romans 3:31