(Sometimes I make long comments to people that turn out to be blog posts… then I edit them until they look almost nothing like the original comment. Enjoy:))
I am going to rock your boat a little bit, supposing that is alright. John Wesley is the man who founded the Methodist movement – I do not know your familiarity, so I give a very brief background. John Wesley became one of England’s most effective evangelists of his day, founding (with George Whitefield, and others) a revival so large, vast and powerful that it came to be known as the Great Awakening. In an era when travel was meticulously long, the Great Awakening quickly spread across two continents.
Early In John Wesley’s ministry he wrote the following regarding his personal struggle with faith:
‘My friends affirm I am mad, because I said I was not a Christian a year ago [after he had literally left all to become a minister – giving his time and belongings to prison inmates, the disabled and homeless]. I affirm I am not a Christian now. Indeed, what I might have been I know not, had I been faithful to the grace given [at the time of his conversion] when, expecting nothing less, I received such a sense of the forgiveness of my sins as till then I never knew. But that I am not a Christian at this day as assuredly know as that Jesus is the Christ.
‘For a Christian is one who has the fruits of the Spirit of Christ, which (to mention no more) are love, peace, joy. But these I have not. I have not any love for God [1 John 4:8]… I feel this moment I do not love God; which therefore I KNOW because I FEEL it… Again, joy in the Holy Ghost I have not … Yet again I have not “the peace of God” … From hence I conclude…, though I have given, and do give, all my goods to feed the poor [which he literally did do], I am not a Christian. Though I have endured hardships, though I have in all things denied myself and taken up my cross, I am not a Christian [1 Cor 13:1-3]… My works are nothing, my sufferings are nothing; I have not the fruits of the Spirit of Christ.‘
You’ll be happy to know that eventually John came to a place where he was confident in his salvation – but what he says in this statement is impossible to deny, and difficult to ignore. Impossible to deny because his statements are based squarely upon the scriptures. John knows that he does not love God – what is the criteria God gives for showing we love Him? 1 John 2:3 – If we keep His commandments. Yet John Wesley is in a pickle because though he has kept the commandments, though he has done all HE is able to do, he knows it is not love but works because his heart testifies that he has no love for God. Catch 22? Not really, it is that which Paul describes in Romans 7 & 8.
Notice, also John said he knows he is not a Christian ‘as assuredly as he knows Jesus is the Christ.’ That may sound ridiculous to contemporary Christian readers, because believing that Jesus is the Christ is the basis for salvation, no? Yet this also is a scripture based thought. James 2:19 ‘Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.‘ John also testified at this time in his ministry that he was not a Christian, just a perfectly ‘honest heathen.’ Honest enough to know that Jesus is the Christ, honest enough to know that he ought to love God, and honest enough to admit he was falling short.
So here is my boat rocker for today (not based on John Wesley, though he exemplifies it well here, but) based upon the Word of God:
Faith alone will not save the soul (uh, oh – did I just say that?!) YES, for ‘He that LOVETH NOT knoweth not God’ (1 John 4:8). If we love God, we will keep His commandments (1 John 2:4; John 15:10).
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? – James 2:14 (There is also James 2:20-26.)
These verses may seem to be contradictory to Romans 10:9 – the chief passage people use to declare that one is eternally saved if only they believe Jesus is the Messiah, period; but in fact that passage is taken out of context in being so used. See, there Paul is speaking to Christians who have already been saved, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Its not actually an evangelistic passage. In the passage he is explaining HOW salvation WORKS to people who have already obtained it. Paul’s message was different to unbelievers. In Acts 17:30 – it is Paul (who wrote the same verse referenced in Romans) that said ‘God COMMANDETH ALL MEN every where to repent.’
Now don’t get me wrong it is faith by which we are saved (Eph. 2:8), and nothing else can save us. The fact is, however, that faith is something different than affirming Jesus is the Messiah. Faith includes correspondence on the ENTIRE BEING OF MAN. If there is no love for God – which includes the True love of the heart (that thing our dear John Wesley was searching for), as well as workings out of that heart-love through obedience to God – then we do not know God, if we do not know God we Re not saved. ‘And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only True God, and Jesus Christ whom hou hast sent.’ (John 17:3)
Many say (indeed, by his own testimony his friends said of him) that John was just overthinking it, and he was actually saved all the while. Certainly not if he did not love God! No, John sought God until he knew that the supernatural transaction had occurred in him, until he knew he was a new creation. He was employing another scriptural admonition: Philippians 2:12 ‘…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.’
You see love is a byproduct of True faith (and vice-versa): ‘We love Him because He first loved us.‘ (1 John 4:19)
He had a form, or appearance of outward love in that he obeyed the commandments, and gave of himself, etc. but testified that the inner working of love was not manifest in him. Some have this the other way round, and believe that hey love God though there is no outward evidence of obedience. Jesus said we will know them by heir fruits. If there be no evidence of obedience to the commands, and will of God, if here be no seeking of Him, and turning from sin (a process called ‘repentance’), then it is evident by action that there is no True love of God manifest in a person’s life. That does not mean everyone who is saved is always perfect – for that is the reason for mercy – but it does mean salvation is something more than just accepting the ethereal fact that Jesus is Messiah.
You believe Jesus is the Christ? Good – so does the devil.
Do you love God? Is it evidenced in your works?