Reasoning From the Scriptures with Ron Rhodes on Matt1618
Reasoning From the Scriptures with Ron Rhodes
Critique of Chapter 9, Forensic Justification
Versus Meritorious Justification - Part 3
by Matt1618


On this examination I will look at Ron Rhodes book, Reasoning From the Scriptures with Catholics, Chapter 9, entitled Forensic Justification Versus Meritorious Justification - Part 3, pages 145-170. I will look at in this examination here, his section on works and justification, pages 145-162. In green will be Ron Rhodes comments, and my response will follow. I will also put in red Scriptural passages, generally the Revised Standard Version, (unless I am quoting Rhodes directly, who generally uses the New International Version). In Chapter 7, which is the first chapter dealing with justification, there are some mistakes in his analysis of the Catholic view, but he does not per se attack the Catholic view with Scripture, but gives us his only own overview. I dealt with his arguments for the ‘Protestant’ view of justification at the previous url: I showed many of his assertions to be false. Now, in chapter 9 he attempts to deal with passages that Catholics use to show that works and are a ‘cause’ of justification. In this study, I will focus on arguments that he uses to say that those passages do not show works are a ‘cause’ of justification. The main passages that I will focus on, as these are the passages that he brings up, will be James, 2:17, 26, James 2:21, Philippians 2:12-13, Romans 2:6, 7 and Hebrews 10:35. Now, in Rhodes’ analysis he brings up many other passages to deal with these ones. I will look at his analysis of these passages, and analyze these other passages that he uses to combat the Catholic interpretation of these verses.

. Here I center the passages he brings up and I give the same introductory titles that he gives, with a red subtitle. I will address comments made in each of these sub-sections in the chapter.

James 2:17, 26 - What does James Mean When
he Says Faith without Works is Dead??

James 2:17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
Rhodes begins by saying that all James is doing is qualifying the faith that one has. If one has a true faith, works will follow, but are not a ‘cause’ of justification:
James begins by asking, “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14). Notice the oft neglected little word says. Some people have genuine faith; others have an empty profession of faith that is not real. The first group of people who have genuine faith have works to back up the fact that their faith is genuine. Those who make an empty profession of faith shows their lack of true faith by the absence of works. So, James answers his question by pointing out that you can tell whether a person has true faith by the test of works (p. 146).
The question is what is necessary for salvation. Now, in v. 14, which Rhodes rightly points out shows that what James is speaking about is ‘salvation’ and not how one demonstrates that they are saved, the question is, must faith be coupled with ‘works’ for salvation? James is not merely speaking about ‘qualifying’ faith, because as he goes on later in the chapter, (we will see this in Rhodes’ next subsection), the focus goes on to what is coupled with faith, is actually the cause of justification. Now if one has faith, do works just automatically flow, or can things happen that stop them from flowing? The focus on what one ‘says’ only is to the point that in order to be justified, works must follow. Verses 15 and 16, which link to the verse that Rhodes is arguing against, shows what his focus is:
James 2:14-17
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead
As a matter of fact, even the way Rhodes looks at it, shows that faith alone is not the way of justification, because he admits that without works, one will not be justified. Even if works were only a ‘qualifier’ of works, that admission in and of itself shows that faith alone does not justify. Nonetheless, the idea that works are only a ‘qualifier’ of faith is not what James is focusing on. Now in verse 15 and 16, James is speaking about someone who is truly a Christian, who actually does not denigrate the person, but actually wishes him well. He does have a faith, as he uses an idiom, ‘go in peace’ which is a caring for that person. But he does not buttress that caring with works, action, and that person is thus not justified. So he does have a faith, but that faith is not that is coupled with works. Works are thus the determining criteria on whether that person is justified. The person must put that faith into action. The question is, as v. 14, shows is how is one saved, and James says that only if faith is linked with works will it justify. Notice, when we reach v. 17, if this faith is by itself, it is dead. Thus, if it is not coupled with works, that person will not be justified. Thus, v. 17 in and of itself shows faith alone is false.
James 2:26
For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.
This verse is a culmination of a passage that reiterates that justification only comes when works spirit. Works are a separate entity, and is not merely a qualifier of faith. We saw in the previous example (vv. 15-16) that one can have a faith, that is in fact real, but not back it up by action. Now, this shows that without works, one is not alive. If faith alone brings salvation, the body surely would not be dead if it does not bring salvation. How does Rhodes address v. 26?
Apart from the spirit, the body is dead; it is a lifeless corpse. By analogy, apart from the evidence of good works, faith is dead. It is lifeless and nonproductive. That is what James is teaching in these verses. His focus is on the nature of faith, not on the reward of works. (p. 147).
He tells us that one can have a true faith, and even care about the person (back in vv. 15 and 16), but not back it up with works. Here James not once uses the word ‘evidence of’ anything. He speaks about what one must do, not what it is evident of. The analogy that he uses is this. If one has works, that produces life. One can really have a faith that really cares, but if one does not produce those good works, that person is dead spiritually. Thus, of course James is speaking about the reward of works. If one does not have works, the reward is a lifeless body, and as the analogy is, one is not justified. Remember the answer is to the question is on whether such a person is ‘saved’, (v. 14). If one does produce works (not ‘give evidence of’), he is justified. Now, to answer Rhodes questions on v. 26:
--1) James 2:26 indicates that apart from the spirit, the body is dead, right?
--2) By analogy, is it not clear that apart from the evidence of good works, faith is dead?
--3) Can you see from this verse that good woks are the “vital signs” indicating that faith is alive?
--4) So this verse is talking about the nature of true faith and not the reward of works, right?
--5) Would you please read aloud from Romans 3:20 and tell me what you think it means?
--6) Can I share one of my favorite passages with you - Ephesians 2:8, 9? (p. 147)
--1) Yes. If faith has works accompanied with it, faith plus works saves. If faith is not accompanied by works, there is no salvation. In the same way, if the body does not life, or works, the body is dead. Works are so central to justification, that if works don’t exist, there is no justification.
--2) James nowhere says that he is speaking of the purpose of works as only being ‘evidence’ of faith. One can have a faith with works, and one can have a faith without works. If one has not works, it is not merely evidence, but the Spirit (and soul) is dead without it.
--3) Yes, good works are vital signs of those who are justified. And since the question as Rhodes himself noticed, James is speaking of justification (v. 14, 17, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26). These vital signs produce justification.
--4) No. Works are not there to merely qualify faith, but qualifies whether one is justified. One can have a true faith, but still not necessarily act on that faith. The passage in vv. 15-16 shows that. In fact the very question has to do with salvation. James is linking the principles of faith and works to salvation. He is not saying ‘faith does this’ , and ‘works only demonstrates the nature of true faith.’ They are linked expressly for the purpose of justification.
--5)Romans 3 has absolutely nothing to do with James. In our previous look at Romans 3, he did not tell us to look at James 2 in order to understand Romans 3, so why is Romans 3 relevant to James? Now, Romans 3:19-20 does say this:
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
What this teaches is that no one is justified by works of the law. Those under law will not be justified. As Paul is speaking to both Jews and Gentiles (the whole world), he is not speaking of merely circumcision and so forth of the Jews, but even the moral law. After all, even the Gentiles have a law within their hearts of a ‘knowledge of sin’. Working outside grace to try to keep the law does not save. Paul says here that the Law does not justify. Paul says that we are not under law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14). While Paul is clear that the ‘works of the law’ do not justify, in the same letter that Paul writes that those types of works, Paul does say that works of love (which is under grace) are necessary (Rom. 2:4-13, 6:16, 8:2-4, 12-17, 13:10, Gal. 5:6, 6:8, 9). Works of the Law do not justify, but works under grace (or the Law of the Spirit, or Spirit of Christ, Rom. 8:2, Gal. 6:2) do justify. That is all Paul means. To try to say that works under grace do not justify not only contradicts James, but contradicts Paul himself in the very letters Rhodes refers us to.
--6) Sure, that is one of my favorite passages as well. Let me add one more verse for Rhodes to give a further context:
Eph. 2:8-10:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God-- 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
As we saw in our previous study of Rhodes critique, we saw that God’s free gift to us (Rom. 5:17-21), was for God to make us righteous, and to make us righteous in his sight. It is not us doing anything on our own power. Now, grace is not a self-help thing, but a grace-help thing It is God’s power to transform us. Thus, we do not transform ourselves. God transforms us. Thus, we do not boast of ourselves, but we boast in God, as he is the reason for our transformation. If anyone approaches God by boasting, we will not be saved. We need to approach him by recognizing that it grace is God’s gift to us. However, and Rhodes did not quote verse 10, he shows us what he means. The works that do merit, are those that are done under his power. We are his workmanship, which means it is God transforming us to do good works, and it is those works which are of avail. So, Paul does show us a difference, in verses 8 and 9 he shows us that those works in which we boast of our own power, are of no avail. Those works that are in God’s grace where we are his workmanship are of avail. For a longer study of this passage (and more of a background), please look here:

James 2:21 - Was Abraham Justified before God
by Works and Not By Faith?

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?
First, the subtitle is incorrect. The Catholic Church does not teach that one is saved by works instead of faith, but by faith and works, just as James teaches. Now, this passage clearly says that Abraham was justified by works in v. 21, when he offered his son Isaac on the altar. How does Rhodes deal with this passage?
In this verse James is not talking about justification before God, but rather justification before men. We know this to be true because Jesus stressed that we should “show” James (James 2:18) our faith. That is, our faith must be something that can be seen by others in “works” (verses 18-20). (p. 147).... It is critical to recognize that James acknowledged that Abraham was justified before God by faith, not works: “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (James 2:23). When he spoke of Abraham being “justified by works” earlier in verse 21, he was speaking of what Abraham did that could be seen by men; namely he offered his son Isaac on the altar. Here Abraham proves the reality of his faith by offering up his son. This event with Isaac took place some 30 years after Abraham had first believed in God (at which time he was justified before God). (p. 148)
There are so many mistakes here that it is hard to count the ways. First, the appeal to James 2:18 misses the point on what James means when he says he will show his faith by his works. What Rhodes is trying to do, is relegating works as only a qualifier of faith. Works are only a separate, subcategory with no force of its own in reference to justification. The objector that James uses tries hard to differentiate between faith and works. James shows us the inseparability of faith and works. Thus, to differentiate it as saying, well, the faith part is the only one that saves, and the works part is merely a demonstration, is not correct.

Second, to argue that James is only showing that this is justification before men totally misses the point of the whole background in Genesis. Let us go to the context of Genesis, 22:1-12:

1: After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." 2: He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Mori'ah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." 3: So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; and he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4: On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5: Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the ass; I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you." 6: And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7: And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" 8: Abraham said, "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together. 9: When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10: Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. 11: But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." 12: He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.... 16: and said, "By myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17: I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, 18: and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice." "
Now, did Abraham do this just to demonstrate his faith to others, or was this an act that was justifying in and of itself? Of course the James 2:21 does not say that the act of offering Isaac, demonstrated his true faith, but actually says that the act justified Abraham. All arguments to the contrary plainly contradict James own words. The next thing to note is that Abraham did not do this to demonstrate before men. As we see in the very first verses in Genesis 22, that Abraham did not do this in the place that he was living, in front of other people in order to show them, ‘see what faith I have’, as apparently Rhodes is arguing. Abraham leaves the whole place to go away from people to go to Moriah (vv. 1-2). He leaves Sarah, and those with him, to take only two young men with him (v. 3) with Isaac. Then we see that Abraham tells even the two young men who were with him to stay behind !!! So thus, there is nobody there with him, when he offers Isaac on the altar. Next we see that the Angel of the Lord, speaking for God rewards the work of Abraham offering his son, by saying that now, The Lord knows that he is faithful, not withholding his only son (v. 15). Thus, this act was before God, and God is the one responding to this act, through his angel. God, through the angel says, By myself, because you have done this, etc.. God will bless Abraham for what Abraham has done (v. 17). Thus, the idea that Abraham is only demonstrating before men, is belied by the fact that it is God himself who is the one who witnessed this act of faith, and God alone. This act of Abraham is thus only a demonstration before God. Thus, to argue that v. 21 is only speaking about justification before men is shown in Genesis 22 itself to be false, as this is justification before God.

Third, a look at the section of James 2, shows even further, James driving home the point that works are not a secondary qualifier of faith, but intimately pointed to as a cause of justification before God. We see repetition of some main points. Let us look at the section of James 2:20-26, from which v. 21 is taken, to get a larger look:

20 a) Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren?
----------- 21 b) Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?
---------------------- 22 c) You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works,
----------------------------------------23 d) and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God.
---------------------- 24 c) You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
----------- 25 b) And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
26 a) For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.
James writes this passage, verses 20 through 26, in a chiasm. That is a form of literature, where the author uses language in order to focus on a specific teaching. His point is to drive whatever the teaching is home. It is symmetrical, and repetitive just so we can grasp this teaching. We see here in James 2:20-26, this chiasm is shown by symmetry. I have this chiasm shown as we see the structure of the chiasm in verses 20-26, highlighted in matching colors, with the structure going, a, b, c, d, c, b, a. We have in order, repetition of some main points of James. James repeats the teaching twice basically to drive home the point of his teaching, just so we can grasp what he is getting across. Unfortunately, in Rhodes’ analysis, none of his ideas match or recognize James’ chiasms. James shows that his whole purpose (a) is to show, (verses 20, and 26), that faith apart from works is dead. In other words, faith, in and of itself is insufficient in the goal of attaining salvation. As after all, without works, it accomplishes nothing. What in fact is James showing? As we proceed, we see how one is justified. Next, (b), we see that James driving home the point twice (in verses 21 and 25, perfectly symmetrical), that Abraham and Rahab are justified by works. If we didn’t get the point in verse 21 (As apparently Rhodes did not get it), we see that James getting across to us, that both Abraham and Rahab are justified by works, and these are perfect examples to instruct us on how one is justified. Now, neither v. 21, nor v. 25 even hint at what Rhodes said that James was implying. That Abraham is there to demonstrate that they are justified, or give evidence of their justification to men. Instead, James both in verse 21 and 25 show that works are a cause of justification. If we didn’t understand it the first time through Abraham, James drives home the point twice, again in perfect symmetry, with the example of Rahab. Just as Abraham is called justified by works, so is Rahab. Next, (c), in verses 22 and 24, James further shows that faith alone is insufficient for salvation. If we didn’t get it the first time, he teaches it to us the second time. In v. 22, James specifically says that faith is completed by works. Faith alone is insufficient, James teaches. In order to justify, faith must be active along with works. Works is not merely a qualifier of faith. Faith must work in cooperation with works in order to achieve that justification. Faith needs to be completed, in v. 22. The matching verse, v. 24, perfectly symmetrical to v. 22, drives home this very same point in a more forceful manner. James specifically writes that faith alone does not justify, and that we are justified by works, (which he had just shown us symmetrically with Abraham and Rahab). If we didn’t get it in v. 22, he drives home the point even more dramatically in v. 24, when he says that we are not justified by faith alone. He specifically negates the faith alone idea not only in v. 22, but even more forcefully in v. 24 when he says that we are not justified by faith alone. Finally, with these verses repeated and surrounding this, in the center of the chiasm, v. 23, James points us back to Genesis 15, where Abraham believed that God would provide a son for Abraham. He says that the offering of Isaac back in James 2:21 (Gen. 22) fulfilled Genesis 15. Thus, the justification of Abraham in Genesis 22 fulfills Genesis 15. We see that in Genesis 15, Abraham is called a friend of God. The basis for justification is not a legal decree. But it is in covenant with God. Thus, any appeal to Genesis 15 shows that justification was not a one time event, but an ongoing matter. In Abraham’s life, he needed to put his faith into action to continue to be justified, and in Genesis 22, he was again justified. That is how his faith was completed. Thus, any appeal to Genesis 15, according to James does not speak to the full matter of how Abraham was justified. Yes, he was justified in Genesis 15 by his belief, but in fact his justification is continuous, and Abraham needed to be justified again in Genesis 22. His offering of Isaac on the altar shows this. After all, as just noted, his faith needed to be completed (James 2:22). Faith alone is not complete. Thus, the act of Genesis 15 did not complete Abraham’s justification. In James 2:23, James lets us know that the offering of Isaac completed Abraham’s faith that he had in Genesis 15. Works thus are necessary to complete this faith.

Thus, through this chiasm where James repeats several things:

1) a) Without works faith will not accomplish anything but a dead soul (vv. 20, 26).
2) b) Abraham and Rahab are justified by works (vv. 21, 25), not merely demonstrate faith.
3) c) One is justified by works, as even a true faith alone is incomplete (vv. 22, 24).
4) d) At the center of the chiasm, James shows through Abraham that his justification in Genesis 15 was incomplete as it needed to be fulfilled by his work in Genesis 22 , which we saw was further complemented by the example of Rahab.

Thus, the Rhodes argument that “It is critical to recognize that James acknowledged that Abraham was justified before God by faith, not works absolutely contradicts not only the words of James 2:21, the accompanying verse 25. Faith alone is incomplete, according to James. James repeats himself but Rhodes doesn’t even get it once!!!

When comparing Paul to James (we looked at Rhodes use of Paul in my analysis of Rhodes in Chapter eight) Rhodes writes:

Paul stressed the root of justification (faith in God), while James stressed the fruit of justification. But certainly both men acknowledged both doctrines. (p. 149)
The only problem is that works are not relegated to mere fruits of justification. Yes, belief is foundational to justification, but James says it is also incomplete (vv. 22, 24). James repeats in both verses 21 and 25 not that Abraham, and Rahab proved the fruit of their justification, but were justified by their works. The very verse that James refers us to in Genesis 15 shows that that belief that Abraham had in God was incomplete for Abraham’s justification. Sure, Abraham was justified in Genesis 15, but according to James, that justification needed to be completed by works. James thus shows us that justification is an ongoing process, not the one-time forensic event that Rhodes wants to impose on both Paul and James. Grace empowered works are foundational to one’s justification, not merely relegated to a fruit. Paul does say in Romans 4 that in Genesis 15 that Abraham was justified, but nowhere says that it alone was the sole basis for justification, nor was it the first time that he was justified, nor that his justification was completed in Genesis 15. We know that Paul sees works in grace as not mere fruits but are foundational to justification (Rom. 2:4-13, Rom. 6:16, 8:2-4, 12-17, Gal. 5:6, 6:2, 8-9, 1 Tim. 6:18-19, etc.).
--1) Did you know that Paul in the Book of Roman spoke about the time God justified Abraham once for all, reckoning righteousness to him as a result of his faith in God (Romans 4:3)? (This is when he became “saved.”)
--2) Did you know that James, by contrast, spoke about something 30 years later - when Abraham was “Shown to be righteous” before men by his willingness to sacrifice Isaac (James 2:21)?
--3) Put another way, can you see that Paul stressed the root of justification (faith in God), while James stressed the fruit of justification (works before men)? (p. 149)
--1) Yes I am aware that Abraham was justified in Genesis 15, both Paul and James show that. But of course as James says, that justification was incomplete and any appeal to Paul does not do away with that fact. It says in Romans 4 that he believed in God and he was credited righteousness (Rom. 4:3). Unlike Rhodes, Paul does not say in Romans 4 that his justification in Genesis 15 was once and for all. He stresses the necessity of faith in Romans 4, as opposed to works of the law, but not as opposed to works of charity in God’s grace. Also, the idea that in Genesis 15 this is ‘when he became saved’, or when he first believed in God is not backed up by Scripture. Abraham had already believed in God years back in Genesis 12. He was already justified in Genesis 12, when he followed God’s command to leave his home town of Haran to go to a place that he did not even know. So it is obvious, he already believed in God. Hebrews 11, who gives a list of the heroes of faith, includes mentioning Abram’s tremendous amount of faith in following God’s call in Genesis 12, in Hebrews 11:8. So unless Hebrews is commending pagans who did not believe in God, Paul’s example in Romans 4, of Abraham’s justification shows that it was not achieved once and for all in Genesis 15. That example shows justification is a continuous process.

--2) Of course it was 30 years later. Yes, Genesis 22 is 30 years later than Genesis 15. James does not call Abraham ‘shown to be justified’, as Rhodes alleges, but he was justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar. There was no audience of men watching, but this was justification before God, as we saw in Genesis 22. Because Abraham was justified in Genesis 15, 30 years earlier, does not mean that he was not justified in Genesis 22. After all, James said he was justified in James 22 via Genesis 22, just as both say that he was justified in Genesis 15. To say otherwise is to clearly contradict Scripture, and the matching verse in v. 25 which specifically says that Rahab was also justified by works, further makes the point. Now, as just alluded to, in addition, 25 years prior to Genesis 15, Paul obeyed God, left kin to go follow God’s call to be in covenant with him in Genesis 12. Hebrews 11:8 shows that Abraham was justified prior to that, as in the context he is speaking of those who in Heb. 11:6 have faith:

Heb. 11:6-8
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, took heed and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith. 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
Abraham is thus an example of one who has a faith not only that he exists, but he rewards those who seek him. Abraham had faith that obeyed when he was called by God. He is just as good an example of Noah. Is Rhodes seriously proposing that Hebrews is lauding the faith of pagans in chapter 11? I don’t think anybody can take that idea seriously. Does he even imagine that Paul is not aware of Genesis 12 when he is writing Romans 4? Hebrews 11 is only speaking about justified individuals. Now, Hebrews 11 refers us to Genesis 12, 25 years before Genesis 15, which is 30 years before Genesis 22. Abraham is justified by his obedient actions in those Scriptures. It is not either Genesis 15 or Genesis 22, where Abraham is justified, but it is Genesis 12, Genesis 15, and Genesis 22. This further shows that the Rhodes idea that in Genesis 15 via Romans 4 is where Abraham was first saved is false. Thus, justification is a process. BTW, if one wants to see a further study of Romans 4 and Abraham’s justification please see this:

--3) Already answered above.

Phillippians 2:12, 13 --Does Salvation Involve the
Performing of Good Works?

Philippians 2:12-13
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
How does Rhodes respond to this passage which clearly says that one must work out our salvation with fear and trembling? How does he deal with this passage which clearly reflects the Catholic view? How does he make it fit with Faith Alone? Let us look at his attempt:
As a backdrop, we must keep in mind the particular situation of the church in Philippi. This church was plagued by 1) rivalries and individuals with personal ambition (Phil. 2:3,4; 4:2), 2) the teaching of Judaizers (who said that circumcision was necessary for salvation - 3:1-3), 3) perfectionism (the view that one could attain sinlessness perfection in this life - 3:12-14), and 4) the influence of the “antinomian libertines” (people who took excessive liberty in how they lived their lives, ignoring or going against God’s law - 3:18, 19). Because of such problems, this church as a unit was in need of “salvation” (that is, salvation in the temporal, experiential sense, not in the eternal sense), (p. 150 ).
Rhodes is not consistent with his analysis. Of course there are churches that have problems. That is why Paul had to write letters. The Philippian Church did indeed have those problems that Rhodes indicates. However, some of the problems that he speaks about in Philippians are also present in other letters that are written to other Churches. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul lambasted the Judaizers, who both did not accept his authority and in fact preached another gospel (Gal. 1:6, 8). He lambasted them on the errors that the Church was making. In his letters to the Corinthians, where there was much backbiting and sexual licence, Paul wrote to the whole Church. Nonetheless, Rhodes in his book refers us to Galatians (of course selectively) to say that it is speaking of individual justification. He does not say, ‘well, in Galatians Paul is referring to corporate salvation, and in a temporal but not eternal sense.’ In Corinthians Paul is dealing with the many sins of the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:11, 3:3, 5:1-2, etc.). However, his teaching is not merely to the church as a whole, but to the doctrines that impact individual believers. Rhodes is not consistent in his analysis of Scripture. When he thinks Galatians can be used to teach ‘faith alone’ (of course he misreads Galatians as well, but that is another issue), he uses it, but the clear passage in Philippians that shows works are necessary for salvation, he has to say it doesn’t really apply to an individual’s salvation. Of course nowhere in any of the passages that he provides refers to the church in a ‘corporate’ sense. In a sense the church in Galatians and Corinthians were in much worse shape than Philippians, but I don’t see him making similar arguments that the writing doesn’t pertain to the individual’s salvation. Now, look at the fact that Paul tells them that they are supposed to work out their ‘own’ salvation. Since it is speaking to their own salvation, he seems to be speaking to individuals. Of course they are within the Church, and whatever, the individuals do, obviously affect the church, but there is no indication that here he is speaking of the Church’s corporate salvation in only a temporal sense. Now, does the context of Philippians 2 deal with corporate church salvation (in only a temporal sense), or does Paul really mean salvation, and how we are saved? A look a the passage with a few more verses will give us an answer.
Phil. 2:12-16
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
This passage does reflect Catholic teaching in that it shows how we work out our salvation with fear and trembling: It is God at work within us to work and to will for his good pleasure. Thus, this is works empowered by God’s grace. Now, is this a corporate or individual’s salvation? Well, he speaks to us as his children, v. 15. The Church is the Bride of Christ. However, when Paul speaks of children he is speaking of those who are adopted in Christ. Thus, he is speaking of individual believers, who are of course within the Church. Believers must shine as lights in the world, and hold fast and be innocent. Again, he is speaking to believers, just as he was speaking to believers in a salvific context in Galatians 5:16, 24, and Romans 8:13, in that one must put to death the deeds of the flesh in order to achieve salvation. Rhodes never argues in those passages that he is ‘only speaking about a coporate salvation in a temporal sense.’Next, Paul writes that we must hold fast to the word of life, thus we must be obedient so that Paul’s work will not labor in vain. Paul’s goal is to spread the message of eternal so that his readers can achieve salvation. Thus, he will have labored in vain, if they did not achieve salvation. So since Paul is speaking of being in his grace in ‘the day of Christ’, it is even more apparent that he is not talking about some corporate salvation of only temporary things, but Paul is speaking of eternal consequences and how one can achieve salvation eternally. Thus, the context again betrays Rhodes take on Paul. Now on the passage back in v. 12 which speaks of working out with fear and trembling, Rhodes writes:
The Philippians were to accomplish their appointed task with an attitude of “fear and trembling.” This does not mean Paul wanted the Philippians to have terror in their hearts as a motivation. Rather, the words fear and trembling are an idiomatic expression pointing to great reverence for God and a humble frame of mind (p. 151).
Rhodes is again putting words into Paul’s mouth (or pen) that is nowhere hinted at in the context and then creates a straw man in opposing the plain reading of Scripture. First, of course I am sure Paul wanted us to have a reverence for God and a humble frame of mind. He teaches that more than once. Nonetheless, that is not the context of his statement on fear and trembling. His statement on fear and trembling is specifically related to how we must work out our salvation. Thus, we must have that fear and trembling specifically in relation to our salvation. Thus, we can not take it for granted. Unfortunately, Rhodes system falsely assumes that one can take salvation for granted, so he must pour these thoughts into Paul’s thoughts. Nonetheless, the focus is on salvation, not on how we approach God on a general level.

Next, his creation of a straw man is when he writes that one must have terror in their hearts. The Catholic position is not that we have ‘terror in our hearts’ in reference to salvation. It is only that we can not assume our salvation. We must ‘work it out’ in fear and trembling. Not that we are in terror, but since we must run the race, we must always be aware that we can throw it away. Thus, we must stand as children of God and put to death the deeds of the flesh and shine as children of light (Phil. 2:15). We must be aware that we can throw away our salvation, and indeed fear doing so. As we can not take our salvation for granted, when we realize that, we will be more zealous in holding fast to the word of life so we ultimately enter salvation with God.

Then, appealing to his eternal security doctrine (dealt with in my previous critique of Rhodes’ analysis of chapter eight here):, Paul diverts our attention from Philippians 2:12-13, where it says that we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling, by taking us to Ephesians 4:30. Rhodes writes:

We find more Pauline evidence for eternal security in Ephesians 4:30, where we are told that believers are “sealed” by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption. A seal indicates possession and security of his salvation.” The believer is thus assured that he will, in fact, be with God in heaven for all eternity (p. 152).
Rhodes then asks his readers to ask Catholics:
What do you think it means in Ephesians 4:30 to be “sealed” by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption (p. 152)?
Okay, let us look at Ephesians 4:30 and the surrounding context:
29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 5, 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Well, the seal of redemption has always been seen by the Fathers, as a reference to baptism. The grace of baptism has long-lasting effects. This is a seal that is never undone. It has salvific effects, certainly. For example, Peter specifically speaks to this when he writes, 1 Pet. 3:21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you,. In fact baptism does have salvific, long-lasting effects. The baptism seal can never be undone. It marks us as Christians. Nonetheless, Paul is not alluding to eternal security in this passage. Even if one does not see this passage as speaking of baptism, the context shows that eternal security is the farthest thing from Paul’s mind in this passage. He is in the midst of warning people from grieving the Holy Spirit and not speaking hurtful things to other people as it grieves the Holy Spirit (4:29-31). One must put away all anger and wrath. Anger and wrath can lead to eternal separation from God. He then tells us to walk as God’s beloved children. Then he specifically mentions that sins of impurity, fornication, nor filthiness are fitting for believers. Now, does Paul write that, ‘well if you are believers, it is not appropriate that you do such things, but be set, since I said you were sealed by the Holy Spirit for redemption, that means one is automatically justified.’ Instead, he writes that one, even believers who practices those things (5:3-6), they will have no inheritance in the kingdom of God. Paul then goes on to say that if one speaks eternal security, they are empty words, and are deceived. God’s wrath comes upon those in disobedience. Thus, what Paul is speaking of back in verses 28-30, is that the Holy Spirit is with us, and he seals us in baptism, and that has eternal consequences. Nonetheless, not only can we grieve the Holy Spirit, but by our actions we can turn our back on what we were sealed for. We can throw away our justification by our actions, as Paul himself writes, only a few verses later.

Romans 2:6, 7--Did Paul Teach that Heaven can be
Merited by Good Works

Rom. 2:6-7, For he will render to every man according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;
Well, the answer to the question is yes, if we take Romans 2 seriously. Paul will render to every man ‘according to his works’. Rhodes had argued that our works aren’t good enough for God. Paul says rewards goes for those doing good. However, Rhodes in effect says it really doesn’t mean it. What is his response to Romans 2?
Taken in its proper context, this passage does not teach that works - including “works performed with grace” are a condition for receiving salvation. We first note that in this very book of Romans, Paul emphatically states that salvation is entirely apart from works: “for we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Romans 3:28). “But the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (4:5). words in Romans 2:6, 7 cannot be taken in such a way that they contradict these other clear statements (p. 156).
I didn’t see Rhodes in his analysis of Rom. 3:28 in our earlier analysis go to Romans 2:6-7 to say that since Romans 2 says this, Romans 3:28 can’t mean that!!! The Protestant’s, or at least Rhodes’ first response to Romans 2, is thus, to divert from the text and go to a whole other passage just so Romans 2 can’t mean what it says. Of course, as shown in our previous discussion of Romans 3:28, Paul only excludes from justification ‘works of the law’. In Rom. 3:19-20 Paul excludes the whole world, which thus would include Gentiles, from salvation via works of the law. Thus, Doing the law, even the commandments, does not suffice for salvation, outside grace. In Romans 3:28, the works of the law do focus on the Jewish law. Either way, whether it is circumcision, or whether it is the commandments in and of themselves, do not suffice for salvation. However, in Romans 3:28, he does not excludes works of charity from salvation. Those works that are done in grace are not excluded from salvation. Now, in Romans 4, he does focus on something else. He says this:
2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.4 Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. 5 And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6So also David pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7"Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin."
Now, with the concept of works of the law in the background as seen in Romans 3, Paul elaborates on the kind of works that do not justify. He specifically says that those works from which someone would boast, would not suffice before God (Rom. 4:2). Thus, if one approaches God self-satisfied and wants to boast about himself, that person will not be saved. The Catholic Church instead teaches that one must approach God as a Son approaches a Father. Also, we see in v. 4, further the type of works that do not save, where works are considered ‘wages’. Any works where one sees God in an employee-employer relationship will not provide salvation. We do not ‘do work’ and expect God to fork over salvation. It does not work that way. A look at the language of Paul says this is the type of works that will not justify: Instead, the works that we do, are within a Father-Son relationship where God rewards faithful sons, through grace, precisely as Romans 2:6-7 does.

What Romans 4 does show is that despite Rhodes protestations, justification is not a one time affair. The example of Abraham we have already seen shows that justification is ongoing. The same thing with Paul’s example of David. This in fact shows the existence of mortal sin, and rejustification. We see that about David and further totally destroys Rhodes concept of justificationin Romans 4. I take this from my article on Abraham and David’s justification in Romans 4

The problem is that this view not only distorts the life of Abraham a few verses earlier, but also the life of David, which Paul uses as an example to prove in verses 6-8 what he is saying in Rom. 4:4-5. In v. 6 Paul writes, 'So Also' to say that David is saved in the same way as Abraham. To prove his point Paul quotes Psalm 32 of David, from which he elucidates his theology. Let us examine the background and the context of the psalm that Paul is quoting from. The Protestant understanding must be that here is where David is justified, and his righteousness is credited (forensically imputed alien righteousness). Since this is the point of David's justification, this must be the first and only time that David is justified. Anything done before this point of time, David is an unregenerate man, and anything after Psalm 32 David is merely for the fruit of justification, or sanctification. If David had already been justified beforehand, and here is again justified, defacto it shows that justification is a process. Any response must take this into account:

Psalm 32:1 "Blesses is he whose transgressions are forgiven, who sins are covered. Blessed is the man who sin the Lord does not count against him." David is rejoicing here, (as in Psalm 51) that God is here forgiving him for his sins of adultery and slaying of Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite. The time of the events that he is getting forgiveness for is 2 Samuel 11-12.

An important question that concerns us, is this the time of David's one and only justification, as a Protestant of the Calvinist (and Rhodes’) leaning must hold? Everything done before this time he is an unbeliever, and everything after is only the 'fruit' of his justification, supposedly. On the contrary, David since his youth knew and loved the Lord. He sang Psalms to God to soothe Saul. He was not unregenerate then. In 1 Samuel 13:14, years before 2 Sam. 11-12 and Psalm 32, David is called a "man after God's own heart" a distinction given to NO OTHER MAN IN THE BIBLE. And yet, we are supposed to believe that David was an unregenerate man then in order to maintain the one-time imputation theory? In his youth, David called on the Lord to defeat the mighty Goliath (1 Samuel 17). Was he merely a pagan then, according to the one-time imputation theory? David showed his love for God by dancing with all his might (2 Sam. 6:14). The Psalms prior to the time of Psalm 32 were also written well before the events of 2 Sam. 11-12, which were the occasion for Psalm 32. This shows indeed that David was a true child of God before the events of Psalm 32. Otherwise, we would have Psalms written before the time of Psalm 32 by an unregenerate pagan who had no real relationship with God. It would be quite unlikely that the Psalms were written by unbelievers.

Although David earlier in his life was a true child of God, he did something to make himself ungodly. He committed major sin (per. 1 John 5:17, Gal. 5:19, 1 Cor. 6:9, Gal. 5:5) with Bathsheba and Uriah to make him become ungodly (2 Sam.11-12). He disinherited himself. That is how he could be called ungodly coming into Psalm 32 (and thus explains how he was termed ungodly in Romans 4:5). How was he forgiven? By sincere repentance given in the grace of God as so heartfelt to put it in Psalms 32 and 51. He did not earn his way back through law, as Paul clearly states one can not do. In this state of mortal sin, he responds to God's grace and is rejustified. He is put back in God's grace. However, it is not David earning his way back into God's grace, not as an employee from an employer. It is a Father-Son relationship. Paul shows that works do not earn his grace back, but his justification is won back by repentance, which is the very point of Rom. 4:4-8. Paul's sees David's acknowledgment and confession of his sin, a total reliance and recognition of God's beneficence, grace and mercy, reflecting the Catholic position. He is here credited as righteousness. The fact of David's earlier Godly life, with the fact that he put himself outside of God's grace, and the fact that his repentance led him to justification shows several things fatal to the Calvinist (and also Rhodes’)understanding of justification:

1) The language used here is not meant to imply a forensic view of a one time justification. David already was a believer well before this point in time.

2) David, although he was quite clearly a believer who loved God with all his heart, fell out of God's grace by mortal sin. That is why he needs to be forgiven to be put back in God's grace. David's grace-driven repentance puts him back into God's favor.

3) The crediting of righteousness is based not on an acceptance of an alien righteousness. His repentance was needed to get back into God's righteousness. When one is in this state, then one has a Father-Son relationship at the heart of justification. Then, under the auspices of grace, out of love, the Son responds with works of love that is necessary for ultimate justification (Rom. 2:6-13, 6, 8:1-39, Gal. 5-6) and one becomes a doer of the law in the realm of God's grace.

4) The next question that must be faced is when it says that God justifies the ungodly, does it mean that the grounds of one's justification before God is separate from an infusion of grace, as Calvinists maintain.? For a fuller examination of this specific issue, and other aspects of David's justification on Romans 4 see the following:

5) Most importantly to the issue that we are addressing, it shows that justification is a process. David we know was justified before 2nd Sam. 11-12. However, his sin made him ungodly, and he had to be fully cleansed. He was out of grace, and the repentance by him showed in Psalm 32/51 had to be done by him in order to get back into God's grace. The fact that this repentance was necessary to get back into God's grace shows that justification is a process, and not a one time thing, so foundational to the Protestant (and Rhodes position).

Now that we have taken the Rhodes detour and dealt with Romans 3 & 4, we will come back to Romans 2:6-7 to get Rhodes take on those specific verses:
In the context of Paul’s writings, it would seem that Romans 2:6-8 emphasizes that how a person habitually acts or conducts himself in a daily life indicates the state of his heart. A person who habitually acts or conducts himself in daily life indicates the state of his heart. A person who habitually engages in bad deeds shows his alienation from God (verse 8) (p. 156).
Well, this is, as they say, Rhodes’ ‘spin’ on the matter. It certainly is what Paul writes. In other words, this is the ‘works are only evidence of being justified, not any of the grounds of being justified’ defense, that was weakly used to explain away James 2:14-26. However, let us look at the large context of Romans 2, not only verses 6-8, but also verses 4 through 13.
Rom. 2:4-13:
4 Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 For he will render to every man according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. 12 All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
We see that in verses four and five, that God points us to God’s kindness is the grounds of being in God’s grace. We do not presume upon his riches of his kindness. If we presume that, that would fall under the category of ‘works of the law’ that do not justify. If we exalt ourselves, the works do not fall under the category of grace. Once we realize that it is God’s kindness that leads us unto God’s mercy, our works will then become meritorious. In fact we see then in not only verses 6 through 8, but through this whole section the absolute necessity of good works. First, we see that he will ‘render unto every man, according to his works.’ (v. 6). This directly contradicts Rhodes, who in the previous chapter had argued that in reference to justification Paul argues against any kind of works, (p. 140). Thus, when within grace God will render judgment according to his works. In fact, this is a passage taken from the Psalm, which says:
Psalm 62:12
12: and that to thee, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For thou dost requite a man according to his work.
We see that when he looks at us through steadfast love, (similar to Rom. 2:4) he judges us according to our works. Our works must be good in order to avail to our salvation. Thus, our works directly end up result in us being with him in salvation.

Next, in v. 7 he says that only those who seek glory, honor and immortality he will give eternal life. Thus, we see that he is not speaking of mere evidence of being justified, but he will give to those who seek such things will get eternal life. It is a cause and effect. One who does it, but only when within his grace, will he grant eternal life. Those who are factious will not attain eternal life. Cause and effect again. Now, it is not God paying us in wages, but those who obey in his grace, are granted salvation. Verse 9 continues the theme of verse 8 which says that those who obey wickedness will get wrath and fury. As we proceed to v. 10, it specifically says that those who do good, both the Jew and the Greek, will get glory, honor and peace. This does away with the theory that our righteousness in grace are ‘filthy rags’. Those who do good, will get rewarded with glory, honor and immortality, which can only mean eternal life with God. Cause and effect again. God does not care whether the person is Jew or Greek (v. 11). Next he tells us that only those who are not just hearers of the law, but only doers of the law will be rewarded with eternal life. Only they will be justified, v. 13. The justified are those who do the law. However, as noted before, it is not the law, per se that justifies them, per se. Paul does write that we are not under law, but grace (Rom. 6:14). It is when that law is put within the realm of grace. Paul shows that in v. 4, when he shows us that it God’s kindness that put us at peace with God. Once within that realm then God faithfully rewards faithful sons. Sons thus get meritoriously rewarded. Rhodes’ take on it that it is only ‘evidence’ of one being justified is not the case. This passage, Romans 2:4-13, specifically indicates that God rewards based on work, the reward of eternal salvation.

Rhodes proceeds to ask the following questions:

--1) Would you please read aloud from Romans 3:28 and then Romans 4:5 (p. 157)?
--2) What do these verses say about the relationship of works to salvation?
--3) Since Scripture does not contradict itself, does it make sense to you that however Romans 2:6-8 is interpreted, it must be done so that it agrees with Romans 3:28 and 4:5?
--4) Did you know that Paul talks about salvation by grace with no works involved in Ephesians 2:8, 9, and then in verse 10 speaks of works that follow this salvation?
--5) Does it make sense to you that works are the result of salvation, not the condition of salvation (p. 157)
--1) I already wrote them down and gave the context of both passages. Those passages are favorites for him and I dealt with them both here and in my previous examination of him on justification.
--2) They say that ‘works of the law’ do not justify (Rom. 3:28). Romans 3:28 did not exclude works of love from salvation. Romans 4:2-8 shows us that justification is a process, with the examples of Abraham and David that Paul uses showing it. Paul shows that God does not owe us salvation from our works. Our relationship with God is a Father-Son relationship, not an employee-employer relationship. Romans 4 shows that it is his graciousness that provides us salvation, exactly as the Catholic Church teaches.
--3) Sure, of course Romans 3:28 and Romans 4:5 must be harmonized with Romans 2:6-8. However, in ones’ analysis of Romans 2:6-8, one does not start off at Romans 3:28, as Rhodes did. One first must look at what Romans 2 says on its own basis, look at its own context, and derive its meaning from its own word and context. Then after one sees what Romans 2 says on its own accord, then one wants to look at what Romans 3 & 4 say in their own context. We do not start off imposing what we think Romans 3 and 4 means, and then make that color what Romans 2 means. That is exactly what Rhodes did, and so he missed the whole idea of what Romans 2 was about. We do not subjugate Romans 2 to Romans 3 and 4 as Rhodes did. They each deserve their own look. Just as when we look at Romans 3 and 4 we must examine what it says for itself, before we start worrying about harmonizing it with Romans 2. After we’ve exegeted both passages, then we see how they can be harmonized. Rhodes made the same mistake in his look at James 2, by subjugating it to his faulty interpretation of Romans 3 & 4.
--4) Yes, I know what Ephesians 2 does say. Yes, in Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul says that we are saved by grace through faith and we do not earn our salvation. It is not our own doing. The grace comes from God. His free gift is him transforming us, not us transforming ourselves. Exactly as the Catholic Church teaches. Now, in the midst of this teaching Paul tells us that the grace through which we are saved makes us his workmanship, yes in v. 10. However, it does not say that works follow salvation. It is a part of that salvation. When we are his workmanship created to do good works, that is in the context of salvation. For a larger look at this passage, not only Eph. 2:8-9, but Eph. 2:1-10, one can look at the following url:
--5) It is not either results or conditions of salvation. It is both/and. Romans 2 clearly teaches that:
a) God renders according to works, v. 6.
b) He gives eternal life on the basis of patience in well doing seek for glory, honor and immortality.
c) Only those who do good get glory, honor and immortality, v. 10.
d) Only those who are the doers of the law will be justified, v. 13.

Thus, to say that works are only a result, and not a condition of justification is explicitly contradicting Paul in Romans 2:4-13 where Paul sees works done in grace as a condition of salvation.

Hebrews 10:35 - Can Heaven be Merited by Works?

Hebrews 10:35
Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.
This passage, although not one I have used alot does hint that God does reward based on enduring, staying true to Christ. If one does retain that confidence, God will reward him. As Rhodes denies that there is merit related to one’s justification in any way (except that one gets extra rewards in heaven for better works), and one’s justification is guaranteed because the basis of that justification is guaranteed, because one has Christ’s righteousness imputed to one’s account not based on how we do, he denies that endurance or merit are grounds of one’s justification. Rhodes argues:
In Hebrews 10:32 (NIV) these Jewish readers are admonished to “remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering,” They started out great. The author then mentions in verses 33 and 34 a variety of difficult situations the readers had endured, including public shame imprisonment, and loss of property. The readers had undergone these experiences with joy, knowing they had better possession and an abiding one (verse 34). the loss of temporal possessions was insignificant in light of the assurance of possessing heavenly treasures (p. 158).
Let us look at the larger context of this verse, including the verses that Rhodes points us to, but also prior to this, and after. The whole context needs to be looked at in order to understand v. 35. Verse 35 is indeed in the middle of a long citation that goes into many areas. Rhodes is correct that the context must be looked at, but he only gave us a couple of verses prior to v. 35, when the whole context must be looked at to see what the whole section of Hebrews is arguing..
Hebrews 10:25-39
25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 26 For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. 28 A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people." 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised. 37 "For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.
It is true, as Rhodes says, that the background is indeed that they had started out great. We see in those very verses that he pointed to that they did such good deeds as being willing to get mistreated for their faith, suffered humiliation, had compassion on prisoners, etc. (vv. 32-34).. Thus, they had indeed performed good deeds and that specifically would mean that if they hold fast to the faith, that they will be rewarded by God. That is why the Catholic would say that this passage teaches merit. Now Rhodes says that the loss of the temporal possessions was insignificant in light of the assurance of possessing heavenly treasures. Well, he is partly correct. The earthly goods indeed pale in comparison to the heavenly reward. However, he puts an assumption into part of that sentence. Now, Rhodes says that he is ‘assured of possessing heavenly treasures.’ However, a look at the context, shows that on both sides of verse 35, is that he is not assured of it. He says that one must endure so that he may receive what is promised (v. 36). Thus, if he does not endure, he will not receive what is promised. He specifically says that if one is righteous and he lives by faith, he will receive that reward, but if he shrinks back, God will have no pleasure with him. Thus, he will cut himself off from God. Now of course the Hebrews author does hope that his readers will not shrink back and be destroyed (v. 38), and they need to keep the faith and their own souls (v. 39). However, it is possible that one will shrink back and not receive what is promised (vv. 36-38).

Even prior to that, however, we see that this supposed assurance is not so sure. In Heb. 10:26-29, that it is possible to lose ones’ justification. It says that if we sin deliberately after receiving the truth, (and the context is of meeting together for worship and thus the sin is of refusing to meet for worship), there is no longer a sacrifice for sins. The once and for all sacrifice of Christ (which is re-presented in the Mass) will no longer be of avail for the believer. If one profanes the blood of the covenant (which is the Eucharistic meal, see 1 Cor. 11:24, 27, (where it says that we partake of the blood of the covenant and if we take the blood of the covenant when we shouldn’t we profane the blood of Christ) by deliberately refusing to partake of it, and meeting together with the covenant, the punishment will be severe (Heb. 10:29). If one deliberately sins in this manner one will get the same penalty that consumes the adversaries of the gospel (vv. 26-27,) a fury of fire. When one does this, they spurn the Son of God, and will receive the same punishment as its adversaries, which is of course eternal hell. Thus, far from being assured of a heavenly reward, the context of this whole passage assures us that if we shrink back from following Christ, one will get separated from Christ and receive not an eternal reward but an eternal punishment. Thus, with that in the background, then the reward that one will get back if they do not forsake the assembling together or the fellowship of believers, (where one will still have access to the sacrifice of the Eucharist (v. 26)), and they continue to hold fast to the truth to the gospel that they will get an eternal possession, which of course is eternal life (vv. 32-34). If one does continue to endure, one will receive a great reward (v. 35). One can only receive that promise if they endure (v. 36). Thus, Heb. 10:35 does show merit in grace does avail.

Contrary to the Roman Catholic view that this verse teaches that meritorious works are required for a destiny in heaven, all this verse is really saying in context is that the very awareness of one’s future destiny in heaven should motivate a person in the present to faithfully endure hardship. Jesus is not saying His Jewish followers must endure persecution with a view to meriting heaven (p. 159).
We just saw with the whole context given, that this analysis is correct. Paul specifically says in the very verse following verse 35, verse 36, one more time:
Heb. 10:36
For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised.
We just saw the whole context verifies that one can throw away that reward as verse 35 says. But even in the immediately following verse, verse 36 shows that the purpose of endurance is so that one can receive what is promised. If one does not have that endurance, one will not receive that promise. Thus, it is clearly cause and effect. If you endure, you get what is promised, if you don’t you will be punished and not receive an eternal reward. We saw that if one is in unfaithful one will have spurned the Son of God and will have been rewarded with the same punishment as the gospel’s adversaries (vv. 26-29). If one shrinks back, God has no pleasure with him (v. 38). There is no ‘guaranteed awareness’ that one is guaranteed heaven, as Rhodes falsely asserts.


Rhodes attempts to explain away the verses that show the necessity of works for salvation, and the fact that God rewards his sons with heaven, based on those grace empowered obedience and works. We saw that James pointed us to the fact that faith, apart from works was dead (James 2:17,26). We saw that Abraham was in fact justified by works (James 2:21) and the attempt to say that his works only demonstrated that one has a true faith, or that this works was only a ‘demonstration before men’ was not in the passage. In fact we saw through the context of James, and the passages that James referred us to in Genesis showed that Abraham’s offer of Isaac was only a demonstration before God. We also saw the chiasm of James 2:20-26 which showed that faith alone was incomplete, Rahab was also justified by works (James 2:25), and faith need to be completed by works (2:22), as faith alone is insufficient for justification (v. 24). We also saw Paul write in Philippians 2:12-16 that we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Rhodes attempted to say that, well, because there were problems in the Church of Philippi, that Paul was only speaking that the Philippian Church had to work out their problems in only a temporal way. Rhodes tried to argue that Paul was not speaking of how one was individually saved because of this. However, I showed that Rhodes did not use that logic when Paul was criticizing the Church in Galatia and Corinth, to say that ‘well, this doctrine is only speaking of the Church corporately and was not addressing how one was individually saved.’ We saw that the whole context (Phil. 2:12-16) spoke indeed of justification before God and how it is God at work within us. Thus, grace empowered works are necessary for salvation according to Phil. 2:12-16. We saw that the diversion to Ephesians 4:30 to supposedly show eternal security to cancel out the message of Phil. 2:12-16 failed as even the passage in Ephesians 4:30 was surrounded by the context which shows that sins that we do can cause a disinheritance from the kingdom of heaven (Eph. 4:28-5:3-5). We also saw Romans 2 teach that God renders according to works (v. 6), that those who are patient in well-doing get glory, honor and immortality (v. 7). We also saw that this glory, honor and immortality which is the reward of heaven is given based on doing good (v. 10). And we also saw that only the doers of the law will be justified (v. 13). However, this is accomplished only done under the auspices of God’s kindness and mercy, his grace (v. 4). Thus, Romans itself shows faith alone does not justify. The diversion to other passages in Romans by Rhodes showed a misreading of those passages (Rom. 3:28, 4:3-5) do not cancel out Romans 2:4-13. Finally we saw the Rhodes attempt to downgrade the meaning of Heb. 10:35 (which speaks of merit and the necessity to endure), to say that endurance was not a means of salvation was belied by the whole context. Thus, the attempt of Rhodes to say that works are not a means of salvation is shown to be false.

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© 2000 Reasoning From the Scriptures with Ron Rhodes Chapter 9, Forensic Justification Versus Meritorious Justification - Part 3, Matt1618... This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.

Last modified June 5, 2002.