A reflection on Romans 1-4
As a child and young adult I was raised with the teaching of salvation by faith alone. This doctrine was taught as a contrast to the Roman Catholic teaching of salvation by works (as it was explained to me). Now this is not an attempt to exhaustively address the RC doctrine of salvation and how faith and Works play out in that teaching; I’ll leave that to someone else. This aim is to address the understanding that was delivered to me as a child; and to examine a more biblical view of faith and Works in contrast to it.
Growing up I not only observed, first hand, the struggle for pastors and church leaders to explain salvation by faith alone; but I felt the tension in my own head as I wrestled with the teaching as it was presented to me and what I would read in Scripture.
I’m not going to pretend I know where this teaching started, but in the denomination I was raised in, it was presented as almost a knee jerk response to the RC teaching of “salvation by works”. I was told ad nauseam that all one must do to be saved is just believe on Jesus. Children were told that if they just asked Jesus into their hearts they would be saved. Parents of erring children were comforted with the “fact” that their child is saved because when he/she was 5 yrs old they asked Jesus into their heart and they can’t lose their salvation. (I have more to say about eternal security, but that’s for another time.)
So what is it? Salvation by Works? Salvation by Faith? Salvation by Both? Let’s delve into these first 4 chapters of Romans and see what we can mine.