Sparks rise when the debate among Christians regarding the respective importance of faith and works heats up. To calm these oft-troubled waters of theological debate, let's consider a scientific illustration that compares elements of genetics with the question of faith and works for those who still have questions about the proper relationship between the two.
For many Christians, the relationship of faith and works is a loop that never reaches a conclusion, much like the aged conundrum of "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"
Every word in the Bible is true. Yet, comparing one specific verse to any other may result in an apparent contradiction where none is possible. How can we reconcile the following two verses about faith and works?
For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. ~ Romans 4:9
Paul tells us that Christians are righteous by faith, with no apparent requirement for works. But reading further into the New Testament we find this seemingly contradictory statement in James:
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. ~ James 2:26
The Bible must be considered as a complete work. Separate one chapter of a mystery novel from its fellows and the storyline will be lost. Perhaps we can discern the common truth in these verses by studying the characteristics of genes.
The order of Creation is consistent from each simple elemental particle to the most complex; humans created in God's own image. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the material in organisms that determines body shape, height, eye color, skin tone, and all other traits and characteristics heritable from one generation to the next.
Basic Review of DNA and Genetics
Before drawing the parallel between genetics and the Gospel, a basic understanding of DNA is required. Procreation combines genetic material from both parents, forming a unique DNA profile in each offspring.
The specific physical characteristics of any plant or animal will never appear in opposition to their genetic recipe. Two Siamese Cats cannot produce a ferret. Two elephants will not beget a fox, and human parents will never birth a fish.
Genes come in two different types, dominant and recessive.
Every dominant gene will produce a visible, objective trait in the individual. Every dominant gene will be expressed outwardly.
When you say a gene is expressed, it means that the characteristic associated with that particular genetic material will be manifest in the individual. For example, the human gene for brown eyes is dominant. Anyone who possesses the gene for brown eyes will have brown eyes.
Recessive genes are not always reflected in the offspring, sitting idly by unless paired with a second gene of the same type. In other words, unless both parents provide the same gene, a recessive gene does nothing and the individual will not have the trait carried by that gene. A recessive gene alone is not expressed.
New Creations in Christ Jesus
How is the science of genetics pertinent to a discussion of Christian faith and works? The definition of a Christian is one who is reborn as a new creation in Jesus Christ. Spiritual genetics determine the characteristics of each new creation.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
In the same way one human is genetically distinct from every other, each child of the King is different from every other. The joining of the human and the divine creates not only a new creation, but a unique new creation, unlike any other that ever was or ever will be.
Every person indwelt by the Holy Spirit has a new spiritual genetic profile when the "gene" of faith is added. Your mortal DNA is not changed, but your immortal profile certainly will be. The Holy Spirit represents a dominant gene of faith.
Faith is Expressed in Works
There is no recessive, passive, or idle Spirit gene of faith. Every Christian produced when a human spirit joins with the Holy Spirit is a new creation in Jesus Christ, and the new faith gene must express itself in action, speech, behavior, or actual physical transformation resulting from changes in habit or character.
Natural brunettes may suddenly become blonde on nothing but a whim and a bottle of peroxide, but they will still genetically be brunettes and will pass on brunette genes to their children. It's easy to change our outward appearance without changing our character.
Many people perform great works of morality and charity without having the faith gene in their makeup. Just as one's outward appearance is not reliable evidence of genetic or spiritual status, works alone will never prove faith in a world where external appearances are frequently and easily changed.
We... [know] that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. ~ Galatians 2:15-16
Degrees of Expression
Brown eyes are expressed by a dominant gene, but aren't all the same shade or shape. Expressions of the spirit-produced faith gene also vary greatly. Each child of the King is unique, with a spiritual genetic profile possessed by none other.
Every Christian is closely related, having the same Heavenly Father. And, every person who shares existence with the Holy Spirit in faith will express it in works. Paul's verses are no longer troublesome; the Holy Spirit brings faith that is never present without works. Unlike the problematic chicken and egg issue, when it comes to faith, rest assured that God acted first.
The only measurement of faith in the Christian spirit is the absence or presence of fear. Faith is not some amorphous philosophy that is beyond the grasp of the common man. The times we live in call for the family of Jesus Christ to listen for His voice. Whether the topic is faith or training stallions, Lynn Baber brings years of experience to readers and audiences. Highly credentialed in issues of leadership, relationship, and most things equine, Lynn has a unique perspective. For more, visit http://LynnBaber.net and http://AmazingGraysMinistry.com. You will find many articles, as well as links to Lynn's books and ministry programs.
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