Thesis #44 of 95: Acceptance as a subject of God's kingdom at death and final judgement does not require adherence to a religious creed, simply the exercise of compassion arising from the promptings of conscience
Mt25:40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did (these acts of kindness) to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me
Gal5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word within in the statement, “You shall LOVE your neighbour as yourself.”
To the befuddlement of many a theologian, Jesus’ “sheep and goats” parable to which this thesis refers is the NT’s most substantial and effectively its definitive passage on final judgement. In the past I also regarded that passage as an almighty fly in the ointment as far as my earlier (Reformed Evangelical) understanding of gospel salvation was concerned. For a start there is no reference to religious faith or practice whatsoever. What’s more it appeared to be teaching justification by works.
Actually, it isn’t as such, but it would take much of chapter three of my book to delineate the matter in full whilst at the same time demonstrating that neither Paul nor any other contributor to Scripture contradict this teaching. It pertains to the context of justification, gospel salvation and the Church within broader benign providence. That is the central theme of “The Little Book of Providence”. So, for the purpose of this thesis, I’ll quote a brief passage from the aforementioned chapter three “Faith and Justification” which points towards the solution:
“It will appear to some that Jesus is here teaching justification by works in Matthew25:31-45. Rather it is justification through faith by reference to works. The passage makes no mention of how consistently or perfectly the “sheep” showed compassion. They just demonstrated they possessed it. The sheep were justified by exercising it regardless of measure. They therefore demonstrated they possessed the quality called faith whose product is agape, being the essence of true humanity. On the other hand, faith alone if it be merely a passive belief, trust or reliance on someone or something is dead if it does not result in positive action. The “sheep” had not been passive; they showed compassion because they had responded positively to their “heart” motivating them to act in such a way out of sympathy, empathy and to be at peace with themselves”.
Salvation DEPENDENT on grace
Jesus’ sheep and goats parable was thereby affirming that final salvation is not all of grace; there must be fruit. Yet it is entirely DEPENDENT on grace since the “sheep” are accepted by exercising the quality called faith; being an innate faculty provided through common grace, rather than having perfectly fulfilled God’s law or lived a sinless life. That would be justification by works. So, at the universal level justification is granted on the basis of such common faith. It is a positive response to conscience (the light of Christ in the spirit). It is evinced by compassion through the kindly favour (grace) by which pardon for sin has been granted to all producing the fruit of faith through the all-sufficient merits of Christ’s atonement.[Excerpt from The Little Book of Providence chapter three]
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