Daily Reformation, Revelation 2:12-17
From the Reformer
But since a great part of mankind imagine a righteousness compounded of faith and works let us here show that there is so wide a difference between justification by faith and by works, that the establishment of the one necessarily overthrows the other. The Apostle says, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” (Ph 3:8-9). You here see a comparison of contraries, and an intimation that every one who would obtain the righteousness of Christ must renounce his own. Hence he elsewhere declares the cause of the rejection of the Jews to have been, that “they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God,” (Rm 10:3). If we destroy the righteousness of God by establishing our own righteousness, then, in order to obtain his righteousness, our own must be entirely abandoned. This also he shows, when he declares that boasting is not excluded by the Law, but by faith (Rm 3:27). Hence it follows, that so long as the minutest portion of our own righteousness remains, we have still some ground for boasting. Now if faith utterly excludes boasting, the righteousness of works cannot in any way be associated with the righteousness of faith. This meaning is so clearly expressed in the fourth chapter to the Romans as to leave no room for cavil or evasion. “If Abraham were justified by works he has whereof to glory;” and then it is added, “but not before God,” (Rm 4:2). The conclusion, therefore, is that he was not justified by works. He then employs another argument from contraries—viz. when reward is paid to works, it is done of debt, not of grace; but the righteousness of faith is of grace: therefore it is not of the merit of works. Away, then, with the dream of those who invent a righteousness compounded of faith and works
—John Calvin, Institutes
Pulling It Together
One is not saved by his works or in the keeping of certain religious rules or rituals. One is saved by faith alone. Yet it is a most definite faith that saves. The faith that saves is not the mere nod of the head at the altar. It is not an emotion-swept soul that is saved but the one that holds fast the Name (Rev 2:13) despite the circumstances. This sort of faith, of course, has works, yet though they are imminent, they are also undependable acts. In fact, faith and works is a two-edged sword, as James explains without the use of the metaphor. You might say that you can tell if you have real faith if you have corresponding works (James 2:18) but those works will never salvage a faithless soul.
In the end, what saves a soul is holding fast in faith to the Name of Jesus.
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers