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From The Chaplain's Desk
From The Chaplain's Desk: Faith versus Belief

By Charles Dimmick, CT State Grange Chaplain

  April 1, 2021 --

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.     Romans 3:28


You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.            James 2:24


A number of people will take a single line of scripture out of context for the purpose of justifying their behavior or their beliefs. The practice is called proof-texting, and has been used in the past to justify slavery and the taking of Native Indian land. The two passages at the beginning of this article have been used separately as follows: The first passage supposedly supports the claim that if you believe in God then that is all that is required to get into Heaven. The second is used to claim that God lets you into Heaven only because of all your good deeds, not by faith. They cannot both be right, and in fact there is no conflict between them if only one looks at them in the full context of the longer passages in which they are embedded.


Paul, in his letter to the Romans was making the point that Faith in God was the path to salvation, not by doing all the commandments laid down in scripture.   Note that it is faith that does this, not merely believing in God’s existence. James, a few verses before the one quoted above says “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that –and shudder!” - Further scripture reading shows that Paul and James are in agreement, just not using the same words.  In the letter to the Galatians Paul says, “The only thing that counts is faith, expressing itself through love”.  In the original Greek, the word that Paul uses for love is agape, which means totally unselfish love, giving of oneself to others without restraint. A person of faith will express that faith by unselfish love towards others. He or she will express that faith in good works, a visible sign of their internal Faith. If you have true faith then the Holy Spirit dwells within you; and Paul goes on to say: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23  gentleness  and self-control.” Good works are the outward sign and consequence of your faith, not means in and of themselves to obtain salvation.  If you say you have faith and do not do good works, then your faith is dead.



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