Chapter OneFaith Comes First
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For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.
You have often heard me say that the Christian life has two dimensions:
the first is faith, and the second is good works. A believer
should live a devout life and always do what is right. But the first
dimension of the Christian life-faith-is more essential. The second
dimension-good works-is never as valuable as faith. People
of the world, however, adore good works. They regard them to be
far higher than faith.
Good works have always been valued more highly than faith.
Of course, it's true that we should do good works and respect the
importance of them. But we should be careful that we don't elevate
good works to such an extent that faith and Christ become
secondary. If we esteem them too highly, good works can become
the greatest idolatry. This has occurred both inside and outside of
Christianity. Some people value good works so much that they
overlook faith in Christ. They preach about and praise their own
works instead of God's works.
Faith should be first. After faith is preached, then we should
teach good works. It is faith-without good works and prior to
good works-that takes us to heaven. We come to God through
We Live by Faith
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For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed,
a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written:
"The righteous will live by faith."
When I was a monk, I didn't accomplish anything through fasting
and prayer. This is because neither I nor any of the other monks
acknowledged our sin and lack of reverence for God. We didn't
understand original sin, and we didn't realize that unbelief is also
sin. We believed and taught that no matter what people do, they
can never be certain of God's kindness and mercy. As a result, the
more I ran after and looked for Christ, the more he eluded me.
When I realized that it was only through God's grace that I
would be enlightened and receive eternal life, I worked diligently
to understand what Paul said in Romans 1:17-a righteousness
from God is revealed in the gospel. I searched for a long time and
tried to understand it again and again. But the Latin words for "a
righteousness from God" were in my way. God's righteousness is
usually defined as the characteristic by which he is sinless and
condemns the sinner. All the teachers except Augustine interpreted
God's righteousness as God's anger. So every time I read it,
I wished that God had never revealed the gospel. Who could love
a God who is angry and who judges and condemns us?
Finally, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I took a closer look at
what the prophet Habakkuk said: "The righteous will live by his
faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). From this I concluded that life must come
from faith. I therefore took the abstract to the concrete level, as we
say in school. I related the concept of righteousness to a person
becoming righteous. In other words, a person becomes righteous by
faith. That opened the whole Bible-even heaven itself-to me!