Our question today comes from a new book from Zondervan called Thinking Through Paul by Bruce W. Longenecker and Todd D. Still.
“But regardless of whether it is right to read passages of this kind as referring to the ‘faith(fullness) of Christ,’ we come out much the same place with regard to how Jesus-followers are to live no matter where we start in Paul. Contrary to popular opinion, Paul never talks about ‘salvation through faith alone,’ since the word ‘alone’ is absent from his formulations of ‘by faith’ and ‘through faith.’ The view that salvation is by ‘faith alone’ has at times been taken to imply that Paul only wanted Christians to hold to a set of right convictions about Jesus, and that anything beyond the holding of those deeply held beliefs would be tantamount to a form of Christian legalism or salvation by works.”
“Taken independently, some of Paul’s statements might be read in this way, as in the affirmation of Rom 10:9: ‘If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ But Paul also held that such affirmations had a life-changing DNA about them, so that confessions of faith were themselves wrapped within cosmos-transforming power. Paul wanted Christ-followers to hold to a set of convictions about Jesus that consequently transformed their lives in practical ways through the power of God. If righteousness is ‘through faith,’ it is also the case the Paul expected faith to be expressed in practical terms and evidenced in obedient forms of lifestyle. . . . Theological convictions and beliefs were not enough for Paul, however. They were to overspill into concrete forms of lifestyle. Accordingly, whatever differences we might perceive in the way that Paul and the author of the letter of James construed their theological arguments, Paul would not have protested the point that ‘faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action [Greek: erga, ‘works’] is dead’ (Jas 2:17). We hear Paul say the same thing in his own way in his own letters, such as in 2 Cor 9:13, where he lauds the Corinthian Christians for what he calls ‘the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ. In a sense, this concern to enhance ‘the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ’ is what animates Paul’s letters from start to finish.” (314-15)