The One Requirement

 

When I took up a pre-medical course in a Protestant [or evangelical] school, Silliman University, in Dumaguete City, Province of Negros Oriental on Negros Island in the Visayas Region, in the late 1950s, I was required to enroll in several religion classes. One subject of such a class was a survey of the Old Testament.

One particular OT verse that stood out for me was that from the book of the prophet Micah (6:8, NKJV): “He [God] has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to have mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

The small word “but” implies that God requires just one thing or a series of connected things that a man is to fulfill, in order to do what is good. This was a bit of a shock to me, because – growing up in a staunch Protestant home [See: http://www.pool-of-siloam.com/about-the-author] — I had assumed that one only needed to believe in Jesus in order to be saved (John 3:16). Later I learned about the teachings of the protestant movement’s founder, Martin Luther, on salvation by grace through faith alone – not through works (Ephesians 2:8). This is the banner which many evangelical groups carry when preaching the “gospel” to all the world. One particularly active such group is “Evangelism Explosion [or EE; see:  https://evangelismexplosion.org/about-us/.]

Through time, however, it seems that some evangelical groups, such as the church I and my siblings grew up in, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines [UCCP], have intertwined these two divine “mandates” and have come up with a “social gospel.” They believe that they should follow their Lord Jesus’ example of not only preaching the gospel but also doing good by helping the poor, healing the sick, raising the dead, liberating those oppressed by demons, etc. Thus, the UCCP promotes active participation in labor movements, charities, mission hospitals, relief efforts during calamities, etc. My elder brother, a labor union lawyer, spent himself defending the rights of laborers. My elder sister, a public health nurse, was at the forefront in seeking the welfare of health workers. My father, the first lawyer of his indigenous tribe, spent most of his years and energies defending the rights of his fellow-tribesmen to their ancestral lands, which “Christian” settlers were trying to take away from them.

Amos 5:23-24 shows that true worship requires justice and righteousness. Isaiah 58:6-10 teaches that true humility requires one to “loose the bonds of wickedness, undo heavy burdens, let the oppressed go free, break every yoke, share one’s bread with the hungry, offer one’s house to the poor, cover the naked, take care of one’s family,” etc.

Jesus taught a similar thing, in Luke 3:10-14 and Matthew 25:31-45. The apostle Paul, under Christ’s inspiration, taught that “…as we have [the] opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith [fellow-Christians]” (Galatians 6:10).

Micah 6:8 speaks volumes of our main Christian duty: to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. In fulfilling this one requirement, we will also be able to comprehend and practice The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love.

For further insights into this topic, see: Saved for Good Works, Being and Doing, and A Short and Sweet Psalm.]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
16092022

 

A Short and Sweet Psalm

Psalm 15 is a short and sweet psalm of just two stanzas, as rendered in the Scottish Psalter:

O Eternal, who shall dwell in the temple of Thy grace?Who shall on Thy holy hill have a fixed abiding place?He who walks in righteousness, all his actions just and clear; He whose words the truth express, spoken from a heart sincere.

He who ne’er with slandering tongue utters malice and deceit;
Who will ne’er his neighbor wrong, nor a slan’drous tale repeat.
Who will claim no usury, nor with bribes pollute his hand;
He who thus shall frame his life, shall unmoved forever stand.

This is one of several Scripture passages that tell us that, in order to live forever in God’s house [or kingdom], we must do certain things. It’s saying that it’s not enough to simply have “faith” or “believe” and do nothing else whatsoever, which summarizes the battle cry of the “saved by faith alone” protagonists.

The psalm begins by affirming that God’s dwelling place is a “temple of grace.” A true Christian [a true follower of Christ] begins by receiving God’s grace [unmerited pardon for one’s sins through Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary] and remaining in it,  is ultimately assured of a place in God’s kingdom. How?

The “sweet psalmist” [Israel’s King David] then enumerates a number of actions or deeds one must do: walk in righteousness, be just and clear in actions, express words of truth from a sincere heart, keep from slandering others with malicious and deceitful words [not gossiping], not exacting usury on money or goods lent, not perverting justice through bribes.

The psalmist did not intend that the above-mentioned deeds are all that one has to fulfill. These are but a few examples of how to “walk in righteousness.” Psalm 119:172  declares that “all Thy [God’s] commandments are righteousness.” Verse 142   also affirms that God’s “law is truth.” Jesus expanded this by saying “Thy [God’s] word is truth”(John 17: 17 ). Indeed Christ affirmed the Old Testament scripture [Deuteronomy 8:3] that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

“Evangelical” believers often refer to Ephesians 2:8-9 as their proof that we are saved by grace alone through faith.  However, they fail to emphasize as well verse 10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

The apostle Paul amply wrote that being justified through God’s  grace in Christ by faith, we “should be careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:7-8).  He taught that we are purified to become God’s “special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).

These “good works” include deeds we do for God and toward our fellowmen. Jesus summarized God’s “great commandment” as loving God above all and loving one’s neighbor as oneself (Matthew 22:37-38).

For a fuller exposition of this topic, see:  Saved for Good Works and  Being and Doing.

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr. 09112022