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Section 7. Living The Faith...
The Myth That We Are Saved By Faith Alone

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Myth of Faith Alone

Carol Brooks

Perhaps one of the all time greatest delusions in the Christian world, is the innumerable number of people who are under the impression that, in order to be forgiven their sins and inherit eternal life, all they have to do is believe Jesus died for their sins on the cross.

ON THIS PAGE

Introduction

  Faith... The Only Requirement For Salvation?
Not according to the Scriptures

The Meaning of The Phrases "Knowing God", "Loving God". Also Obedience to God
Hosea 4:6 ... one of the most misquoted and misunderstood passages in the Scriptures

Good Works
The Command to Good Works In Both Testaments
The Criteria By Which We Will Be Judged
Reconciling Salvation By Faith With Being Judged According To Our Deeds

James, Paul and Abraham
James is often seen as contradicting Paul's teaching that salvation is by faith alone -
an easy conclusion to come to until you examine the context of their writings.

Conclusion


Introduction
Perhaps one of the all time greatest delusions in the Christian world, is the innumerable number of people who are under the impression that, in order to be forgiven their sins and inherit eternal life, all they have to do is believe Jesus died for their sins on the cross. I strongly suspect that, if one were to ask the vast majority of Christians what one has to do to be saved, you would get a variety of answers such as "accept Jesus as your personal savior", or, as many misleadingly put it - "accept Jesus into your heart". SEE. Although the terminology may vary, the answers would almost always boil down to all you have to do is believe... all you have to do is have faith.

Also See Acknowledging Jesus Merely as Savior is Insufficient

Unlike many modern churches that have managed to convince people that a very minimal commitment is required to be saved, Jesus laid down some very stringent requirements. Just before He put forth two examples - one of the man who began to build a tower but ran out of money and the other of a king who weighed his odds before going into battle Jesus told the large crowd following Him,

     "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:25-27 NASB) Also see Matthew 10:37-38.

When was the last time you heard a message from the pulpit that even vaguely resembled Jesus' words?

In other words, much of the modern Christian world believes salvation  is a free gift - there is no price tag attached and nothing to do except believe. This idea probably stems from how various English Bibles (the KJV, NASB, ESV NLT, Amplified Bible etc.) have translated some verses. For example, the NASB says,

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift (Gk. Charisma) of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NASB)

However, in the New Testament the word free does not occur in a single verse that speaks about God's gift to us. See Free Gift on THIS page.


Faith... The Only Requirement For Salvation?
Faith: At the very outset, let me be very, very clear about one thing. Salvation is a gift from God that we do not deserve and cannot do anything to earn. But at the same time faith is an essential ingredient without which it is impossible to please God.  We are saved by God's grace but we have to trust that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. 

    For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB)

    and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:30-31 NASB)

    And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)

However, what one never (or very rarely) hears is that anything other than faith is required to be saved. In fact any suggestion that this is the case is not only militantly opposed by most of Christendom, but denounced as an unbiblical, works based, false teaching.

But are they right? Arriving at the truth depends on two factors.

    1.)  People have to be willing to rely strictly on what the Bible says even if they have to put aside all that they have heard, read, or been taught.

    2.) They have to remember that sound doctrine cannot be based on isolated proof texts, but can only be developed from the total teaching of Scripture. Why? Simply because it would be impossible for the Bible to cram all it's teachings on a particular subject into a single verse, paragraph or even chapter. The Bible is an integrated whole and, from cover to cover, represents the 'whole counsel of God'. Therefore all passages that speak of, or have any bearing on, the subject in question have to be carefully considered.

So let us examine what the Bible actually teaches.

To begin with the Bible never ever teaches (or even implies) that faith is the only requirement for salvation. Much to the contrary, the Scriptures point to a number of things that are essential before we can even think of ourselves as being saved. For example...

    Repentance, defined as a radical change in one's attitude toward sin and God, is presented as an absolute requirement for forgiveness in the Old Testament as well as the New. Jesus, not mincing words said, "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish". (Luke 13:3 NASB) Repentance, continually emphasized in the book of Acts is NOT the same thing as faith, but the Bible presents them as connected... literally two sides of the same coin.  Repentance does not earn you salvation, but there is no salvation without it, yet it is rarely put forward as essential to salvation. [See Repentance]

    Holiness: The very foundation of the Old Testament law was obedience, separation from the world, perfection, and doing good, all of which make up the Biblical word "holy". The New Testament says without holiness no one will see God (Hebrews 11:6), yet holiness is rarely taught as an essential to eternal life. In fact, I dread to think what would happen if someone in a modern church were to preach that you have to attain a certain level of righteousness to be saved. The hue and cry would be deafening - the preacher soundly denounced (from one end of the Christian world to the other) as a false teacher who is teaching salvation by works. But, consider for a moment Jesus' words in the sermon on the mount.... ""For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven". (Matthew 5:20 NASB).

    Holiness, or separation from the world and it's standards, is NOT a virtue and it is NOT a suggestion - it is the commandment of God, repeated from one end of the Bible to the other. Anyone who professes Christianity without holiness is as phony as the proverbial three dollar bill. While holiness certainly implies goodness, the core meaning of holiness, it is not just "good", but rather, "set apart", and therefore, good. How do we, as 21st century believers, apply the principles of separation to our often very complicated lives in the modern world. [See Holiness]

    Obedience: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. (Matthew 7:21 NASB)

    Good Works: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10 NASB)

    Endurance: "Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. "Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. "But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. (Matthew 24:11-13 NASB).

    Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 NASB)

    yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach-- if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. (Colossians 1:22-23 NASB)

    but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house--whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. (Hebrews 3:6 NASB)

    For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, (Hebrews 3:14 NASB)

Several of the above topics like Repentance and Holiness have been covered in detail in separate articles (linked above). The thrust of this one is that once a person has made a decision to follow Christ and has been born again, obedience, holiness and good works, will become a part of their life... not to earn salvation, but because of it.

If these are missing the person concerned needs to question their salvation.


Knowing God
In view of the fact that John said eternal life is "knowing" both God and Jesus we need to thoroughly understand the phrase "knowing God',

    "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3 NASB) Jesus describes eternal life as knowing God.

The Old Testament regularly used the word yada to describe a close personal relationship between a man and a woman, especially a husband and wife. This was translated know in the Old English KJV but relations in newer versions.

    OT: And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew (Gr. yada) her again no more. (Genesis 38:26 KJV)

    And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the Lord, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew (Gr. yada) Hannah his wife; and the Lord remembered her.  (1 Samuel 1:19 KJV)

The KJV version of the New Testament again uses know, while the NASB says virgin.

     NT: Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know (Gr. ginosko) not a man? (Luke 1:34 KJV)

    And knew (Gr. ginosko) her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.  (Matthew 1:25 KJV)

Quite obviously, the Greek Ginosko does not indicate intellectual knowledge but a very close relationship. However, the Bible also tells us that to be in a right relationship or to 'know' God means keeping His commandments...

    By this we know (Gr. ginosko) that we have come to know (Gr. ginosko) Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know (Gr. ginosko) Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know (Gr. ginosko) that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6 NASB emphasis added)

At the last judgment, Jesus tells all pretenders to piety who claim to have done many works in his name, that He never knew them

    Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew (ginosko)you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.' "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:21-24 NASB)

Obviously, Jesus does not form relationships with people who practice lawlessness - whose pious facade is skin deep.

    Note: Hosea 4:6 (My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge), one of the most misquoted and misunderstood passages in the Scriptures. See Footnote I


"Loving God" - What The Bible Means By The Phrase
Proverbs 8:17 says God loves those who love Him, and Exodus 20:6 has God saying he shows "loving kindness" to those who love Him and keep His commandments.

However, one has to ask what it means to love God?

When we speak of 'loving' something we are usually referring to a feeling we have for someone or something that we can see, feel, or experience - family, children, pets, food, possessions, travel, books, a job etc.  However, although we know (or should know) a great deal about the character of God, what He has done for us, the world He has promised us (See Heaven) etc. it seems impossible that we would have the same intensity of feeling for a Being that we cannot experience the same way.

The footnote to Exodus 20:6 in the New International Study Bible sheds much light on the matter. It says that "in the treaty language of the ancient Near East the "love" owed to the great king was a conventional term for total allegiance and implicit trust expressing itself in obedient service."

This definition is supported by the Savior Himself. It does not matter how many preachers teach that all you have to do is "believe" to be saved. It doesn't make any difference how popular this erroneous idea may be. It does not matter how many people believe it. There is no honest way to skirt Jesus' words in the closing verses of Matthew 7,

    "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.' (Matthew 7:21-23 NASB)


Obedience to God

"A world of confusion and disappointment results from trying to believe without obeying. This puts us in the position of a bird trying to fly with one wing folded. We merely flap in a circle and seek to cheer our hearts with the hope that the whirling ball of feathers is proof that a revival is under way". A. W. Tozer

Obedience is the evidence of our love for Jesus, and was to be taught to new disciples

    If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14:15 NASB)

    He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. (John 14:21 NASB)

    Jesus answered and said to him, "If any one loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. (John 14:23 NASB)

    Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20 NASB)

The apostles, following in the path of our Lord, often reiterated that loving God means keeping His commandments.

    For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3 NASB)

    And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. (2 John 1:6 NASB)

Paul talked about the "obedience of faith"

    through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake, (Romans 1:5 NASB)

    but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; (Romans 16:26 NASB)


Jesus' Parable on Obedience
The Parable Of The Two Sons
In Matthew 21, Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem greeted by a crowd crying "Hosanna" and waving branches. He first chucked the money changers and merchants out of the temple, then healed people who were blind and lame causing the crowd to shout "Hosanna to the Son of David," This provoked the ire of the chief priests and elders who questioned His authority. It is in this context that Jesus told three parables (the Two Sons, the Tenants, and the Wedding Feast) by which he rebuked the religious authorities. In the first parable of the two sons, Jesus basically told them that all they had was the outward trapping of spirituality, without any substance.

    "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go work today in the vineyard.' "And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he regretted it and went. "The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, 'I will, sir'; but he did not go. "Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. (Matthew 21:28-31 NASB)

The religious leaders were epitomized by the second son who verbally assented to his father wishes, but did not actually do what his father wished. The second son initially refused to do what his father asked but later repented and did what he was told to do. While it is obvious that the ideal situation would be a son who cheerfully assented and did what he was told, the second son who 'came around' was far better than the first who never did.

One example from the Old Testament comes to mind.

Saul
The 15th chapter of 1 Samuel relates how God told king Saul that He would punish the Amalekites for how their treatment of the people as they were on their way out of Egypt (Vs.2). He told Saul to strike Amalek and utterly destroy man and beast (Vs.3). However, Saul did not obey and "spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good" (Vs 9).

Saul's actions caused the Lord to tell Samuel that he regretted making Saul king since he did not carry out His commands (Vs. 11). Saul's excuse was that the people had taken "some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal". To which Samuel replied

    "Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king." (1 Samuel 15:22-23 NASB)

This is a lesson that all Christians need to take to heart. Simply professing Christ as Lord, attending church, reading the latest "Christian" book, attending the never ending "Christian" conferences (whatever those are), or drinking your coffee from a mug marked with a Bible verse, will do nothing for you. To obey is all important, and takes precedence over everything else.

If we do not do so, we will hear what Saul did - "The Lord has rejected you". (Vs. 23 and 26)


Obedience Means Commitment
Total commitment to Him is something that the Father has always demanded for the simple reason that what a person is committed to clearly shows where their heart lies.  For example, the Pharisees loved "the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places". (Luke 11:43 NASB). And the rulers who believed Jesus did not confess Him...

     for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. (John 12:42-43 NASB)

The rulers had to choose between the approval of God and the approval of men. That they chose the latter showed they were not totally committed to God.

Abraham: Abraham has to be the most outstanding example of faith, obedience and commitment in the Bible. When God told him to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar, Abraham did not argue that God had promised that he (Abraham) would be the father of many nations and that his seed would be as numerous as the stars - none of which would be possible if he killed his only son. Instead he proved his faith to God - obvious from God's words to him. 

    He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me... and said, "By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." (Genesis 22:12, 16-18 NASB)

Just as it would have been impossible for Abraham to obey God without total commitment to Him, it would be close to impossible for us to choose to obey God's laws or commandments without absolute commitment to Him -without putting Him first.

We need to pay attention to the fact that the Scriptures do not ever record Abraham as saying that he believed or trusted God, but only records his actions as evidence of his faith. Thousands of years later, we know how great his faith was because of what he did, not what he said, what he felt, what he thought, or even what he believed.


Without Obedience Salvation Is Impossible
The author of the book of Hebrews said "without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him" (Hebrews 11:6) however, he also stated that eternal salvation was only available to those who obeyed

    and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation; (Hebrews 5:9)

Since the Biblical authors did not contradict themselves, the obvious conclusion is that both faith and obedience are indispensable requirements for salvation. John 14:15-17 implied that only those who keep Jesus' commandments are given the Holy Spirit.

    "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (John 14:15-17 NASB)

In fact, Jesus Himself never once said that all we had to do was believe, but repeatedly stressed the fact that obedience was indispensable in salvation - we have to do the will of the Father. 

    "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me. (John 14:23-24 NASB)

The verse above says, those who show their love for Jesus by obeying his commands are loved by the Father. Which means the inverse is also true -  those who do not show their love for Jesus by obeying his commands are not loved by the Father.

When our Savior asked those first century believers why they called Him  'Lord, Lord,' but did not do the things He said, the question was a timeless one... applicable to all believers everywhere and at all times. So imagine for a moment Jesus looking you in the eye and asking why you insist on calling Him Lord, but yet disobey His commandments. Then imagine how you are going to answer His question.

In summary, it doesn't matter how much you move your mouth, or how much emotion you stir up, it's your actions that count -  if you do not obey and bear fruit the Bible does not consider that you believe.

In summary, when God said His people were destroyed for lack of knowledge, He meant that they were not walking in His ways. They were ignoring His commandments and doing every evil they could think of...


Good Works
Ephesians clearly states we are not saved by good works.

    For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB)

This has, unfortunately, led many to believe that good works are unimportant, and that anyone teaching otherwise is a legalist adding to the finished work of Christ on the cross. Yet, anyone who reads the Scriptures carefully and without bias cannot but be struck by how strongly the Lord feels about the less fortunate and those in need, and the strong emphasis He places on doing good to others. The Scriptures repeatedly emphasize obedience, righteousness, justice and taking care of the less fortunate - without which rituals and sacrifices were unacceptable to the Lord.

The Command to Good Works In The Old Testament
Examples from the Old Testament include

    "At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. "The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29 NASB)

    "Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one's head like a reed and for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord? "Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? "Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? "Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. "Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; You will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' If you remove the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday. "and the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. (Isaiah 58:5-11 NASB)

    "I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. "Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. "Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. "But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. "Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel? (Amos 5:21-25 NASB)

The Command to Good Works In The New Testament
Apart from teaching, correcting etc. the Scriptures thoroughly equip the man of God for every good work...

    All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB)

Over and over again it instructs believers to not only do good works, but to consider how they can encourage other Christians to do the same. See 5 below.

    1. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 NASB)

    2. and God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; (2 Corinthians 9:8 NASB)

    3. so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; (Colossians 1:10 NASB)

    4. Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, (Titus 3:1 NASB)

    5. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, (Hebrews 10:23-24 NASB)

The good works of wealthy Christians should be as abundant as their riches

    Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,  (1 Timothy 6:17-18 NASB)

Believers are instructed to be such a reflection of God's light by their good deeds so that even the unbeliever may be influenced.

    Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NASB)

    Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:12 NASB)

Evidence of doing good deeds was essential before widows received church support

    A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. (1 Timothy 5:9-10 NASB)

And let us never forget the words of the extremely outspoken James.

    But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:18 NASB)

    Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (James 2:17-20 NASB)


The Criteria By Which We Will Be Judged
However, what is truly amazing is the number of times the Scriptures tell us that we will be judged, not by how much faith we have, but by what that faith produces. In other words, every person will be judged by the fruit they bear - their actions/deeds that came about as a result of their faith.

The Old Testament Says We Will Be Judged According To Our Deeds
Unless we are extremely foolish, we would do well to pay close attention to those verses in the Old Testament that tell us that God said that not only would He withdraw from people who practiced evil, and not love them anymore, but He would actually hate them, and would neither pity nor feel sorry for them. Note that in all cases, the reason given for the Lord's reaction is the evil deeds of the person, or people, involved. In other words, God will repay according to a person's deeds.

    Their deeds will not allow them To return to their God. For a spirit of harlotry is within them, and they do not know the Lord. Moreover, the pride of Israel testifies against him, and Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also has stumbled with them. They will go with their flocks and herds To seek the Lord, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn from them. (Hosea 5:4-6 NASB)

    All their evil is at Gilgal; Indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels. (Hosea 9:15 NASB)

    Then they will cry out to the Lord, But He will not answer them. Instead, He will hide His face from them at that time because they have practiced evil deeds. (Micah 3:4 NASB)

    I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:10 NASB)

    I, the Lord, have spoken; it is coming and I will act. I will not relent, and I will not pity and I will not be sorry; according to your ways and according to your deeds I will judge you," declares the Lord God.'" (Ezekiel 24:14 NASB)


The New Testament Says We Will Be Judged According To Our Deeds
The New Testament says exactly the same thing the Old Testament did. For example, in the words of the Lord Himself

    Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. (Matthew 7:21 NASB)

    For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. (Matthew 16:27 NASB)

    Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. (Revelation 22:12 NASB)

Note that the last quote above was specifically written to believers.

Most Christians claim to believe that God is unchanging, yet will foolishly deny that God can (and does) withdraw from people under the new covenant. However, they seem to have overlooked that fact that the Lord specifically threatened to remove two church's (Sardis and Ephesus) lamp stand from their place, and implied as much to the church in Thyatira. Those churches that kept His deeds to the very end would be rewarded, while the ones that did not were in danger of having their lamp stand removed from its place.

     To the church in Sardis: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 'Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. (Revelation 3:1-2 NASB)

     To the church in Ephesus: 'Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lamp stand out of its place--unless you repent. (Revelation 2:5 NASB)

     To the church in Thyatira: 'He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; (Revelation 2:26 NASB)

Paul was very clear about the importance of deeds

    Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. (1 Corinthians 3:8 NASB)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10 NASB) Also See Rewards in Heaven - Part VII of What And Where is “Heaven”?


The Parable Of The Fig Tree
In the parable of the fig tree Jesus causes the fig tree to wither because it had leaves but no fruit.

    Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He *said to it, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you." and at once the fig tree withered. (Matthew 21:18-19 NASB)

The Sheep and The Goats
In Matthew 24, Jesus clearly told us the criteria by which people will be judged. Notice that there is not one word said about faith, but whether or not they acted on that faith. In His words

    (31) "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  (32) "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; (33) and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.  (34) "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  (35) 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;  (36) naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' (37) "Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? (38) 'and when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  (39) 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' (40) "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'  (41) "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; (42) for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;  (43) I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' (44) "Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?'  (45) "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'  (46) "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matthew 25:31-46 NASB)

Again it has to be noted, that if we base doctrine on isolated texts, then verses 34 and 35 (numbers in bold ) of this parable clearly shows that people who feed and clothe the hungry, shelter the homeless, and visit prisoners, are also saved.

 
Reconciling Salvation By Faith With Being Judged According To Our Deeds
But how can a person be judged by his deeds when the Bible clearly tells us that we are saved by grace through faith. Is it possible to reconcile the two?

The answer is a resounding "yes". Not only can the two concepts be reconciled, but they are actually inseparable.

Sadly, the modern church has become so focused on the whole idea of just believing, that it has completely lost sight of the Biblical meaning of the word "faith". The Word of God nowhere supports the idea that a mental assent to Jesus having lived, died, and been resurrected is enough to save a person. Nor do the Scriptures ever state, or even imply, that believing that Jesus died on the cross for our sins is sufficient to give us eternal life. Much to the contrary, it states, in very unambiguous terms, that faith is not just a matter of believing, but of following through on that belief. Lets return for a moment to John 3:36, which says

    "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36 NASB)

We need to pay close attention to the fact that, in the statement above, the opposite of belief is disobedience. In other words, a person who believes... obeys the commands of our Lord. If they do not obey, they do not really believe, much as they might think they do. We will be judged according to what our deeds because what we do is clear evidence of what we really believe.

Our works do not get us saved, but come about as a natural result of being saved. We do not do God's will because we will earn salvation from it; we do God's will because we are followers of Jesus who also did God's will.


James and Paul
But then, what are we to make of the words of the apostle James, which are often seen as contradicting Paul's teaching that salvation is by faith alone.  Here are the verses in question ...

    James: What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (James 2:14-20 NASB)

    Paul: being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;  (Romans 3:24 NASB)

    For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.  (Romans 3:28 NASB)

    For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB)

The perceived contradiction between the words of these two apostles has long been a theological battleground leading to some serious error and much misguided appeal to the book of James for support. For example,

     Many people today believe that eternal life is based on some sort of Santa Claus theology, according to which a person's good deeds have to outweigh the bad, in order for the person to be saved.

     Cults often use the book of James as foundation for their teaching that works are necessary for salvation (in their case the "works" are usually donating time and money to the organization itself).

     Critics point to these verses as an example of the Bible contradicting itself.

In reality, the words of the apostle James have been especially misunderstood and misinterpreted. (Apparently even Martin Luther didn't follow what James was saying since he called the book "an epistle of straw". But why am I not surprised? Contrary to the deified position Martin Luther holds today, he held to numerous wrong beliefs. (See Martin Luther)

James and Paul came from very different backgrounds. Paul, although extremely courageous and resolute, was a urbane man of letters. He spoke classical Greek, employed Greek literary techniques, and even occasionally cited Greek authors. It fell to him to lay the spiritual foundation of the New Testament church. James, Christ's brother and the leader of the headquarters of the infant church in Jerusalem, was very unlikely to have been as well educated as Paul. However, he was what we would call a "straight-shooter"... honest and forthright. He did not mince words, and did not indulge in subtleties, a trait he shared with many of the Old Testament prophets. His style made it very difficult to miss his point.


Context, Context and More Context
However, reading the words of James and Paul out of context can lead to the mistaken opinion that they are contrary to one another. If read in the context of each apostle's overall message, it becomes clear that each of them was addressing different situations, and had different objectives.

    Paul was explaining how the Gospel works.. how someone becomes a Christian through faith, rather than the keeping of the law. He was teaching justification by faith to Jews, who were accustomed to keeping details of the law such as circumcision (Romans 3:1) and the Sabbath.

    James, on the other hand, was emphasizing the nature or practical outworking of true faith through moral behavior, not necessarily connected or specific to Jewish law. He makes absolutely no mention of any particulars of the law but, in chapter 2, he speaks of treating the poor with dignity and feeding and clothing the hungry. 

In other words, Paul was concerned about people adding good works and/or observance of the law to faith, which they believed to be necessary for their salvation. James was concerned about people professing to have faith which is not really faith at all, but rather a lifeless, intellectual, assent to Christ. Paul was speaking of the faith necessary prior to conversion, and James was speaking of the works necessary after conversion. It also has to be noted that both James and Paul had exactly the same view of the law, which was, that the law demanded perfection.

    Yea, I testify again to every man that receiveth circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. (Galatians 5:3)

    For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all. (James 2:10)

In his book The Epistles of James and John, author Alexander Ross perfectly expresses the situation...

    "They are not antagonists facing each other with crossed swords; they stand back to back, confronting different foes of the Gospel" (p. 53).

Besides which...

    James never denied that people are saved by faith. James was obviously perturbed at people who claimed to be Christians, but were not demonstrating any signs of their Christianity. His argument was simple.. people act according to their beliefs. He emphasized that there is more to faith than agreeing with a set of facts, or having the correct beliefs, since even demons have that. There is only one kind of saving faith... the one that obeys. Any other 'faith' is nothing more than paying lip service to the Gospel.

    It is also very likely that James was confronting some who were preaching that a person could have faith without demonstrating any outward signs of it, which would have been a distorted version of Paul's teaching on justification. And/or he was rebuking some who claimed to have faith, but were not demonstrating any corresponding changes in behavior. He was also pointing out the absurdity of telling someone to "be fed", then not feeding him.

    Paul never denied that true faith is demonstrated by works. Perhaps more than any other New Testament author, Paul stressed that people are saved by the grace of God, but, it is without question, he taught that faith, obedience, and works, go hand in hand.

    through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake,  (Romans 1:5 NASB)

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.  (Galatians 5:6 NASB)

As the following citations show, Paul also held equally firmly to the belief that unless people led holy lives, there was no evidence that they were the children of God, rather they were "abominable" and "reprobate".. or destined for damnation. In fact, Paul's statements were almost as strong as those of James, when he said God's wrath would fall on those who did not obey the truth. (Emphasis Added)

    They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.  (Titus 1:16 NASB)

    who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:6-11 NASB)

He opposed the idea of being able to sin one's way to Heaven.

    What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  (Romans 6:1 NASB)

    Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?  (Romans 6:16 NASB)

and, more than once made the point that we were created for good works

    For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 NASB)

    Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. (1 Timothy 6:17-19 NASB)

    Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.  (Titus 3:14 NASB)

Incidentally, the the "apostle of love" John was on exactly the same track as Paul and James, not mincing any words when speaking of people who claimed to know Jesus, but did not obey Him. He flat out called them "liars" which, by the way, is just one of many examples of New Testament's public warnings against the wolves, often issued in less than polite language. (See Judge Not)

    By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6).

Who can deny that all three of the apostles were commanding readers to live their beliefs. 


James, Paul, and Abraham
Some are of the opinion that Paul and James come to different conclusions about Abraham. Again, this is not true.

Early in the book of Romans, Paul cites Abraham as the archetype of faith. His faith was counted as righteousness.

    For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." (Romans 4:2-3 NASB)

However, James is often quoted as saying... Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?  (James 2:21 NASB). Perhaps we need to read all of what James said...

    Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness," and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:21-24 NASB)

In other words, Abraham was in the habit of putting his money where his mouth was. When God told him to leave his country, he did not sit back and say, "God, I believe in you, but I do not know what dangers I will face by leaving the area I know so well. I cannot subject my wife to the unknown, so, I am sorry, but I think it is best that we stay here". 

The Bible tells us that Abraham went.

Similarly, How strong his faith was is evident from the fact that he told the young men who had accompanied him and Isaac to the mountain, to wait there with the donkey. He said that he and Isaac would go further, and "we will worship, and come again to you". (Genesis 22:5). Abraham was obviously confident that both of them would return.

He proved his faith to God, which is obvious from God's words to him. (Emphasis Added)

    He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."  (Genesis 22:12 NASB)

Both apostles say that Abraham's faith was counted as righteousness, but James stresses that Abraham showed his faith by doing.

    It is exactly the same with Rahab, whom James mentions as an example of faith in chapter two, saying "In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?" (James 2:25). It is readily apparent that Rahab's faith was evidenced by what she did. Had she just claimed to believe she, and the rest of her family, would have been just as dead as the other inhabitants of Jericho.


Conclusion
If we going to base our doctrine on isolated 'proof texts', then why not make it really easy on ourselves and claim that, based on Acts 2:21, 'calling on the Lord' is sufficient for salvation. After all, the verse very clearly states that "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved". However, if we take all of God's Word into consideration, then Jesus' words to people who were not only calling on the name of the Lord, but were doing signs and wonders in His name, are not very encouraging. 

    "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.' (Matthew 7:21-23 NASB)

I am not sure how it could get any plainer. If even casting out devils in Jesus' name is not sufficient in itself, how can simply calling on the Lord guarantee salvation if not accompanied by obedience to His word.

    "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. "Behold, I have told you in advance. "So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them. "For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matthew 24:24-27 NASB)

The fact is that the Bible shows that we are not saved by any one thing, but each condition is intrinsically entwined with all the others. Condensing the entire New Testament into a single doctrinal belief, means we have to throw a number of other New Testament passages out of the proverbial window, thus trivializing the word of God.

Yet, the most common dirge heard from the pulpit today is... all a person has to do to be guaranteed a place in heaven, is believe. (I call this false message a dirge, because it is exactly that... a funeral song for those that hear and believe this fake gospel). Belief alone is not what the Word of God teaches, but makes the Gospel more palatable to the masses, with a terrible result - believers have been lulled into a false sense of security.


Our Options
As always, we have a couple of options open to us at this point..

    A) We can ignore, to our eternal detriment, all the Bible verses that contradict the modern (and very popular) salvation by faith alone myth.

    B) We can treat the Bible as an integrated whole, and choose to believe the 'whole counsel of God'. "Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word the proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4)

And, if we choose the latter, we are faced with the fact that we are not saved by any one thing, but by a combination of faith and hope, repentance, obedience, and endurance, etc. Then and only then can we go about working out our salvation with fear and trembling.


Footnote I
My People Are Destroyed For Lack Of Knowledge
Hosea was the only prophet from the northern kingdom of Israel who left a written record of his prophecies. His ministry extended through the reigns of seven different kings starting with Jeroboam II. Hosea prophesied just before the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, during a very dark period in the history of the nation, when as Albert Barnes wrote "Politically all was anarchy or misrule; kings made their way to the throne through the murder of their predecessors, and made way for their successors through their own". Four of the six kings (Zechariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, Pekah) were murdered by their successors while on the throne. In the ninth year of king Hoshea's rule, Samaria was captured by the Assyrians. (2 Kings 18:9-11 NASB)

The following verses should serve to show how bad the situation had become...

    The more they called them, The more they went from them; They kept sacrificing to the Baals And burning incense to idols. (Hosea 11:2)

    And now they sin more and more, And make for themselves molten images, idols skillfully made from their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen. They say of them, "Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!" (Hosea 13:2 NASB)

    My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner's wand informs them; For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, And they have played the harlot, departing from their God. They offer sacrifices on the tops of the mountains And burn incense on the hills, Under oak, poplar and terebinth, Because their shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters play the harlot And your brides commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they play the harlot Or your brides when they commit adultery, For the men themselves go apart with harlots And offer sacrifices with temple prostitutes; So the people without understanding are ruined. (Hosea 4:12-14 NASB)

This caused the prophet to verbally assail both the common man, and the kings and priests of the land for their idolatry and violence...

    (1) Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel, For the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land.  (2) There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed.  (3) Therefore the land mourns, And everyone who lives in it languishes Along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky, And also the fish of the sea disappear. (4)  Yet let no one find fault, and let none offer reproof; For your people are like those who contend with the priest.  (5) So you will stumble by day, And the prophet also will stumble with you by night; And I will destroy your mother.  (6) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. (Hosea 4:1-6 NASB)

Verse 6 is commonly believed to say that the nation had NO knowledge of the truth which was impossible. No Jew, alive at the time, could have been ignorant of their history and the fact that they had been entrusted with the oracles of God. Every adult Jew would have been aware of details such as the Sabbath based on their rescue from Egypt, the laws and commandments of Leviticus, the Ten Commandments given at Sinai, the warnings of Deuteronomy 30, and the sacrificial system that God had put in place etc. etc.

That the priests still performed the sacrifices, we know that they were aware of the truth, but going through the motions did not make the sacrifices pleasing to the Lord.

    Though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My law, They are regarded as a strange thing. As for My sacrificial gifts, They sacrifice the flesh and eat it, But the Lord has taken no delight in them. Now He will remember their iniquity, And punish them for their sins; They will return to Egypt. (Hosea 8:12-13 NASB)

As the second part of verse 4:6 says, they had "rejected" knowledge of God. They worshipped Baal and the calf image set up in Bethel by Jeroboam I mentioned in 2 Kings 10:29, sacrificed to wooden idols, and consorted with temple prostitutes. In other words, their behavior was no different from those who did not know anything about God. They knew God, but failed to acknowledge Him as God. They were aware of God's laws, but chose to ignore them.

Obviously, in order to know God one has to possess objective, factual data about Him. However, the Scriptures make it very clear that one can have intellectual knowledge of God's character and laws, yet still not "know" him.

The priests of the Northern kingdom that Hosea confronted had head knowledge of God. They recognized His existence, knew of His dealing with the nation, and were familiar with His laws which, it is more than likely, they publicly acknowledged. However they did not love, respect or honor the God they professed to serve, nor did they 'walk in His ways'. {PLACE IN TEXT}

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