I believe that the relationship of grace, faith, and works, as they are involved in our salvation, is probably the most misunderstood subjects in the religious world.
There are those that believe that because they have completed some act of obedience that they will be saved, regardless of what kind of life they may live afterward. Church of Christ preachers have taught in the pulpit, the class room, in tent meetings, in lectureships, in debates, and even on the court steps that baptism was necessary to be saved and have emphasized it to the point that the Church of Christ is accused of believing in salvation by works or water salvation. Can there be those in the church that believe that?
The doctrine of "Salvation by Grace Only" has been the most favored among denominations, teaching that you do not have to do anything to be save, only believe that your sins are forgiven for Christ's sake and pray asking Christ to come into your heart. Today there is even a movement within the church to embrace the doctrine of "Salvation by Grace Only". Let us examine the Bible to see what it says about the relationship between salvation, grace, and works.
Paul, writing to the Ephesians, said, " For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians. 2:8,9) What does this mean? It means this, if you go to heaven, it will not be because you were baptized. Paul wrote to the Romans, "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."(Romans 5:9,10) And then writing to Titus, "But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:4-7) If you enter that pearly gate, you walk that street of gold, eat from tree of life, and stand with multitude of saints singing praises to God as you stand around His throne, it will not be because of any work that you have done in this life, it will because of the work that Jesus The Christ did on the cross of Calvary. No one should believe that he is saved because of any works that they have done. "But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do." (Luke 17:7-10)
Whoa, isn't this the same doctrine taught in denominations? Just because we are not save by our works, does that mean that we do not have do anything to be saved? Let's read on. Look back again at Ephesians 2:8," For by grace are ye saved through faith;". In Romans 5:2, Paul writes "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Faith is our access, our doorway to grace. Jesus said, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."(John 3:16) Without faith there is no salvation. Jesus said in Mark 16:16, ".....he that believeth not shall be damned." Hebrews 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is....." No argument from those that believe in the doctrine of "Salvation by Grace Only". They would never deny that faith is necessary for salvation. Let's dig a little deeper.
The scriptures qualify this faith that gives us access to grace. First of all it has to be in God The Father "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is.....(Hebrews 11:6); There is no salvation without faith in Jesus The Christ also: He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:18) " I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." (John 8:24). "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."(John 14:6) Still no argument.
Secondly, the Bible speaks of only one source for the faith; "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17). Faith that will give you access to grace is not inherited from our parents or grandparents. It doesn't come by whatever doctrine is most popular among our friends or community. It doesn't come upon us miraculously. It doesn't come by man written creeds and doctrines. It doesn't come by the words of a preacher, no matter how many degrees he has, how reverends or most reverends that are in front of his name, or how inspired he claims to be. It doesn't come from what you or I think and feel in our hearts is right. Faith that will give us access to God's saving grace comes only by hearing/reading and accepting the unadulterated Word of God.
Let's go back to Hebrew 11:6 and examine it more closely. "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is....." Is that it, do we just have to believe that God is? James wrote, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble."(James 2:19) Look at Hebrews 11:6 again; "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." There is something more than just believing that God is, we must believe that He will reward us if we diligently seek him. Now what would a person do that truly believed that God rewards those that seek after him? Why, he'd diligently seek after him of course. James said, "Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works."(James 2:18)
A righteous person's faith is manifest in works. Look at the following examples:
1)Abel: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh."(Hebrews 11:4)
2)Noah: "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. (Hebrews 11:7)
3)Abraham: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God."(James 2:21,23): "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:"(Hebrews 11:8,9): "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure."(Hebrews 11:17-19)
4)Moses: "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them."(Hebrews 11:24-28)
5)Rahab: Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?" (James 2:22): "By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace."(Hebrews 11:31)
These were people that truly believed that God is "a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
We are justified by works (of faith) and not by faith only: "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?" (James 2:14:): Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."(James 2:24)
Faith is only complete when it is manifested in works: "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?"(James 2:22) Without works it is unprofitable: "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?"(James2:14-16)
Faith without works is dead: "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."(James 2:17): "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."(James 2:26). Do you believe that dead faith will give you access to God's grace?
Furthermore the scriptures teach, explicitly, that we will be judged by our works: Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21) The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."(II Corinthians 5:10). In the judgment, as it was revealed to John, everyone was to be judged by their works: "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works."(Revelation 20:12,13).
So what have we learned?
1)We are not saved by meritorious works, we are saved by the unmerited favor of God. Our redemption was bought with the blood of Jesus The Christ.
2)We must have faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ. We have access to God's Grace through this faith. Without faith, there is no salvation.
3)God's Holy Word can be our only source for faith.
4)The scriptures qualifies true faith as being manifested in works. Faith apart from works is incomplete and unprofitable and cannot give access to grace.
5)We will be judged by our works on that final day.
6)Grace, faith, and works are all ingredients in God's plan of salvation. Not one of these ingredients can be left out if we want to be saved.
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