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This is perhaps the most important question in all of Christian theology. This question is the cause of the Reformation, the split between the Protestant churches and Catholic Church. This question...
I recently heard this statement with regards to this question. "We are meritly saved by grace, conditionally by faith and evidently by works" To get salvation is by faith in Jesus alone and no works; the works (good) are the evidance of you BEING saved. After you accept Jesus as Lord and Savor, God sends His Holy Spirit to reside in you and this Spirit produces good works in or through you. Paul, in context was talking about the process to salvation and James, in context, was talking about those who have or claim to have been saved that their works should prove as such. Grace and peace to you all.
We do good works BECAUSE we have been saved. We do NOT do good works in order to earn salvation. We get to vs. We have to. Huge difference. Another way to put it is using 2 math equations: Jesus+something=nothing. (Jesus+works) Jesus+nothing=everything.
The Bible clearly teaches that we are saved by faith and not by works. Ephesians 2:8-10 says (NIV) "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." No one can please God by any other means, and neither can we produce good works that are pleasing to Him without first being reconciled with Him. In fact, our communion with God through Christ is the true foundation of good works that are pleasing to our Heavenly Father. The Psalmist declares in Psalm 66:18 (KJV) "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." The sinner may be as far from God as heaven is from the earth, yet when he chooses to yield to Christ the divine separation is bridged in the twinkling of an eye. We then have access to God's throne of grace. The idea that faith plus works earns us salvation is nowhere taught in the Bible. However it is biblically true that saving faith produces good works. Titus 2:11-14 (KJV) states "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Notice here that redemption and purification (sanctification) precede the good works, but sanctification continues throughout the earthly life of the believer. Salvation therefore first comes before works and not vice versa. To argue otherwise is to place the cart before the horse, so to speak. Any theology that teaches that salvation is earned by good works is therefore unbiblical, and does not find any support in the Scriptures. It is in effect an attempt to reach God through our own human effort while bypassing the divine route of the Cross of Calvary where Christ's atoning works were accomplished for us. This is essentially what the sons of Nimrod attempted to do when they erected the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). They were deceived into believing that they could reach heaven though human effort and ingenuity. Their tower came tumbling down and crushed leading to confusion and loss of their unity. Their fall is a lesson to us that no human invention or works can ever earn us divine approval or provide our access to God unless we are first hid with Christ in God (Col 3:3). Sadly, the "Babel solution" is being taught by some church denominations today, leading people to imagine that God's grace can be trapped in human rules or regulations, some of which expressly contradict His revealed truth. This is legalism at its best, a concept embraced and taught by the Pharisees in Jesus' day. The Biblical truth is this: We are ONLY saved by grace through FAITH in Christ and by no other means. So how do we address the "theological contradiction" that appears to emerge in the teaching of Paul and of James regarding faith and works? Whereas it is biblically true that faith without works is dead (James 2:17-18), it is equally taught in the Bible that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). We need to reconcile and harmonize the theology of James and Paul in the light of the broader biblical revelation. A balanced reading of the Bible confirms that the two do not contradict. James amplifies Paul's teaching in the sense that while Paul addresses the redemption perspective in Ephesians 2:8-9, James focuses on the post redemption life of the believer in James 2:17-18. The two passages should therefore be read together rather than being held in contrast so that the timeless principles that they convey are theologically synchronized.
Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Our salvation is 100% a gift of God through his mercies and by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Good works are not a requirement for salvation; but, how can we not do good works as we reflect on God's gift to us and, thus, desire to please him. Good works are our unabashed response to God's sacrificial love for us.
Salvation is by faith alone in what Jesus did on the cross for us. He sends the Holy Spirit into our lives and joins His spirit with our spirit to make a new man. We still have our old man (our old nature) with us. We have grace because when we come to the Lord by faith we are still sinners. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the unGodly. That is all of us. A Christian is not just one outwardly but there is a change of heart. This change is almost instantaineous in some, and is slow over time in others. We all sin and come short of the Glory of God. It is His spirit living in us that changes us. Can a leapard change his spots? Once we become believers we are born into the family of God. Also known as the church. We are His workmanship. He molds us and makes us what He wants to do with us. When we are not willing He has ways of making us willing. But always with a hand of love. His Love for us is far beyond measure, our love for Him grows over time. I do not think any of us in our finite minds can fully understand all that God does at the time of salvation. We know that the Angels rejoice in heaven. Having said all of that, I am afraid that many believe that they are saved by doing good works, or by obedience to the law. No one will ever reach heaven by good works. Christ did not die in vain. We still need Him every day. Even when we do good there is still evil present with us. The more we see what He has done for us on that old Rugged Cross, the more we will love Him and want to follow Him. How can we not love Him for pulling us out of the flames of hell and setting our feet in heaven.
On this question, the answer becomes understandable after addressing the confusion that arises from what one understands about: 1.What salvation is and from what? 2. What is the mechanism of salvation? 3. Are we saved already or is this still future? In reconciling these 2 verses, I will make comments after quoting them: A. Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." COMMENT: Salvation is indeed by grace of the Father and a gift, not by our own works. Mankind has been alienated from Father God because of sin. Everyone's sin reverted or defaulted to, by imputation, to Adam's sin((Rom.5:12-21), so that death, as a consequence thereof, could be imputed to Jesus' death. But, the proximate result of the death of Christ is to reconcile us to Father God, i.e., his death did not proximately or actually save us. As Rom. 5:10 states, "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God (through the death) of His Son, much more, having (been reconciled), we shall be saved by His life". Notice, mankind has been reconciled to God by Jesus' death but still (shall) be saved by his "life", i.e., we will (still) need to be saved (future) by "his life". Meaning, Jesus has to be resurrected to "life" before we can be saved. But, why Jesus' needed resurrection? Notice in John 16:7 "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." And, after resurrection what would Jesus do: Luke 24:49 "And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be imbued with power from on high." The "faith (of) Jesus" was for the Father after his death and resurrection, to provide the Spirit to be "in us", as promised. It was prophesied that from a "stony heart" figuratively "tables of stone" that we had before, the Spirit will get into us to reside in the "fleshly tables of our heart" (2Cor.3:3;Ex.31:18; Ezekiel.11:19, 36:26; Jer. 31:33), changed from "stony heart" to "fleshly tables" of our heart, now open for learning, guidance and "wisdom". As Pharaoh was "hardened and blind" (Ex. 9:12), so were we "deaf and blind" (Jn. 12:40; Mk. 4:12; Isa. 6:10) until the Spirit was given to us, starting on Pentecost. The Spirit is sorely needed by us because "the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:40-43). Indeed, not our "own works", but the "works" of Jesus' dying and the Spirit given to mold us "like clay being shaped" (Isa. 64:8; Jer. 18:1-23; 18:2-6; Rom. 9:21) into the mindset of Christ, the Head of the "body of Christ", the church. B. James 2:17-18 "So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith r apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." COMMENT: The context was about "showing", our faith. The Spirit in us, molding the "spirit of man" will have "fruits of the spirit"(Gal. 5:22-23). Our faith will then show or manifest in "good works". Without these fruits manifested, how then can one be sure about the presence of faith? In summary, salvation is being saved from the "second death" (Rev. 20:14), where there is no resurrection. It is indeed by grace, a gift to us by the Father. This came about, not by "our works or our faith". Rather, by Jesus' works and faith in the promise of the Father. Yes, faith and works (of) Jesus. Because of Jesus' death, we are then reconciled to the Father. After resurrection to "life", the Spirit was given and dwelt in us, as it did to man-Jesus in the river Jordan at baptism. Having been imbued with this Spirit, we will then manifest the "fruits of the Spirit". Faith without works is not shown and therefore dead, i.e. without proof that it existed in us. The actual realization of our salvation is still future at "the twinkling of an eye"(I Cor. 15:52-57), at the second coming of Christ. True faith in God has to have works, manifested as "the fruits of the Spirit." From faith-to-faith (Rom..1:17), i.e., from faith (of) Jesus (in) the Father, to our faith (in) Christ that transcends to the Father.
Paul did not want to think that salvation came through works of the Law. True faith is not just a mental acceptance of something. True faith produces active love. James offered practical examples of love. He says loveless faith is absolutely useless. Faith must produce love for others. Faith and works are not competing truths that must be balanced. They are interconnected realities. True faith will connect us in the very nature of God. In fact,when we are connected to God, we will be connected to the love of God. This love takes over our hearts so that we engage this world with true works of love.
Ephesians 2:8-9 make it very clear that salvation is by grace through faith, and not of ourselves. It is a gift of God, lest any man should boast. However, you find in the book of James (forgive me for not having the exact reference here) that faith without works is dead, and works without faith are meaningless. The faith that saves you is demonstrated through works, but the works in and of themselves do not save you. And if you have the faith, but you don't demonstrate it, I can only figure that it in and of itself would not save you.
To back up Michael Houdmann's point and not alienate or denigrate others I would gracefully offer these points: Works are a manifestation of our faith in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. If we truly have faith that Jesus is our saviour and as such are an image of God then we can't help but do and show good works as we follow Christ as his disciples. God the Father draws us to himself through Jesus, we repent of our sins and are filled with the Holy Spirit. No works required only faith. Grace is a free gift from God not earned but freely given lest we boast. Works are the fruit of our belief, faithfulness and discipleship and it's by these things that our Christianity is seen.
There is a distinct difference between works of the law and works of the spirit. The works of the law can not save, only through faith in the grace of God through Christ Jesus can save, which is free and not earned. Works of faith, or fruit if you will is proof of the born again experience. If you say you believe and do not bear fruit of repentance, IE: turning from your sin, you have not been born again as the sinful nature of the flesh still rules your body, the old man still lives and you are servant to it. Or as the Master states it in the parable of the sower the cares, and worries of this life or Satan steal the fruit and make the seed(word of God) unfruitful. Turning from your sin is not what saves you, but is the proof of the death of the sinful nature. The complete change is a work of sanctification which is a continual process, a dying out daily and regeneration through obedience to the spirit. But there is always some immediate change or turning away. Such as 'I was a thief before and now I steal no more'. I hope this clarifies this for you. Like Jesus said you know a tree by its fruit, a good tree does not bear bad fruit. Remember the parable of the tree that was demanded by the husbandry to be destroyed for lack of fruit and the worker pleaded to wait and let him feed it and see if it will bear fruit, Jesus is that worker who creates a window of grace between you and God and the word and spirit is the food that will make you fruitful. If you need further clarification please feel free to ask.
The bible clearly states that we have been saved by faith, not by works. That statement, however, means that we have not been saved by our own works. But by the works of Jesus Christ. Jesus dos all the works for us, and died on the cross. That was a work. But we as followers, should not do works to get into heaven. That is very unbiblical. We are saved by faith, no the works of Jesus Christ alone. Not by anything we have done or will do will get us into heaven. Only having faith in Jesus.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. c.f. James 2:14-24
Well, having faith in God means, in God we trust, as in the Old Testament the trust was impelented in the form of God's commands in a covenant wich was made by God through prophets to God's people. The covenant was made for the purpose of regulating how people of God should live their life in this world, so they may be lived a prosper life, full of blessings But the Old covenant was violated by man, and all the world was cursed to live in suffering, pain and death (Genesis 3: 16-19). In the New Testament, God made a new covenant through his one and only Son for the purpose of the world salvation (John 3:14-21); and whoever have a faith and call himself/herself a believer and follower of Jesus Christ has to execute this New Covenant in his/her daily life in this world (John 6: 60-66) for gaining salvation, in this world and the life after death.(John 6:39-40).
Faith that does not include obedience to the commandments of God is not faith that leads to salvation. Faith without obedience is merely an affirmation. Even the devil believes and trembles!
It is impossible to have saving faith without works. Works is a consequence of faith. A profession of faith without works cannot be faith. James 2:19-24 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 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. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Also in Hebrews 11 speaks of faith but also links each person's faith with a work, showing a correlation between faith and works. Works do not save you, however saving faith has works. It cannot be any other way.
Dear Fellow Believers, Having read the responses with interest that this question generated, there is one more angle that I would like to add that simply comes from Luke 23: 40-43. This is the incident involving our Lord's response to the dying thief in his final moments on earth. A true conversion indeed and forgiven by Jesus Himself, but no time to prove it by any good works. I have no doubt that this man is in Glory, as will be any true child of God with a lifetime of faith and good works to their name. I prayerfully leave this thought with you.
Good works is produced by the Spirit of God, which comes to live inside our hearts, when we acknowledge to God that we are sinners and see the need in our life to accept his death, burial and resurrection as payment for our sins. Our faith and relationship with God is made possible, through His son Jesus, completed work at calvary. Literally, our old self and what we were, becomes anew with characteristics of Jesus as we continue in God's word, listening to His Spirit.. which blesses us with fruits such as love, joy, peace, long - suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance or (patience). The scriptures teaches us knowledge of God so that our hearts are enriched with wisdom to live a life pleasing to our Father. So then, this would be our "food", which nourishes our spirit so our relationship with God is a growing one...giving us the mindset and faith of knowing He is in control and His presence is right beside of us. Every minute of the day, giving us constant contact with Him concerning all circumstances before us. His word teaches that "You will know a tree by the fruit it bears" and that "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lust."
There are works of the law and works that are good deeds. James 2:24 says " You see then that a man is justified by works,and not by faith only". These works spring out of our faith, but they also demonstrate our faith. Abrahams obedience demonstrated or proved his faith and he was justified and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
Colossians 2:14-17 and Romans 14:5-7 clearly state there is no legalistic standard for salvation, in fact, all things considered, if you truly live out your life's calling to spread the Gospel and win souls, you may have to even keep the law, like in this verse: *[[1Co 9:20]] KJV* And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; Or do the exact opposite, like in the next verse: *[[1Co 9:21]] KJV* To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. We have to remember, what is this all for? Why do we worship the Lamb of God, why is He given glory? Why will worship of Him be an eternal practice? Is it because we have to? No. Isaiah 66:24 says we will look on the corpses of those who transgressed God, who are in eternal fire and have immortal worms (the sentence of every person). We will realize that we have been saved from eternal damnation and worship God, who Himself died, so that when we die we can participate in His resurrection and enter into His rest. (Eph 2:6) *[[Mat 7:14]] KJV* Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. More people will be in Hell than in Heaven. In Hell the feeble human mind will forever witness and experience what was made to torture angels in the full fierce fury of the holy wrath of God. (Rev 14:10) People you know and love will suffer forever and ever. Your children, your parents, your neighbors, your friends will suffer forever in pain unknown to anyone but the eternal God who has prepared it for suffering. Now is the time to work, and when our work is finished, we will rest with God and Jesus, who are finished with their works (Hebrew's 4:9-11). We work and live by the Holy Spirit, given to us by God to complete every good work, and when we die, our work will be finished, just like Jesus said when He died, "It is finished." John 19:30. When Jesus said this, He released the Spiri t and the curtain was ripped. Now our work begins and we work to enter into His Sabbath. We must spread the message of salvation. God saves. This is the Gospel. Every man is destined for eternal fire without it, but through the work of Christ we may enter into His Sabbath, a gift for which we will worship and give glory forever and ever, because without the gift, we rightly burn.
As with all questions regarding this subject, there is a difference between just a head belief and a real heart changing belief that is actual trust in Jesus and His work of sacrificial life and death and resurrection, Matthew 13:1-23 and John3:1-15. Being born again brings about an internal change that is supernatural in substance 2 Corinthians 5:17. Also, Romans 12:2 says we then can become transformed by renewing our mind and actions to doing good works that pleasing to God. No work of the old nature is any satisfaction to God until we are seen through Christ and not our old sinful nature Isaiah 64:6. Thus, we must have a faith that works, not works that bring saving faith. Faith that doesn't produce good works is like a dead tree that doesn't produce any fruit, for to God our futility of works never become good enough to please Him, without His gift of Grace, through Jesus Christ work.
Works according to Nave’s Topical Bible Concordance are classified under good works: And in the judgment, they will be an evidence of faith, Matt. 25:34-40, with Jas. 2:14-20. NAVES also mentions the insufficiency of words for salvation here: Psa. 49:7, 8; -- Someone has tried to buy his own way into heaven. It is reported that just prior to his death, Aristotle Onassis started giving away vast sums of money to various charities, trying to see if it wasn’t possible to earn a place in heaven. It wasn’t. Nor is it now. Nor will it ever be. -- Isa. 64:6; Matt. 5:20; Acts 13:39; Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16, 19, 21; Gal. 3:10; Eph. 2:8, 9;; Jas. 2:10, 11 "Works" is used by Paul and James, in a special sense, as denoting (with Paul) those legal performances by means of which men sought to be accepted of God, in contradistinction to that faith in Christ through which the sinner is justified apart from all legal works (Rom 3:27; 4:2,6, etc.; Gal 2:16; 3:2,5,10), "working through love" (Gal 5:6; 1 Thess 1:3), and is fruitful in all truly "good works," in which Christian believers are expected to abound (2 Cor 9:8; Eph 2:10; Col 1:10; 2 Thess 2:17, etc.). When James speaks of being justified by "works" as well as by "faith" (2:14-26), he has in view those works which show faith to be real and vital. "Dead works" avail nothing (compare Heb 9:14; 10:24). Judgment is according to "works" (Mt 16:27, the Revised Version (British and American) "deeds," margin "Greek: `doing' " praxis; Rom 2:6; 1 Pet 1:17, etc.), the new life being therein evidenced. A contrast between "faith" and "good works" is never drawn in the New Testament. James 2:14-26 "Faith that Works" Story - Blondin In the late 1800s, there was a famous French tightrope walker called Charles Blondin. Blondin’s greatest act of fame came in June of 1859 when he attempted to become the first person to cross a tightrope stretched over 400 meters (11,000 feet -- over a quarter of a mile) across the mighty Niagara Falls. As he walked 50m above the falls he would do a different daring feat - once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and once he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet! On one amazing occasion, he walked across blindfolded and pushing a wheelbarrow. When he reached the other side, the crowd’s applause was louder than the roar of the falls! Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: "Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?" The crowd enthusiastically shouted, "Yes, yes, yes. You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. You can do anything!" “Okay," said Blondin, "Get in the wheelbarrow...." But no-one did. Sometimes faith means having real trust.
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