After several days away from home and email, I received an email from a reader of Grace Digest. He has questions about my teaching on salvation by grace through faith apart from works. I have quoted below most of our exchange this time.
What do you believe?
I have been extremely busy. I returned home about 11:00 p.m. last night from a mission trip to S. Alabama where I taught, encouraged, and in the afternoon had a building dedication for a congregation which I have helped since Katrina.
As for your question: First, the two verses you quote have nothing to do with salvation so far as I can tell. We will be rewarded for our good works, in fact we are created in Christ for good works once we become Christians. At the judgment seat of Christ we will be judged about how we have lived our Christian lives but not to learn whether or not we are saved. Our places of service in Christ’s eternal kingdom will be decided, as well as rewards for those who have done well. Some will receive rewards for their good works and some will be saved yet so as by fire.
You said, ““( I have read many times where you think, works are not necessary for salvation).” You are correct. However, what I “think” means absolutely nothing. It is what the word of God plainly teaches that matters. You can argue with God about what He has clearly said. For instance,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10)
“not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5)
“And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Romans 11:6)
“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 accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
“ Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.”
How much more clearly can it be stated? God does not, and has never, justified a man because of what he does (works) but because of what (on whom) he believes. Every true disciple will do good works. Those who claim to be saved yet do not do good works are imposters and not the true children of God.
The new covenant is written in our hearts. It is our nature to do good works because we have been made partakers of the divine nature and equipped by the Holy Spirit to love unconditionally. The ordinances that were against us (the law) were nailed to the cross. Christ perfectly fulfilled the law for us in order that He might then be a perfect sacrifice when He offered Himself once for ever for the sins of the world.
Paul used his most stern words to those who believed that faith in Christ was not enough. The Judaizers were saying to the Christians, “Faith in Jesus is not enough, you should also be circumcised. Your circumcision will really show how devoted you are to Christ. After all it is just a bit of flesh that will be cut off your penis. It was a sign of devotion and love back in our history and it will be now.
Paul called the believers there “foolish”, said they had been “bewitched” and warned them with these words. “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9)
It is a serious offence to preach salvation by works. Do you want to be “accursed”? I don’t think so.
In Galatians 2:14-16 Paul stated the case for the gospel of Christ this way. “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. “
As forcefully and as clearly as the truth can be stated, Paul made the plea for folks to trust Christ and Him alone for salvation. My dear brother I hope you will read these texts carefully and put your whole trust in the Christ of God and find in Him the assurance of your salvation.
Grace to you,