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 Works versus Faith (Part 1) — Ephesians 2:8-9 — The Foundation

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PostSubject: Works versus Faith (Part 1) — Ephesians 2:8-9 — The Foundation   Wed Jun 03, 2015 9:37 pm

Works versus Faith (Part 1) — Ephesians 2:8-9 — The Foundation

I am going to set forth a comprehensive answer to the debate of salvation by works versus salvation by faith.  What I have to say few Christians realize.  To a certain extent, both sides of the issue are incorrect on several points.  Both sides get tripped up on certain biblical passages.  Those who say salvation is by faith alone (including myself) and not by works get tripped up when discussing the sheep and goats passage in Matthew 25, for example (among other passages).  I’ve heard both sides contradict themselves.  I’ve heard a salvation by faith alone preacher affirm salvation by faith in Christ alone, but then contradict himself in the next statement by also stating that faith without works is dead and useless and is needed for salvation.  Many Christians state this contradiction as their belief.  They pretend that there is no contradiction.  If no works disqualifies faith, then salvation is not by faith alone: it would be dependent on maintaining works.  If faith without works is dead then that is just a fancy way of restating the very thing that they say they don’t believe: that salvation is by faith alone, without work.  They try to wiggle out of this contradiction by making statements such as: “Works proves your salvation”; or, “Paul says to examine yourself to make sure that you are in the faith.”  Paul cannot say that (if indeed, that is what he was saying) and at the same time say that salvation is by faith alone, without works so that no one can boast.  

There are many verses that come into play when discussing this topic.  It requires reading the bible holistically, and not cursory: not picking out certain scriptures and reading them with a superficial understanding.  The entire debate is due to a superficial understanding of the Scriptures.  It is due to not putting all the Scriptures together.   Those who say that salvation is by works; or without works you cannot be saved are not paying attention to the small details of what the Scripture really says.  Such a person needs to take a closer look at not only the small details, but also connect all passages together so that everything gels without any contradictions.   For at certain points, Christians on both sides of this issue end up contradicting themselves (generally).  So I am putting together this meticulous, holistic exegesis on what the bible is really saying regarding these passages that trips up Christians on both sides.  I am writing this along the way and will be adding to it periodically until it is complete.  

Our foundational verses that we need to start with are Ephesians 2:8-9.  The reason why these are our foundational verses are because they are so clear.  They clearly lay out how salvation is given.   It is clear by the context that this passage is talking about salvation.  There is no ambiguity at all with this passage.  It reads, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Within this sentence there is no directive or command on the part of the believer for him or her to do to obtain salvation except to merely accept the free gift given to them through faith alone.  This not from yourselves!  It is not by works so that no one can boast.  Let’s revisit one of the false beliefs I mentioned above: those who say salvation is by not by works, but we need works to prove that we are saved.  That is an oxymoron.   Since salvation is not by anything we do then there is no proving salvation by now doing works.  If I am able to prove that I am saved by the works I do, then that would be an opportunity to boast—which, this passage says that salvation is given freely so that no one can boast.  We cannot help God out in the free salvation He gave us in Christ.  It is not believe in Christ and then do good things to keep salvation or prove you are saved.  It is only belief in Christ and nothing else.  Jesus pays our complete sin debt the moment we believe in His work on the cross.  He also gives us a new righteous spirit the moment we accept Christ.  We now become a new creation, a righteous one.  The old is gone and the new has come.

World religions do not understand the concept of salvation without works.  Their god, whoever it is, is a god they have to work to please.  There is never an indication as to whether or not they have obeyed enough for salvation.  They can only hope they have lived good enough.  The scale they use is good versus bad, and using that scale they reason, ‘If my good has outweighed my bad, then maybe God will accept me and bring me into heaven.’  But what is the origin of their good versus bad scale?  Such a scale’s origin is human.  It is not God’s scale.  God’s scale is perfection.  To be saved for eternity, one must be as perfect and righteous as God.  God uses Himself for the scale of salvation.  He does not use man’s interpretation of what is good and what is bad.  Our good to God falls infinitely short of His good and righteousness.  On our best day, if we have covered all of our prayers and benevolence and obeyed to the best we can, we still fall short of His holy perfect righteous standard.  The truth is that good people will be in Hell and apparently bad two-timers will be in Heaven because God did not chose the scale for salvation to be how good we are; if He did, no one would pass the test.  We are all inherently fall short because we have inherited the sin of Adam, which is passed down paternally.  The baby Jesus did not inherit the sin of Adam because His Father’s seed was the Holy Spirit.  He was born of a virgin.  

Every Scripture we read needs to be interpreted with respect to the clear passage of Ephesians 2:8-9.  Let’s take a moment here to look at other Scriptures that clearly support the notion that salvation is obtained not by works, but by faith only.  Later we will look at the passages that people use to try to include works with salvation.  For this to be a complete dissertation, I will include apologetic hermeneutics for all of the passages that seem to support the other side of my position.   Let me start by saying that salvation and works are two antithetical concepts.  Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that “grace” is a close synonym to “salvation.”  It is by grace you are saved.  Salvation has been given to us by grace.  Grace is God doing for us what we are not capable of doing ourselves.  Grace and works are two antithetical concepts.  To have one cancels the other.  Romans makes this clear.  Romans 11:6 says, “And if it is by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”  Grace and works are on opposite ends of the spectrum and they could never unite.  To have works is to not have grace; to have grace is to not have works.

I will continue with passages that support salvation by faith alone before I begin debunking those that apparently say the contrary.  In addition, this issue naturally broaches a parallel topic: a Christian cannot lose his or her salvation.  Out of the false belief that one has to prove his or her salvation by the works they do derives the false doctrine that a Christian can lose his or her salvation by either not doing works or by committing enough sin to make a Christian once saved become unsaved.  Those who say ‘salvation is by works (Catholics mainly),’ and those who say ‘salvation is by faith, but we must have works to prove that our faith is real (i.e., Alistair Begg),’ can only conclude that no one has true assurance that he or she is actually saved.   If salvation was based on faith and works then one can only attain salvation if his or her works somehow outweighs God’s scales of justice for attaining salvation.  If such were true then a Christian could never be sure if he or she is saved.  A Christian might feel saved one day because he or she repented of sins and did some good things that day, but then might not feel so secure the next day if he or she stumbles.  Such a Christian lives in dread never knowing if he or she is really saved.  So included in this discussion, will be an explication from Scripture that a Christian cannot lose his or her salvation.  

A so-called Christian who thinks that it is possible to lose one’s salvation based on “messing up” or sinning does not understand a key concept about humanity.  On your best day, you fall short of the glory of God.  You can wake up feeling spiritual; drop to your knees from arising from the bed and pray; make sure that you pray 3 times that day like Daniel did in the bible; give pro bono service to the needy and a big check to charity that day; evangelize to a crowd of people; and fast; and the bible says that you still would fall short.  The bible says that on our best day our righteousness is like filthy rags in the eyes of God (Isaiah 64:6).  So it does not make sense to conclude that a person needs Christ to become saved, but then could lose salvation by not maintaining one’s salvation if no one is able to reach God’s standard of righteousness in the first place.  The concept they are missing is that we are talking about God’s scale of righteousness, not man’s scale.  They are measuring salvation standards by a scale that they made up; when in actuality to attain salvation by effort would require perfection.  Therefore, to maintain salvation would also require perfection.  That is called living by the law.  No one is able to do that.  The law was not intended for that.  Jesus passively fulfills God’s standards for us and He passively maintains it Himself due to a credit He already paid in blood stained cash on the cross.


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