There is much confusion in the religious world concerning how we are saved. There are many different doctrines being preached. Some say that we are saved by grace alone, some say we are saved by faith only, and others say that it is the faith that leads one to obey God that enables us to stand justified in His sight. But why does such confusion exist in the religious world?
I believe that there are at least three reasons for such confusion. Some do not seem to understand that although one thing may be essential, it is not necessarily the only thing that is essential. For instance, breathing is essential to life, but it does not follow that breathing is the only thing essential to life -- we must also have food, water, exercise, etc. This type of misunderstanding has led some to say that we are saved by grace alone, or by faith alone.
Others build a theory on just a few Scriptures, but fail to consider other Scriptures which do not support their contentions. And some just do not want to DO anything. Thus, one creed book declares, "That we are saved by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort." That may be comforting, but it is far from being wholesome doctrine. When people on Pentecost asked what to do (Acts 2;37), the Holy Spirit (by the mouth of Peter) told them, "save yourselves from this crooked generation." There was something to be done. There still is.
NO "ONLY" DOCTRINES ARE FOUND IN THE BIBLE: -- Salvation by grace alone would exclude the hearing of the gospel. And, since "faith comethy by hearing...the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17), if we are saved by grace alone, then we are not saved by faith! This teaching would make God the only factor in our salvation, and thus would take away all of our personal responsibility. Why did Christ always attribute man's lost condition to man's own unwillingness to obey God? Jesus said, "Ye will not come to Me, that ye may have life" (Jno. 5:40). To the Jews in Jerusalem, the Lord said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chicks under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" (Matt. 23:37,38). If we would enter the kingdom of God, we must obey Him: "Not every one that saith Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the Will of My Father Who is in heaven" (Matt. 7: 21).
But some declare that we are saved "by faith alone." It is certainly true that we are "justified by faith" (Rom. 5:1), it is also true that we are not justified by faith only. The Bible says, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect; and the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (Jas. 2:21-24). To believe the "faith only" doctrine, we must flat deny the Word of God.
Some preach a doctrine of "works." They say that their own moral goodness will save them. But obedience, by itself even if it results in a good life, will not save a man, for that would ignore both grace and faith (Eph 2:8). Yet Christ and the apostles all stressed that we are saved by our obedience to the gospel: "Though He was a Son, ye learned obedience by the things which He suffered; and having been made perfect, He became unto all them that obey Him the Author of eternal salvation...Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth...But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered; and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness" (Heb. 5:8,9; 1 Pet. 1:22; Rom. 6:17,18).
GOD OFFERS SALVATION THROUGH CHRIST: -- "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (Jno. 3:16). We cannot merit the sacrifice of Christ. Yet, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). Thus God provided a way of escape for us from the "wages of sin." That way is through Jesus Christ. We have all sinned, and we cannot save ourselves. But God provides the way for us: "For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in His blood" (Rom. 3;23-25).
Man cannot devise a plan of salvation, for man has sinned against God, and forgiveness must come form God. Yet, obedience to God's Will must be supplied by man. Is God's willingness to forgive conditional, or unconditional? In other words is salvation by grace foreced upon us, or do we have to accept His grace by meeting His terms? Christ died "for all men" (Heb. 2:9), but only the obedient will be saved (Heb. 5:8,9). Remember, we do not have to beg and plead with God for Him to save and forgive us -- He wants all of us to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). But we do have to accept His grace by obeying His Will.
OBEDIENCE ALONE DOES NOT SAVE US: -- The prophet of old said, "O Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23). In order for a man to know the way, he must learn it from God. And Jesus said, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life: not one cometh unto the Father, but by Me"(Jno. 14: 6). Those who seek God on their own terms, instead of His, are doomed to be lost! Remember that God said, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith Jehovah" (Isa. 55:8). Thus, we are not surprised to read, "For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of that which was preached to save them that believe" (1 Cor. 1:21).
But notice also that an act done in faith is not enough, of itself, to save us. If we do any number of good things, and have faith in them, yet without the grace of God, which supplied these good things, they would not avail to save us. The power is not in the act of obedience, but the power is with God. And He has ordained that the faith which leads to obedience is the faith that makes connection with His saving grace "Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through Whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand; and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:1,2).
A great lesson is taught in the fall of the city walls of Jericho (Jos. 6:1-8). The people of Israel were to walk around the city once a day for six days, then seven times on the seventh day. When they did that, the walls fell flat, and the city was theirs. But the power was not in the walking, it was God. He told them He would give them the city if they did certain things. They did, and God kept His promise. The power of God was reached through their obedience. Would the walls have fallen, if they had not obeyed?!
THE CLEANSING OF NAAMAN: -- The Syrian leper, Naaman, sought cleansing from God's prophet (2 Kgs. 5:1-14). He was told, "Go and dip seven times in the Jordan." He was not happy: "The rivers of Damascus are better than the Jordan." But his servants convinced him to do what god had ordered, and when he did ti, he was cleansed of his leprosy. But the power to cleanse was not in the waters of the Jordan. When Naaman did what God said, GOD healed him. Maybe Naaman at first, felt it was beneath his dignity to dip seven times in the Jordan. Maybe he felt it was wrong to rely on the "work" of going down into the Jordan and dipping himself. But when his servant said, "If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it?" So, Naaman was convinced, and he obeyed.
A blind man asked to be healed, and Jesus told him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which is by interpretation, Sent). He went away therefore, and washed, and came seeing" (Jno. 9:7). God's power in the water was reached through the man's obedience. Yet it did not take away any of the glory of God for the blind man to obey. It simply revealed his faith in God's Word.
It never ceases to amaze me that people will object to baptism, saying: "I don't believe in water salvation." But no one believes in the power of water to save. Yet Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mk. 16:16). Do you believe the Lord? And again, the power is not in the water, but in the grace of God to cleanse when one obeys Him. That is the reason Peter wrote, "Baptism doth now save you" (1 Pet. 3:21). The Lord Jesus sent Ananias to Saul, and Ananias told him, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on His name" (Acts 22:16). The power was not in the water, nor even in the act of baptism. The power was God's. But His power to "wash away sins" (by the blood of Christ, Heb. 9:22), was reached when Saul obeyed His command. God has ordained that a working faith will come into contact with His power when it leads one to do what He says.
On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), when people were convicted of sin and asked what to do, the Lord told them: "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins" (vs. 38). Again, the powr was not in the water. The power was God's, but His power was reached by their obedience: "They that received his word were baptized" (vs. 41). How many were baptized? "They that received word." The same thing is true today. When people receive the Word of God, they will obey. That is what true faith does. To accept "believe and be baptized" in order to be saved (Mk. 16:16) is not "water salvation." It is gospel, it is salvation by the grace of God, through faith. We must meet God's conditions to reach His grace. Yes, it is God's grace that saves, but we must accept His in His way.
Acceptable faith is "faith which works by love" (Gal. 5:6). Look at the examples in Heb. 11: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain" (vs. 40 .. "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death" (vs. 5).. "By faith Noah, being warned (of God) concerning things not seen as yet, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house" (vs. 7).."By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed" (vs. 8). Each of these (and all the others mentioned in this chapter) were blessed by the grace of God. Although the commands to them were different from one another, the pattern was always the same: God told them what He wanted them to do, and they did it. Simple. And friend, it is still that simple today.
Put your trust in Christ, do what He tells you, and trust Him to bless you: "For He is faithful that promised" (Heb. 10: 23). Hear, then, the promise of the Lord Jesus: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mk. 16:16). Friend, when you trust that promise and do what He tells you, you will be saved "by grace through faith." That is the gospel truth.
By Clem Thurman in Gospel Minutes, Vol. 56, No. 32, Aug. 10, 2007.
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