Salvation by Grace Through Faith
by Daniel L. Seagraves
Those of us who believe the Bible doctrine of salvation to require not only the profession of faith, but also repentance, water baptism in Jesus’ name, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost are often accused of teaching salvation by works.
The scripture our critics appeal to is Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
No one believes the wonderful truth expressed in these verses, more than we do. We are definitely saved by grace through faith; neither the grace nor the faith originate with us, but with God; and our salvation is not the result of our works. Otherwise we could boast.
But what, then did James mean when he said, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith and have not works? can faith save him?…Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only ” (James 2:14,24).
Since we do not believe the Bible contradicts itself, there must be a way to reconcile Paul and James. It is quite simple.
Genuine faith expresses itself by action. A man who really believes something will act on his belief.
James offered Abraham as an example of how faith and works relate, with works perfecting, or completing, faith (James 2:22). What if Abraham had said, “Lord, you know I believe you. But I’m not offering my son.” Would he have been justified? Of course not. His works demonstrated his faith.
The works that are important are the works of obedience to the commands of God. If God commands us to do something, and we do it because we believe Him, our works are not works of the flesh, dead works, or human efforts to earn salvation. They are simply the logical and reasonable result of our faith.
It is at least theoretically possible that a person could go through the motions of obeying God without a heart of faith to do it. In this case, the works would be of no value. If faith without works is dead, we can be sure that works without faith is without value.
Those who accuse us of teaching salvation by works seem not to understand that the very act of believing, which they insist is essential to salvation, is as much a work as repentance or water baptism, for it is a choice the individual makes. Since he has the power to refuse to make that choice, when he made it he just performed a “work”.
Obedience to the Word of God is faith in action, not a human work designed to impress God and earn salvation. When Paul said salvation is “Not of works, lest any man should boast,” he referred to human efforts to appease God, not obedience to the Word of God, which is itself made possible by the very grace and faith God first gives us.
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