Lucia's Blog: "NOT OF WORKS, LEST ANY MAN SHOULD BOAST"
Google Logo
Image Caption goes here.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, April 7, 2017

"NOT OF WORKS, LEST ANY MAN SHOULD BOAST"

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."  
Ephesians 2:8-10


The crafty serpent told Eve that she would not surely die if she disobeyed God’s first command given to mankind. Emboldened by that lie, Eve disobeyed God and became an example of men throughout the ages who listen to the lie that men can disregard God’s commands and warnings. The serpent was philosophical and logical even though he based his reasons on speculation. The apostle Peter on Pentecost demanded repentance and baptism as conditions for receiving the forgiveness of God, but the serpent has convinced most followers of Jesus that He only requires a belief or trust in Him. Serpent whispers, “As long as you are honest and sincere, it does not really matter what you do.” The snake has made obedience to God a pariah, an unpleasant, uncomfortable suggestion, even evil because it is just so judgmental.  Let's consider what the Lord wants us to do about this controversy brought to us by the whispering serpent.

What actually, does the Gospel of Jesus teach? Does the Gospel require us to do anything as a condition of salvation? If so, could we call that condition “the obedience of a law” or “a divine rule?”  Is not belief also something that we personally do? The Serpent has inspired such zeal against the lordship of Jesus, that the apostolic epistles are now called “The Love Letters of the Apostles,” in order to avoid finding any divine commands or authority emanating from the throne of Jesus. It is not fashionable to speak of the wrath of God toward Christians who will not repent of sinful practices as defined in the Inspired Writings of the Apostles of Christ. Why is that? Is it merciful to allow disobedience to wreck someone’s life, or is it love, true love, to be supportive of a course headed for disaster? Why did Paul say reprove, rebuke, and exhort with patience? My friends and brethren, we are under attack by false teachings!! The Serpent's lies come with just enough truth to cover up and conceal their poison. The sacred words like grace, faith, works, baptism, and love are twisted and redefined so as to justify evil.

Our purpose in this study will be to address some issues that have been debated for many centuries: the plan of salvation as truly taught by the Word of God. Take, for instance, the Catholic Church of the Dark Ages that taught earnestly that man's salvation was contingent on his performing works and rituals or by making monetary contributions to the church.  On the other hand, Martin Luther, a former priest, broke away from what he considered to be the strict and hypocritical doctrines of Catholicism.  He then began to teach that man was justified "by faith alone."  You see the Catholic doctrine of salvation motivated Martin Luther to teach that man was saved "by faith alone" without works whatsoever.  Moreover, John Calvin, a contemporary of Martin Luther, also rejected the concept of man being saved by works.  He likewise believed that man is saved by faith only.  Calvin taught that man was saved by God's grace and that he could surely do nothing to be saved (not even believe!!).  Calvin believed it was God's sovereignty that determines who would and who would not be saved. 

The Bible plainly affirms that the blood of Jesus is the only power that can forgive man's sins.  (Eph. 1:7; Rom. 5:6-9; Heb. 9:14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19: Rev. 1:5).  God accepts only those who work righteousness, (Acts 10:34-35).  You see righteousness, rightness, correctness, justness are all part of God's character and traits.  And since He is the only standard of perfection, He alone is the standard of righteousness.  It is vital that we follow that standard of righteousness to be righteous. When we're justified by the precious blood of Jesus, we are also being reconciled through His death. Justification and reconciliation go hand in hand, (Romans 5:9-10; 5:18-19).  God's free gift of salvation is available to all men for justification.  We are all "justified by His blood."  (Romans 5:9).  God is the one that justifies, (Romans 8:33).  But we must accept that we are justified by our obedience (works, what we do).  (Matt. 12:37; Acts 13:39; Romans 6:7; James 2:24-25).  There can be no justification at all without our active participation!  Take note that all these terms I mentioned above must include law, rules, standards of righteousness.  They are all just and reasonable.  We are justified by faith according to Romans 5:1 thus making peace with God.  According to James 2:26 faith apart from works is dead.

So the question is, What is the connection between Grace, Law, and Works?  Is man saved by Grace alone?  Faith alone without baptism?  Works alone?  How important is faith to salvation?  It would be a failure on our part to rely upon our own belief, or presumptions when answering these questions without God's Word, the Bible.  You see God has given us all that pertains to life and godliness, (2 Peter 1:3).  It is not our place to speculate whose opinions are correct!  We know for a fact what is Truth because God has given us everything we need to live a godly and righteous life.  It means that God has already given us all the answers to our questions in His Book, the Bible.  He has already told us what we need to do to be saved or justified.  Therefore, it is our duty to study His Word diligently to know what it says!  (2 Tim. 2:15).  Moreover, we must put all our opinions aside and go to the only source of Truth, His Word; searching for His Truth to give us His answer to any question and not the Catholic Church, Luther, Calvin and all Protestants.  They are worthless if they cannot be proven from God's Word, Truth!  It is critical that I stress out of love the need to be in harmony with what God has revealed in the Bible and pay close attention to the Truth.  And once you know the Truth that sets you free from the slavery of sin, you must continue to obey it until the end and share it with others.


I.   SALVATION BY "FAITH ALONE OR FAITH ONLY" VS. OBEDIENT FAITH:
  • Faith is Essential to Salvation:
In the Bible, the word "faith" has different meanings.  Jesus showed that in many of His statements. In Matthew 6:30, Jesus spoke of those who have little faith and do not trust in God.  He likewise used the same term to rebuke Peter in Matthew 14:31.  He also compared faith with doubt, (Mark 4:40).  Jesus never implied that His disciples were atheists or anything similar but that they lacked complete trust toward Him.  However, Jesus told the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:25-29, "Great is thy faith."  In this story, her humility and total trust in Both the Father and the Son are emphasized.  Thus, there are many forms of the word "faith" from which faith and belief (with its accompanying verb, adjective form) derive from the Greek words "pistis, pistos, pisteuo" meaning "faith, faithful, belief, believe."  The Greek word "apistos" is the negative form which is translated as "unbelief, unbeliever, unfaithful, infidel."  The word "peitho" is translated at times as "believe, obey, confidence, persuaded, trust."  Its negative form is "apeitheo" which is translated as "believe not, obey not, disobedient."  The lexicon definitions of these words display a variety of applications which one must be careful to apply rightly when using the Scriptures.

Moreover, the word "faith" is also used to refer to revelation from God.  Personal faith comes by hearing the Word of God, (Romans 10:17).  The Word of God is the source of "faith" and is many times spoken of as "the Faith."  It is often classified by the definite article (the) before the word "faith."  The definite article often indicates something special about the word without saying what it is.  That is why it is crucial that one allow the context to rule in such cases.

In the New Testament the term "te pistei" occurs 23 times; half of them refer to the special faith one possesses and not revelation.  Whether it is "pistis" or "pistos," the definite article preceding it usually points out the strong or full faith of a person.  Romans 4:19-20 speaks of Abraham's faith as an example of faith for us to follow, and what our faith must be, (Romans 5:2).  In Acts 6:7, the Jews were "obedient to the faith."  In Acts 14:22, the disciples were urged to "continue in the faith."  In Acts 16:5, the churches were "strengthened in the faith."  1 Corinthians 16:13, the Corinthians were commanded to "stand firm in the faith."  Philippians 1:27, the Philippians were to strive "for the faith of the gospel.".  I Timothy 4:1, some would "fall away from the faith" in the latter times.  In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul declares "I have kept the faith," and tells the Colossians, "if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister."  (Colossians 1:23).  In Jude 3 we have the well-known statement that states that we are "to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."  In Galatians 3:2, 5 are the most accurate statements of that which was delivered "by hearing with faith, (revelation)."  Other translations say, "the message of faith."  The message that was heard was called "the faith."  This sets the tone for Law versus the faith, the New Testament, in Galatians 3. Thus the New Testament, the Gospel, is equal to the word "faith." 
"But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe."  (Galatians 3:22).
We find subjective faith in the phrase, "those who believe."  "The promise by faith in Jesus Christ" is the message that came forth from Jesus Christ.  This Scripture follows the statements made in verses 23-25, "But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor."

Notice that the word "faith" in these verses describes that which was revealed, as opposed to the Law, and it follows that by which justification occurs.  Indeed, the opening statement should read, "before THE faith came," as well as in verse 25, "now that THE faith is come," as they are in the original text.  The same applies to verse 26, "For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus,"  as actually, "For ye are all sons of God, through  THE faith, in Christ Jesus."  Adding the definite article as it is in the original Greek text will definitely give full meaning to the context that deals with Law versus Gospel.  In Romans 1:16-17 we read, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith."

So what is the Gospel message? It is God's revelation, and righteousness revealed in it as the Scriptures explicitly say it, "ek pisteos eis pistin," "by, or out of, faith unto faith."  And though the definite article is missing, the first precedent of "faith" is "revelation, the gospel."  So what is the purpose of this revelation, the Gospel?  To generate or create our own faith that occurs as a result of hearing God's revealed will to us through His Word, (Romans 10:17, faith comes by hearing the Word of God).  However, this faith must be a lifelong commitment and dedication to serving God faithfully. As it should be translated, "the JUST BY FAITH shall live."  As verse 16 states, "the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."  The word "believeth," means more than just accepting the facts of the Gospel.  It indicates the same as "the just by faith shall live."  Paul discusses this subject in Chapters 3 & 4, especially ch. 4 to speak of Abraham's faith.  I will discuss this later in my study.  In Romans 5:1, Paul declares that we are justified by faith, the kind of faith that Abraham had.  Romans 1:17 (the just shall live by faith), and Romans 5:1 (we are justified by faith) are merely sources of revelation.

Other Scriptures that teach that we are saved by faith, (John 3:16; Romans 1:16; Romans 5:1-2; Eph. 2:8; Acts 16:31; 10:43; 15:9; 13:39; John 8:24; 3:36; 5:24; 6:40; 20:30-31; Romans 3:22-28; 4:3, 16).  So we infer that faith is essential to salvation and without faith no man can be saved. However, nowhere in the Bible does it state that we are saved by faith only or by faith alone.  It is an abuse of the above passages to say that faith is necessary to salvation while denying the necessity of baptism for salvation.  Is there any Scripture that states that we are saved by "faith only," or "faith alone"?  Is faith alone the only condition for salvation?  Are we saved by faith without baptism or without obedience?  None of these are found in the Bible.  All Scriptures mentioned above teach that we are saved by faith, but do not teach that we are saved by faith alone without obedience.  By the same token, many passages in the Bible mention faith but do not mention repentance or confession any more than baptism.  So shall we conclude that they are all not necessary?  Should we not acknowledge and accept the necessity of baptism?  Later in this study, I will discuss those things that are needed or essential to salvation.  
  • The Bible Denies That We are Saved by "Faith Only."
May passages in the Scriptures point out that faith in one's heart, by itself, will not save us.  Consider some of them:

1.   John 12:42-43:  "Nevertheless even of the rulers many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: 43 for they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God"  Were the rulers of the Jews saved and acceptable with God when they believed in Jesus? (CF. Rom. 10:9-10; Mat. 10:32-33).
2.   James 2:19-20:  "You believe there is one God. That’s good, but even the demons believe that! And they shake with fear.  20 You fool! Faith that does nothing is worth nothing. Do you want me to prove this to you?"  The demons believe and are aware that there is only one true God, are they saved?
3.   James 2:14, 24:  "My brothers and sisters, if a person claims to have faith but does nothing, that faith is worth nothing. Faith like that cannot save anyone...  24 So you see that people are made right with God by what they do. They cannot be made right by faith alone."  So the question is, can faith save without obedience?  NO!  It is a dead faith, (verses 17, 20, 26).  It implies that man is not justified by "faith only."  And though this passage mentioned “faith alone," it does say that we are not justified by it!  Those who teach justification by faith only are teaching error and are false.  The Bible emphatically says that we are NOT justified by faith alone!  Take heed!

Some say that unsaved believers may have the wrong kind of faith and therefore not be saved.  They have intellectual conviction but do not trust Jesus to save them.  When we present the Gospel, sometimes our friends will say “I believe that ” but they're merely emphasizing their intellectual acceptance of what they are told.  In the New Testament or Gospel of Christ, the words for "faith" and "believe" are applied to subjective acceptance of facts.  The preaching of the Gospel might produce this acceptance.
"After he was raised from death, his followers remembered that he had said this. So they believed the Scriptures, and they believed the words Jesus said.  23 Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Many people believed in him because they saw the miraculous signs he did."  (John 2:22-23).
"Many of the Samaritan people in that town believed in Jesus. They believed because of what the woman had told them about him. She had told them, 'He told me everything I have ever done... 41 Many more people became believers because of the things he said.  42 The people said to the woman, 'First we believed in Jesus because of what you told us. But now we believe because we heard him ourselves. We know now that he really is the one who will save the world.'"  (John 4:39, 41-42).
"I told them the words you gave me, and they accepted them. They realized the fact that I came from you and believed that you sent me."  (John 17:8).
"(His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.)"  (John 9:22).  
The rulers feared that they would be persecuted.  Confessing Jesus is more than just accepting the facts concerning Him like the demons did in James 2.  Jesus said that whoever confesses Him before men, He would confess before the Father and whoever denied Him before men, He would deny before the Father, (Matt. 10:32).  The same is true in Romans 10:8-14 where belief comes before confessing.  Both are necessary to be justified
"But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth, one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, 'Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.' 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'  14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?"'  
This passage demands total dedication to the Lord, not just momentary acceptance of facts. Philippians 2:10-11 illustrates this well, "so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  However, just acceptance of facts alone, faith alone, is not enough to be acceptable to God, (James 2:19).  This system of thinking acknowledges that faith is vital to salvation but that there are various kinds of faith.  Many forms of faith, do not save even when people believe in God and the Son.  So the question is, what kind of faith saves and what does it require? Does it require repentance, confession, baptism, and obedience to God's divine commands?
  • Things essential to salvation and that God has supplied for our salvation:
  1. God's Grace and Mercy, (Ephesians 1:7; 2:4-10; Titus 2:11-12; Acts 15:11).
  2. Jesus’ blood, His death on the cross, (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 5:6-9; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Rev. 1:5).
  3. Jesus’ resurrection, (1 Cor. 15:1-4; 15:17; Romans 10:9; 5:10; Hebrews 7:25; 1 Peter 3:21).
  4. The Gospel, (Romans 1:16; 1 Peter 1:23-25; Acts 11:14; James 1:18,21; 1 Cor. 15:1-2; John 8:31-32).
So, if we indeed are saved by "faith alone," why do we need God's mercy and grace, Jesus' death, and resurrection and the Gospel?  
  • Things required for men to be saved:
  1. Learn and know God's will, (Acts 11:14; Romans 10:17).  Cornelius and his household had to hear the words of the Gospel to be saved. 
  2. Faith, (Romans 10:17; John 6:44-45; Romans 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:21).  Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  So, if faith is necessary, then so is hearing.  Hearing is what produces faith. Take note that faith and hearing are two separate things.  One produces the other, but both are essential to salvation.  Therefore, we are not saved by "faith only."
  3. Love, (1 Corinthians 16:22).  Those who do not love the Lord will be accursed.  So can we be saved without love for God?  However, love is not the same as faith, (Gal. 5:6; 1 Cor. 13:1-3; 1 John 4:7-8).
  4. Hope, (Romans 8:24).  We are saved in hope.
  5. Repentance, (2 Cor. 7:10).  Godly sorrow produces repentance unto salvation.  So, can we be saved without repentance?  Though this verse states that repentance is necessary to salvation, it says nothing about faith.  Therefore, shall we conclude that faith is not necessary to be saved?  (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; Luke 13:3,5; 2 Peter 3:9).
  6. Obedience: Consider some passages that point out obedience as essential to salvation.  I will discuss some other Scriptures later.  
    1. Hebrews 5:9, Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.  So, those who desire the salvation that Jesus offers must obey His Word, Gospel, (Romans 6:17-18).  Those who were slaves to sin obeyed from the heart the doctrine delivered to them and having been set free from sin became slaves of righteousness.  Take heed that obedience (not just going through outward motions) is essential for sinners to be set free from sin.  
    2. 1 Peter 1:22, we are born again by obeying the Gospel.  
    3. 2 Thess. 1:8-9, those who do not obey the Gospel of Christ will be punished with everlasting destruction.  The doctrine of "faith only" denies obedience to the Gospel of Christ as essential to salvation.
  7. Confession of Christ:  (Romans 10:9-10; Matt. 10:32).  To be saved one must confess with the mouth and not just believe in his heart.  Confession is an act of obedience that one must do to be saved and must be done from the heart.  Yet, it is an act of outward obedience just as baptism is.  Faith is done in the heart and confession is done with the mouth.  Both are necessary to salvation.  So, why is it that many teach that we are saved by "faith alone" without obedience?
  8. Baptism:  The following are just a few passages that stress the need for baptism like repentance and confession as necessary requirements for man's salvation, of course, we cannot exclude faith.  I will discuss the subject of baptism as salvation "by faith."
    1. Mark 16:16:  "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."  We are not saved by "faith alone" BUT by "faith" and "obedience,"  (Romans 10:9-10).  Hence, baptism is essential to that obedience just as confession also is.  So, how can one claim to understand Romans 10:9-10 (which requires confession along with faith) and refuse to acknowledge the Truth of what Mark 16:16 requires in addition to faith?
    2. Acts 2:38:  "And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."'  This command is required of everyone.  Going back to verse 36 we find that those who obeyed this command were convinced (converted or convicted in their heart) that  Jesus is Lord and Christ.  After they had been convicted in their heart, they wanted to know what to do next, to have their sins washed away (forgiven).  Notice that this passage shows various conditions or commands that are required:  faith, repentance, and baptism.  
    3. Acts 22:16:  "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name."   Paul had already believed in Jesus and had repented, but his sins were not washed away until he was baptized.  The doctrine of "faith only" rejects baptism as necessary to man's salvation.  Can we deny that in addition to faith, repentance, and confession, baptism is essential to man's salvation?  (1 Peter 3:21; Romans 6:3-7; Galatians 3:26-27; Colo. 2:12-13).
  9. Faithfulness:  What do you suppose follows after one believes, repents, confesses and is baptized for the forgiveness of sins?  Obviously, faithfulness!  We are commanded to continue to live faithfully with an obedient faith.  Don't forget that remaining faithful is essential to our salvation.  Salvation is not permanently granted at the time of initial obedience to the Gospel. The Lord repeatedly warns us of the present dangers of apostasy (2 Timothy 4:3-4).  Becoming a Christian is not just accepting salvation but rather, it is a lifelong commitment of service to God.  Jesus said, “And he said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?'" (Luke 9:23-25).  Do you suppose our salvation is secured just because we decided to be baptized and follow Him?  NO!  Baptism does not guarantee salvation unless we serve Him faithfully all the days of our lives, (Hebrews 3:12-14; 4:11; John 14:22-30).  We must abide in Him so as to not be thrown away as a branch and be cast into the fire and be burned forever, (John 15:6).  The Bible speaks of salvation in three distinct senses:  past salvation, present salvation, and future salvation. (Titus 3:4-5; John 3:3,5; Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:26-27;6:17-18). Salvation is received, maintained and finally obtained. Man's salvation is never a done deal that allows one to return to our former manner of godless and unholy living, (1 Cor. 15:1-2). Paul discusses the final destination of mankind in 2 Timothy 4:18.  "The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen."  Peter also said, "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."  (1 Peter 1:9).  "Who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."  (1 Peter 1:5).  So, to receive the crown of life and glory, one must be faithful until the end, (Rev. 2:10; Romans 2:5-8, 10; Matt. 28:20; Titus 2:11-12; 1 John 2:1-6; 2 Tim. 4:7-8).
  10. Church Membership:  No one can be saved outside the church that Jesus gave Himself for.  "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it."  (Eph. 5:23-25).  Those who teach "faith only" also deny church membership as essential to salvation.  Yet, the Gospel teaches that Jesus died for the church.  So, how can one believe that Jesus' death is necessary to salvation and at the same time reject that one must be a member of the church which He purchased with His own precious blood?  (Acts 2:47; 20:28).
The Gospel of Christ is crystal clear about the various conditions or commands necessary to man's salvation.  We know that obedience is essential and that we are saved by faith when that faith leads us to obey God's commanded instructions, and not before, as many claim.  Accepting just some of those conditions and ignoring others, leads to error, rebellion, and contradiction.  Instead, it is man's duty to accept all of them as essential to his salvation.  And though some Scriptures mention grace, blood, repentance, etc., they do not say faith.  Should we willfully conclude that faith in not necessary to salvation?   One must hear, believe, repent and confess.  Baptism alone cannot save.
This is exactly what infant baptism does.  It is not valid. Thus, salvation by "faith alone" excluding baptism and obedience is not Scriptural and is not acceptable to God.  By the same token, salvation by repentance only, or hearing only, or baptism alone, will not save anyone.  Take heed, we are not saved by just one thing alone, excluding the other requirements or conditions required for man's salvation.


II.   SALVATION "BY FAITH" DEMANDS OBEDIENCE:
  • Obedience is Essential to Salvation:
There can be no doubt that obedience is key to mankind's salvation.  The doctrine of "faith alone" claims that faith is the one and only prerequisite to forgiveness and that all acts of obedience come "after" forgiveness.  That none are essential to obtain forgiveness of sins.  According to some, even the Gospel’s doctrine is not necessary to be saved but is important because we have been saved.  But the Bible contradicts what they say.  Consider some Scriptures that prove this:
  1. 1 Peter 1:22-23:  "Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently: 23 having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which liveth and abideth."  How do we purify our souls?  By obedience to the Truth; by obeying from the heart to be made free from sin, (Romans 5:9).
  2. Hebrews 5:9:  "And having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation."  Who is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him?  Jesus our Lord!
  3. James 2:24:  "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."  So, is man justified by "faith alone"?  NO!  By works and not faith only!
  4. Acts  11:14; 10:34-35:  "He will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household." "34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation, anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him,"   Peter told Cornelius those words that were necessary for him to be saved. He likewise said that to be accepted by God, everyone must work righteousness.  God shows no partiality. All who fear Him and do what is righteous are acceptable to Him.
  5. Matthew 7:21-27; Luke 6:46:  "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven... Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."  Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?"'  So, can one accept Jesus as Lord (Ruler and Master) and not do what He says one must do to enter the kingdom of heaven?  Can one believe and confess Him only and expect not to be rejected because he refused to obey Him?  What do you think?
  6. Thessalonians 1:8-9; Romans 2:6-10:  "In flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might."  Romans 2:6-10, "He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil... "  Can one who does evil and not obey the Truth receive eternal life, heaven?  Those who do not obey the Truth, the Gospel, will be condemned to hell forever.
  7. 1 John 5:3; John 14:15, 21-24:  "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome."  John 14:15, 21-24, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments... 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me."  Loving God demands that we keep His commandments (rules, laws).  We don't love Him when we disobey Him.  So, can one be saved if one does not love God, (cf. 1 Cor. 16:22; Matt. 22:37-39)?
The doctrine of "faith alone" denies the need for all obedience to the commands of God.  It is a false view of the doctrines of the Gospel of Christ.  Consider some Scriptures that state the consequences of this system of theology that claims that obedience is not essential to man's salvation.
  1. Matthew 22:37-39:  "And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."'  Notice that love is the greatest of all commands.  So, if obeying commands is not essential to man's salvation, then love is not necessary as commanded by the Lord.  Yet, in 1 Corinthians 16:22 we read, "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed... "
  2. Acts 17:30:  "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent."  Do you suppose repentance is not a command?  So, if keeping commands, laws, rules is not vital and necessary for man's salvation, then repentance is not essential to man's salvation either.  Yet, Acts 2:38; 3:19; Luke 13:3; 2 Peter 3:9 declare that repentance is necessary!
  3. Romans 10:9-10:  "Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth, one confesses and is saved."  Confession with our month is a command.  So, if obeying commands is not necessary to salvation, then confession is not essential either!  Yet, our passage plainly declares that it is vital or essential to man's salvation!  Notice, that confession is made with our mouth in contrast to the faith in the heart!
  4. 1 John 3:23; John 6:28-29:  "And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us."  John 6:28-29:  "Then they said to him, 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?' 29 Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.'"  Faith itself is another command.   Notice that it is a work that God demands that we obey or do.  So, if works and obedience are not essential or vital to man's salvation, then faith itself is not necessary.  Why? Simply, because it is a work God has commanded us to do!!  If one admits that faith is necessary, then one must disregard the false concept that obedience and works are not essential!  
  5. Some claim that John 6:29, speaks of faith as a work that God does for us, and not something that we must do.  However, 1 John 3:23 still declares that believing is a command given to us (Mark 16:15-16).  John 6:29 answers the question asked in verse 28, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”  The works of God in this Scripture imply the works that men must do as obedience to God's commands.  Notice the parallel in 1 Corinthians 15:58 when it says, "in the work of the Lord."  Here, the work of the Lord is that work that we abound in always; it is our labor in the Lord ("love of God" in 1 John 5:3).  Therefore, if faith is entirely a work that God does for us, then God is responsible for those who do not believe in Him, unbelievers.  That makes a God who causes some to believe but not others.  It makes God a respecter of people which is contrary to what we read in Acts 10:34-35 and Romans 2:11.  So, we infer from John 6:29 that faith is something that we must do and that is essential to man's salvation as obedience is essential to forgiveness.  With this in mind, what command must we obey?  Is baptism one of those commands or works?  Does the Gospel include commands (law) and works (obedience)?  Consider the following.

III.   RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GRACE, LAW, WORKS, AND OBEDIENCE:

The terms grace, law, and works are used carelessly. They are Bible words that deserve to be used the way the Holy Spirit used them in the inspired Word. Let us consider three problematic passages.
  1. Ephesians 2:8-9:  "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."  But James says, "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone."  (James 2:24).
  2. Romans 11:6:  "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace."  But that Bible also says, "but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."  (Acts 10:35).
  3. Romans 6:14:  "For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace."  Yet Paul also said, "To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law."  (1 Cor. 9:21).
I think that the reason many people find these above Scriptures confusing is that they do not rightly handle the Word of Truth, (2 Tim. 2:15).  They only choose to study part of what the Bible says, refusing to put it all together.  Another reason could be that false teachers usually teach certain facets of grace but ignore other Scriptures.  As a result of all this, there is lots of confusion.  It is important that I stress that the Bible never contradicts itself!  There is a harmony!  So, why not study those Scriptures that deal with grace, law and works carefully (even though they're difficult to understand) and see how they might be brought into harmony.

In the Word of God as in our everyday speech words can have different meanings in different contexts.  Many get confused because they take the definition of a word and then try to force it to have a different meaning in all other contexts. One example of this is the word "Grace."
  • Grace:
The word Grace indicates an attitude of kindness and love. It refers to the favor of God toward us.  No one deserves the favor of God.  It is a blessing or gift that one receives though he has not earned it. It is not the "enabling grace" of Calvinism.  The false theology of Calvinism teaches that man is born a sinner (with a sinful nature, total hereditary depravity).  They say that God elects those who are going to be saved or condemned before they are born.  Christ died only for the "elect."  The Holy Spirit regenerates the "elect" with an "irresistible grace," giving them "enabling grace" to believe and love God.  Finally, they conclude that the "elect" can never fall from grace.  This doctrine of theology is false and man-made and contradicts many Scriptures, (Matt. 15:8, 9; Col. 2:22).  The Grace of God is granted to men through the Gospel of Christ only.  We are saved by Grace.  In Ephesians 2:5-8, Paul declares that "even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith."  Here Paul is saying that we are saved by grace through faith. The question is, how is grace bestowed?  

Surely, it is not an automatic bestowal of favor just because Jesus died.  Nor is it by a mental acceptance of Jesus in your heart only.  The truth is we don't "get saved" by some "better felt than told" process.  We don't receive God's grace in some mysterious and unknown way like getting sick for no reason.  Grace is the Gospel of Christ that teaches us the standards of God's Word and our obedience to it.  This is the Grace of God that saves us, (Romans 6:1ff).  The Grace of God teaches when the Gospel is taught, (Titus 2:11-12; Col. 1:23).  Those who don't teach the pure Gospel don't teach the Grace of God.  The "Grace" of God is all that God has done (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) for man's salvation.  The primary factor of the Grace of God is the death of Jesus on the cross as a sacrifice for man's redemption.  Grace is conditional.  Though God provides salvation, it does not depend entirely on God!  Man has to do his part to accept the terms of salvation.  When man obeys the conditions necessary to salvation (by obeying the Gospel of Christ), he receives the Grace of God and is then reconciled back to God, (1 Cor. 5:18-20; Eph. 2:8).  We are indeed saved, justified by the Grace of God in Christ, which was made possible by His sacrifice.  The Grace of God brings salvation in that it teaches us to deny ungodliness and live righteously.  There can be no understanding at all of the sacrifice of Christ without complete obedience to the will of God, conforming our lives to His will alone.  When Christians sin, the blood of Christ (the same Grace of God) gives us forgiveness, but not without repentance and a change of behavior, (1 John 1:6-2:1-2). This is keeping the faith, works, and Grace altogether.

Many wrongly stress that we are not saved by works but by grace and faith.  Take for instance what Romans 11:5 declares, "But if it is by grace, it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace."  Indeed, I don't see any problem with this passage.  However, it is vital that we keep in mind what kind of works that this passage is referring to.  These passages are merely referring to perfect works by which a person can claim to obtain salvation on his own merit without the mercy and help of God.  In Hebrews 2:9 we read that "But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone."  Again in Romans 5:15 we read, "But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many."   We are thus justified and saved by the Grace of God in His Son, made possible by His sacrifice.  Yet, it is crucial to understand that this is not the only function of Grace. 

Grace is the message of God, the Gospel, that was preached by the apostles, and that was delivered to us.  God's Grace is revealed through His Word.  The Word then becomes the means of God's Grace, (Titus 2:11-12).  That Grace teaches us to live holy and righteously.  The message of God is found in the Grace of Christ, the Gospel, (Gal. 1:6-9).  Here Paul is contrasting the "grace of Christ" with "a different gospel."  Acts 20:24 speaks of "the gospel of the grace of God."  Acts 14:3 refers to the "word of His grace." as does Acts 20:32; 19:27-28.  The word "Grace" in God's revelation leads man to the Grace of obedience to Him as well.  Titus 2:11-12 explains the standard of God's Word and our obedience to it.  This is the only Grace that saves and that we can read about in Romans 6:1-7.  In Romans 7, Paul says that we cannot continue in sin so that grace may abound. He says we must die to sin.  Baptism being in the likeness of death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  We then are joined together with Christ in the likeness of His death, burial, and resurrection.  Baptism is that likeness.  Having died to sin, we arise to walk in newness of life.  Here is salvation by Grace through faith, (Colossians 3:1-10; Titus 2:11-14).  The Grace that saves teaches obedience to the will of God.
  • Law:
A law is a command, rule, or precept (a compilation of commands) that one is expected to obey. Everyone obeys some form of law, (Romans 6:16,19).  The New Testament mentions different kinds of law.  Consider them.
  1. The Law of Sin:  This is when one obeys his own will or someone else's will to disobey God, (Romans 7:23-25; 8:2).
  2. The Law of Works:  This is different from the law of faith.  The Jews had converted the Law of Moses into a law of works, (Romans 3:27).  The Gospel is not this kind of law.
  3. The Law of Christ:  It is also the "law of faith" (Romans 3:27), the "law of God" (Romans 8:7), "law of the Spirit of life" (Romans 8:2), and "law of liberty" (James 1:25; 2:12).  In 1 Cor. 9:20-21 Paul says this law is not the Mosaic Law that the Jews were subject to.
As we can see, all these fit well in the definition of law but remember they are different laws.  That is why it is important to stress the need of what the context says in each particular case that we are studying.  So often many become confused because they believe there is only one kind of law. They mishandle the Scriptures saying that we are not saved by a law of works, assuming that there is no law at all involved in our salvation.  It is crucial that we grasp that there are different kinds of law, so that we may understand that we are not saved by one kind of law.  Yet, there is another kind of law (like the Law of Christ) that is necessary for our salvation.
    • Does the Gospel Contain Law (Commands) and Works (Obedience)?
Post-modern Protestants belittle obedience (especially baptism) by denying that the New Testament is a law.  They reject baptism as essential to salvation. I've heard some say that "the New Testament is not a code or system of laws, but rather "love letters."  This is treason toward our Lord Jesus!! They imply that "love" (their twisted interpretation of love) is all that is required, rather than obedience.  Come on!!  They claim that we must love even those brethren who disobey the Bible so as to overlook their wilful disobedience and continue to have fellowship with them.  They call us "legalists" when we insist on the need for repentance.  By the same token, they accuse us of trusting and obeying commandments (law keeping) for salvation.  Jesus is Lord!! Does that not mean anything? He will judge us if we disregard His laws. We cannot be rebellious like ancient Israel and expect Him to smile and say, “There they go again.” He rejected them because of their lack of faithfulness and Hebrews warns us that He will reject us for the same reasons, (Hebrews 3:7-19). So, my question is, is law an essential aspect of the New Testament Law of Christ?  Let us try to reason with the Truth only.

I agree that the New Testament is not like the Old Testament system of justification.  Is not law an essential constituent of the Gospel of Christ?  Let me prove it using my only source, the Word.
  1. Galatians 6:2:  "Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."  You see Christ has a law that we must fulfill.
  2. 1 Corinthians 9:20-21:  "And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 21 to them that are without law, as without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law."  In this passage, Paul is contradicting those (the Jews) who were denying that he was under law to Christ.  Paul stresses that he was not under the Law of Moses (the laws the Jews were subject to).  And though Paul is stating he was not under the Law of Moses, he did not imply that he was without law at all.  He acknowledged that he was under the Law of Christ.
  3. Isaiah 2:2-3:  "And it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of Jehovah’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 3 And many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem."  When God established His house (the church of the living God, the pillar, and ground of Truth, 1 Timothy 3:15), His Law would go forth from Jerusalem, (Acts 2; Luke 24:47).
  4. James 2:8:  "If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well."  The royal law is to love our neighbor.  So, if the New Testament does not require obedience to law, then why is love required?  Because love is a law! (Rom. 13:8; Gal. 5:14).
  5. 1 John 3:4:  “Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.”  Sin is transgression of law.  So, if we are not subject to any law, why is it that there is sin?  Those who claim that we are no law (without law) are actually defending sin.  Why?  Simply because the nature of sin is lawlessness.  So, why do we all need God's forgiveness by Grace, Eph. 1:7?  Because we all commit sin, (1 John 1:8-10; Rom. 3:23).  Therefore, to remove law is to eliminate man's need for God's Grace and Jesus' death!  (Heb. 8:10; Rom. 3:27; James 1:25; 2:8,12).  
    • So, are works a vital part of the Gospel of Christ?
Though we are not justified by our own works of merit, we still have works that we need to do to be saved.  Consider the following Scriptures to prove this.
  1. Galatians 5:6:  "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love."  In Christ Jesus what is of value is faith working through love.
  2. Acts 10:34-35:  "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him."  He who fears God (from every nation) and works righteousness is accepted (welcome) by God.
  3. James 1:22,25:  "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves... 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does."  Those who are doers of the Word (not just hearers) are blessed in what they do.
  4. James 2:14-26:  "What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so, faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.  18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead."  So, can I be saved by a faith that does not work (verse 14)?  It is a dead faith.  Works and faith go hand in hand.  Therefore, by works, a man is justified and not by faith alone or only.
  5. Romans 2:6-10; 2 Cor. 5:10:  "Who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good."  2 Cor. 5:10:  "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad."  We will be judged and rewarded according to our works.  We will either receive eternal life for doing and working what is good or wrath and indignation for working unrighteousness.  (John 6:28-29; Phil. 2:12; John 5:28,29; 1 john 2:17; 1 Thess. 1:3; Acts 9:6).
Again, my question is, are commands essential components of the Gospel?

Law is a command or collection of commands by definition.  Those who belittle law also downplay the importance of keeping commands (laws).  But notice what the following Scriptures say.
  1. Matthew 22:37-39:  "And He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"  The two greatest commands are to love God and man.  To say one must love, it implies that one must keep commands (law).  For love is a command (law!)  To deny the need for obeying commands is to deny love.
  2. John 14:15; 1 John 5:3:  "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."  "3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome."  We will keep God's commandments when we love Him.  So law and commandment keeping go hand in hand rather than being antagonistic.  They must go together! To say that one does not believe commands are essential is to accept that one does not walk in love! (John 14:21-24; 2 John 6).
  3. 1 John 2:3-6:  "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked."  We must keep His commandments to know and abide in God.  He who says that command keeping (law keeping) is not essential is admitting that he does not know God!!
  4. 1 John 3:23:  "And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us."  You see faith is a command!  To affirm that commands are not necessary to salvation is to unconsciously say that faith is not essential to salvation.  For faith is a command!
  5. Acts 17:30-31:  "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”  God commands all men everywhere to repent.  So, to affirm that commands are not necessary to salvation is to say that repentance is not essential either.  For repentance is a command!  God has declared that without repentance one will perish, (2 Peter 3:9; Luke 13:3-5).
  6. Acts 10:47-48:  "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days."  God commands all men to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.  Baptism is a command!  It is essential to salvation, (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Rom. 6:3-4).  And though some do accept that faith and repentance are essential despite the fact that they are commands, they still insist that baptism is not essential to salvation.  They ignore that commandment keeping (law keeping) is either essential to salvation or not. So if keeping commands (law) is not necessary, then love, faith, and repentance are not essential either.  So, why oppose the need for baptism if keeping commands is necessary?  (Matt. 28:18-20; John 12:47-50; 1 Cor. 14:37).
My next question is, is obedience a necessary component of the Gospel?  Again, I must stress that law is that which must be obeyed.  If law is not necessary under the Gospel of Christ, then neither is obedience.  On the other hand, if obedience is necessary, then so is law also.  Consider the following.
  1. Romans 6:17-18:  "But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness."  Paul declares that we have been set free from sin when we obey the standard of teaching (the doctrine delivered).
  2. Hebrews 5:9:  "And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,"  Jesus is the Author of eternal salvation to those who obey Him.
  3. Matthew 7:21-27:  "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’  24 Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock... "  To enter the kingdom of heaven, one must do the will of God.  Learning Jesus' teachings or claiming to believe in Him is not enough if one does not do or obey the will of the Father.
  4. 1 Peter 1:22:  "Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart."  When we obey the Truth, we purify our souls.
  5. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9:  "in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might." Those who do not obey the Gospel of Christ will be punished in flaming fire.  And though the Gospel is not a system of justification by works of the law, yet it is a fact that the Gospel is a law in which works and obedience to commands are vital to receiving salvation.  Take heed that the words "law" or "works" can have different meanings and can be different things.  So, the Gospel is a law that demands works.
  • Works:
There is a lot of misunderstanding by most people in the religious world about "works."  This confusion is two-fold.  First, because many assume salvation by an inner acceptance of Jesus alone. Second, there is a complete misunderstanding of the kind of work that Romans 3-4 is speaking of. 

"But the Bible says we are not saved by works."  Though the Bible states that obedience is necessary, yet there are many passages that say we are not saved by "works."  A little bit confusing, don't you think? Yet, many verses that state that we are not saved by works are often found quite close to other passages that tell us that we must obey.  Consider some examples:
  1. Galatians 2:16; 3:11 (not by works):  But notice what Galatians 3:27 has to say, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." And 5:6 "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love."
  2. Romans 3:20, 28; 4:2-16; 11:6 (not by works).  But Romans 6:3-4 says, "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."  Again, Romans 6:17-18 says, "But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness."  Romans 10:9-10, "because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."  Romans 2:6-11, "He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality."   Romans 16:26, "26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith."  Romans 1:5, "through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations."
  3. Titus 3:5; 2 Timothy 1:9 (not by works).  But notice that it says in Titus 3:5, "the washing of regeneration (baptism and new birth)."  This is parallel to Acts 22:16; Hebrews 10:22; Romans 6:4; John 3:5 and Colossians 2:12-13.
  4. Ephesians 2:8-9 (not by works). The works that verse 8 is talking about are the ones by which man can boast or glory.  These are works like the "perfect works" of the Jews or works of our own invention as in Matt. 7:21ff where one can boast of one's accomplishments.  But notice that Ephesians 5:25-26 says that we are cleansed by the washing of water.  
Hence, obedience is essential.  Yet, some works do not save.  There are different kinds of works as there are different kinds of faith.  Faith saves, but at the same time, there are kinds of faith that do not save.  So, obedience is essential, but there are works that do not save.
    • Different Kinds of Works:
The word works translated into English means deeds or actions that one does.  Again, it is important that I stress again that there are different kinds of deeds mentioned in the New Testament in various contexts.  Consider these kinds of works:
  1. Works of the Old Testament Law: (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28).  These are the works of the Law of Moses by which no flesh can be justified, Galatians 2:16. The Jews thought that since they were circumcised (a work of the Law of Moses) and kept the Sabbath Law (another work enhanced by the traditions of the elders), along with various fasts, dietary laws, laws of cleanness, and such customs, in their own minds they were justified and righteous.  Problem was that when they failed to keep that Law, their circumcision was turned into uncircumcision. On the other hand, Abraham, their patriarch, was declared righteous even before he was circumcised and 400 years before the giving of the Law of Moses. He was righteous because he was forgiven of his sins. This is what it means when the New Testament Law says, we are not saved by "works of law." (Romans 9:31-32).  The Old Testament has been removed and is not binding today, (Gal. 3:23-25; Heb. 10:9-10; Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 2:14-17; Rom. 7:1-7). Under that system of law, no permanent forgiveness was provided, (Heb. 10:1-4,11).  Thus, we are not saved by the works of the Old Testament Law. The Old Law never saved because it provided no lasting forgiveness, (Heb. 10:3-4). Hence, mankind needs a system of Grace by which we can be forgiven even though we do not deserve it.  This is exactly the message of Galatians 2:16;3:11; 4:21-25; 5:3; Acts 13:39 when it says that we are not saved by works.
  2. Works of the Flesh:  (Galatians 5:19-21).  These are the deeds that violate God's Law and are therefore lawless or sinful.  It is parallel with the law of sin.  This kind of works does not save us. It condemns us, (Romans 13:12-14).   Such works are specified and thus manifest.  Those who practice them can never enter the kingdom of heaven.
  3. The Works of the Devil:  (1 John 3:8).  Jesus came to destroy these works. 
  4. The Works of Darkness:  (Ephesians 5:11).  These works are ungodly and sinful in the realm of darkness, and they are to be avoided at all cost.
  5. Works that are Wicked:  (Colossians 1:21).  The Gentiles were enemies of God because in their hearts they had wicked works.  They can also be referred to as dead works, (Hebrews 6:1, 9:14).
  6. Works of Human Righteousness By Wich One Earns Salvation: Our Own Invention:  (Romans 4:4; 3:27; 11:6; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; 2 Tim. 1:9).  These are the works that do not save us.  (Matt. 7:23).  Many in that Final Day of Judgment will argue that they did many wonderful works, but Jesus will call them workers of iniquity, lawlessness.   Titus 3:5 and 2 Timothy 1:9 say that we are not saved by works done in righteousness which we do.  These works are things that men generate and add to what God has commanded.  They are the works of men and not of God.
  7. The Works of Faith or Obedience:  These are the deeds, works done in obedience according to the Gospel of Christ to be saved, (1 Thess. 1:3; Gal. 5:6).  These deeds result as our obedience to the law of faith.  These are done to meet the conditions to receive the blessing one does not deserve, (1 Cor. 15:58).  These are not works of human righteousness by which we can earn eternal life by living a sinless life.  Yet, sinners (those who are not yet baptized) must believe in Him and obey the conditions of redemption found in the Gospel of Christ for God to forgive them.  God will forgive sinners by His mercy and grace. The conditions required by God for God's grace to forgive unworthy sinners by the blood of Jesus are faith, repentance, confession and baptism.  The only source or power that provides forgiveness is Jesus' blood and death.  Forgiveness can only be obtained through His blood, (Eph. 1:7).  By the Grace of God, Jesus died to offer us salvation.  Salvation is a gift, not according to human effort. Though certain passages say that we are not saved by "works," or not of law, it means that is not achieved by human accomplishment by which one can earn salvation by living a sinless life.  Yet, that does not deny that man must meet conditions to receive forgiveness.  The truth is that man is not the source of the power on which righteousness is based but God.  He is the only source of true righteousness because He forgives people of their sins based on Jesus' sacrifice, (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 3:24-25).  Man cannot eradicate or eliminate faith, repentance confession or baptism to be saved.  All these are works that must be included in the obedience that is essential to receive forgiveness of sins.  So, the advocates of the doctrine of "faith only or alone" admit that man may do something to obtain salvation without earning it.  The only problem here is that they have completely eliminated the doctrines that God commands and have substituted them for the doctrines or teachings of men and of their own invention, (Matthew 15:9; Galatians 1:8-9; 2 John 9; Rev. 22:18-19).
Again, all these fit the definition of works.  Yet, there are different kinds of works as I have mentioned.  The term "works" also applies to obedience to the will of God.  These are the works we must do to please God.  They are not our works, but God's even though they are deeds that we do.The Bible characterizes them as good works by which we glorify our Father in Heaven, (Matt. 5:16; Acts 10:35; Romans 2:4-10).

Only reading the context carefully will help us to determine which one is in each particular case.  So often people read passages that say we are not saved by works, and they assume there is nothing from our part that we must do to obtain salvation.  Only when we understand and acknowledge that the Gospel makes mention of different kinds of works, will we know that although there are works that do not save us, yet there are other types of works that are still necessary to salvation.  Focusing on this will help us to understand those passages that seem contradictory to us.  For instance, some Scriptures say that we are not saved by works of law, yet others say that we are saved by certain works and that we must submit to that law to be saved.  Therefore, it is vital that we understand those passages that discuss different kinds of law and works.

When one actually knows well the Bible teachings about grace, faith, works and law, he will never reject God's conditions for receiving the forgiveness of sins.  Instead, he will trust and obey.  He will never downplay the importance of living a pure, godly and holy life since one of the conditions of repentance is to commit one's self to holiness and purity in his life.  And having met all the conditions for forgiveness, one must not become self-righteous but rather acknowledge that we are all sinners saved by the Grace of God.  Such Grace ought to compel us to live a righteous and holy life that praises God for His grace and for His Son's sacrifice.

IV.   FAITH AND OBEDIENCE GO HAND IN HAND:

Many people agree that saving faith includes repentance and confession.  However, saving faith also requires obedience, and obedience is essential to salvation.  The faith that saves is a faith that obeys God to receive forgiveness from Him.  He will not grant any forgiveness to anyone until he obeys His terms of salvation.  In Hebrews 10:39 to chapter 11 we have many examples of people who "by faith" obeyed the will of God and pleased Him to be rewarded by Him (verse 6).   That is the kind of faith that believes to the saving of our soul, (Heb. 10:39).  My question is, did the heroes of faith receive their reward before or after they obeyed God? Consider the following:
  • Noah:
"And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And it repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And Jehovah said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the ground; both man, and beast, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens; for it repenteth me that I have made them. 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of Jehovah." (Gen. 6:5-6).  
Noah was a man who feared God, wanting to do what was right before God (he stood faithful, obedient and righteous), even though he lived in the midst of so much wickedness.  Noah's sparkling qualities caught God's eyes in heaven.  And since Noah chose to live righteously before Jehovah, God chose to favor him as a result (Noah found grace in the eyes of God).  Noah was saved by faith, (Heb. 11:7).  By faith Noah prepared an ark to save his house, becoming an heir of righteousness according to faith.  My question is, was he saved by faith before he obeyed? Or was he required to obey God first?  Did God then save him from the flood?  Would God have saved him if he had not obeyed?  Noah was saved because he believed God was sending a flood and prepared an ark as God had commanded him.  We too are saved because we believe that God has already sent His Son who was crucified for our sins, buried and raised.  Noah benefited from God's Grace because of his faith. In the same way, we benefit from God's Grace through faith in Jesus, (Romans 5:1-2).  Despite the fact that the Grace of God was playing an essential role in Noah's salvation, he was not saved by Grace alone.  Did Noah's faith take away from God's Grace?  Absolutely NOT!  So, are we any less saved by grace if we are required by God to have faith?  NO!  Paul declares that it is by faith that we have access into God's Grace.  So, if we do not have faith, the Grace of God will do us no good, (Romans 5:1-2).  Remember Noah was saved by grace and by faith and not by any of them alone.  It is the same way with us today!

Noah was saved by works.  Without his works, Noah’s faith would have been useless.  "Thus also faith by itself if it does not have works is  dead."  (James 2:17).  A faith that does not exercise works will die.  A dead faith is good for nothing!  An active faith has access to God's Grace.  God’s generous offer of Grace to Noah would have failed had he not believed God and obeyed His commands. Without works of obedience, we can never have access to God's Grace.  Works that simply do what God has commanded us to do!  (Phil. 2:13).  God demands that we do His will and this requires works, (James 2:24).  Therefore, man is justified by works and not by faith only!!
Noah was also saved by water.  Only eight souls were saved from the flood waters.  God's Grace made salvation possible by faith and works (the building of the ark).  The flood waters washed away the wickedness of that world back then. At the same time, the waters lifted the saving ark high above the destruction.  1 Peter 3:20 declares, "that aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water."  And though Noah was saved by God's Grace and faith, he was also saved by his works and water.  God chose water to save Noah.  Today, God says that in the waters of baptism one's sins are washed away, (Acts 2:38; 22:16).  Just like the flood was a new beginning, so it is with baptism.  Noah was saved by Grace, faith, works, and water.  Grace alone does not save!  Faith alone does not save!  Works alone do not save!  Water alone does not save either!  But all of these components together do save!  God's Grace teaches us to repent and deny worldly lusts, (Titus 2:12). Our works will perfect our faith, (James 2:2).  Baptism will put us into Christ, (Gal. 3:27).  Only in Jesus, salvation is found, (2 Tim. 2:10).  So, is man saved by grace, faith, works, and water?  Absolutely YES!
  • Abraham:
"By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out unto a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing whither he went."  (Heb. 11:8).
Did God reward Abraham before he obeyed, or after he obeyed?  Would God have rewarded him had he not obeyed?  

Abraham did what God commanded him to do with trust and obedience.  This is faith that was counted for righteousness.  You see, when Abraham was commanded by God to leave Ur, (Gen. 12), he departed to go to the land that God had promised to give him and his descendants.  "And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness."  (Genesis 15:6).  Indeed, his faith was an active one. 
"4 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin." 
In this passage, we see Abraham's faith that was counted as righteousness. So, does Romans 4:1-5 teach that when Abraham obeyed God's command, he wanted to justify himself by "works"?  Does Paul teach that when he (Abraham) obeyed the command of leaving his land, his obedience was not necessary?  Though he did not have any children yet, God promised him that he would have offspring and that would be like the stars in heaven, (Gen. 15:5-6; Rom. 4:3).  Many twist Romans 4:3 into saying that Abraham was justified by faith only.  But in Romans 2:8 Paul states, "but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury."  So, faith that does not obey is nothing!  It is again a dead faith, (James 2:26).

In James 2:21-24, we read, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."  Abraham was justified every time he obeyed God. Our “faith only” friends avoid the insight of James by saying that this "justification" is not the same kind of justification that Paul is talking about. Citing Romans 4:2, they say Abraham was not justified before God but perhaps before men. Yet, there were no human witnesses to Abraham offering his son as a sacrifice to God. Genesis 22:12, God himself said, “now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from.”  Such an argument is pure foolishness designed to ignore the importance of Abraham's obedient faith, he walked by faith, Romans 4:12. Justification is justification.  Period! Justification is justification.  Period!  The only correct explanation is that Paul and James are speaking of different kinds of works. Paul is speaking of "works done by us in righteousness."   (Titus 3:5, as in the case of Cornelius, Acts 10, 11).  On the other hand, James is talking about works of obedience toward God as in the case of Abraham and the other examples of the faithful ones mentioned in Hebrews 11 because of their works of obedience.

So, Paul states in Romans 4, that Abraham was not justified by "works" while James 2 says that Abraham was indeed justified by works.  Which of them is correct?  Obviously both!  Why? Because both James and Paul speak with one voice saying in Romans 4:12, "and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised."  Thus, Abraham's faith was not faith only.  It was a faith that walked in the footsteps of the faith.  His footsteps were actions, doings, or works of obedience.  Those who quote Romans 4:1-5 to teach justification by faith alone twist the Scripture to their own destruction, (2 Pet. 3:16).  They ignore and do not care what Paul himself states in the same letter in Romans 2; 4:12 and James 2:20-24.  Take heed!

Indeed, Abraham never thought to justify himself like the Jews did, (Luke 16:15).  That is, he never thought to justify himself because of his own works aside from God's forgiveness.  Paul continues in Romans 4:6-7, "Just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:  7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,  and whose sins are covered."  That is, those who seek God and accept His forgiveness on His terms seek out "righteousness apart from works," and are justified by faith and not by "works."  We must allow Paul to explain himself.  It is not necessary to abandon the text under consideration to fully understand the meaning of justification not by works.  It is an abuse of verses 3-5 to not include the conclusion of Paul’s argument in verses 5-8. It is not honest.  They don't rightly handle the Word of Truth, (2 Tim. 2:15).  So, was Abraham justified without obedience to God's commandments?  Of course not! Correspondingly, when Christ and the apostles teach baptism for salvation (the forgiveness of sins), obedience to this commandment is not "work" in the sense of Ephesians 2: 8-9 nor is the worship that we offer God each Lord's Day.
  • Israel at Jericho:
"By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days."  (Heb. 11:30). Did the walls fall before the Israelites did what God said, or afterward?  Would they have fallen had they not obeyed God?  Our text says that the walls fell "after they had been encircled for seven days."  There are many other examples of obedient faith in Hebrews 11. God rewarded those who had an obedient faith.  They received the blessing "by faith," not before they obeyed or without obedience but only after they had obeyed (as a result of their obedience).  When faith leads to obedience, then one receives the reward "by faith."  A saving faith is a faith that obeys.  So, what about those who believe that obediene is not necessary?  Will God save them before they obey? Their faith is not a saving faith until they obey. The faith that avails is the faith that works.  God requires a working faith! (Gal. 5:6; 2 Cor. 5:7; 1 Thess. 1:3; Gal. 2:20; 2 Thess. 1:11; Rom. 1:5; 16:26).


V.   SALVATION "BY FAITH" REQUIRES BAPTISM:

Our friends who advocate "faith only" affirm that we are saved by faith before baptism.  According to them, one is baptized after one has already been saved.  But the Scriptures affirm that salvation by faith includes all the conditions necessary to obtain forgiveness of sins:  repentance, confession, and baptism.  There is a connection between faith and baptism.  So, is baptism one of the conditions included in saving faith?  Does one have to obey the conditions to receive forgiveness?  Does baptism come after forgiveness?  Consider the following Scriptures:
  • Acts 22:16:  "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name."  Why not consider Paul's own conversion?  Did he consider baptism essential to his forgiveness?  Let us see what Scriptures have to say about this.
"5 As the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.  6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.'  9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.'"  
You see on the road to Damascus Paul saw Jesus and obviously, believed in Him.  After 3 days he was praying, (Acts 9:11).  Indeed, if man is saved by "faith alone," then Saul must have been saved right away.  But was he?  Paul did not eat or drink for three days. He was in deep mourning, which is not the behavior of a forgiven man. Men who are saved rejoice. What did Jesus say to Paul?  He said that in the city Saul would be told all things that he must do, (Acts 22:10; 9:6).  What was Paul told to do?  Ananias told Paul to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins, (Acts 22:16).  So, if salvation is "by faith only" before baptism, then Paul would have no need to have his sins washed away at this point.  But he did have sins that needed to be forgiven and remained in sin until he was baptized.  So, where is forgiveness placed according to this text?  Before baptism or after? Nothing that Paul taught contradicts what he himself did to be saved.  He knew that salvation by faith involves faith and requires baptism rather than excluding it, (Eph. 5:26).
  • Romans 6:3-4:  "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."  
  • Galatians 3:26-27: "for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
No one can be in Christ unless he is baptized into Him.  So, can a person be saved if he has not come "into Christ" where the blessings of grace are found (salvation, forgiveness, eternal life, freedom from sin and condemnation)?  Can one be saved outside of Christ?  No!  One must be baptized into Christ to be saved.  Moreover, we are baptized into Christ's death, (Romans 6:3).  As a result, sin is destroyed, (verse 6) and we are free from sin, (v. 7).  Can one be saved without the power of Jesus' death? Not at all!  Baptism (preceded by believing, repenting and confessing) is, therefore, that point in which one comes in contact with that death.  In baptism one comes into contact with Christ's death and resurrection.  Are we sons of God before we are baptized?  Is baptism necessary to become a child of God?  The Bible states that when one is baptized "into Christ," then one becomes a child of God.

Moreover, Romans 6:4 shows that one starts walking in newness of life (new birth, born again) after one has been raised from the waters of baptism and not before, (Col. 2:12-13; John 3:5).  Therefore, to become a child of God "by faith" requires baptism rather than excluding it.   Many avoid the requirement of water baptism in these texts by saying that they refer to a “spiritual baptism” which occurs the moment one believes.  Thus they would agree with Acts 2:38; 22:16; Mark 16:16; Rom. 6:3-4 and Col. 2:12.  However, these Scriptures say nothing of a baptism in the Spirit.  Do they have any proof?  Faith advocates would often use Rom. 6:4 and Col. 2:12 to prove that water baptism is an immersion.  But when one discusses the need for water baptism, they often refer to these verses to refer to Spirit baptism.  So, which is it, water baptism or Spirit baptism?  It can not be both! When Philip preached Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch, they came to a certain water. The eunuch asked, “Here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?” (Acts 8:36) He understood Philip to be talking about water baptism and Philip baptized him in that water.

The only baptism of the Holy Spirit that we read of in the Gospel was the promise made to a few individuals.  There are only two cases recorded in the New Testament, (Acts 1:1-8; 21,22; 2; 10:44-11:18).  When this kind of baptism occurred, it was always accompanied by miraculous tongue speaking because God poured out the Holy Spirit.  God never required it of all people to be saved. Holy Spirit baptism belonged only to that era of miraculous revelation which stopped when the written Word was completed or delivered, (1 Cor. 13:8-13; Jude 3; James 1:25).  The ridiculous thing is that many of those who practice this kind of baptism will also perform water baptism, making it two baptisms (Matt. 3:11).  But Ephesians 4:6 affirms that there is only one baptism today.  There can not be two baptisms (one necessary and one that is not).  Thus, the only true baptism authorized by Christ is the baptism of the Great Commission, which is water baptism, (Mark 16:15-16; Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38; 8:36-39; 10:47-48).
  • Mark 16:16:  "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Jesus said he who believes and is baptized will be saved.  What did Jesus require to receive salvation?  Both faith and baptism.  Does salvation come before baptism or as a result of it?  If one takes away either faith or baptism, one no longer has salvation.  Faith only affirms that he who believes is saved and can later be baptized.  But Jesus said,  "He who belives and is baptized will be saved."  Can't you see the difference?  According to Romans 10:9, both faith and confession are essential to receive salvation.  The same is true of Mark 16:16 which states that faith and baptism are both essential to receive salvation.  He who does not believe will be condemned.  Disbelieves what? The Gospel! (Mark 1:15; Rom. 1:16).
  • Acts 2:38:  "And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’"
When Peter preached the first Gospel sermon, he taught the importance of believing in Jesus, (verse 26).  As a result of his preaching, sinners asked what to do about their sins.  What was Peter's answer?  Repent and be baptized "for the remission of sins."  Again, when does forgiveness come, before or after baptism?  In fact, forgiveness is the primary purpose of baptism (the forgiveness of sins).  Likewise, baptism is a work or action (immerse in water) for the remission of sins (purpose). So, if one's sins are forgiven before baptism, the moment one believes, then one cannot be baptized for the remission of sins?  NO!  It would not be a Scriptural baptism.  When man teaches that one is saved by faith alone without obedience to baptism, he takes his stand on the error that repentance, confession, and even faith are not necessary to man's salvation.  Such arguments are fallacious!
  • 1 Peter 3:20-21:  "because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
Noah's salvation illustrates ours.  He was saved by water, (v. 20).  It is a figure (type/antitype) demonstrating that "baptism doth also now save us."  (KJV).  Water by itself has no power to remove sin (like removing filth from the body).  Rather, we trust in Jesus' resurrection to save us that we may have a good conscience, "an appeal to God for a good conscience."  As I mentioned earlier, Hebrews 11:7 uses Noah to show that obedience is necessary to salvation "by faith."  Noah's case connects faith and baptism, (Heb. 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20-21).  The only power to forgive sin is in Jesus' death and resurrection.  We benefit from that power in the waters of baptism.  Thus, baptism also now saves us!
  • Colossians 2:12-13:  "having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses."
When we were dead because of our sins, we were made alive (forgiven of sin) by being raised with Christ through faith in the powerful working of God.  All this happened in baptism!  Baptism is a work (an act) of faith in God's power rather than an act of faith because of our own merit.  Salvation by faith includes baptism and does not exclude it.  There is a parallel between Colossians 2:12-13 and Ephesians 2:4-9;  Dead in sin, made alive, being raised with Jesus, through faith in the powerful working of God, by God's Grace through faith, in baptism, not of self, not of works.  Notice that both Scriptures describe "salvation by grace through faith."  One is dead because of sin but made alive by being raised with Him through faith and forgiven of sin. In what?  In baptism!


CONCLUSION:

The Bible states that we are saved by grace, by faith, by works and by water (baptism).  God says that in the water of baptism one's sins are washed away, (Acts 2:38; 22:16).  We are not saved by anything alone:  Grace alone, faith alone, works alone water alone.  But we are saved by altogether. God's love, grace, and mercy sent His Son to die for us, (John 3:16).  God's Grace teaches us to repent and deny worldly lusts, (Titus 2:12).  Our works will perfect our faith, (James 2:22).  Baptism puts one into Christ, (Gal. 3:27).  Only in Christ is salvation found, (2 Tim. 2:10).  Remaining faithful is essential to salvation.  Paul told Timothy to "Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus."  (2 Tim. 1:13).  Belief in Christ and the Gospel changes and regenerates the heart.  Repentance changes the conduct.  Confession changes the Lord of life.  Baptism changes the status.  And remaining faithful changes the eternal destiny.  How serious are you about going to heaven?  Is your faithfulness exhibited by your devoted service?  Have you remained faithful in your service to the Lord?  Remember this is part of our faith and works.

The only means by which man can learn anything about God's Grace is the Gospel, (Eph. 1:5-11). We become God's sons according to God's will, (verse 5).  We have forgiveness of sins according to His Grace, which He made to abound to us, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, (verse 9).  We will inherit according to His purpose.  He works all things according to His will, (verse 11).  Thus God's Grace works according to His purpose and will.  And since He is the One that extends favor, Grace, He has every right to determine how and to whom He will extend it.  God's mystery is revealed in Scriptures, (Eph. 3:3-5; 1:9).  Therefore, Scriptures provide us with everything needed to do good works, (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  God's Grace is the only source for knowing God's Word.  God saves and calls us according to His purpose and Grace revealed in the Gospel of Christ.  The Gospel reveals God's purpose for man.  So to understand Grace, one must study the Gospel!  God saves through the hearing of the Gospel and obedience to it.  No one will be saved by the direct operation of the Holy Spirit apart from God's Word.  Grace saves only through the Word, the Gospel.

Paul's ministry was to testify the Gospel of the Grace of God.  Paul's preaching commended men to the Word of God's Grace. Grace and the Word go hand in hand.   We are called according to Grace, (Gal. 1:6; 2 Tim. 1:9).  We are called by the Gospel, (2 Thess. 2:14).  The Grace of God appeared to all men teaching us, (Titus 2:11-12).  The Scriptures teach and instruct us, equipping us for all good works, (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The disciples believed through Grace, (Acts 18:27).  Faith comes by hearing God's Word, (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30-31).  By Grace we are saved, (2 Tim. 1:9; Acts 15:11).  The Gospel is God's power to save, (Rom. 1:16; James 1:21; Acts 11:14).  God strengths us through His grace (with knowledge of His will), (Eph. 2:5,8; Colo. 1:9-11).  Being justified by Grace, we are heirs of the hope of eternal life.  Jesus’ Words are the words of eternal life, (Titus 3:7; John 6: 63, 68).  Grace is conditional.  Those who meet God's conditions receive blessings.  The existence of conditions does not eliminate Grace.

Calvinism denies the fact that God's Grace is available to all men or that Jesus died for all.  They claim that Jesus' death offers saving Grace only to those whom God unconditionally chose before the world began.  And all others are lost and can never receive His Grace.  This is the Calvinistic unconditional election and limited atonement.  But God's Grace is extended to all.  Jesus died for all.  The Calvinistic view makes God a respecter of person.  And though Grace is extended to all, yet many will be lost because they refuse to meet the conditions required by God to be saved.  The apostle Paul who taught salvation by Grace, he himself was saved by conditional Grace, including baptism to have his sins washed away (forgiven).  The book of Romans is Grace through faith under the Gospel.  We are justified by faith because by faith we have access to Grace, (Romans 3:22-26; 4:2-8; 14-16; 10:14).

God's goodness leads all men to repent.  Sadly those who do not repent will receive His wrath and judgment.  One must have faith, but it must be an obedient faith.  For one must confess with the mouth to be saved.  So if Grace is unconditional, then neither faith nor confession would be needed. To be freed from sin one must obey the teaching that is delivered.  This includes baptism.  Paul shows that salvation by Grace must be conditional and must include baptism.  Forgiveness is a gift we do not deserve, but one must meet the conditions to receive the free gift.

The power is not in water but in Christ's death and resurrection.  When we have an obedient faith like Noah, we meet the conditions of salvation and are saved by Grace through faith even as Noah was, (Acts 18:27; 8:22; John 1:12-17; Gal. 5:4-6; Titus 3:3-8; Heb. 12:14-15).  Saving faith requires obedience.  Obedience to God's commands is vital to receive salvation.  Saving faith includes baptism.  Faith and obedience go together and cannot work apart from each other.  Therefore, salvation "by faith alone" is not the true Gospel of Christ.  It is a perverted Gospel of human invention, (Galatians 1:8-9; 2 John 9-11; Matt. 15:9; Rev. 22:18-19).  So, is one saved before baptism or after it?  One must choose to be baptized Scripturally.  One must refuse to be part of any church that teaches the false doctrine of "faith only" (2 John 9-11; 2 Cor. 6:17f; Eph. 5:11).

The Gospel of Christ includes Law (commands) and works (obedience).  Many in the religious world belittle the need for obedience, especially baptism.  They also deny that the New Testament is Law and that obedience is essential to salvation.  Works are an essential part of the Gospel.  Works are necessary to be saved, (Gal. 5:6; Acts 10:34-35; James 1:22,25; 2:14-26; Rom. 2:6-10; 2 Cor. 5:10; John 6:28-29; Phil. 2:12; John 5:28-29; 1 John 2:17; 1 Thess. 1:3; Acts 9:6).

In James 2:24, we learn that a man is JUSTIFIED by works, and NOT by faith alone.  But what kind of works would justify a man?  Let's consider them:

1.  Works of the Law of Moses?  Absolutely NOT.  Paul specifically clarifies this when he states that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but through faith in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified through Christ, and not by the works of the Law.  No flesh can be justified by the works of the Law, Galatians 2:16.  To be justified by the Old Covenant required animal sacrifices.  Otherwise, one would have to keep every law without ever committing sin. Romans 3:10, 23.  There is none righteous.   For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
2.  Works of the flesh?  Absolutely NOT.  No one can claim justification by the works of the flesh such as: immorality,  impurity, sensuality,  idolatry,  .... those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God, Galatians 5:19-21.
3.  Works of Human Righteousness By Wich One Earns Salvation: Our Own Invention?  (Romans 4:4; 3:27; 11:6; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; 2 Tim. 1:9).  Absolutely NOT.  These are the works that do not save us.  (Matt. 7:23).  Many in that Final Day of Judgment will argue that they did many wonderful works, but Jesus will call them workers of iniquity, lawlessness, (Mattew 7:21-23.)   Titus 3:5 and 2 Timothy 1:9 say that we are not saved by works done in righteousness which we do.  These works are things that men generate and add to what God has commanded.  They are the works of men and not of God.
  4.  Works of Obedience?   Absolutely YES.  What other works can he be talking about?  James makes an excellent point when he asks if a man says he has faith, but he has no works.  Can that faith save him?  Even so "faith" if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.  We can see in Galatians 5:6, that in Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything but "faith" working through love.  Faith without works is useless, James 2:20.  Was not Abraham justified by works? v. 21.  Faith was working with his works of obedience.  And as a result of these works of obedience, faith was being perfected, v.22.  Abraham believed God and his faith was reckoned to Him as righteousness, v.23.  He was called the friend of God. We are heirs of Abraham when we walk in the steps of the faith of this great patriarch, Romans 4:12, the righteousness he had even before he performed the work of circumcision.   A man is justified by works such as God ordains, and not by faith alone, v. 24.  Faith without works of obedience is dead.  We see a parallel here with Hebrews 11 with those who engage in these works of obedience.  For example:  "By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice. By faith Noah prepared the ark for the salvation of his household. , By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance.   By faith he lived as an allien in the promise land.  By faith when he was tested offered up his son Isaac.  By faith, by faith... "  The list is extensive.  You see faith led them to obedience, to do the works that do the will of our LORD.  Obedience is the key here.  Let us put it into practice lest Jesus say to us, depart from Me you who practice lawlessness!

It is vital that we understand and accept the importance of grace, faith, works, and law so that we do not belittle the importance of God's conditions for receiving forgiveness of sins.  Instead, we must rather trust and obey.  We must not belittle either the importance of living a life that is pure and holy, devoted to service to God.

May the Lord help us to walk with a faith that can save us, such as Abraham, our example, and patriarch, demonstrated.  May we always trust and obey God.  May we commit ourselves to live a pure and holy life to receive salvation on that Final Day.  May we care about the souls of men by teaching them the pure Gospel of Christ that leads to salvation.  May we honor the Gospel message of Christ as it relates to the plan of salvation, the worship of the church and our personal conduct and devotion.  May we allow the Gospel to change our hearts, remaining faithful until we reach our eternal destiny.

Luci