Friday, April 01, 2011
This is a GREAT Question and not very easy to answer. Let's start here: we are saved and will go to heaven solely because of our Faith in Jesus Christ, His Death and Resurrection. Not because of how many good things we did. There is no other way. Here is a scripture to support that:
Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. 9 Not by works, so that no one can boast.
The idea is, if our good works played a role in our Salvation, those that “behave” better would be filled with Pride at their accomplishment and see themselves as more spiritual. The criminal on the cross next to Jesus was just as saved as the Apostle Paul who served God with such tremendous works.
Here is a scripture that should make us get serious about our Faith. Jesus said,
Matthew 7:21-27 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' 24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
This tells me, our relationship with Christ must be more than simply saying “I believe in Jesus.” Authentic Faith grows and produces Good Fruit like a healthy Tree. Once we start the journey with Christ which starts by Faith Alone, if we are to be wise men and women, we must put to practice the words of Jesus which include doing Good Works.
So in one sense, yes, we are initially saved by faith alone, HOWEVER, works DO have a role in the Christian's life. As the Spirit of God dwells on the inside of the new believer, He will begin to transform that person as they pursue God. As the new believer renews their mind by reading the Bible they will change how they think and how they behave. When we do good works it is out of Obedience and Love for God. We love others because Jesus loves us. We don’t lie because God doesn’t lie to us. We don’t murder because God is not a murderer. What happens is we begin to take on the very Nature of God.
Doing good works is an evidence or proof that God is transforming us. It shows that our Faith is genuine, but again the works themselves do not Save us. Check out this Scripture:
James 2:14-24 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds (works)? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action (works), is dead. 18 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds (works)." Show me your faith without deeds (works), and I will show you my faith by what I do (works). 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds (works) is useless? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did (works) when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions (works) were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does (works) and not by faith alone.
So, our Faith starts the Salvation process when we first accept Jesus as our Lord. Works are part of continuing the process. The Criminal on the Cross died that day and had no opportunity to grow in his faith and begin to do good works. However, Jesus told him, This day you will be with me in paradise!” Praise God! But look what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church of Philippi:
Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Once we receive Salvation we must grow and mature just like our children do. As a baby you don’t expect much from them, but as a teenager there is given greater expectations and responsibility. “Working out our Salvation” is a life long process that we must continue to serve and pursue God. That is the role works play in the believer's life.
So to answer the question, Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?
Yes, and yes. :-)