We Are Saved By Grace, Not Works

Guest Author: Jonathan Jones II To believe that we can somehow merge salvation by grace through faith with a system of works through law is false.  Ironically, this is the very error that causes us to actually fall from grace (see Galatians 5:1-4).  This mistake of trying to mix works and grace is prevalent in the church and causes many people to live in fear, insecurity, and have no assurance or joy of salvation.We are not saved because of our works since all of our works are “filthy rags” before God (see Isaiah 64:6).  We must be clothed completely with God’s own robe of righteousness (see Isaiah 61:10).

Paul makes clear that we are NOT saved by our works or anything of our “own doing” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV).  Paul continually emphasizes this point throughout his writings: “…who saved us and called us to a holy calling not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace”(2 Timothy 1:9); “…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9); “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

Through the gospel, God has made known that He will place his righteousness upon us through our faith in Jesus Christ as a gift of his grace (see Romans 3:21-26).The thesis of Paul’s explanation of the gospel of Jesus is summarized in Romans 3:28, which literally reads, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of law.” It was simply based upon his trust (faith) in God that Abraham was “justified” before God (Romans 4:1-3).  Paul says plainly that Abraham was “counted as righteous” before God because “his faith was counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works“ (Romans 4:6).How then do we understand James’ statement about Abraham that “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24)?

On the surface this may seem like a blatant contradiction of Paul.  Clearly it is not.  Here is an important point: James is NOT contrasting “works” versus “faith” in James 2.  Instead he is contrasting a “living faith” versus a “dead faith” (see James 2:17, 26).  The behavior of a person’s life demonstrates whether or not their faith is a living or dead faith.  We are saved by grace through faith and not by our works (Ephesians 2:8-8).  By simply putting our faith (trust) in God’s gift of grace we are saved.But grace is not just forgiving, it is also transformative.  If you really understand the gift of grace (and fully trust it by faith), it will completely transform your life.  This transformation of life will demonstrate the behavior (i.e. “works”) of a living faith.  One who claims to have faith (but who bears no evidence, “works,” of a living faith) really has a dead faith.  A dead faith cannot save.

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