“…Not of Works…”

After the discussion that followed (and is still following) my last post, I decided to do one on the idea expressed in the following passage.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. – Eph 2:8-9

I’d like to take this passage phrase by phrase to discover what it does and doesn’t mean.

“For by grace…”
What is grace? It has several definitions, but in theology, it’s often referred to as “unmerited favor.” In other words, it’s something of great importance or value that is given to one freely. In this passage in Ephesians, it is obvious that the writer is about to expound upon something that we receive by grace – something that we haven’t and can’t earn.

“…you have been saved…”
Man’s separation from God in the Garden of Eden (his fall from grace) is the conflict of the Bible. Man lived in God’s presence when he was in the Garden, but when sin entered the world, that relationship with God was changed. The rest of the Bible deals with bringing man back to God.

Ephesians 2 tells us that we are able to repair that relationship by grace: “For by grace you have been saved…” So God saves us by his grace. Salvation is something he offers us freely. We’ll have to look into the passage further to see if this is something that he bestows on all of us automatically, or if there are qualifiers that we are required to meet before we receive it.

Maybe that last statement sounds paradoxical. I mean, if it’s a free gift, how could there be a qualifier? Let’s use the example of a popular game show, like Deal or No Deal. Regardless of the rules, essentially, a contestant comes on the show and wins some amount of money. Some win more than others, but they almost always win something. I think it would be appropriate to say that these contestants are given money by the grace of the game show – they certainly didn’t earn the money. Be that as it may, however, all of those contestants are still required to do certain things in order to be eligible. They have to apply for the chance to play, they have to abide by the rules, they have to travel to the game studio, etc, etc. And yet, despite all the effort that goes into it, all of those people are still given money or prizes that they never earned. Typically, their rewards far outweigh any effort they may have put into getting on the show.

In the same way, it is possible for God to freely give us salvation, while still requiring certain things of us. I think that’s exactly what Paul was referring to in the following passage:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. – Romans 8:18

So, while it’s possible that God could still require things of us, we’ll continue with the passage to see whether he actually does or not.

“…through faith…”
We’ve already established that we are saved by grace, but here, the passage also tells us that this is accomplished through faith. As most of us know, this coincides with many other passages that teach us the importance of faith in God and belief that Jesus is the Christ. Probably the most famous of these is the following:

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. – John 3:16

The above passage confirms what we read here in Ephesians 2 – that our salvation comes through faith. So just as we surmised in the previous section, even though God freely bestows the gift of salvation upon us, it is contingent upon our faith.

Well what is faith? Hebrews 11:1 defines it as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In other words, it’s the conviction of something intangible, of something that can’t be seen, touched, or tasted, but has evidence, nonetheless. God does not expect us to believe in him or Christ without proof. During Biblical times, that proof was often given in the form of miracles; today, we have God’s word, which remains consistent throughout its text and has been further verified by science and archaeology. Exploring the different proofs of the Bible’s accuracy is not the purpose of this post, though there are many sources that do offer that kind of information.

Hebrews 11 goes on to show examples of a “working” or sincere faith. True faith produces action; it’s not merely lip service, as James 2 points out. So our salvation, though it’s given by God’s grace, still requires our faith as a prerequisite.

“…and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…”
I decided to tackle these two phrases together, because they are so connected. It’s the classic “not, but” type of statement. Basically, these phrases further explain the idea of grace – that our salvation is not of our own doing, it’s from God.

Remember, we just finished talking about how God still requires faith from us. Is he contradicting himself here in the same sentence? Of course not. We’ve already established that even though God gives us salvation freely, he can still require certain things from us. We must remember our relationship to God. He is eternal, all powerful, all knowing; he is love, he is just, and he is true. We, as humans, are none of those things. Nothing we do on this earth could possibly earn salvation. So it really doesn’t matter what God might require of us, our salvation will still be due to his grace, not of anything we’ve done.

“…not of works…”
Once again, Paul emphasizes to the Ephesians that their works can not save them. Even though they must have sincere faith to gain salvation, it is still the gift of God and not contingent upon them.

But in my opinion, people often take this passage further than I believe it was intended to go. Many times, this passage is used to show that faith is all that God requires of us to gain salvation, since he says “not of works.” Is that what this passage means? To answer that, let’s go ahead and talk about the final phrase of this passage.

“…lest anyone should boast.”
First of all, why are we not saved by works? The reason given here is so that no one “should boast.” The reason this was such an important point is that many of the Jews (the Pharisees in particular) had begun to do just that. Consider this description of a Pharisee in one of Christ’s parables:

10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’” – Luke 18:10-12

The Israelites had been God’s chosen people. The Law of Moses had been given to them to teach them how to serve God. But by the time Christ came, many of the Jews had stopped worhipping God – they worshipped the law instead! They no longer really trusted in God to save them, but in the actions they were performing from the law. That had never been God’s intent, and that’s what Paul is explaining here! Salvation is not of works, so that no one should boast. It is God that saves us by grace, through our faith.

And if our faith is required, then there may be other things as well. Ephesians 2 is not teaching us that our actions are unimportant and have no bearing on our eternal salvation. In actuality, the opposite is true. Our actions in this life have everything to do with our eternal salvation. Even the next verse of this chapter tells us that works are still important:

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. – Eph 2:10

Matthew 25 shows us that those who will be saved are the ones who have clothed the naked, fed the hungry, cared for the sick, visited those in prison, etc. Aren’t those works? If works aren’t necessary according to Ephesians 2, then how can we explain Christ’s words here in Matthew 25? Obviously, both passages are right. God saves us by grace because we can’t earn our salvation. But just as our salvation is contingent upon our faith, so it is with the way we live our lives.

And not only must we live seeking to do God’s will, but he also requires more than just faith for us to be saved in the first place. Romans 10:9-10 tells us that confession is required for salvation. Acts 17:30 informs us that God commands all men to repent, and 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that we’ll perish without it. Baptism is something else that the Bible teaches is necessary for salvation. In Acts 2:38 we’re told it’s for the remission (forgiveness) of sins; in Acts 22:16 we’re told it washes sins away; and in Matthew 28:19-20 and 1 Peter 3:21 we’re told that it leads to salvation.

Closing Thoughts
We don’t need to fall into the trap of thinking that passages like Ephesians 2:8-9 teach us that God requires nothing from us other than faith, since we are saved by grace. Grace means that something has been given freely – it can’t be earned; it does not necessarily mean that it’s unconditional.

Ephesians 2 even tells us the first condition: our faith. And if we read James 2, we’ll understand that true faith inspires action. Our true faith will therefore cause us to obey God’s commands, including those that concern confessing Christ, repenting of our sins, being baptized for the remission of those sins, and living our lives in the continual quest to serve God better and more fully every day of our lives. Yes, we’ll sometimes slip and fall. God is there to catch us when that happens. And just like with everything else, we must get back up, ask for forgiveness, and press on toward the goal (Phil 3:12-14). But if we turn away from serving him, if we fall and choose to not get back up, then we can’t expect the same gift of salvation he’s promised to those who are faithful to him. You can read my previous post for more information on that.

When we are told in Ephesians 2 that we are not saved by works, it’s to remind us (and those Jews at the time) that no action of our own can get us into heaven. God alone can do that. If we want to receive the gift of grace that he offers to everyone, then we must respond in true faith and sincere obedience.

Comments welcome…

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14 thoughts on ““…Not of Works…””

  1. Nate,
    I must congratulate you on your wonderful presentation.

    I don’t mean to attack your view but the evidence of biblical scholars is strongly against you:

    “2:8-9. These verses explain “the incomparable riches of His grace” (v. 7), expanding the parenthetical statement in verse 5, It is by grace you have been saved, and adding that the means of this salvation is through faith. Hence the basis is grace and the means is faith alone (cf. Rom. 3:22, 25; Gal. 2:16; 1 Peter 1:5). Faith is not a “work.” It does not merit salvation; it is only the means by which one accepts God’s free salvation.
    Paul elaborated, And this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Much debate has centered around the demonstrative pronoun “this” (touto). Though some think it refers back to “grace” and others to “faith,” neither of these suggestions is really valid because the demonstrative pronoun is neuter whereas “grace” and “faith” are feminine. Also, to refer back to either of these words specifically seems to be redundant. Rather the neuter touto, as is common, refers to the preceding phrase or clause. (In Eph. 1:15 and 3:1 touto, “this,” refers back to the preceding section.) Thus it refers back to the concept of salvation (2:4-8a), whose basis is grace and means is faith. This salvation does not have its source in man (it is “not from yourselves”), but rather, its source is God’s grace for “it is the gift of God.”
    Verse 9 reinforces this by showing that the means is not by works since its basis is grace (Rom. 3:20, 28; 4:1-5; 11:6; Gal. 2:16; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5), and its means is faith (Rom. 4:5). Therefore since no person can bring salvation to himself by his own efforts, no one can boast (cf. Rom. 3:27; 1 Cor. 1:29). Their boasting can only be in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31).”

    John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985), 2:624.

    “8. For—illustrating “the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness.” Translate as in Eph 2:5, “Ye are in a saved state.”
    through faith—the effect of the power of Christ’s resurrection (Eph 1:19, 20; Php 3:10) whereby we are “raised together” with Him (Eph 2:6; Col 2:12). Some of the oldest manuscripts read, “through your (literally, ‘the’) faith.” The instrument or mean of salvation on the part of the person saved; Christ alone is the meritorious agent.
    and that—namely, the act of believing, or “faith.” “Of yourselves” stands in opposition to, “it is the gift of God” (Php 1:29). “That which I have said, ‘through faith,’ I do not wish to be understood so as if I excepted faith itself from grace” [Estius]. “God justifies the believing man, not for the worthiness of his belief, but for the worthiness of Him in whom he believes” [Hooker]. The initiation, as well as the increase, of faith, is from the Spirit of God, not only by an external proposal of the word, but by internal illumination in the soul [Pearson]. Yet “faith” cometh by the means which man must avail himself of, namely, “hearing the word of God” (Ro 10:17), and prayer (Lu 11:13), though the blessing is wholly of God (1Co 3:6, 7).
    9. Not of works—This clause stands in contrast to “by grace,” as is confirmed by Ro 4:4, 5; 11:6.
    lest—rather, as Greek, “that no man should boast” (Ro 3:27; 4:2).”

    Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset et al., A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, On Spine: Critical and Explanatory Commentary. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Eph 2:8.

    “He keeps us (vv. 7–9). God’s purpose in our redemption is not simply to rescue us from hell, as great a work as that is. His ultimate purpose in our salvation is that for all eternity the church might glorify God’s grace (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). So, if God has an eternal purpose for us to fulfill, He will keep us for all eternity. Since we have not been saved by our good works, we cannot be lost by our bad works. Grace means salvation completely apart from any merit or works on our part. Grace means that God does it all for Jesus’ sake! Our salvation is the gift of God. (The word that in Eph. 2:8, in the Greek, is neuter; while faith is feminine. Therefore that cannot refer to faith. It refers to the whole experience of salvation, including faith.) Salvation is a gift, not a reward.
    Salvation cannot be “of works” because the work of salvation has already been completed on the cross. This is the work that God does for us, and it is a finished work (John 17:1–4; 19:30). We can add nothing to it (Heb. 10:1–14); we dare take nothing from it. When Jesus died, the veil of the temple was torn in two, from the top to the bottom, signifying that the way to God was now open. There is no more need for earthly sacrifices. One sacrifice—the Lamb of God—has finished the great work of salvation. God did it all, and He did it by His grace.
    Sin worked against us and God worked for us, but the great work of conversion is but the beginning.”

    Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, “An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire ‘BE’ Series”–Jkt. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989), Eph 2:4.

    “8–9. These verses confirm the preceding declaration. The manifestation of the grace of God is the great end of redemption. This is plain, for salvation is entirely of grace. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (verse 8). So here we have a manifold assertion, affirmative and negative, of the free nature of salvation. It is not only said in general, “You are saved by grace,” but that salvation is by faith—i.e., by simply receiving or apprehending the offered blessing. The very nature of faith, as an act of assent and trust, excludes the idea of merit. If it is by faith, it is of grace; if it is by works, it is earned, as the apostle argues in Romans 4:4–5. Faith, therefore, is the mere act of accepting, and not the ground on which salvation is bestowed.
    Not by works (verse 9). The apostle says works without qualification or limitation. This is not, therefore, ceremonial as distinguished from good works, or legal as distinguished from evangelical or gracious works. Works of all kinds, as distinguished from faith, are excluded. Salvation is in no sense, and in no degree, of works; for the person who attains the reward has earned it. But salvation is of grace, and therefore not of works, lest any man should boast. That the guilty should stand before God with self-complacency and refer his salvation in any measure to his own merit is so abhorrent to all correct feeling that Paul assumes (Romans 4:2), as an obvious truth, that no one can boast before God. To all who have any correct understanding of God’s holiness and of the evil of sin, this is understood intuitively; and therefore, a free salvation—a salvation which excludes all works as a ground of boasting—is the only salvation suitable for the relation of guilty people to God.
    The only point in the interpretation of these verses of any doubt relates to the second clause. What is said to be the gift of God? Is it salvation or faith? The words and this further illustrate this problem. (Compare Romans 13:11; 1 Corinthians 6:6; Philippians 1:28; Hebrews 11:12.) They may relate to faith or to have been saved. Beza, following the Fathers, prefers the former reference, and Calvin, with most of the modern commentators, the latter. The reasons in favor of the former interpretation are:
    1. It fits the purpose of the passage best. The apostle’s aim is to show the free nature of salvation. This is most effectually done by saying, “You are not only saved by faith in opposition to works, but your very faith is not of yourselves—it is the gift of God.”
    2. The other interpretation makes a tautology in the passage. To say, “You are saved by faith, not of yourselves; your salvation is the gift of God, it is not of works” is saying the same thing over and over again without making any progress. Whereas to say, “You are saved through faith (and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God), not of works” is not repetitious; the clause in parentheses, instead of being redundant, has a part to play and greatly increases the force of the passage.
    3. According to this interpretation, the antithesis between faith and works, so common in Paul’s writings, is preserved: “You are saved by faith, not by works, lest any man should boast.” The middle clause of the verse is therefore a parenthesis and does not refer to the main idea (you … saved), but to the subordinate one (through faith), and aims to show how salvation is entirely of grace, since even faith, by which we understand the offered mercy, is the gift of God.
    4. The analogy of Scripture favors this view of the passage, in that elsewhere faith is represented as the gift of God (1 Corinthians 1:26–31; Ephesians 1:19; Colossians 2:12).”

    Charles Hodge, Ephesians, Originally Published: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians. London : Banner of Truth Trust, 1964., The Crossway classic commentaries (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1994), Eph 2:8.

    “8 Paul has rightly focussed on the amazingly rich grace of God, for by it83 salvation84 has been secured for Gentile men and women. The great cry, by grace you have been saved, which had interrupted the flow of thought in v.5, is now taken up in a renewed form and amplified, especially in relation to faith and works. The additional phrase by faith85 is the inseparable companion of by grace, and together the two expressions stand in stark contrast to any suggestion of human merit.
    Faith is usually understood here to denote the human response by which Gods salvation is received. If Gods grace is the ground of salvation, then faith is the means by which it is appropriated. And faith itself cannot be a meritorious work; it is the response which receives what has already been done for us in Christ. The further point is then made that what is asserted here about salvation is elsewhere declared in relation to justification,86 namely, it is freely given by Gods grace (Rom. 3:24) and received not on the grounds of legal works but through faith (Gal. 2:16; cf. Phil. 3:9).
    Consistent with this view, some insist that through faith here implies that Jesus Christ is the one to whom faith is directed, since he is explicitly its object in Galatians 2:16 (faith in Jesus Christ; cf. Rom. 3:22, 26; Phil. 3:9). However, if in the full expression the genitive of Jesus Christ is regarded as subjective, then the phrase denotes the faith [or faithfulness] of Jesus Christ. The shorter expression in Ephesians 2:8 could signify the same thing. On this interpretation Paul is asserting that Gods gracious salvation comes about through Christs faithfulness, that is, his unflinching obedience to the Fathers will. Accordingly, the following words (vv. 8b, 9) stand out even more sharply.
    In order to stress that salvation is by Gods grace alone and through faith, Paul adds two balancing negatives: first, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (v.8b), and, secondly, not by works, so that no one can boast (v.9). In the first clause, which emphasizes the divine initiative and activity, some have taken this to refer specifically to faith, which immediately precedes. The point being made, then, is that the response of faith does not come from any human source but is Gods gift. This interpretation is grammatically possible, assuming that the term denotes faith and not Christs faithfulness, and it is consistent with Pauline teaching elsewhere (cf. Phil. 1:29). However, the context demands that this be understood of salvation by grace as a whole, including the faith (or faithfulness) through which it is received.
    Gods magnificent rescue from death, wrath, and bondage is all of grace. It neither originates in nor is effected by the readers. Instead, it is Gods own gift, a point which Paul goes out of his way to emphasize by changing the normal word order and contrasting Gods with yours. The particular word for gift, though common enough, does not appear elsewhere in the Pauline corpus. Other words with a similar meaning are used to speak of Gods gift of righteousness and life in Christ (Rom. 5:15–17; 6:23).
    9 The second balancing clause, which stresses that salvation is by grace alone through faith/faithfulness, is not by works, so that no one can boast. If salvation is not because of human initiative (v.8), then neither is it a reward for good deeds. And since there is no room for human merit, there can be no grounds for human boasting.
    In conflict with the agitators for whom the law/gospel antithesis was prominent, Paul frequently uses the phrase works of the law. This disputed expression denotes not legalism but works which are commanded by the Mosaic law, that is, actions performed in obedience to it,possibly including practices required by Judaism such as circumcision, food laws, or sabbath keeping. Accordingly, the apostle pronounces that no one is justified by works of the law (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16 [3 times]). Justification does not come via this route, since a personis counted righteous apart from works of the law (Rom. 3:28). Indeed, works of the law cannot confer the Spirit or work miracles (Gal. 3:2, 5), and all who rely on such works are under a curse (Gal. 3:10).
    In Romans 3 and 4 the simple expression works, which denotes deeds that are performed, is used synonymously with the full phrase works of the law. There is a direct connection between the full expression in Romans 3:20 and 28 and works in 4:1–5, which states that Abraham was not justified either by his works (v.2) or by his working (vv. 4–5). What is said about works of the law is asserted by the apostle in relation to works: so justification does not come by works (Rom. 4:2; cf. 9:32). It is apart from works (4:6), while election, too, is not by works (Rom. 9:12; 11:6).
    Ephesians is a letter written to predominantly Gentile readers in which works of the law are not primarily in view; works now stand for human effort in general, a nuance found elsewhere in Paul. This inclusive reference to human activities does not exclude but includes the practices required by Judaism. In Romans 9:11–12 works, which are defined as doing anything good or evil, are ruled out as a way of obtaining salvation. Salvation is not based on human performance or on any effort to win Gods approval. And if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace (Rom. 11:6). Indeed, in the light of what has already been said about the desperate plight of men and women outside of Christ, dead in trespasses and sins, subject to wrath, and living in terrible bondage (Eph. 2:1–3), it was impossible for the readers to turn to their previous behaviour as the basis for achieving salvation. Their former life and works had caused the very predicament from which they needed to be delivered.
    The divine intention in providing salvation apart from any human effort or achievement is to exclude all human boasting. Boasting is a characteristically Pauline theme, which frequently occurs in polemical contexts. The apostles references to it need to be understood against the contemporary backgrounds of the professional practices of the sophists, among others, and of the Jews, whose basic attitude was one of self-confidence before God, convinced that their membership in the covenant people and keeping of the law would bring honour to themselves. As Paul attacks the doctrine of justification by works, so he opposes all boasting based on self-trust. According to Romans 3:21–26 justification is grounded in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and it comes as a gift from God. Every attempt to affirm oneself before God by boasting in ones own achievements is excluded, according to Romans 3:27. To boast is tantamount to putting ones confidence in the flesh, and this the apostle decisively rejects (cf. Phil. 3:3; Gal. 6:13). Men and women are in no position to claim even the slightest credit for their acceptance with God (note Pauls argument in Rom. 4:1–8). But in the gospel of reconciliation by which justification comes through Christs death, men and women are now able to boast in the Lord (Rom. 5:9–11; 1Cor. 1:31; Phil. 3:3). Here in Ephesians the apostle makes it plain that salvation by grace destroys all human boasting. Men and women have nothing which they can bring as their own to the living God.”

    Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 174.

    Don’t get me wrong, I liked your presentation… but there is just too much evidence pointing against what you are thinking. You have many great thoughts; please keep exploring scripture and presenting your views.

    I honestly do like reading what you write.

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  2. Stewart, I took too much time commenting on the other post, so I’ll have to come back and answer you more fully later tonight or tomorrow. However, I did want to mention one thing. While it can sometimes be useful to look at commentaries and see what “Bible scholars” have to say about some things, I would caution you to be very careful with it. If you’ll remember, when Christ was here, most of the “learned” people of the time denied Christ. Most of the disciples were simpler people: fishermen, farmers, etc. I believe that the bulk of the Bible, especially the parts about salvation and security of salvation, are intended to be rather easily understood. Jesus came to save everyone, not just the intellectually elite. So if my views don’t fit with theirs, I don’t necessarily consider it to be a bad thing.

    But, I do really appreciate our continued discussions, and I promise I’ll respond more fully as soon as I get a chance. I also appreciate the work and study you put forward in your answers. Too many times, people today argue points based on “I think” and “I feel” when what God says is really all that matters. You really put time into your points and the posts you make on your own blog. Thanks for that and for this discussion.

    Later…

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  3. Nate,
    I do agree with you that the scriptures are for all to understand. Yet, when Godly people have spent years in education, you would have to assume they know something of value. Please don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that careful discernment must always take precedence, but still if you are in disagreement their study must be explained away somehow. I don’t agree with any of the above 5 scholars 100% but their study is very beneficial to the discussion at hand.

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  4. I’ve gone back and read through your comment as carefully as I can, but the ideas that these men profess make no sense when compared to the rest of the Bible. If Eph 2:8-9 were the only passage that dealt with salvation, then I would say they were right. But the simple fact is, their interpretations of this passage don’t at all consider the fact that Paul spent much of his time explaining why the Old Law (which the Pharisees viewed as a law of works that could enable them to earn their salvation) was no longer in effect. Nor do these commentaries seem to take James 2 into consideration, which explains the necessity of obedience. Or 1 John 5, which also tells us that the love of God is shown by our obedience. Therefore, if we don’t obey, we don’t have true faith or true love, and we can’t expect to be saved without those.

    The other thing that these commentaries fail to take into account are the myriad passages that talk about repentance, confession, and baptism relating to salvation (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Matt 28:19-20; Mark 16:16; 2 Pet 3:9; 1 Pet 3:21; Rom 10:9-10; Rom 6:3-4; Gal 3:27; etc) and the passages that talk about turning away from God and losing salvation (Hebrews 10:26-31; Heb 6:4-6; Rom 11:19-24; 2 Pet 20-22; Hebrews 12; etc).

    If 4000 men wrote commentaries that matched these, it wouldn’t change my position. The only thing that can change my position is God’s word on the matter, and when I read it, I can see that they are leaving things out. And though it pains me to say it, it seems as though they are leaving things out willfully. Remember Stewart, the Way is strait and narrow, and there are few who find it. Again, if the vast majority of “Bible scholars” don’t agree with my position, that’s not necessarily a bad sign. I’d encourage you to go back through and read all these passages again without the “aid” of any commentaries. Pray over them, study them, and search for the truth diligently. I’ll do the same thing, and I’m sure God will lead us there…

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  5. Nate,
    Paul never said that one could earn salvation through the Law. In fact he says the opposite, I mean no one could possibly follow all the rules. Hebrews tells us that that the law was only a shadow of things to come. The purpose of the law was to show the need for a savior and to allow the Jews to live a separated life.

    You’re right that when we don’t obey we are not showing love or faith. This doesn’t mean we aren’t saved though. Think about it this way, we sin daily, our thoughts, our actions, etc. While we are called to live a blameless life, we can’t; we continually fall short of God’s glory.

    Look, the literal interpretation is faith alone saves. All of the other passages you have brought up are more difficult passages. The rule of interpretation is the simpler clearer passage is always interprets the more difficult passage… Therefore, salvation by faith alone is the literal interpretation of this passage and should be used to shed light on the rest.

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  6. How are passages that say “he who believes and is baptized will be saved” more complicated? How is a passage that says “repent and let everyone of you be baptized for the remission of your sins” more complicated? Stewart, they all have to fit together… my interpretation allows for that; yours doesn’t, from what I see.

    You said this:
    Paul never said that one could earn salvation through the Law. In fact he says the opposite, I mean no one could possibly follow all the rules. Hebrews tells us that that the law was only a shadow of things to come. The purpose of the law was to show the need for a savior and to allow the Jews to live a separated life.

    This is exactly what I’ve been trying to say! The Pharisees, however, didn’t understand that, which is exactly why Paul puts so much emphasis on the fact that we can’t be saved by works. The Jews thought they could be; they had misunderstood the purpose of the Old Law!

    But Paul’s emphasis on grace and faith doesn’t mean that God still doesn’t require things of us under the New Law. That’s why we’re still told to be baptized and to repent of our sins. That’s why 1 John and James talk so much about our actions. That’s why there are passages (which have been listed above) that sound as if one can lose his salvation by turning away from God.

    Now, I’m not talking about little mistakes here or there. As you said, we all sin practically everyday, in some way or another. But when we realize it, we need to ask for forgiveness and try to do better. And we need to continue studying so that we can recognize the things we didn’t realize were sins yesterday and work to improve. It’s essentially the Japanese concept of kaizen, or continuous improvement.

    God’s grace is essential to us – as you and I have said, it’s how we are saved! Not only that, but it covers us in those areas that we haven’t grown in yet. But if we willfully turn away from him; if we decide to engage ourselves in things we know are wrong, then we are forsaking the salvation he has given us. Or if we become stagnant in our relationship with God, and we stop growing, then we are again in danger of losing that salvation. God wants those who want him. If we decide that there is something we’d rather fill our time with, then we are turning from his grace.

    And when you consider a God who is no respecter of persons, one who is just and righteous, one who is jealous, one who will accept no other god before him, then how can he save us when we’ve turned our backs on him? Hebrews 10:26-31 tells us he won’t. All that’s left for us is a “certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation” – the same things that have been reserved for Satan and his followers.

    I don’t know of any other way to interpret these things and keep his word consistent.

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  7. How do you know that passages like, “he who believes and is baptized will be saved” aren’t referring to Baptism of the Spirit?

    Why does it have to be physical baptism?

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  8. That’s a very good question. I actually wrote a post about it once that you can find here.

    Quickly though, for one thing, the Holy Spirit baptism was actually promised to people who had already been saved. You can read about that in Acts 1:4-8.

    That promise was fulfilled in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost. It was manifested by the tongues of fire on the apostles’ heads, and the speaking in tongues that took place. There’s no evidence that those Peter told to “repent and be baptized” went through anything similar. Instead, it seems as though water baptism was what was still being commanded. We see that in Acts 8, when Philip preaches to the Ethiopian eunuch.

    In Acts 10 it was done again to Cornelius and his household. But if you’ll remember, the main intent of that was to show Peter and those with him that the Gentiles now had access to salvation. Peter makes that connection when he remembers the vision he had at the beginning of the chapter. In vs 47-48 he asks those with him “who can forbid baptism with water?” since it was obvious that God now offered salvation to the Gentiles. Then he commands them to be baptized.

    Also, 1 Peter 3:21 talks about water baptism “that now saves you.”

    So when you take the fact that the Holy Spirit baptism was never used for salvation, but for miraculous purposes (always to show God’s approval of something – either the message preached, or a group of people), and add to that the passages that still teach water baptism, it becomes clear that when we are commanded to be baptized, it is water baptism that is being referred to. Basically, Holy Spirit baptism is never commanded in the Bible, it’s only promised.

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  9. By the way, I just saw that Jason from “more fire” wrote a post on the Holy Spirit as well. I suggest you read it. In it, he mentions that water baptism and the Holy Spirit baptism are separate things, though both necessary and purposeful. Here’s the link.

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  10. What an AWESOME discussion! (Nate, thank your Aunt Lori for pointing me in this direction…) I cannot tell you how fully I agree with the breakdown you made in your original post, and your strength in defending your position shows how solidly grounded your study has been. Thanks for a wonderful read!

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