Accusation (Part 3):
“Good works, keeping the commandments, or being a good person do not get me into heaven. Salvation requires of me to believe in Jesus' sacrifice for me and if I truly believe that, one will see it in the way I live my life.”
We’ve already established, and you have mentioned again, that belief is essential for salvation.
Here is where I see a “disconnect.” Many “Christians” think of their belief in Christ as a noun and treat it almost as a possession. Christ did not say that those who have “a belief” in Him and don’t act on it gain everlasting life, but those that “believe,” (remember it’s an action word).
How does Jesus Christ define believing in Him?
“12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
What do we learn here? If we truly “believe” in Christ, we will do the works he did (good works) and if we love him we will keep his commandments. So, if believing is a requirement for salvation, that includes doing good works and if we believe loving Christ is essential (which I do - “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God will all thy heart” -Deut. 6:5, Matt 22:37-39) then we know that keeping the commandments is essential for salvation.
You are right: “if I truly believe that, one will see it in the way I live my life.” They will see it because you will keep the commandments and do good works.
17. Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
19. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”
Accusation (Part 4):
“But the way I live my life after that salvation moment is not what brings me salvation. Only Christ can give salvation. Nothing I do can make me deserve more than another.”
Somehow, somewhere people started to think that because Christ saves us, it does not matter what we do after we accept him. My response to that, is why on earth did Christ give all those commandments then? I’m not referring to the Old Testament commandments. Christ didn’t say “It’s written thou shalt not kill, but I say that you can kill, as long as you accepted me, and you will still be saved even if you don’t repent.” Nope. This is what he said:
21. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22. But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
These verses are found in the Sermon on the Mount. He was addressing his followers (I imagine there were just curios bystanders as well), but he was giving his followers these commandments. He didn’t make the commandment easier, he made it harder. He also said if you call someone a fool, you’re in danger of hell fire. So, yes, what we do after we accept Christ does not bring us salvation, but it can disqualify us from salvation. Here’s what Paul said about it:
4. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5. And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
6. If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Two times, Jesus made an authoritative (obviously) statement on this subject:
“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” -Matt 10:22
“13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” -Matt 24:13
If ye endure to the end, you will be saved. Which means if we don’t endure to the end, we will not be saved.
So what does endure mean? When we study the context of both of these statements we see that it means to endure the hardships associated with being a follower of Christ. What does being a follower/believer in Christ entail? We discussed that earlier. Now, when is “the end” that we have to endure until? The end of the day or week that we accepted Christ? Nope. Until the end of our lives.
“Nothing I do can make me deserve more than another.”
We know that only Christ ultimately saves us, but why is it so hard to believe that he expects us to keep His commandments and that he rewards those who do? The ancient prophets and patriarchs (as well as the modern) were blessed because of their righteousness and obedience to God’s commandments.
Another passage from James-
21. Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22. Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23. And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
We believe that we are saved by grace through faith and belief in Jesus Christ (and all that entails —obedience to commandments) and that it is necessary to live how Christ asks us to live after we have accepted him.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
I received an interesting series of comments/accusations to various articles I wrote a few months ago. I have a little time on my hands, so I thought I would take some of that time to respond to one of the lengthier accusations. I will break it into three separate articles so as not to bore you and to keep each article a little more focused.
Following is the entire section of the accusation I will address in this and the next article. I will then break it down and respond to the various accusations/comments.
“You say that you believe that you are saved by grace but how are you saved by grace if you still have to do things on your own accord to reach the highest level of heaven?
Grace, by definition, is unmerited, meaning you have done nothing to deserve it and nothing you can do can make you deserve it. Therefore, truly being saved by grace is accepting that because of my sin I deserve death but Jesus chose to die in my place and believing in that truth allows me to live eternally with God. The end. Good works, keeping the commandments, or being a good person do not get me into heaven. Salvation requires of me to believe in Jesus' sacrifice for me and if I truly believe that, one will see it in the way I live my life. But the way I live my life after that salvation moment is not what brings me salvation. Only Christ can give salvation. Nothing I do can make me deserve more than another.”
In order to appropriately -and thoroughly- respond to these comments, it would be best to start with a proper, fundamental understanding of what “grace” is. We will then be much better positioned to address the issue.
“Grace” comes from the Greek “Charis” (Khar-ece) and means “graciousness in manner or act”—especially the divine influence upon the heart, and it’s reflection in the life (Strong’s concordance). The “grace of God” then, is the graciousness and influence of God in his dealings with his children (“saved by grace”) and/or the direct effect of that grace in an individual’s life (“I succeeded by the grace of God). One of my favorite descriptions of grace is it’s “enabling power” in the lives of the faithful. Also, Peter puts it well: “But the God of all grace... make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” -1Pet. 5:10
Yes, we’re talking semantics here, but it is important to have a correct understanding of what the concept of grace actually means instead of parroting certain phrases in the Bible without knowing their true meaning.
Now, are there varying amounts or degrees of grace someone can have in their life? Yes. Again, I will refer to the words of Peter. -I think it’s fitting that two versus before the one I want to focus on, Peter warns the Church (since he was leading it) to be careful in dealing with Paul’s writings because some believers got mixed up in doctrine and fell away from the Church because of them. For Context’s sake I will quote the four versus here:
15. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16. As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
17. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
18. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
-2 Pet. 3:15-18
So Peter commands the members of the Church to “grow in grace.” He is not saying to grow “into” grace, but increase in degree of grace as well as the knowledge of Jesus Christ. I think it’s logical and probable that Peter and the other apostles had more of the Lord’s grace with them than a half-hearted member of the Church who just went through the motions. -It's not necessarily an "either you've got it or you don't" thing.
***Thus-far we know that grace is the “graciousness,” “influence” or “enabling power” of deity and that this influence can be had in varying levels or degrees in our lives.
On to our focus.
Accusation (Part 1):
“You say that you believe that you are saved by grace but how are you saved by grace if you still have to do things on your own accord to reach the highest level of heaven?Grace, by definition, is unmerited, meaning you have done nothing to deserve it and nothing you can do can make you deserve it.”
I agree that the human family does not really “deserve” to receive Heavenly Father’s grace; after all, Adam and Eve did eat the fruit, right? I do however believe that God’s plan included sending his Son, that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting ilife.” -John 3:16
You will agree with me then when I say that we need to believe in Jesus Christ in order to gain everlasting life (be saved) because you already said “believing in that truth allows me to live eternally with God.” Believing is a verb (which describes an action), which means believing is doing something. So, we do something (believe) in order to gain everlasting life (be saved).
It seems like a safe assumption (to me at least) to say that believing in Jesus Christ not only gains us eternal life, but the grace of God. That seems reasonable, right? -If we’re saved by grace, and if belief gains us eternal life (salvation).
Belief qualifies us for grace, not because we deserve it, but because God is bound when He makes a promise. It is obvious then that we do have to do things of our own accord (believe) in order to reach the highest level of heaven (Eternal life).
Accusation (Part 2):
“Therefore, truly being saved by grace is accepting that because of my sin I deserve death but Jesus chose to die in my place and believing in that truth allows me to live eternally with God. The end.”
More or less. We will clarify “belief” in the next article.