Salvation: Obedience / Works vs. Faith / Grace

My comprehension of scripture is as the COMPLETED revelation of GOD. Too often teachings tend to fragment the WORD into unrelated concepts that ABSOLUTELY contradict the over-all single message of the Bible as a WHOLE.

In order to receive God’s intended true revelation we must always approach scripture with a sincere desire to learn by fully submitting to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We do this by prayerfully seeking God and honestly surrendering our will to Him. We present ourselves ready to receive by forsaking all bias and unconfirmed preconceptions.

Jesus best summed up what I’m attempting to convey by His statement:

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me” – Jn. 5:39.

Many people approach the written Word of God as some sort of manual that contains the right methods for living a good life in hopes that proper application will result in their salvation and eternal life. But if their motivation is to find and then follow the methods to gain the approval of God and thereby hopefully establish a right standing before Him, such only leads an individual to self-righteousness, but never God’s approval. Salvation is God placing HIS Righteousness upon us, NOT the achievment of some perfection of self- righteousness.

Many search the scriptures hoping to find a map that leads to heaven, or a specific guide to follow, as if there is a secret code to be broken that will provide special instructions for the few that can crack it.

Jesus rebuked such religious mentality. He said the scriptures testify of HIM. His point can only be rightly understood as it is compared to a search for eternal life through special dogma, teachings derived from various errant interpretations of scripture, which are all attempts at presenting the perceived elusive ‘deciphered code’ which become the foundation for all false religious systems.

By contrast, Jesus was saying that the destiny for all those who trust exclusively in God’s Savior alone a PERSON, not a DOCTRINE —  is to  enter into eternal life. According to Jesus, the scripture’s sole purpose is to provide humanity in ALL generations a proper revelation of GOD OUR SAVIOR.

Those Jews who lived BEFORE Christ’s COMPLETED earthly mission (His sacrificial death, burial, resurrection, and ascension) were ALL under the OLD covenant. All generations AFTER are under the NEW covenant. The New Testament (as is the case with EVERYTHING new) COMPLETELY replaces the OLD.

The divinely intended purpose for the preservation of the written Word (both Old & New Testaments) is to provide the HISTORY of God’s dealing with mankind preparing them for His salvation. Always, throughout scripture in BOTH Old and New Testaments, salvation has ALWAYS been based on FAITH, not works.

Old Testament believers were counted righteous NOT by keeping the Law or performing good works, but by FAITH in the promise of God to provide a Savior (Messiah). New Testament believers are counted righteous by the same FAITH in God’s promised Savior having come in the person of Jesus Christ.

Old Testament saints were saved by looking FORWARD in FAITH to the coming Savior; New Testament saints are saved looking BACK to the Savior in FAITH. Both OT and NT saints are saved by FAITH in God’s promised Savior.

Works, observance of the law, breaking the ‘code’ to special methods, can NEVER save anyone. Religion and proper observance of regulations or ritual do not, nor have they ever, led to eternal life. The ONLY way to obtain eternal life is to believe in God’s promised Savior, Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus admonished that ALL scripture testifies of HIM.

“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” – Jn. 5:39.

Note that when He was speaking, the New Covenant was NOT yet implemented, nor were the NT writings yet compiled. Obviously then, it was the Old Testament that He was referring to, and if keeping any part of it was a requirement of eternal life, He would have mentioned it there, instead of directing the TOTALITY of scripture to HIM.

Scripture is God’s revelation to mankind of HIMSELF. Salvation is a PERSON, not a METHOD or set of religious exercises or requirements.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son (the Savior), that whosoever (Anyone who) believes (Trusts, has FAITH) in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. – Jn. 3:16

The law was given to Jews for Jews, because at THAT time God‘s dealings with humanity was EXCLUSIVELY through the Jews. They ALONE were His chosen people’ and through them ALONE came the true prophets of God and eventually, the Messiah – Emmanuel the Savior.

But prior to Moses giving the Law, God dealt with other patriarchs who were NOT Jews. From 4000BC – 1490BC Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, & Joseph were blessed by God for proclaiming His faithfulness.  ALL of them lived long before the Old Covenant was even instituted, yet ALL of them are mentioned where ever throughout scripture we are reminded that GOD is the GOD of the LIVING. This is a clear indication that ALL of them were counted righteous by FAITH, not by observance of any ordinance of Law!

God has consistently revealed Himself as NEVER changing. Neither is He a respecter of persons, meaning He has ALWAYS maintained the SAME standard of righteousness and how to attain righteousness from the beginning through to the end, today and forever.

True believers are now considered ABRAHAM’S seed  through FAITH in the promise of God’s SAVIOR. True believers do NOT become ‘spiritual Jews’, but rather – ‘Abraham’s seed’– Abraham living and being declared righteous 460 years BEFORE Moses delivered the Old Covenant to the Jews. Abraham was NOT a Jew, and neither are ANY true believers in Christ.

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither JEW nor GREEK, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: FOR YOU ARE ALL ONE in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, THEN ARE YOU ABRAHAM’S SEED, and heirs according to THE PROMISE” – Gal.3:27-29.

Works do NOT save; FAITH saves. But even then, faith must be qualified. Faith in religion or observances to ordinances, the Law, methods, secrets, tradition, ceremonies, rituals, vows, oaths, etc. — faith applied to NONE of those will result in being deemed righteous and thereby eligible for salvation. ONLY faith in God’s promised Savior, Jesus Christ, will result in anyone being counted righteous before God and eligible to inherit eternal life (salvation).

It is an ALL or NOTHING proposition!

There is NO provision in scripture for a concept that basically results in a mentality that espouses a religion of rigerous observance, mixed with some trust, good works, plus a little help from Jesus — a wrongly perceived perfect blend of me doing my part, and God doing His. There is absolutely NOWHERE throughout scripture where such a concept of CO-SAVIOR exists!

In fact, a direct contradiction to such ideology does exist!

Too many fail to properly understand the significance of the Old and New covenants; God did NOT establish the new merely when the old failed. The OT is NOT God’s ‘Plan A’  and the NT His ‘Plan B’; God doesn’t make mistakes that require restructuring.

God knew all along that the Law could NEVER make anyone righteous, because it included an impossible standard for man to ever achieve on his own merit. It revealed God’s standard of righteousnes, so far above and beyond man’s. That is why it included appropriate sacrifices.

“For the law having merely a SHADOW of good things to come, and NOT the VERY IMAGE of the things, can NEVER with THOSE SACRIFICES which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect” – Heb. 10:1.

Those sacrifices didn’t cover or forgive sin, they pointed to the ONE sacrifice that ALONE is capable of resolving sin — Christ’s! It was FAITH in God’s acceptable sacrifice by which forgiveness was received.

The WHOLE of the law in its entirety was merely a SHADOW of the better covenant coming (from the very foundation of the world).

“For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works WERE FINISHED FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD” – Heb.4:3.

It was ALWAYS God’s plan of salvation to have the Old lead to the New. Jesus clarified what the religious leaders had missed. That the Old was by design merely intended to show God’s standard of righteousness, while ALWAYS pointing to the Savior. Man can never attain righteousness on his own merit; he needs the righteousness that ONLY God’s Savior can provide (GRACE).

But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” – Gal. 3:23-25

If a man could ever be capable of keeping the entire Law, he would attain righteousness, and NOT need a Savior. But God knew all along that no one (but Jesus Christ) could ever keep the Law without sin. So then, the Law was to show us our need of a Savior, and to point us to Christ.

It is absolutely imperative for all sincere seekers of truth to understand that NONE of scripture benefits ANYONE except they understand that it is a PERSON that scripture reveals, NOT a religious system or prescribed set of obligations, that somehow when properly applied, it will  provide the hope of eternal life. When we place our COMPLETE trust in God’s promised Savior, we exercise the same FAITH that Abraham (and all the other OT patriarchs prior to the law) had towards the Savior. Thereby we are considered ‘Abraham’s seed’. Faith was the ORIGINAL covenant carried to Abraham from God’s promise to Adam & Eve while yet in the Garden.

“I will put enmity between you & the woman, & between your seed & her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise HIS heel” – Gen. 3:15.

God prophesied to them of the coming Redeemer and ALL scripture since then points to HIM. Therefore, our interpretation of scripture must remain confined to ONLY that which is ABSOLUTELY consistent with God’s revelation of the Savior. Whatever we read, our interpretation can NEVER contradict nor conflict with this revelation. Our resulting FAITH must ALWAYS have God the Savior as its object, NEVER a mere set of regulations, systems of ritual, or hope of compliance with ordinances, ceremonies, or observances of days.

None of those exercises will ever provide the hope of eternal life. They merely transfer our trust away from God Our Savior onto OUR OWN ABILITY to perform. We are to trust exclusively in God in Christ’s ability to save, NOT our ability to obey, comply, and be good.

Scripture NEVER teaches us to TRY;
it clearly admonishes throughout that we are to TRUST!

So it is that everything throughout scripture when properly understood reveals God the Savior, and everything else is a misinterpretation that leads NOT to eternal life, but rather to false doctrines and eternal separation from God. This is why Jesus also shared this parable:

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I NEVER KNEW you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” Mt. 7:22,23.

From this passage it should be clear that it is NOT in the doing, but in the KNOWING. Eternal life is a right relationship with God, NOT compliance to obligation or performance of ritual. Those who will wonder why their performance (observing the Law, prophesying, exorcisms, “wonderful works”) in Christ’s name will NOT provide them eternal life, are the same ones who “search the scriptures” thinking they have eternal life.

“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the UTTERMOST that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them” – Mt. 7:25.

The term “uttermost” is the extreme, absolute, and ALL encompassing inclusion of EVERYTHING necessary! Christ’s completed substitutionary death on our behalf fulfilled EVERY single requirement, leaving NOTHING undone that needed to be done, to provide eternal life to all who apply FAITH to Him and His completed works rather than their own works. It is an ABSOLUTE trade off. Try through your own ability to achieve righteousness by observance of OT ordinances and Law, or COMPLETELY and SOLELY trust Christ’s accomplished performance on your behalf.

Whatever you choose, realize it is NOT a 50/50 proposition. It is 100% trusting Christ ALONE, or you are by default 100% leaning to your own understanding and hoping to find the favor of God by “searching the scriptures for eternal life”.

Placing even the slightest faith in a religious system of observances & obedience, rather than comprehending that it is not a bunch of compliant robots that pleases God (He has myriads of angels that provide that), but it is a right personal relationship with Him through faith in GOD Our SAVIOR. To KNOW HIM is eternal life – PERIOD.

For further insight into the relevance of the Law for Christians please read my other Articles:
Has the Entire Law Been Replaced?
The 10 Commandments
The Relativity of the Law For Christians

3 thoughts on “Salvation: Obedience / Works vs. Faith / Grace

  1. Pingback: Scriptural Evidence of Eternal Security | MJThompson's Theology Blog

  2. Pingback: The 10 Commandments | MJThompson's Theology Blog

  3. Pingback: The Sabbath? | MJThompson's Theology Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s