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Salvation a Gift - not by Works!
But this is not the case, because the Lord says in John 14:15, 'If ye love me, keep my commandments.'
What are His commandments?:
And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. (1 John 3:23)
The true Christian keeps the commandments of the Lord, not to earn or keep his salvation, but because he loves the Lord who first loved him. The Christian also loves and cares for the lost, and for this reason will seek to live a holy life. He will refrain from doing anything that might hinder another from coming to Christ. Because we are no longer under the law does not mean that we continue in sin.
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. (Romans 6:15)
The salvation of those who believe in salvation through works can be likened to the father who says to his son, 'Son, if you wash the car, I will take you to the park.' Conversely, the orthodox Christian's salvation can be likened to the father who says to his son, 'Son, tomorrow I am going to take you the park.' Out of love and appreciation for his father, the son washes the car without being asked. He is not doing it to gain a trip to the park, because that was already promised, and he believes his father will take him. Love and appreciation for what his heavenly Father has done for him results in a Christian's performance of good works.
The detachment that came to arrest Him fell backwards because of the power in the Memorial name which Jesus applied to Himself!
To turn full circle we return to one of the Scriptures (Ephesians 2:8-9) which sums it up:
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.
How much clearer does it need to be? It is 'not from yourselves' and it is 'not by works' - it is a gift!
Yet again Paul reminds his readers (as in v5) that they owe their salvation entirely to the undeserved favour of God. Grace is at once the objective, operative, and instrumental cause. He expands the previous statement by adding that the subjective cause of salvation is faith, which is also its necessary condition. Faith, however, is not a quality, a virtue, or a faculty. It is not something man can produce. It is simply a trustful response that is itself evoked by the Holy Spirit.
In case faith should be in any way misinterpreted as man's contribution to his own salvation, Paul immediately adds a rider to explain that nothing is of our own doing but everything is in the gift of God. The whole process comes from nothing that we have done or could do. The element of the gift applies to faith as well as to grace, for faith is a direct outcome of hearing the saving message (Romans 10:17).
Paul excludes every possibility of self-achieved salvation. As if it were insufficient that he should have insisted in verse 8 that 'this not from yourselves,' he adds, 'not by works.' The apostle does not specify these 'works' (erga) as related to the law, since he is not thinking only of Jewish Christians. Any kind of human self-effort is comprehensively ruled out by this terse expression. The reason is immediately given: it is to prevent the slightest self-congratulation or 'boasting.' Salvation is by the sheer unmerited favor of God, and boasting is altogether out of place.
Furthermore, the next verse (v10) makes it perfectly clear what part good works play:
10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Since God knows who will accept Christ by faith, He has already prepared good works for us to do - after we have been saved by grace alone! Verse 10 is by no means a subsidiary postscript to the paragraph. It is the outcome of the whole. It shows what salvation is for: it is intended to produce the good works that attest its reality. Works play no part at all in securing salvation. But afterwards Christians will prove their faith by works. Here Paul shows himself at one with James, despite the attempt of some to drive a wedge between them (cf. James 2:14-26).
We are God's 'workmanship,' his 'poem' (poiema). The reference is to the new creation, as the rest of the verse makes clear. The verb (ktizo, 'to create'; Hebrew barah) is used only of God and denotes the creative energy he alone can exert. 'In Christ Jesus' is emphatic as in v6-7. The life of goodness that regeneration produces has been prepared for believers to 'do' - Greek peripateo, 'walk about in' - from all eternity. The road we are to travel is already built. Here is a further reason why the Christian has nothing left to boast about. Even the good he now does has its source in God, who has made it possible.
And another passage (used earlier) also makes this clear:
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. (Titus 3:5)
There is no logical way the works-righteousness doctrines of salvation of the cults can fit into these passages. Grace is bestowed upon no one until they put their faith in Christ. The fact that Jesus died on the cross does not, in and of itself, save. His death is not effectual to the individual until he believes and accepts Christ's substitutional death for himself on God's terms, not on his own terms. For anyone to attempt to put their own good works on to the cross of Christ is to liken themselves to the people in Isaiah's day (Isaiah 64:6) of whom the inspired prophet said:
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Jesus was without sin; He did not pay the penalty for His own sin, which is death, but the penalty of our sins. Romans 3:23 is clear:
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Man's condition made the sacrifice necessary, and Christ's death is enough reason for man to give control of his life to Christ and trust Him fully for salvation. Matthew 7:21 warns:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
What is the will of the Father?
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40; italics added)
Returning to the point you made earlier: 'When Christ was asked in Matthew 19:16 what men have to do to have eternal life, why didn't He just say,'Just believe. It is enough.' Verse 17 is very clear and this story is repeated in the Saviours own words in other gospels.'
We find that Christ actually did say that 'just' believing is enough! What do we actually find when we examine other examples of his teaching, e.g. after the miracle of feeding the 5,000, when Jesus was still sought by the people, but had walked across the water to join His disciples? We read (John 6:25-29):
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, 'Rabbi, when did you get here?' 26 Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.' 28 Then they asked him, 'What must we do to do the works God requires?' 29 Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'
What could be clearer? Just to believe is the work which God requires! Keeping the commandments comes after faith in the Saviour God, Jesus, has saved us and follows because those who have accepted Him as Lord and Saviour love Him.
His reply, 'Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you' (v27), parallels His words to the Samaritan woman concerning the 'living water' that did not come from the well. Like the Samaritan woman, the people could not lift their minds above the physical necessities of life. Jesus was not commanding them to stop working for a living, but he was saying that their main quest should not be for food that readily perishes. The 'food that endures to eternal life' is Himself, as the later utterance in v54 states:
JN 6:53 Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.'
There is another important point:
JN 6:60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, 'This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?' 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, 'Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.'
Part of the mystery of salvation is the sovereign act of God which is necessary for the 'quickening' of our spirit so that we can believe and accept Him. Faith is the result of God's enabling. Unbelief is natural to those who are selfish and alienated from God and who cannot accept the idea that He can do the impossible. Complete commitment to God is impossible for a sinful selfish heart and the Holy Spirit must awaken and empower it to believe so that, like the man who said to Jesus, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief' (Mark 9:24), the intervention of divine grace is necessary to transform our microscopic faith to saving faith.
There are so many statements in the Bible that make it clear that it is only belief in Jesus that saves us, that we must ask where does it say you must 'believe and keep the commandments to be saved'. In fact, there are an absolute multitude of texts that prove it is believing in Christ alone which saves:
John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name.
John 3:14: Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 16 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
Verse 18 parallels Mark 16:16: 'Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned'.
It is believing that saves - and unbelief that condemns to a lost eternity. Good works and baptism play absolutely no part in salvation!
John 3:36: Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.'
John 5:24: 'I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
John 6:40: 40 For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.'
John 6:47: I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.
John 11:25: Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'
What did the unbelieving Pharisees need to believe to be saved?:
John 8:23: But he continued, 'You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that 'I Am', you will indeed die in your sins.'
What is the importance of the 'I Am' Claims of the Lord Jesus Christ?
In Exodus 3v13-16 the Lord God introduced Himself to Moses by the title, and He says:
'This is MY name forever, and this is MY memorial name to ALL generations.'
If this is Yahweh God's name forever, a memorial name to all generations, then how could Jesus claim the same title in John 8v24 & 58 if He is not Almighty God. Clearly, Jesus claimed Yahwehistic identity (John 8v58) when He announced himself to the unbelieving Jews as the 'I Am' of Exodus 3v14.
When the Jews disputed with Jesus (John 8) He made this astonishing claim for Himself (in John 8v58):
48 Then the Jews answered and said to Him, 'Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?' 49 Jesus answered, 'I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. 51 Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.' 52 Then the Jews said to Him, 'Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, 'If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.' 53 Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?' 54 Jesus answered, 'If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. 55 Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, 'I do not know Him,' I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.'57 Then the Jews said to Him, 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?' 58 Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.' 59 Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
Why did they seek to stone Jesus to death in verse 59? Because they recognised this claim that He was making: in Exodus 3v14, Yahweh, spoke to Moses:
EX 3:13 Moses said to God, 'Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, `What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?'
EX 3:14 God said to Moses, 'I Am That I Am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: `I Am has sent me to you.' '
EX 3:15 God also said to Moses, 'Say to the Israelites, `The LORD, the God of your fathers - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob - has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.
In John 13v19 Jesus made it perfectly clear that:
'From now on I tell you before it happens, that ye may believe when it happens that I Am (Greek: ego eimi)!'
We read that they came to arrest Jesus (John 18v5_8):
JN 18:4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, 'Who is it you want?' 5 'Jesus of Nazareth,' they replied. 'I Am (He),' Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, 'I Am (He),' they drew back and fell to the ground.
Thus we see that the name 'I Am,' has long been recognised by scholars as unique and synonymous to Almighty God. Jesus effectively said to the Jews: 'I Am Yahweh', and it is clear that they understood Him to mean just that and therefore to consider Him to be guilty of blasphemy and worthy of being stoned to death.
In comparing this with the Septuagint translation of Exodus 3v14 and Isaiah 43v10-13, we find that the translation is identical. The dishonest leaders of the Jehovah's Witnesses try to hide this fact - their Kingdom Bible has a footnote to John 8:58 which reads:
'It is not the same as ha ohn, meaning 'the Being' or 'the I Am' at Ex[odus] 3:14, LXX [the Greek Septuagint]'
But what they don't tell their followers is that 'ha ohn' is the second appearance of 'I Am' in verse 14 of Exodus 3, so the verse reads: 'ego eimi ha ohn' which the King James Bible translators correctly rendered as the Majestic: 'I Am That I Am'. So Yahweh says He is 'I Am' here, in Exodus 3:14, and again in Deuteronomy 32:39 where we read:
'Behold, behold, that I Am, and there is no god beside Me ...'
If we check these verses in Hebrew translations we find that 'I Am' is ehyeh in both Exodus 3:14 and John 8:58 and, again, explains the Jews reaction to Jesus' words.
Here Yahweh also confirms that any claim that Jesus is 'a god' ('Mighty god'] while the Father is a separate 'Almighty God' - is clearly refuted by Scripture, for the 'I Am' of the Old Testament has no other 'god' beside Him. And anyone who believes that there is more than One God - as the Mormons are taught - is equally in error.
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