THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Faith, Works, Salvation, and Rewards: The Basics
By Lesley Mitchell
What the Bible says about sin, salvation, good works and faith: Salvation is utterly dependent on God's will and Jesus is the Rock of God's Salvation. Those who put their faith in him will not be disappointed. A Christian is a person who has, by faith, received and fully trusted in Jesus Christ as the only Saviour (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). It is only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ that we can be redeemed and justified (1 Peter 1:18-19; Romans 5:1). Nothing can separate us from God's love (Romans 8:38-30) and our salvation is guaranteed (Jude 24-25). It is God who saves sinners, not because he must, but because he chooses to do so (Romans 9:10-24). There is "a reward" which is different to salvation — "Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free" (Ephesians 6:8). The basis for any good deeds we do must be faith. Good deeds in and of themselves cannot save anyone because even our best deeds are marred by pride and sin. Yet God will reward good things done in his name. But before any reward can be received, we first have to be saved from the consequence of our sin, which is death and alienation from a holy God.
No person can claim to be righteous or good: Romans 3:9-19 quotes from the Old Testament and explains that we are all sinful: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." Verses 19 and 20 show we are all under condemnation of God's law: "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." This is a powerful argument against the idea that we can attain salvation through our own merits.
Salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ: "Jesus said to him: I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Romans 10:9 tells us that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, then we shall be saved. In John 3:16-18 we are told that God loved us so much that he sent his only Son so that all who believe on him will be saved. If we believe on Jesus Christ then we are not condemned, but if a person does not believe on Jesus Christ then they are condemned.
We are saved by faith, not good works: Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that we are saved through faith, and that faith is the gift of God. Furthermore, just in case there is any doubt, we are told that salvation does not come about by works, least any man should boast. Good works are a product of the Holy Spirit and are evidence of a changed life. Indeed, faith without works is dead (James 2:14-18), but that does not mean we are saved because of our works. Even people who have not been saved are capable of doing good works — you do not need to be a Christian to do good things or live a moral life. But doing good works and living a moral life is not what saves us! Salvation is all of God. We cannot add to what Jesus Christ did at Calvary.
Our past sins will be wiped out: "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more" (Isaiah 65:17).
What's the difference between being saved and being rewarded? 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 tells us that there is a refining process Christians go through while on earth and that what we do will be tested by (symbolic) fire — "If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." Paul also tells us in 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 to "wait until the Lord comes who will bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come from God." This has led some people to believe that Christians will be judged on the basis of their works and that some will not receive "the reward". First John 1:9 reminds us that Christians will receive forgiveness for sin that has been confessed and so the suggestion is that unconfessed sin will be brought to light before the judgement seat of Christ. This does not mean that the Christian's justification and eternal position in Christ is at risk, or that they can lose their salvation. What it does suggest is that once we get to heaven (which is reserved for all who have been saved) we may not receive "the reward" that some of our Christian brothers and sisters will receive. But what little the Bible has to say about "the reward" pales into insignificance compared to what the Bible says about sin, repentance, forgiveness and salvation.
Conclusion: The Bible does not say that our salvation depends upon our doing good works. It says that good works are necessary, and that good works will come as a result of our being saved because the Holy Spirit will lead us and prompt us to display the Fruit of the Spirit. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that faith in Jesus Christ is secondary to good works, or that people who do not believe in Jesus Christ will be saved if they do good works and have reverence for God. Neither is there any foundation to claim that at the time of judgment many Christians will not be saved because they were not good enough, that they will lose their salvation even if they believe Jesus dies for our sins. Such teachings are not founded on the gospel message.
Image Credit: bmagsfoster; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | Eternity-Forever | Theological-Beliefs
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