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Salvation by Works?

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Friday, August 23, 2019 @ 2:07 PM
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Dr. John Oswalt Wesley Biblical Seminary President MORE

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (Ephesians 1:4-6 NIV).

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV).

A couple of comments in regards to one of my earlier devotions suggest to me that I have not made my understanding of Scripture clear enough. One comment stated that I was not astute enough to know that I was espousing Roman Catholic theology. The other explained at some length how the “Judaizers” demanded that Gentile Christians adhere to the Jewish ceremonial laws.

What I believe the Bible is saying is that forgiveness of sins is not the final purpose of the cross.

The first purpose of the cross is indeed forgiveness of sins, resulting in right standing before God, something even the most rigorous obedience of the Torah, as summarized in the Ten Commandments, cannot do. We are given a right standing before God through faith in Jesus Christ, nothing else.  But innocence before Him is not God’s desired end; His desired end is our holiness (Eph. 1:4). But what is that? Is it positional, or is it behavioral? Many Protestants, concerned that any emphasis on Christian behavior will dilute our insistence on “grace alone,” deny that holiness has anything to do with behavior.

But that position is simply not scriptural. It is clear from Ephesians 2:8-10 that grace through faith is supposed to issue in “good works.”  Is behavior in keeping with the Ten Commandments a requirement for salvation? No. However, if we have received divine grace to be forgiven, we have also received divine grace through the Holy Spirit, to live holy (God-like) lives, as conveniently summarized by the Ten Commandments. There is good reason to doubt the faith of someone who claims to be a Christian while living a life that is ruled by desire and thus indistinguishable from that of the world (God-less).

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