Saturday, September 02, 2006

Grace Alone

I have recently been interacting with some Catholics online, and I must say that I have really enjoyed the debate. I asked a straight forward question regarding salvation, to which I received a straight forward reply (thankfully). There was only one line that perplexed me. "Without the grace of Christ's death on the Cross, we would not be able to achieve salvation."1 I don't know why, but the word "achieve" sounds too much like earn. Perhaps it was a poor choice of words, but Catholic theology has the interwoven idea that we must pay for our own sins (even if we are saved). That seems to be the base reason for pennants and for purgatory. Because if we are saved, and Christ's blood washes away all sins (past, present, and future) then purgatory makes God gratuitous in His punishing sin.

This discussion will not be the end of the Catholic vs. Protestant wrangle, but it may be enlightening.

Now, on to the questions:

  1. Q: Is baptism necessary for salvation?
    A: Water baptism is not necessary for salvation. We are saved by God’s grace alone. (Mark 16:16; Luke 23:40-43; Eph 2:8,9).


  2. Q: Do we need to keep the commandments to have eternal life?
    A: No. It is impossible to keep all of the commandments; therefore we are guilty of them all. (James 2:10) Our works will determine our degree of reward in heaven, but it will not determine our eternal destination. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)


  3. Q: If you have faith, but not have works, can your faith save you?
    A: Of course not. True faith produces works, false faith does not. The metaphor frequently used is that of a plant and its fruit. (James 3:11) The plant must be alive to produce the fruit, and only Christ makes us alive through His grace. We are dead in sin, and until we are born again (John 3:3), we cannot do anything because…we’re dead. Christ makes it clear in His own words what will happen if we do not abide in Him: namely that we are condemned (John 15:1-11). We also know that it is ultimately by God’s providence alone that all who are going to be saved, are saved (John 6:36-40, 44).


  4. “It is grace alone that saves, but the grace that saves is not alone.” If we believe for one second that our works add to or contribute to our salvation, then we are damned. We do not achieve salvation, we are given salvation. Sola gratia. Sola fide. Solus Christus. Soli Deo gloria.


    1 http://irishanddangerous.blogspot.com/

6 comments:

Danny Garland Jr. said...

With Regards to Baptism being necessary for salvation, the Bible (and Jesus Himself) clearly teach that you have to be baptized with water. John 3:5 says:
"Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."

Then after he is done talking with Nicodemas, it says that he went out and baptized.
Verse 23 says: "John also was baptizing at Ae'non near Salim, because there was much water there; and people came and were baptized." Why would it mention that he was baptizing where there was much water? Because water is necessary for baptism, which is necessary for salvation! Christ Himself was also baptized with water.

To deny this is to contradict the Bible.

You also said that we do not need to keep the commandments to have eternal life. This is also contradictory of what the Bible teaches:
And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?"
And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:16-17).

If one wants to go to Heaven (have eternal life), Jesus clearly says that we must keep the commandments!
Sure we are not perfect and continually fail, which is why we confess our sins and seek absolution, but then we have to strive even harder to keep the commandments over and over again no matter how many times we fail.
Faith alone is not enough. If we do not follow God's commandments we will not enter Heaven.

"For he will render to every man according to his works:
to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury" (Romans 2:6-8).

Our works do determine our eternal destination according to Paul.

By the way, 1 Cor 3:10-15 refers to Purgatory. THe place where we are purified by fire in order that we may enter Heaven spotless and participate in the marriage supper of the Spotless Lamb.

Concerning the question:
If you have faith, but not have works, can your faith save you?

You answered "of course not." Yet you contradict that when you said:

"We do not achieve salvation, we are given salvation. Sola gratia. Sola fide."

If Faith apart from works will not save you, then Sola Fide does not work, yet you cling to it.

And we are not given salvation. We are given the grace to achieve that salvation by obeying Christ and perservering to the end. Once saved, always saved is a false doctrine. By virtue of our free will we can resist the Grace of God that was purchased for us by Christ's death on the Cross. If we disobey we will not receive our reward:

"Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'
And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.' "Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand;
and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it." (Matthew 7:21-27)

"And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister" (Col 1:21-23)

You see, the Colossians were outside of the Faith and then were reconciled and will be presented "blameless and irreproachable" before God "PROVIDED" they continue in the faith. There is a chance that they can fall away.

Everywhere in the Bible when Christ talks about our judgment, the determining factor is our works! I'm not advocating for Works Alone (the Catholic Church doesn't believe in that, contrary to what most Protestants think), yet it is our works that we are judge by. For when we receive God's Grace (at baptism)the works we do become the works of God Himself. They are no longer ours!
If we fail to do the good works that God has intended us to do, we will not receive salvation!
We are saved by Grace through faith and works. Not Faith Alone!

I invite you to show me anywhere in the Bible where it says that we are saved by "Faith Alone." You can't because it doesn't say it. In fact, the only time the words "Faith" and "Alone" are found in the Bible is when James says that we are NOT saved by faith alone!

Blessings,
Danny

EJ said...

What a heavy yoke you must bear. To feel the weight of eternity resting on your own efforts and works must be crushing. Either it produces brokenness over how often and easily you fail to follow the commandments or it produces false self pride by thinking “I can do it!”

This discussion is truly enjoyable, my Roman Catholic (former Anglican) friend.

The whole issue of works participating in salvation (Catholic) as opposed to works produced by salvation (Protestant) is, quite possibly, the crux of all issues that we could discuss. This pre-supposition determines how any and all other texts are to be understood.

If baptism is necessary for salvation, then Christ is a liar and not God. See the account of the thief on the cross (Luke 23:40-43). Baptism is a command that we are to follow, but it does not give one eternal life, nor does it stop one who for all other reasons would inherit eternal life.

It is kind of funny that you used the Rich Young Ruler as your example of keeping the commandments in Matthew 19. Earlier in Matthew, Christ explained that if you’ve ever hated that you’re guilty of murder; and if you’ve ever looked with lust that you’re guilty of adultery. For him, or anyone, to say “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” is to lie (again) and miss the whole point of Christ’s purpose on earth (to save – completely – sinners who cannot save themselves). The passage ends by showing that the man went away sad because he had much land. The rich young ruler loved his money more than he loved God, and therefore he was guilty of the 1st commandment (no other gods before Me).

I think that we would agree that those people who claim to be Christians but live like the devil are not saved, and unless their lives show fruit (good works) as evidence of salvation, then it is very…very…very unlikely that they will inherit eternal life (baring a death bed/thief on the cross type of conversion).

Can an apple tree produce pears? Can a palm tree produce grapes? No. Each tree produces fruit after its kind because its fruit shows the plant for what it is. The fact that a tree produces an apple does not make that an apple tree…it already was an apple tree, and now it is showing the fruit and being identified as an apple tree. This picture is so clear. (Matthew 7:16-20; 12:33-37; Luke 8:11-15; 13:6-8; John 15:1-11 to name a few)

As far as salvation being only from God:

Eternal life is referred to in many ways. An inheritance (VERS) and you must only be a child to qualify for the inheritance. Even though the younger of the two sons in Luke 15 (the prodigal son) obviously scorned and hated his father, he was entitled to get 1/3 of his father’s wealth when he died. In the same way, by counting on the deeds and person of his father was he able to be received back and he did not have to “earn” it. Eternal life is also referred to as the result of being born again. Other than the obvious implications (how much work did YOU do when you were born the first time?), the Spirit’s work is described as wind here…you don’t know where it will come from, where it will go, or who it will encounter. By the way, the water listed here is not the referring to the baptism in water as we think of it now, but it refers to an idea of cleansing (see Ezekiel 36:24-27).

Finally (for now, anyway), “We are saved by Grace through faith and works. Not Faith Alone! I invite you to show me anywhere in the Bible where it says that we are saved by ‘Faith Alone.’” Have you ever read Ephesions 2? “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10) The picture couldn’t be more clear. We are saved by God’s grace through faith and NOT OF WORKS so that we cannot take credit. The good works follow salvation by grace through faith, not as part of the attaining of eternal life.

Referring to salvation again, Paul writes, “But if it is by grace , it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” (Romans 11:6)

EJ said...

the "(vers)" from my previous comment was meant to be the citation for Colossians 3:24; 1 Peter 1:3,4. oops

JB said...

Your blog entry is very clear and cogent. How can it be otherwise when it is in harmony with Scripture. The gospel call has gone out to this Danny Garland Jr. guy. God is calling him today through the Word.

"Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." (Heb 4:7b)

MacArthur paraphrased, only 2 Religions in the world: Divine accomplishment in Christ (Christianity) or Human Achievement (I do some or all of it). One leads to life, the other, death.

Keep up the solid work, Eric!

Danny Garland Jr. said...

Eric,
I too enjoy this discussion!

Concerning the opening to your previous comment:

"What a heavy yoke you must bear. To feel the weight of eternity resting on your own efforts and works must be crushing. Either it produces brokenness over how often and easily you fail to follow the commandments or it produces false self pride by thinking “I can do it!” "

It is not a heavy yoke to bear, because Christ makes it light. You see, what you don't understand about Catholic theology is that, yes you feel guilt over how often and easily you break the commandments, but because of the sacrament of reconciliation instituted by Christ Himself, if you confess your sins, you need no longer feel guilt because your sins have been forgiven. And the more you frequent the Sacraments the more Christ grows in you, transforming your life in conformity with His!
Neither do we feel false pride, because we know that nothing we do is our own work, but as I mentioned before, once we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ (cf. Romans) the works we do are no longer our own works, rather it is Christ working within us (assuming we cooperate with the grace of Christ. Our free will allows us to reject that grace.).

As for Baptism, I'd hate to say that you called Jesus a liar, but...

Jesus clearly says that one must be born of water and the Spirit (Baptism) in order to enter Heaven in Jn 3:5.
Even Paul, who was converted by Christ Himself, had to be baptized! It wasn't enough for him to just believe in Jesus (which he surely did after Christ appeared to him), he still needed baptism!(cf. Acts 22)

The thief on the Cross received a Baptism by intent. Because he believed and testified to who Christ was, he desired to become a Christian. If he had been rescued from the Cross, the Apostles would have immediately baptized him as they did with all new Christians (cf. Act 10).

For the Catholic Church's teaching on Baptism of intent see the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1259 here:
http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P3M.HTM

We become children of God through our baptism:

"but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.
The saying is sure. I desire you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply themselves to good deeds; these are excellent and profitable to men" (Titus 3:4-8).

This is what Paul taught! And he insisted that it be believed and taught...and so it has, in the Catholic Church.
Notice also, that Paul exhorts Titus to have the people apply themselves to "good deeds."

As for the Prodigal Son, he repented and was allowed back into the inheritance.
Catholics do not believe that we can "earn" our salvation as you think. As I told you before, there is nothing we can do to earn God's grace won for us by Christ on the Cross. However, we have to respond and cooperate to that Grace.
Even if we are baptized and say we believe in Christ and yet live a life that is contrary and commit many sins without ever repenting with a contrite heart, we will not see Heaven.

Being "born again" in the Bible refers to being baptized with water. Once again see John 3.

And in Ezekiel, the water mentioned does in fact refer to real water. Ezekiel fortells Christ. The passage you referred to, prefigures Christ's institution of the sacrament of Baptism.
By the way, they also had baptism in the OT. And they used real water, not symbolic water.

I asked you to show me anywhere in the Bible where it says that we are saved by ‘Faith Alone.’

Your reply was:

"Have you ever read Ephesions 2? “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)"

Now please read the verses you quoted to me from Ephesians and show me exactly where it says we are saved by "Faith Alone!" You can't because it doesn't.

It says "saved through faith."
It does NOT say "saved through faith alone."

That is a very important distinction!

Oh, and by the way, the "works" Paul speaks of here and in Romans refers to the works of the law (i.e. circumcision). See Galatians to help you understand better.

Notice also that in Romans, Paul begins and ends his letter with the phrase "obedience of faith!" The "obedience of faith" are the same good works that James says without which faith is dead!

If you do come up with anywhere in the Bible (the original hebrew or greek version that is, not Luther's German translation in which he inserted the word "alone" after "faith" to fit his theology.) a verse that says we are saved by "faith alone," please let me know, because as we both could agree it would be a matter of great importance!

Until then,
God Bless,
Danny

St. Michael the Archangel said...

EJ: I just want to make one small comment: You said to Danny :: "What a heavy yoke you must bear. To feel the weight of eternity resting on your own efforts and works must be crushing. Either it produces brokenness over how often and easily you fail to follow the commandments or it produces false self pride by thinking “I can do it!”

Look at it this way, danny is throwing all his seed out on the fertile ground in hopes of having a great harvest... you on the other hand is content that you don't have to throw out any seed to have a harvest... which one do you think will bear fruit? What did our Lord say about this? He said those that throw their seeds out on the barren and rocking land in hopes of having a harvest do not yeild a thing, but those that throw theirs out on the fertile ground and work it will indeed have a huge harvest! By the sounds of your post... my friend... you have chosen to save your seeds and your harvest will yeild nothing.

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