3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. (Romans 4:3–4, NKJV)
Obedience to Christ is not a work of merit that nullifies grace. The theology of Calvin has persuaded untold millions that obedience is a work that “earns” or merits salvation. If true, then James contradicts Paul, for he said, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God” (James 2:21-23). Faith is made complete by obedience. There is no contradiction in Scripture, only with Calvinism’s faulty definitions of faith and works. Like us all, Abraham was a sinner in need of grace. Only perfect law-keeping (sinlessness) would nullify grace and make salvation a debt (Romans 4:4). The faith that saved Abraham was not sinless, but it was obedient (as witnessed in the matter of Isaac). Through the gospel, it is obedient faith that God counts for righteousness today. Obedience earns nothing; it is the action of a dutiful servant (Luke 17:10). Obedience is the work that justifies the ungodly, for without it, faith is dead (James 2:20). Obedient faith, not faith only, justifies sinners (James 2:24).
“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4, NKJV)
Can a Christian be lost in sin after being saved in Christ? Calvinism says, “No.” Reportedly, so did Billy Graham: “Returning home with a friend that night, Mr. Graham said, he thought: “Now I’ve gotten saved. Now whatever I do can’t unsave me. Even if I killed somebody, I can’t ever be unsaved now” (nytimes.com, Feb. 21, 2018). But, the apostle Paul told Christians, “Yes.” He said an attempt to be justified by law-keeping (the law of Moses, Galatians 2:21, 3-7) would cause them to be “estranged from Christ” and “fallen from grace.” That’s clear enough. The doctrine of “once saved, always saved” gives false comfort because it does not conform to the Scriptures. Jesus warned of those who would joyfully “believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13). Christians are told to “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). And so, we are urged to “exhort one another daily…lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11). A Christian who does not repent and pray God’s forgiveness for sins committed, will not be saved (Acts 8:18-24; 1 John 1:9). The Scriptures must inform and sustain our faith.
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1, NKJV)
The apostle Paul urges his beloved Timothy to be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Timothy had work to do as an evangelist, and he ought to be made strong by the grace that is in Christ to carry out his work (2 Timothy 4:1-5). Even so, God’s grace emboldens us to do the good work He gives us (Ephesians 2:10). Like Timothy, we must rely on God’s favor as we do His work, instead of depending on our own wisdom and power. Timothy’s work included teaching the gospel to faithful men, who could teach others (2 Timothy 2:2). He was to endure hardships, and not be diverted from his work of preaching the gospel (2 Timothy 2:3-4). He would have to play by God’s rules – he could not “make it up” as he went along (2 Timothy 2:5). And, to reap the reward of his labor, he would have to be a dedicated worker (2 Timothy 2:6). To be “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” means to be empowered by God’s good favor to meet our challenges of faith. By God’s grace, we can faithfully persevere in doing God’s will.
23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,” (Romans 3:23–25, NKJV)
The reality of sin in our lives makes it impossible for us to ever earn our way to heaven. God, out of His great love for us, provides sinners (us) with redemption from sin in Christ Jesus. His grace, freely given, justifies through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Since not everyone is saved (Jesus said few find the way to life, Matthew 7:14), it necessarily follows that sinners have a responsibility to respond to the gospel call to be saved in His Son. God’s grace is available to sinners in the blood of Jesus Christ, by which God’s wrath against sin is appeased (that’s propitiation). Redemption by the blood of Christ (His death) is obtained when we are “baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3). The action of faith that brings the sinner into contact with the atoning blood of Jesus, is baptism. We need God’s grace to be justified from our sins. Without grace, we are lost. Grace is available to all, and is received by those who “fear God, and keep His commandments” (Acts 10:34-35). Thank God, that He has revealed His plan to redeem us in His Son.
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:8–10, NKJV)
The “word of faith” was preached by the apostles. It produces faith in the good and honest heart (Romans 10:17; Luke 8:15). It produces belief in the heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, and that Jesus is Lord. A verbal confession of one’s faith that Jesus is Lord (Ruler, Master), and that He was raised from the dead, is necessary to be saved. Confessing one’s belief that Jesus is the risen Lord is not the only thing essential to be saved. The command to repent of sins must be obeyed, or we will perish (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30). Water baptism is also commanded to be saved (Mark 16:16; Acts 10:47-48; 1 Peter 3:21). The “word of faith” contains all these essential actions of faith to be saved by grace. The gospel plan of salvation is for the lost to hear the gospel, to believe in Jesus, the resurrected Lord (the Son of God), to confess Jesus as Lord, to repent of your sins, and to be baptized into Christ. God will save you by His grace, when you do the things God wants you to do.
18 Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him. 19 And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus. 20 When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5:18–20, NKJV)
Jesus saw their faith, and forgave the man’s sins. In just this way, an active faith that is seen by God is the faith He requires of us for our forgiveness. Salvation is “by grace, through faith;” it is “not our yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Salvation is “not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Does anyone think that because Jesus saw their faith, the paralytic earned the right to be forgiven? Certainly not! Why then, is there so much objection to saving faith being one that obeys the Lord’s commands (to repent and be baptized, Acts 2:38; Mk. 16:16)? You see, faith that cannot be seen is incomplete (James 2:17-18). Faith must be coupled with the action of faith (obedience), because “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Saving faith is active, it is obedient to the word of Jesus. Obedient faith does not earn the right to be saved. Salvation is the gift of God, and Jesus gave that gift of salvation to the paralytic. But, what he had not lowered him into Christ’s presence? Without their active faith, he would have not been saved. Do you have faith to obey Jesus, to be saved by His grace? Does Jesus see your faith?
25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” (Hebrews 12:25–26, NKJV)
There are terrible consequences for rejecting the word of God. The ground shook when God spoke the Ten Commandments to Israel from Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:18). Yet, Israel rejected God’s word, and made a golden calf to worship in direct violation of His commandments (Exodus 20:1-6; 32:1-7). About 3,000 men died that day as punishment for their sin (Exodus 32:28, 34-35). There is an unmistakable lesson for us from this event. We will not escape punishment if we reject God’s word that He has spoken to us from heaven “in His Son,” by the New Testament Scriptures (Hebrews 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Day of Judgment will remove heaven and earth. Only His kingdom will survive His awesome judgment (Hebrews 12:26-28). The words and wisdom of men will never prepare you to escape divine wrath against sin. But, the gospel of Jesus Christ will; it is God’s power to save you (Romans 1:16). Believe God’s word and obey the Lord Jesus, to “have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).