An interesting question came from someone who happened to see one of my blogs:
I came across Bob’s Sept 1, 2019, article. While I appreciate much of what Bob says, his statement in the last paragraph was puzzling to me: “Because of the cross of Christ, our sins and our works are not the issue.”
I understand the bottom line is for us to believe what God has revealed in His word regarding Jesus Christ, what God has accomplished for our redemption, that we are to look to Him alone. But we can’t honestly say our sins and our works (of darkness, Rom. 13:12) aren’t the issue.
Yes, we need to come to Christ that we may have life. Why? Because we are in death (Eph 2:1). Why are we in death? Because of sin (and, of course, its effect, Rom 5:12, 6:23, Isa 59:2).
I wish Bob would have clarified himself better in that article. One thing I’ve noticed in reading blogs & articles & listening to podcasts from different Christians is this: never is the full range of Scripture that would have bearing on the issue(s) debated brought to the table. There’s always something left out somewhere that leaves the reader or listener with some shadow of doubt regarding the complete credibility of one’s argument…It’s probably best not to set one’s foot too firmly in any one camp of Christians. No one has a lock on absolute truth. All the different theologies that fly under the Christian banner touch on a truth or a few truths, but never all the truth. If more Christians (all of us, really) would abandon their sectarian biases (1 Cor 1:10-12) and humbly and prayerfully (Ps 119:18) search the Scriptures daily and diligently, as the Bereans did, then perhaps we would not have all of these endless and confusing debates among ourselves.
I agree that even short articles like blogs should cover the key verses on the topic at hand. The problem is space. Blogs are typically 500 to 1000 words. In a 5,000-word journal article, it is possible to cover most of the key passages on a topic. In a 25,000 to 50,000-word book, it is possible to cover all key passages.
With that proviso, I’ll attempt to answer these excellent questions.
Yes, we can honestly say that our sins and our works are not the issue in salvation from eternal condemnation. The Lord Jesus said so in John 6:28-29. See also John 5:39-40. The Apostle Paul said so in Rom 4:4-5; Eph 2:8-9; and Gal 2:16. Salvation from eternal condemnation is “not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
The reader never says what he thinks that a person must do in terms of his sins and his works in order to be saved. Is he thinking we must turn from our sins and our bad deeds? Is he thinking that we must promise to do good works in the future?
But the Scriptures are clear that the sole condition is faith in Christ. Apart from works. If he is adding repentance and commitment to that, then he has departed from the faith-alone promise of life message found in the Scriptures.
Ephesians 2:1-4 does not say that we were dead because of our trespasses and sins. It says that before faith, we were dead in our trespasses and sins. To be in one’s sins means to be a slave of sin. Compare John 8:24; 30-32; and Rom 6:17-23.
When Christ died on the cross, He took away the sin of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2). He does not wait to take away the sin barrier until we believe in Him. He did that two millennia ago. He made everyone savable. But in order to have everlasting life, we must believe in Him.
I urge the reader to study John’s Gospel. He will find that the Lord repeatedly gives but one condition of everlasting life: faith in Him. Never does He say that one must turn from his sins to be saved or that he must commit to serve Him to be born again.
There is a saying in Texas: even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and again. The same is true in terms of understanding God’s Word. If you read the cults, you will find that there is tremendous error in their teachings. But they do get some verses right, especially concerning marriage and parenting.
I would caution the reader that if he is seeking to find the truth of how one is born again by sampling lots of different theological traditions, he will come away confused. As he said, we are to search the Scriptures to find out what is true.
I’m biased, of course. But when I compare Free Grace literature to that of works salvation and Lordship Salvation, the former explains what passages say, and the latter just quotes verses here and there to proof text. That is especially true when I compare the writings of my mentor, Zane Hodges, with the writings of leading Lordship Salvation authors. Zane turned over every rock. He studied every verse. He explained the text in context. Lordship Salvation writers do little if any exegesis. They typically simply quote a few verses that they think prove their point, without giving any explanation.
In a short blog, I don’t have room for much exegetical work. But I’ll end with some observations of some of the verses I cited.
In Eph 2:9, when Paul says that the already-obtained salvation of the believers in Ephesus was “not of works,” he meant just that. He affirms that by saying, “lest anyone should boast.”
In John 6:28 the Lord was asked, “What works should we do that we may work the works of God?” The legalistic Jewish people asking the question wanted to know what the most important commandments were to obey in order to get into the Messiah’s coming kingdom. Jesus’ answer was a rebuke: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). They asked about works, plural. He spoke of one singular work, and He defined that action as believing in the Messiah whom the Father sent. (Compare John 5:39-40.)
In Gal 2:16 three times Paul said that a person is justified by faith in Christ, and three times he said that a person is not justified by the works of the law. The Judaizers were trying to convince the believers in Galatia to submit to circumcision and law-keeping as a condition for keeping their salvation (compare Gal 1:8-9; 5:4).
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). That is true because sin is no longer the issue in our salvation. Of course, sin is an issue in terms of blessings or curses in this life. Being born again does not mean that we can sin with impunity. But in terms of eternal salvation, the sole condition is faith in Christ. The finished work of Christ on the cross guarantees it.