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Bible References about Salvation Through Grace, Faith and Works
In 1517 Martin Luther read Romans 3:28 "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law", interpreted its meaning as salvation by grace alone, in defiance of the Catholic practice of Indulgences, and launched the Protestant Reformation. 500 years later, Christian sects are still debating whether it is faith alone or works alone that we are judged by and receive salvation. What's funny is that verse in Romans which causes so much debate is only referring to the end of salvation through the Law of Moses, which was fulfilled and a new covenant established through the Atonement. It has nothing to do with the principles and ordinances of salvation that Christ taught during His mortal ministry.
The position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that salvation comes through Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Repentance, Baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Salvation requires BOTH Faith, Obedience, and Works. We are saved from death by Grace, and are judged by our works. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet just donate $60 Billion to charity, but that act of extraordinary charity alone isn't going to get them into heaven and the Devil has faith but he isn't going to be saved either.
Heavenly Father is a God of mercy, but He is also a God of Justice, for mercy can't rob justice. Here are the biblical references that teach the principle of faith and works, most of which were taught by the Savior, Himself. I'm sticking with New Testament this time for these verses since the contemporary debate is focused on how Jesus' Atonement superseded the works required for salvation in the Law of Moses. There are a ton of references in the Gospels so apparently Luther skipped a few books and went straight for Romans.
"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Jesus teaches that our works are an outward reflection of our attitude about our Father in Heaven. Our works represent Him and good works glorify God. So if our good works are a glory, what is the effect of our bad works? A slap in the face to God.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
Christ is once again is giving us a call to action, not to inaction.
"Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
If we become corrupt trees producing evil fruits then Heavenly Father will be the one casting us into the fire at judgment. By our fruits the world and God will know us.
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Jesus just pretty much debunked the whole faith alone theory with this teaching. I'm sure these followers who thought they were following Him had all the faith in the world in Him, enough to even perform miracles; however, their works were iniquitous so they lost their salvation.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
Matthew 12: 36-37
"But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."
Jesus is teaching that we are judged by our words. This means that, not only are we judged on our faith, but we are also judged on every word we say. By our words we will be justified, or condemned. Hey, don't argue with me about it. It was Jesus that said it, not me.
"This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
Sounds like Jesus Christ wasn't too impressed with people who say they have faith but their actions show otherwise. And apparently He doesn't like churches that use the ideas of men as official doctrines - ideas like Martin Luther's salvation by grace alone maybe? Or maybe even John Calvin's doctrines on predestination? Hmmmm.
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
"For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works."
I'm still waiting for Jesus to teach that all we need to do is believe in Him and nothing else, but he keeps contradicting Paul with all this talk about being rewarded and judged according to works and faith.
"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Sorry for including such a long passage but I had the impression that I needed to include it all.
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."
In this passage, Jesus is teaching a parable of the sheep and goats. The ones on His right hand didn't just sit on their butts, they acted. They got off their knees and on to their feet and made things better. Because of their good works they're rewarded with a place in God's Kingdom. The group on the left did absolutely nothing. So because of their lack of works they're going to the kingdom prepared for the devil. The most important thing Jesus points out is when you do either good things or bad things to people, you're doing it to Jesus, Himself.
"If ye love me, keep my commandments."
It doesn't get more plain than that. He doesn't say if you love Him, then just believe in him. It would be like a husband telling his wife he loves her but doing things that hurt her. It's the same saying your love Jesus then blatantly breaking commandments. You show love through works.
"But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."
Peter just taught that it takes faith and righteous works to be accepted by God.
"For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified."
Don't just sit back and listen, get off your knees and get on your feet and be a doer of the word.
2 Corinthians 5:9-10
"Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
Paul, the same Apostle that allegedly thinks we're only saved by grace, just testified that we are judged by our works, whether they be good or bad. Hmmmm...I see a pattern emerging.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
If you sow righteousness and good works, you will receive blessings from God. As Paul warns, don't be deceived by anyone who tells you otherwise. God will not be mocked.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Okay, so people are going to be surprised that I included this verse because it seems (after a ton of verses to the contrary) to confirm that we are saved by grace alone.
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
However, looking at the whole passage in context, we see that it supports my Bill Gates analogy from the preface. It doesn't matter how many good works we do if we don't have faith. No faith + tons of works do not equal salvation. We have all sinned and cannot save ourselves. This is why Christ's Atonement and Redemption for mankind was necessary. We are all bought and paid for by Christ. And what does Christ ask from us in return? Verse 10: To do the good works God created and ordained us for. Thus we are saved from death and sin by grace, but are judged by works. If we love Him, keep His commandments!
"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as
in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation
with fear and trembling."
Paul is teaching that we don't just sit back
on our faith and be saved. We have to put forth effort and be obedient. Jesus
has done his part now we have to do ours. And since after all we do we'll still
fall short because we can't save ourselves. Jesus' grace will take up the slack.
Like Paul says we have to work out our own salvation with faith and works.
"They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate."
This verse appears to be a condemnation to those who say that they believe, but do
not obey His commandments. If you profess to know God, then
disobey him, you are in fact Denying God. This is a second witness to
my analysis of Matthew 12.
"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."
James is reiterating what Paul said earlier. Don't just sit on your butt and think you're saved just because you have faith. Get up and do something more than dream of your mansions above, or your mansion is likely to get repossessed.
James 2: 14-26
"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
And there it is from the mouth of an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Faith without works is dead. Faith is the first and most important step toward
salvation, BUT, Faith without works is dead, just like works without faith is
dead. James teaches it takes both.
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
I especially enjoy the analogy given in verses 15 and 16 where James teaches that if a person comes up to you without clothes, would you tell them that their faith will keep them warm, and not give them clothes? You would if you believed in faith only. Faith without works is dead faith and leads to that I never knew thee warning Jesus gave in Matthew 7:21-23.
"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."
To have faith and not keep the commandments or do good works is a sin.
"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works."
This verse is teaching about Judgment. It tells us that we will be judged according to our works. Now remember, works doesn't entirely mean good deeds. Helping 100 old ladies across the street won't guarantee you a place in God's Kingdom. Even being baptized won't necessarily ensure your place.
"Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."
All I have to say is, Amen.
Keeping the commandments isn't the only works that must be done for salvation. Baptism and other saving ordinances are also required. But all these works and ordinances without faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is dead.
"The fallacy that Jesus has done all for us, and live as we may, if on our deathbed, we only believe, we shall be saved in his glorious presence, is most pernicious. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, has given us the means whereby man may obtain eternal happiness and peace in the kingdom of our Father, but man must work out his own salvation through obedience to the eternal principles and ordinances of the gospel."
President David O. McKay