Are we saved by “Grace” or “Works” – What Does the Bible say?
How are we saved?
What does the Bible say?
Are we saved by grace? YES!
Are we saved by works? YES!
How can this be? Which is it, GRACE or WORKS? Can it be both?
David W. Bercot has researched the writings of the early Christians (the first three centuries of the Church’s existence) and has documented in his excellent book, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up, that they believed in both. These writings are from people who were taught by Peter, James, John, and by Paul or by people who knew them. He says:
“The early Christian universally believed that works or obedience play an essential role in our salvation. This is probably quite a shocking revelation to most evangelicals. But that there’s no room for doubt concerning this matter, I have quoted below… from early Christian writers of virtually every generation… to the inauguration of Constantine.”
In a section of his book, entitled, Are Faith And Works Mutually Exclusive? he shares a very enlightening historical perspective:
“You may be saying to yourself, “I’m confused. Out of one side of their mouths they say we are saved because of our works, and out of the other side they say we are saved by faith or grace. They don’t seem to know what they believed!”
Oh, but they did. Our problem is that Augustine, Luther, and other Western theologians have convinced us that there’s an irreconcilable conflict between salvation based on grace and salvation conditioned on works or obedience. They have used a fallacious form of argumentation known as the “false dilemma,” by asserting that there are only two possibilities regarding salvation: it’s either (1) a gift from God or (2) it’s something we earn by our works.
The early Christians would have replied that a gift is no less a gift simply because it’s conditioned on obedience. Suppose a king asked his son to go to the royal orchard and bring back a basket full of the king’s favorite apples. After the son had complied, suppose the king gave his son half of his kingdom. Was the reward a gift, or was it something the son had earned? The answer is that it was a gift. The son obviously didn’t earn half of his father’s kingdom by performing such a small task. The fact that the gift was conditioned on the son’s obedience doesn’t change the fact that it was still a gift.
The early Christians believed that salvation is a gift from God but that God gives His gift to whomever He chooses, And He chooses to give it to those who love and obey Him.”
Interestingly, Bercot shares his own struggles and paradigm shift as he read these early writings:
“When I first began studying the early Christian writings, I was surprised by what I read. In fact, after a few days of reading, I put their writings back on the shelf and decided to scrap my research altogether. After analyzing the situation, I realized the problem was that their writings contradicted many of my own theological views.
Had He Continued His Research
He had the integrity to continue his research, and he came to the profound realization that the reformation actually introduced some heretical teachings; hence, the title of his book.
No denying that the reformation did a great amount of good in helping Christianity correct many of the false teaching introduced during the great apostasy that occurred during the dark ages. Saved by grace alone is one of them. The doctrine of salvation purely by grace was unknown in Christian teachings before Augustine and Luther. It came in primarily through the translations and interpretations of Paul’s writings as part of St. Augustine’s works and that of the reformers – especially Luther.
If we are to believe that the early Christians had it correct, who were taught personally by Paul, then we must conclude that salvation is by grace and works. Bercot clearly documents this. Paul was confronting those who believed that the works of the Mosaic Law were necessary. Christ’s atonement fulfilled the law, and those works were no longer necessary. This is what Paul meant in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
As the Apostle Paul so succinctly says later on in Ephesians, there is only “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Eph. 4:5) There is only one gospel of salvation for all generations. God and His path to salvation are the same yesterday, today, and forever. The gospel is not only the “good news” by the very meaning of the word, but it is the best news.
Ironically, with the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, as they were being translated, a real conflict arose because 200 years before Christ, here were Christian teachings. Most Christians believe that Christ and the Apostles introduced Christian doctrines. This Qumran society was a break off from the Hebrews, and the Jews do not want to accept that these Christian teachings were part of their tradition. The Book of Mormon peoples here in America had the fullness of the gospel before the first advent of the Savior with significant similarities to the Qumran society. The gospel taught in the Book of Mormon is totally consistent with the Bible and with those teachings of the early Christian Church as documented by Bercot. Furthermore, these American scriptures tell us that the gospel was introduced to Adam, and has been on the earth whenever there have been true prophets to teach it.
The Bible is Clear In Its Teachings
If we are open minded, we find the Bible is clear in teaching that we are saved by grace (faith) and works. There aren’t different gospels for Paul, or James, or John, or Old Testament prophets. As Peter was profoundly taught by the Lord, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” (Acts 10:34-35) We have the following scriptures as examples: James 2:17-26; Matthew 7:24-29; John 8:12; John 14:15; and John 14:21.
The logical conclusion from the last two scriptures cited is that to love is to obey and to obey is to love; they are equivalent, which raises the definition of obedience to a celestial level and out of the duty (do it or else) level. The saved by grace belief coming out of the reformation has lead to the protestant common doctrine, “Believe and be saved; otherwise be damned,” which gives a totally different feel to their gospel, as compared with the truth as clearly taught in the Bible passages above.
Other relevant scriptures include: Deut. 30:19-20; Psalms 15:33; Psalms 62:12; Proverbs 24:12; Titus 1:15-16; Philippians 2:12; and finally, as the Lord – speaking apocalyptically through John – “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Rev. 22:12) We would have to throw away a lot of the Bible to not believe that works are also a necessary part of salvation.
As we look at the trend in the world – and in our own great nation – away from those most important teachings of our Savior to both have faith in Him and to walk the Christian walk, we can see the need for a full return unto Him and for massive repentance. In Bercot’s perspective, modern Christians are – for the most part – in the camp of the heretics. Are we then, as most would believe, truly a Christian nation? Do we worship the works of men’s hands or the God of Israel (Jehovah and Jesus). As He taught, do we believe Him and do His will? Do we love all including our enemies?
Exciting Time In History
We live in the most exciting time in the history of the earth in anticipation of the glorious return of our Lord and Savior. Now is our opportunity to truly come to Christ – believe and hearken – then we have the promise that we need not fear (worry, doubt, hate, envy, fear, discouragement, and anxiety are tools of the adversary and he is very real – knowing it is his last hour). Christ promises love, joy, and peace as we fill our lives with faith and trust in Him. He knows what is coming, and He will help us through it all to receive Him, if we will but totally turn to Him with all of our hearts, might, minds, and strength. This purging time coming has its Divine purpose and will purify His people and the earth. We can look forward to the most glorious day this earth has ever seen when He comes again and reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords. May we exercise pure faith in Him and hearken to His voice I pray.
Faithfully, as a brother in Christ,
David W. Allan