Is Salvation Faith Based, or Works Based?
Haven’t you heard people say that their salvation is “faith-based”? And haven’t you also heard it suggested, that some people’s salvation is “works-based”? I don’t think that I’ve ever heard anyone actually claim that their salvation is based on works, but I’ve often heard other people, make the claim FOR them. In other words, I’ve heard many people say, that because you believe you have to DO certain things to be saved, that your salvation is based on works. Jesus asks us; “Why do you call Me, Lord, Lord, and do not DO what I say.” Luke 6, verse 46. Does Jesus think salvation is “works-based”?
Now, just because someone says, “My salvation is faith-based”, and your doctrine of salvation is “works- based”, that doesn’t make it a fact. That’s simply the way they perceive it. I’m going to show you how God’s salvation is neither, based on faith, nor based on works. Even though, both faith and works are necessary components of salvation, salvation is not “based” upon either one.
Let me tell you a little story..
Someone said to me just this past week; “I didn’t know, that the church of Christ held a works-based doctrine.”
Well, I didn’t know that the church of Christ held a “works based” doctrine either. I’ve never heard, a member of the church of Christ make the claim, that they held a “works based” doctrine. But that’s why I said earlier, that many times, other people will make that claim FOR you.
Now, the person that made that statement to me, meant no disrespect at all. That’s simply how he perceived, what I had said. We were just having a friendly discussion, and I had affirmed my belief, that baptism, is necessary and essential to salvation. And of course, that’s the belief of every member of Christ’s body.
Think about that for a minute. God has not added anyone, to Christ’s body, who does NOT believe that baptism is essential to salvation. Consider what’s said, in Acts 2, verse 41; “So then, those who had received his words, were baptized.. (the words they had received, were the words of Peter, who had just said; “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized, for the forgiveness of your sins..” V-38) Is the forgiveness of your sins essential to salvation? I don’t know how you could argue otherwise.
So let me start over again with verse 41; “So then, those who had received his words, were baptized, and there were ADDED that day, about 3,000 souls.” What were those people “added” to? Well, they were added to the body of the saved, were they not? Verse 47 says; “..And the Lord was adding together, day by day, those who were being SAVED.” So then, that clinches it, the people who “received his words, were baptized”, and consequently, God “added them” to the body of the saved, which is Christ’s body.
You can see that “being added” was the result of “being baptized”. And the clearly stated purpose for being baptized, is “FOR the forgiveness of your sins”. And once your sins have been forgiven, God “adds you” to Christ’s body.
To “receive” his words, means to gladly welcome those words, and to embrace those words, and consequently, to ACT upon those words. Therefore, it’s easy to see, that everyone, who God adds to the body of the saved, believes that baptism is necessary, and essential to salvation. If they didn’t believe that, then they wouldn’t receive those words, and they wouldn’t be baptized, and God wouldn’t have added them to the body.
Let me get back to the discussion I was having with this gentleman. I had affirmed my belief, that baptism is necessary, and essential to salvation. And so his conclusion was, that since he views baptism as a “work”, therefore the church of Christ holds a “works based” doctrine.
Now, I’ve heard that phrase many times.. “a works based doctrine”, or the phrase.. “a works based salvation”. But I don’t like to use phrases that are NOT found in the scriptures. It just leads to confusion, because then you never know how a person is defining that phrase. You never really know what that phrase means. I’m a firm believer is using bible words to describe bible things. In other words, call bible things, by bible names. Do bible things, in bible ways.
What exactly would “works based” mean? When we say that something is “based” upon this, or “based” upon that, we mean that’s what it’s founded upon. The thing that something is “based upon” is it’s very foundation, or it’s origin. It’s the starting point. Now you can always add to the foundation, with various things, but you have to start somewhere, don’t you? So, think about this.. What is the starting point of salvation? Where did salvation originate? What do you see as the very foundation of salvation?
Now, I’m sure that you’ve got an answer in your mind, but let me ask this.. If we want to speak literally, is it even possible, for salvation to be “faith based”? Literally speaking, can faith be the foundation and starting point, and origin of salvation? I say NO, it’s not even possible.
If your faith were the starting point, then what is it, that you’d have faith in? Would you have faith in the guy down the street, to save you? Would you have faith in your own intelligence to save you? Something has to come before your faith.
Can you salvation be based on “works”? If it were, what kind of work would you do to save yourself? Would you simply BE, the best person you would be? That would be a noble endeavor, but it wouldn’t save you. Would you build an alter, or a temple, to save you? Would you build a stone figure of a God? What good would any of that do? There’s no kind of “work” that you could do that would have the power to save you.
So then, you can see that your salvation MUST be based on something that actually has the power to save you. And what is the only thing that exists, that has that kind of power? Well, obviously, it’s God! your salvation is “based” upon nothing other than God! Some people have based their salvation on the teaching of Mohamad. And others have based their salvation of Buddha, or on the teachings of Hinduism. But none of those have the power to save you.
Acts 4, verse 12, sums it up perfectly. It says; “And there is salvation in no one else. For there is no other name under heaven, that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” That verse is talking about Jesus, isn’t it? Verse 11 says; “HE is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, which became the very cornerstone!” Jesus, and only Jesus, is what salvation is “based” upon.
1 Corinthians 3, verse 11 says; “For no man can lay a foundation, other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Hebrews 5:9 says; “And having been made perfect, He became the SOURCE of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him.”
Salvation is “Jesus based”! It’s not “faith based”, and it’s not “works based”, and it’s not anything else “based”. It’s “Jesus based”. Do you see why I don’t like phrases like “faith based”, and “works based”? they’re not scriptural. They don’t express what the bible teaches.
Let’s just stick with phrases that the bible uses, like “There is salvation in no one else. For there is no other name under heaven, that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” “For no man can lay a foundation, other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” “He became the source..”
Now we need to build on that foundation, in order to be saved, don’t we? The foundation alone, isn’t going to save us. If it was, then everyone would be saved! But unfortunately, everyone will not be saved. And so, we need to start building.
We need to build upon the foundation of Jesus, and we need to build upon it, with the TEACHINGS of Jesus, and with the teachings of the Holy Spirit.
I think that we would be perfectly scriptural, in saying that the first thing we need to build, on that foundation of Jesus, is our faith. Salvation may not originate with our faith, but it’s impossible to saved without it. “And without faith, it is impossible to please Him. For he who comes to God, must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11, verse 6.
Ephesians 2, verse 8 says; “For by grace you have been saved, through faith..” The grace being spoken of there, is the gift of Jesus Christ. The verse goes on to say; “..that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, that no one should boast.” Your salvation, is not OF yourselves! Do you know what that means, that salvation is not OF yourselves? A bible dictionary says that the little word “of” is a preposition, denoting origin. Salvation does not originate with ourselves. It originates with God!
That’s why salvation can’t be “faith based”. Your faith originates with YOU. It originates in your mind. It’s your decision, whether or not, to believe God’s word. Romans 12, verse 2 says; “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed, by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, and acceptable, and perfect.”
Faith is a choice that we make in our minds. Will I believe God’s word, or not? In that last verse, it says; “..that you may PROVE what the will of God is..” The word “prove” in that verse, means.. “to test, and examine, and to scrutinize”. You’re familiar with the verse in Romans 10:17, aren’t you? “Faith comes by hearing the word of God.” The word of God, is the “evidence”, that we are expected to “test, and to examine, and to scrutinize”, so that we can make the decision in our minds, whether or not we’re going to believe God.
That’s what it’s saying in John 20, verse 31; “But these things have been written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God! And that believing, you may have life in His name.” Spiritual life, originates with Jesus, but we need some way to get access to that salvation. And that access is made possible by our faith. That’s why Ephesians 2, verse 8 says; “For you are saved by grace, through faith..” We gain our access to salvation, through our faith. But I’m going to add a couple words to that verse, in an effort to explain the meaning, so that you can understand it better.
But first, listen to another verse.. Nehemiah 8, verse 8; “So they read from the book, of the law of God, distinctly, and gave the insight (or the meaning) and caused them to understand the reading.” That’s what preaching is, and that’s what we’re doing here. The book of the law of God is read distinctly, exactly as it’s written, and then the insight, or the meaning, is given. Certain words are defined, and we might refer to other scriptures to elaborate on what the verse had said. And we make analogies, and we might add words here and there to give the insight, so that the scripture reading is understood.
So then, back to Ephesians 2, verse 8; “For you have been saved by grace, through faith..” But I’m going to add a couple words, and say; “For you have been saved by grace, through the use, of your faith”. Just having faith, isn’t gonna to get you saved. You’ve got to USE your faith. It’s like saying; I’m going to Arizona, in my car. Well, you may indeed have a car, but just having it, won’t get you to Arizona. You’ve got to USE your car, before it’s gonna get you there.
And the bible says; That’s the way your faith is. Just having faith, won’t save anyone. You’ve got to use your faith, in order to be saved. Now, I don’t expect you to believe that, just because I said it. But I DO expect you to believe it, because GOD says it. So we’ll go to the bible.
Here’s one way, by which God tells us to use our faith. Ephesians 2, verse 10 says; “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, FOR good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Now that doesn’t require much of an explanation. Our faith, gives us the access to God’s salvation, for the very purpose of walking in the good works, (or, the good deeds, they both mean the same) that God has prepared beforehand. That is God’s purpose, that was His plan, and that is one way that we USE or faith, to gain the gift of salvation. It is by DOING the good works, that God has prepared for us to do.
Without doing the good works, God says our faith is useless! Faith can not save you by itself! And again, I don’t expect you to believe it because I said so. I expect you to believe it because GOD says so! James 2, verse 17 says; “Even so, faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” Verse 20 says; “But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” Verse 26 says; “For just like the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works, is dead!”
How would you like to be among a multitude of souls, standing before the judgment seat of Christ, and Christ asks someone; Who told you, that you could be saved by faith only, when My word tells you, over and over again, that faith without works, is dead and useless? And that person answers and says; HE told me so! ..And he points his finger right at you? And every eye turns to you, and your jaw drops, and your knees get weak, and you begin to sweat.. Now that’s a sobering thought. And I’m going to leave you with that thought, because we’re out of time.
But, I hope that you can see, that the salvation that God offers, is neither “faith based”, nor is it “works based”, but rather, it is “Christ based”. It’s easy enough to see however, that faith is certainly a requirement of salvation. And it’s equally easy to see how our faith must be “used” in doing the works that God has prepared, beforehand, for us to do. Without doing the work, our faith stands alone, and is rendered, useless.
Next week, I’d like to continue by studying, another way that we “use” our faith, to do “works”, so that we can receive salvation. And we’ll also consider, what ARE the “works”, that God has prepared for us? What does God consider to be, a “work”?
I urge you to please leave your comments or questions, in the space below.