Yet another argument people have is if works are required for salvation. The simple answer is no, but why? Let’s go back to the marriage example. Do people get married with the intention of giving 50% to their spouse, and 50% to someone else on the side? Right after getting married, what if one of them asked the other, “how many times can I cheat on you before you want a divorce?” I would argue that the person never got married in the first place. It is the same way with getting saved:
Revelation 3:15-16 – I have known thy works, that neither cold art thou nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. So – because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit thee out of my mouth; (YLT)
Matthew 12:30 – He who is not with me is against me, and he who is not gathering with me, doth scatter. (YLT)
In these verses God says you only have two options, you are either hot or cold, either with Him or against Him. God doesn’t accept lukewarm. If you tell God “I’m only going to give you 50% just to test you out,” or “God, I believe in you and Jesus Christ, but I’m not going to go the church, read my Bible, or tell my friends I’m a Christian,” you have not obtained salvation. A poker analogy would be that God has more chips than you and has put you all-in. You only have two choices, call or fold. God is not a democracy. You can’t negotiate as if you’re trying to free a hostage. If you are truly saved the Bible says you will DESIRE to do good works:
John 15:4-6 – remain in me, and I in you, as the branch is not able to bear fruit of itself, if it may not remain in the vine, so neither ye, if ye may not remain in me. ‘I am the vine, ye the branches; he who is remaining in me, and I in him, this one doth bear much fruit, because apart from me ye are not able to do anything; if any one may not remain in me, he was cast forth without as the branch, and was withered, and they gather them, and cast to fire, and they are burned; (YLT)
This verse compares God to the vine, people to the branches, and fruit as good works. So a truly saved person will put effort into obeying God. This doesn’t mean you have to give all your money to the church and volunteer all your time away. It is different for every person and in every situation. This may simply be to get your own life right. You may have issues regarding relationships, drugs, alcohol, financial problems, criminal records, sexual immorality, etc. God may be telling you to fix those problems first before worrying about people around you. If you life is right, maybe God just wants you to do small things like pray for someone, or be kind to that neighbor or co-worker who you hate. Maybe God wants you to go to church more, pray more, or read the Bible more. Maybe you do all of that already, and now God wants you to give your time, or even your money.
Going back to the marriage example, works can be similar to buying your wife flowers. How many flowers do you have to buy? How often do you have to buy them? A loving husband will buy his wife flowers because he wants her to be happy and that makes him happy as well. If you don’t buy your wife flowers the entire year, will she love you any less? Will she divorce you? You should want to do good works for God because you want Him to be happy, and that makes you happy.
Another example of faith vs. works is gravity. Can you see gravity? No, but people have faith that it exists. They have faith because they see the effects of gravity. If a ball is let go, it falls to the ground, so I can see the effect of gravity. It is this faith that prevents us from jumping off a cliff. I haven’t tried jumping off a cliff, but I have faith I will fall if I jump. Faith in the gravity is similar to salvation and the effect of gravity is similar to good works. Just because a person does not do good works, does not mean he or she is not saved. However, good works are an effect and indication to others that the person is saved. But that doesn’t mean they are saved for sure. This brings me to my next point.
Works without Faith?
Can works alone get us salvation? Absolutely not. Do you think you can trick God? Do you think you are smarter than Him? If you don’t want to serve God, God doesn’t want to be served by you. What good is it if a husband buys flowers for his wife out of guilt or obligation? They might as well be weeds. God doesn’t want weeds. A passage to support this is James 2. I know it is long, but it is important:
James 2:14-20 - What [is] the profit, my brethren, if faith, any one may speak of having, and works he may not have? is that faith able to save him? and if a brother or sister may be naked, and may be destitute of the daily food, and any one of you may say to them, ‘Depart ye in peace, be warmed, and be filled, ‘and may not give to them the things needful for the body, what [is] the profit? and also the faith, if it may not have works, is dead by itself. But say may some one, Thou hast faith, and I have works, shew me thy faith out of thy works, and I will shew thee out of my works my faith: thou – thou dost believe that God is one; thou dost well, and the demons believe, and they shudder! And dost thou wish to know, O vain man, that the faith apart from the works is dead? (YLT)
James 2:21-26 – Abraham our father – was not he declared righteous out of works, having brought up Isaac his son upon the altar? dost thou see that the faith was working with his works, and out of the works the faith was perfected? and fulfilled was the Writing that is saying, ‘And Abraham did believe God, and it was reckoned to him – to righteousness;’ and, ‘Friend of God’ he was called. Ye see, then, that out of works is man declared righteous, and not out of faith only; and in like manner also Rahab the harlot – was she not out of works declared righteous, having received the messengers, and by another way having sent forth? for as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also the faith apart from the works is dead. (YLT)
Many Catholics use this passage to prove that works are required for salvation. It says that “faith apart from the works is dead” in verse 20, and again in verse 26. However, they are taking these words out of context. James is talking about dead faith, or faith without basis. In verse 14, he says that anyone can say the words, but if they don’t truly mean it, they are not saved. He gives the example of telling a person in need to depart in peace, without giving them clothes or food. In verse 19, James says that even demons can have works without faith. Demons can pretend to be kind to people, but not love God. Finally in verses 21-26, James gives the examples of Abraham and Rahab, who demonstrate their faith by their works. This does not contradict the fact that salvation is by faith alone. He is simply trying to make the point I did earlier that you cannot be saved by being lukewarm, or giving 50%.
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