Not By Works

Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works , so that no one can boast.

Rom 4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about-but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

The bible is clear, salvation is not by works and the reason is so that no one can boast. Salvation is a gift of God and as with any gift, there is nothing we can do to earn it. If we had to work for salvation it would not longer be a gift, it would be wage, an obligation. How is it then, that many people still teach that there are works, such as baptism, that are required for salvation? They do it by trying to redefine what a work is. Let us look at some of these teachings and compare them to what the Scripture says above.

As we have mentioned in our article on Grace in Catholicism, The Catholic Church will tell you that we are saved by grace, and will admit that “no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2010 – italics in original). Yet notice their use of the terms “initial grace” and “beginning of conversion. “ They teach that conversion is a process and the sacraments are actually “graces” (plural) that are needed to complete the process. They claim that “we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2010 – italics in original). But if we look at the Scripture the word grace is never used in the plural for there is only one grace by which we are saved. Calling a work a grace does not change the fact that it is still a work.

There are other churches that teach this same sort of thing. A Oneness Pentecostal for instance will tell you that since water baptism was commanded in the New Testament it must therefore not be a work. Their only logic is that they personally believe it must be necessary for salvation so they simply conclude that it is not a work. Believing something is not a work does not make it so. We must look at how Scripture defines it, not man.

The word for work in the Greek is ergon. It literally means “deed, act, action or something done” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary). To suggest that a deed or act is not a work simply because you believe that deed or act is necessary for salvation does not change the fact that is a deed or an act, which is a “work.” The Scripture says that salvation is not by works but rather it is a gift. As the verses in Romans point out if a man works to receive something that thing can no longer be considered a gift. Instead what he receive would be called a wage. You were obligated to give them that wage because they earned it for doing a work. A gift however is given without any obligation and without any work having been necessary to receive it. A gift, is not a gift if any work (deed or action) was required.

The argument they then try to use is that belief must also be considered a work since it is required for salvation. They say that if belief is not a work, neither is any other “requirement” for salvation. There are two problems with this argument. One is that belief is not a deed, act or action (the definition of a work). In the Greek the word for believe is pisteuo which means “to believe, have faith in, trust” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary). There simply is no action in faith. The initial step of faith requires no actual deed, act or action, it is something that happens within. Of course, true faith will follow in actions and deeds. We are created to do good works, but those are done because we are saved, not to become saved. When you love your spouse you will sometimes buy them gifts to display that love. Those gifts do not earn their love, they are simply an outpouring of the love you feel inside. The same is true in salvation. Works come about as a result of salvation, not to receive it.

The other problem with this logic is that the Scripture itself makes a clear distinction between the two. In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul is actually contrasting faith, which is necessary for salvation, with works.

Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works , so that no one can boast.

Paul tells is we are saved by grace through faith, not by works. If Paul considered faith to be a work he would not have been able to make this statement. It would contradict his own teaching here. To suggest that faith is a work is to ignore this very clear teaching of Paul. In Romans he clarifies that it was belief that was credited to Abraham as righteousness, and he pointed out that belief is the opposite of a work.

Rom 4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about-but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Note the phrase “the man who does not work but trusts God.” The word trusts is the same word we mentioned above, pisteuo which means to believe. It is clear in this verse that trusting God is the opposite of a doing a work to earn God's favor and that belief is how righteousness is credited to us. A man who trusts God does not work. It can not get any clearer than that.

As we can see, the Bible says that salvation is by faith alone and that no work can earn it for us. Any attempt to add a work to salvation is trying to change the literal meaning of the Word of God. There is no way around it, the only way to teach baptism or any other work or sacrament, is necessary for salvation is to lie. It is a lie to say that faith is a work. It is a lie to say that baptism is not a work. It is a lie to say that some works are really graces and are necessary for salvation. It is only the man who does not work but trusts God whose faith is credited to him as righteousness. Any other teaching is not biblical.

Rom 11:6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works ; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.



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