But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Pretty clear, I’d say. And really, I don’t know how anyone with any sort of theological integrity could say otherwise. Yet, we have people amongst us who believe a gospel different to the one taught in the Bible (ie. Faith + something (most likely – works)).
A friend of mine attended the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (a very sound institution). At the time, he seemed to be very grounded in his theology, with regards to the gospel (Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, etc.). Several years later, after we had parted ways for quite some time, I discovered that he had left the Baptist denomination, which isn’t necessarily bad, and had become a Lutheran. When I eventually got back in touch with him and we discussed theological stances, I learned that he had come to believe that salvation was not by faith alone through grace alone. Rather, salvation was by grace through faith, plus baptism and holy communion.
Whoa! Now that is a different gospel altogether. That is a gospel which is nowhere to be found in the Word of God. Salvation is and has ALWAYS been by faith through grace alone. There is no other way of salvation.
You may ask, “What about Old Testament saints? Were they also saved by grace through faith alone? I thought that they had to keep the law in order to merit divine esteem and salvation?”
A fantastic question. The answer is quite simple – Old Testament saints were saved exactly the same way as New Testament saints – by faith.
What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. David Celebrates the Same Truth But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”Abraham Justified Before Circumcision Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.
Pretty clear, again.
I have another group of friends that hold to the theory that salvation in the OT was by faith and works. It is incredibly frustrating when I discuss this topic with them (I don’t do it often), because the Bible is SO CLEAR on the matter. Not only is salvation by faith alone, but there is nothing we can do, apart from God, to merit divine esteem. Nothing. God is not impressed with our good works. All of our righteousness is as filthy rags.
The OT saints did not have to keep the law in order to be saved. Rather, they kept the law BECAUSE they were saved. Just like NT saints… We are not saved by going to church, reading the Bible, living a “Godly” life and telling others about Jesus. Rather, we do those things BECAUSE we are saved. The object of our faith is the same, regardless of when we were born in history. The object of our faith was God and the Messiah, Christ Jesus.
But back to baptism and communion. What benefit is holy communion or baptism? For the purposes of salvation – nothing. It’s bread. It’s juice. It’s water. However, people that hold to the teaching that these actions do save will usually cite Scripture as their basis. Let’s look at a couple of them.
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed,and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
At first glance, this passage would seem to indicate that Jesus is saying that a person must literally eat His flesh and drink His blood. But, we must be good Bereans (Acts17) and study the Bible out. When people who teach communion for the remission of sins come to this passage, they fail to go to the end of the chapter. In verse 63, Jesus says that the words He speaks are spirit. When looking into the Greek rendering, you learn that the word “spirit” simply means “figurative” or “analogy.”
In John 6, Jesus compared Himself to the manna that Israel ate in the wilderness. If not for the manna that came down from heaven, Israel would have surely died. They required the manna for sustenance. We are absolutely no different. Jesus is that bread from heaven. If not for He, then we would perish. He is our bread. He is that which sustains. We must live off of Him by reading His word, praying to Him, and loving Him. THAT is what Jesus meant when He said that you must eat His flesh and drink His blood. We must desire so much to have him in our lives, and that He is so important for us, He is like the very food we eat.
When we partake of communion, it does not turn into the literally body and blood of Christ. This is found nowhere in Scripture. Communion is simply a reminder of what Jesus did for us on the cross. His body broke, therefore we eat the bread. His blood was shed, therefore we drink the juice. Communion is for remembrance and nothing more. It does not save. But praise be to God for communion. I love partaking and having that physical reminder of what my Savior did for me on the cross.
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
There are a few interpretations of this passage.
- Some believe that Jesus is speaking of a literal water baptism. “You must be baptized if you wish to enter the kingdom of God.”
- Some believe that Jesus is speaking of a literal birth, and that is the water reference. When a woman goes into labor, her “water will break.” And some would say that this is the reference. Jesus is speaking of a literal birth and then a spiritual birth.
- Others would believe, and this is where I tend to fall, that Jesus is referencing a spiritual washing of the old man, such as what is mentioned in Ezekiel 36:24-28
For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.
The only part of my opinion on this where I am dogmatic is the fact that Jesus is not referencing baptism as a condition of salvation. He is absolutely not saying that. Salvation has always been the same, from Adam up to now. God does not change (Hebrews 3:18). Also, baptism was instituted in the 1st century. Therefore, if a person must be baptized for salvation, what did all the people do previous to the 1st century? As well, what about the people that died before having the opportunity to be baptized, such as the thief on the cross? There are some pretty large holes in the theory of baptismal regeneration.
Apart from the first point, if you feel that you are more in line with point number 2 verses point number 3, then fair enough. A lot of my friends certainly would fall under the umbrella of believing the 2nd point. Neither point 2 nor point 3 change the gospel.
Salvation is by faith in Christ alone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. I pray that you’re trusting in Christ alone for your salvation. If you are not, I beg you to consider what the Word of God has to say about salvation. Alternatively, you may message me. I’d love to discuss this topic with you further.
Every one who would obtain the righteousness of Christ must renounce his own.
~ John Calvin