The Faith of Abraham Is Not Faith Alone

When people say that salvation is by faith alone, they define faith incorrectly, or they ascribe faith to the wrong person. They believe that faith is merely a mental process or that it comes only from God. They often use Ephesians 2:8–9 to confirm their belief:

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.

The problem, however, is that Paul does not express in this passage that we are saved by faith alone. Furthermore, there is no indication that faith is directly from God. If we truly want to understand these verses, the best way to do so would be to refer to the conversion account of those to whom Paul writes this letter, that is, to the Ephesian Christians (Read Acts 19), as he is simply recounting their moment of acceptance of Christ. However, instead of analyzing the Ephesians’ response, I want to focus on Abraham, a biblical character Paul discusses in his letter to the Romans. If there is anyone besides Jesus that we could look to as a model of faith, that person is Abraham. I believe he is the best scriptural example to analyze because he is considered the father of all those who have faith in Christ (Rom. 4:11,16). God chose him as the one through whom all nations would be blessed, and his choice was on the basis of faith.

Paul makes an important statement in Romans 1:17 that serves as a focal point of his entire letter. He says, “For in it (that is, in the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’”

This statement cited from Habakkuk 2:8, “the just shall live by faith,” can also be worded as follows: “the [just by faith] shall live.” Notice that I place brackets around “just by faith” to highlight the idea that one is made righteous by faith, and thus, receives eternal life. We therefore can all agree that faith has a significant role in justification and salvation.

After he establishes that all humankind is guilty of sin in the sight of God, Paul clarifies that neither Jew nor Gentile can use the Mosaic Law as a means of justification. He says in Romans 3:27–28, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Then he uses the example of Abraham to show how one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. He says that Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). That is, Abraham was justified by his faith, not by God’s faith. Notice that Paul says in Romans 4:16 that the promise is for those who are of the faith of Abraham. He does not say the faith of God. Therefore, we can conclude from this account that the faith spoken of in Ephesians 2:8 is not a faith that belongs to God, but rather a faith man has in Christ through God’s word (See Romans 10:17). Note also that the original statement in Habakkuk 2:8 is that the just shall live by his faith; that is, it is the faith of the righteous person.

We can also determine from the example of Abraham that faith is not simply a mental process, but rather, it involves taking action that is rooted in trust. James says that faith is dead without works (Jas. 2:14–17):

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

He later uses Abraham as an example (Jas. 2:21–24):

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Here we see that Abraham did not just mentally believe God; he took action in obeying the Lord’s command to sacrifice his only son (Gen. 22:18). Abraham’s faith and obedience went hand in hand, showing that they were not separate things. Therefore, a correct definition of faith is that which includes trust and obedience to God’s word. One cannot be saved by faith alone or by works alone because one is incomplete without the other (Jas. 2:22).

Being justified by faith and obedience does not nullify the grace of God. Paul says in Romans 4:4–5, “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” Abraham clearly did not earn justification by his obedience, because if it were so, it would not have been a gift from God, but rather a debt owed to him. When we say that one must be baptized to be saved, we are simply stating that obedient faith in God is essential, not that it merits salvation as a work of righteousness. In Titus 3:5, Paul shows that baptism is not intended to be a work of righteousness:

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

The contrastive conjunction “but” distinguishes works of righteousness from the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, these two being the rebirth in baptism Jesus speaks of in John 3. Without them we cannot be justified, nor can we enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5). Therefore, if justification and entrance into the kingdom is obtained in baptism, as is stated in Titus 3:5 and John 3:5, it stands that baptism as a work of faith is essential for salvation, and not mental belief alone.

Advertisements

[COMMENTARY] Romans 4

This post is part of a series of essays based on my study of Paul’s epistle to the Romans. They are simply drafts and not intended to be well-polished essays. I would appreciate any constructive feedback.


Romans 4

Click here to read the passage.

To further his point that no one is justified by works of the law, Paul goes on to use Abraham as an example of someone who was justified by faith. He asks the following question: “what then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?” In other words, what did Abraham gain from keeping the law? If we have followed Paul’s argumentation, we know that the answer is nothing. If Abraham had truly followed all of God’s law perfectly, he would have something to boast about—he would have earned his righteousness. However, the Scriptures teach that Abraham sinned just like everyone else (See Genesis 12:13,16:1–4), but was justified by his faith in that he obeyed God in sacrificing his son Isaac in spite of God’s promise to make him a father of many nations by way of that very same son (Gen. 15:6; 22:1–18). He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Here we see the biblical definition of justification, that is, to be made righteous on the basis of faith in God apart from works.

Clearly, Abraham was justified by his faith, that is, by his obedience. The question then is does obedience nullify the grace of God. Paul says in verses 4–5 that to him who works, the wages are counted to him as a debt, not as grace (i.e., a gift). However, to him who believes—the one who has obedient faith—his faith is reckoned as righteousness. That is to say, God’s justifying people based on their obedience does not invalidate the free gift of justification. In fact, God requires obedience in order for one to be justified. Paul affirms in verse 6 that God imputes righteousness apart from works. If justification is defined as faith being credited as righteousness apart from works—and faith is obedience—we must conclude that obedience is not a work, and therefore, does not nullify the grace of God.

The word “work” is being used in these verses to mean a deed of the law—in this case, the Mosaic Law. Paul cites David, who said, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven.” A blessed man is one who is forgiven for committing deeds that are not of the law; his transgressions are forgiven. This quote further supports the argument that obedience is not a work and is a requirement for justification.

If the blessedness of justification by faith were only for the circumcised, it would not align with the facts concerning Abraham, which is that his faith was credited to him as righteousness while he was still uncircumcised. Once again: he was justified apart from works of the law. His circumcision was a seal of his justification. Justification before circumcision is important because it makes Abraham the father of all who have faith regardless of their being circumcised or not. Justification is a result of faith, not of circumcision. Although some would use verses 11–12 to refute the essentiality of baptism, Paul’s intention is not to speak against this act of obedience, as the spiritual circumcision is much more significant than the physical circumcision mentioned in this text (See Romans 6 and listen to my episode titled Baptism of No Avail).

Paul says in verse 15 that where there is no law there is no transgression. The inverse is also true: where there is a law, there is transgression. The law brings wrath to those who are under it, because no one can be made righteous through it (Rom. 3:10ff). If God’s promise to Abraham that he would be the heir to many nations were through the Mosaic Law, the only ones who would receive the promise would be the adherents to the Law—the Jews. In that case, faith would be useless and the covenant of promise would be annulled (Gal. 3:15–18). There would be no justification by faith, and all humankind would perish.

Notice that the promise was made to the seed of Abraham, that is, to Christ (Gal. 3:16). In order for the covenant of promise to be ratified, Christ—the testator—had to come and die (Heb. 9:16–17). During the time between the promise and the death of Christ, the law was put in place as a tutor to expose sin and to bring sinners to faith in order to be justified (Gal. 3:24). The covenant of promise ensures that all are justified if they have faith like Abraham’s, not if they adhere to the Law. For this reason, Abraham is the father of us all who believe (Rom. 4:16–18).

The reason why Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness was because he was not weak in faith. Abraham’s loins were dead, and his wife Sarah was barren. These conditions made it impossible for any couple to have a child. Yet God promised him that he would make him the heir of the world. Genesis 17 and 18 records Abraham’s reaction when he conversed with God concerning this promise.

We should not think that Abraham was not apprehensive of God’s plan. Genesis 17:17 says that Abraham fell on his face and laughed when God told him that he would have a son. He said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man that is one hundred years old?” And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” (Gen. 17:17) Even Sarah laughed when she heard the promise (Gen. 18:13). However, observe Paul’s statement in Romans 4:20. He says, “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” The Young’s Literal Translation renders these verses as follows: “and at the promise of God [Abraham] did not stagger in unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, having given glory to God, and having been fully persuaded that what He hath promised He is able also to do.” Abraham did not allow his unbelief—his doubting—to take him away from doing the will of God. After his conversation with the Lord, and despite his apprehension, he took Ishmael and all the other males in his house and circumcised them according to what the Lord had commanded him. He gave glory to God in his obedience, and he was fully convinced that God was able to perform what he had promised. As a result, he was strengthened in his faith, so much so, that he was willing to sacrifice his son of the promise—Isaac—because he knew that God would be able to raise him from the dead (Heb. 11:17–19).

We see here that faith is a process in which there is growth as a result of following God’s word; hence, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). His word provides the evidence that fully convinces us that he is able to perform what he has promised both in salvation and after it. Just as Abraham was justified by faith, we also have the opportunity to be justified when we have faith in God, who raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

[COMMENTARY] Romans 2:17–29

This post is part of a series of essays based on my study of Paul’s epistle to the Romans. They are simply drafts and not intended to be well-polished essays. I would appreciate any constructive feedback.


Romans 2:17–29

 

Click here to read the passage.

Paul outlines in verses 17–20 the will of God for the Jews. They were God’s special people, who relied on his law. They had knowledge of God’s will and were taught all of his statues and righteous judgments (Deut. 4:8). Their purpose was to instruct the lost according to God’s law (vv. 19–20). That is, salvation for the rest of the world would come through them, since God chose them as a priestly nation (Exod. 19:6). However, the Jews dishonored God by breaking the same law they were supposed to teach, causing God’s name to be blasphemed among the Gentiles (Ezek. 36:22). They were stealing, committing adultery, and worshiping idols. They believed they could sin without consequences because they were God’s people (Mic. 3:11).

The Jews, who were physically circumcised, broke the law; therefore, their circumcision became as if they weren’t circumcised. Here we see that we can be God’s people, but if we break his law and do not repent, we will become his enemy. The Gentiles, who were not circumcised, were considered as if they were circumcised if they kept the requirements of the law. By keeping the law, they condemned the Jews—who had the law and were circumcised—because they broke the law. According to God, a Jew was not a Jew just because of his physical circumcision; they also had to be circumcised in the heart by the Spirit because God looks on the heart (Deut. 10:16, 30:6; Phil 3:3).

People use verses 25–29 to refute the necessity of baptism. They argue that one can please God and be justified without baptism in the same way Gentiles were justified without being circumcised. This argument, however, is incorrect. First, Paul does not teach in this passage that Gentiles were justified without circumcision. According to Genesis 17 and Exodus 12:43–49, all males living among God’s people—both natives and foreigners—had to be circumcised in order to enjoy the benefits of the covenant. Circumcision was never excluded from the law. It was an essential component that initiated the covenant relationship with God (Gen. 17:11). Paul is simply making the point that circumcision is not profitable if you break the rest of the law. That is, just because the Jews were God’s people, it did not mean that they could escape the wrath of God if they sinned, as that would be a breach of the covenant. A Gentile—being physically uncircumcised but yet keeping some requirements of the law—showed how sinful the Jews truly were.

Second, Paul says that a Jew is one who is circumcised inwardly, that is, of the heart and in the Spirit, not of the law. Here he makes reference to a spiritual circumcision that occurs in faithful obedience to God. Before the death of Christ, people were justified according to their faith (See Romans 4). The same is still true after Christ’s death. Jesus Christ was the one who commanded faith and baptism in order to be saved (Mark 16:16). According to Colossians 2:11–12, baptism is the spiritual circumcision in which we put off the body of the sins of the flesh, being buried with Christ and then raised with him through faith in the working of God.

Christians are considered spiritual Jews, forming part of the spiritual Israel that God has established in his new covenant with both Jews and Gentiles united in one body through baptism (Eph. 2:11–22). Therefore, Paul does not exclude baptism in verses 25–29, but rather, upholds it as being essential to salvation. However, even with baptism, Christians cannot go on deliberately practicing sin after becoming part of the body of Christ. Paul discusses this idea more in chapter 6.

The Messianic Jonah: His Resurrection and His Church

In the Bible, we learn of a prophet named Jonah that was commanded by God to preach to the people of Nineveh so that they would repent from their evil ways and turn to the Lord (Jon. 1:2). The prophet did not want to obey this command; he knew that God would be gracious and merciful towards Nineveh if they repented (Jon. 4:2). Therefore, he decided to escape to Tarshish in an attempt to run from the presence of God (Jon. 1:3). His efforts, however, were in vain because God sent a violent storm while he was on a ship, and the only way to calm it was by throwing Jonah overboard into the sea (Jon. 1:4-15). God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah up, and he remained in its belly for three days and three nights (Jon. 1:17). During that time, Jonah prayed to the Lord for deliverance. The Lord heard his prayer and spoke to the fish, which then vomited Jonah out on to dry land (Jon 2). He then commanded him a second time to go preach to the people of Nineveh. This time Jonah obeyed and went into the city proclaiming the word of God (Jon 3:1-4). The people believed and repented of their wickedness. When God saw this, he had mercy on them and withheld his punishment (Jon 3:5-10). This account presents various themes, such as repentance, obedience, and the grace and mercy of God. But also noteworthy is how this story points to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the establishment of his church.

There are at least two passages in the Scriptures that show how this story served for Jews as a foretelling of the coming Messiah. In Matthew 12:38-41, Jesus spoke of the account of Jonah as being prophecy. The Pharisees and Scribes at this time were asking for a sign from Jesus as proof that he was truly the Messiah. Even though they had just seen him heal a man and cast out a demon, they demanded more evidence. Jesus called them out on their hypocrisy. They were able to look into the sky and predict the weather, but yet they closed their eyes to the evidence that Jesus was the Christ (Matt. 16:3). He told them that the only sign they would be given is that of the prophet Jonah. (Matt. 12:39-40, 16:4 English Standard Version): “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Jesus was referring to his death, burial, and resurrection.

We learn that the account of Jonah served as a prophecy also from Psalm 16:10-11. When Jonah was in the belly of the fish, he cried out to the Lord with a prayer that was very similar to the prophetic psalm of David:

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice” (Jon. 2:2).

“I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God” (Jon. 2:6).

“For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” (Ps. 16:10).

Both Jonah and David spoke of being cast into Sheol, which according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, refers to Hades – the grave or the abode of the dead. However, God would deliver them from that pit. Jonah was indeed delivered when the Lord made the fish vomit him out onto dry land. Note also that Christ spoke of overcoming death, or Sheol/Hades, when he proclaimed that he would establish his church upon Peter’s confession that he was the Son of God (Matt. 16:16-18):

16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell (NKJV: Hades) shall not prevail against it.

The book of Jonah, the sixteenth psalm of David, and the proclamation made by Jesus in Matthew 16 show that Jesus would die, be buried, and be raised after three days. His resurrection would prove that he was the Messiah and would establish his church. The fulfillment of this prophecy is seen in Matthew 27:57-28:15. Jesus was buried in a tomb, and after three days, God raised him from the dead:

59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away (Matt. 27:59).

1Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said (Matt. 28:1-6).

Peter himself knew that the prophecy had been fulfilled, and thus preached it on the day of Pentecost in the first gospel sermon in which he cited the words of David from Psalm 16:10-11:

25 For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence’ (Acts 2:25-28).

David foresaw and spoke forth the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Messiah was not abandoned in Hades, and his soul did not see corruption. He is now sitting at the right hand of God, and his church has been established (Acts. 2:31-33, 47).

As Christians, we must believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and not be like the Sadducees, who denied that there was such thing as a resurrection (Matt. 22:23). If there is no resurrection, then our preaching and faith are in vain, and we are still in our sins (1 Cor. 15:12-19). For the alien sinner there is no hope of salvation without the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:11-13). The people of Nineveh were saved from condemnation because they believed the preaching of Jonah and repented. At the judgment, their repentance will condemn the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time because he was much greater than Jonah, but yet they did not believe his preaching (Matt. 12:41). The same will happen to those who do not believe the preaching of the gospel today.

Simply believing, however, will not save you. It is true that the preaching of the gospel produces faith (Rom. 10:17), but it also brings about obedience (Rom. 16:26). Notice in Acts 2:37, after the people heard that they had crucified the Messiah, they were pricked to their hearts. They asked Peter and the other apostles, “What shall we do?” Peter responded, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” What we see here is that you have to be baptized in order for your sins to be forgiven. A type of baptism is observed in Jonah being plunged into the sea: “the waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head” (Jon. 2:5). He was completely submerged in the water and was later pulled out by God. Paul spoke of baptism as a figure of Christ’s burial and resurrection in his letter to the Romans. According to chapter 6, verses 1-11, we emulate in baptism the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The submersion in water marks our death to sin (vv. 6-7), and when we are pulled out, it is our resurrection to newness of life (Rom. 7:6; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 4:23-24; Col. 3:10) by the powerful working of God (2 Cor. 13:4; Col. 2:12; Tit. 3:5). We escape spiritual death; that is, death no longer has dominion over us. And as the church, the gates of Hades cannot prevail against us!

The Sovereignty of God and the Will of Man #2

The Dilemmas and Contradictions of Calvinism

In this post, I continue to explore the role that man plays in God’s plan of salvation. Particularly, I will focus on the doctrine of Calvinism in order to highlight the dilemmas and contradictions that emerge in its interpretation of predestination and election. I do not intend to review fully this theology, as it would require a much longer essay. However, I will present some points that give us an idea of its falsity. As I mentioned in my first post, there are five main points that summarize God’s plan of salvation within the Calvinistic doctrine, which are represented by the mnemonic device TULIP: T- Total Hereditary Depravity, U- Unconditional Election, L- Limited Atonement, I- Irresistible Grace, and P- Perseverance of the Saints. These points are so intimately related that if you can see the fallacy in one or two of them, the whole system falls. Therefore, I will discuss specifically the concepts of predestination and election.

The details of Calvinist theology are laid out in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The following is stated concerning predestination and election:

“By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death”.

“These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished”.

Calvinism teaches that God, in his sovereign counsel, determined before the foundation of the world certain individuals to be saved and others to be lost. That is, each person in this world and those to be born have been predestined for either salvation or condemnation, and there is nothing that can be done to change it because their design and God’s decision are immutable. God’s election of the saved is independent of any works that man could do, and therefore, it is unconditional (Chap. III, Secs. III-IV). Calvinism also teaches that, if you are elected for eternal life, God personally calls you in such a way that you are irresistibly drawn to Christ (Chap. X, Sec. I). Once you have been called according to God’s grace, it is impossible to willfully fall away. The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “[t]his perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election” (Chap. XVII, Sec. II). Although this summary is not exhaustive, the basic ideas of this theology present a dilemma because it contradicts basic truths concerning the righteousness of God and the free will of man. Calvinists claim to accept these truths; however, their teachings on these matters are conflictive and are based on an incorrect interpretation of the Scriptures. Note also that the implication of this doctrine is that once you are saved, you can never fall from grace, which does not align with what we observe in the Bible as it relates to the practice of sin.

One of the passages cited within Calvinism to support predestination is Romans 9:20-24:

20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

When these verses are taken out of context, and we do not consider the author’s original intent, they would indeed lead us to believe that God has predestined specific individuals to be saved or lost. However, this interpretation presents a serious conflict with verses concerning the righteousness of God (See Post #1). Even in the same chapter of the above passage, Paul asked the question, “[w]hat shall we say then? Is the unrighteousness with God?” (Rom. 9:14). His answer was clear, “certainly not!”

Calvinists support their interpretation of election with 1 Peter 1:2, 2:9 and Ephesians 2:8-10:

elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied (New King James Version)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (ESV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)

These verses also have been taken out of their context, which has distorted the true message of the author’s writing. This abuse of the Scriptures lends to misunderstandings and false teachings. The idea that God elected certain individuals to be saved and others to be lost and that those who are saved cannot at any time fall from grace does not align with the word of God. If God’s decrees are unchangeable, and he has decreed that some will be saved and others will be lost, then we have to conclude the following: 1) God creates evil people who are designed this way from birth, 2) man does not have free will in making a decision to do good or evil, 3) even if a person wanted to be saved and actually lived a Christian life, it would be impossible because God has already decided that they would be lost, and 4) there is no way of knowing that you are saved or lost.

The Calvinistic view of salvation does not, in fact, teach anyone how to be saved. This doctrine contradicts fundamental principles concerning the Creator and his creation. It compromises the integrity of God, takes away our free will, and does not give us any assurance of salvation. The Scriptures teach that we should be confident in the fact that we are saved and are to have assurance in the faith (Col. 2:2; Heb. 6:11, 10:22, 11:1; 1 Tim. 3:13). The only way to have that assurance is to trust God’s plan and to choose to submit to whatever his plan entails; that is, we must be obedient just like Christ was (Rom. 16:26; Phil 2:8). This is not to say that we have the opportunity to boast because even when we are obedient, we continue to be unprofitable servants; we have only done what was our duty (Luke 17:10).

In my third post, I will attempt to resolve the contradictions that emerge in the Calvinist doctrine by defining predestination according to the Scriptures and by correctly interpreting Romans 9:20-24. We will see that, although God’s plan of salvation does involve predestination, it is not the type that is taught in Calvinism. The passage in Romans does not demonstrate that specific individuals are headed towards salvation or condemnation independent of their own free will and by an immutable decree made by God.

By Grace (God’s Part) Through Faith (Man’s Part)

“who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” (2 Tim. 1:9-10)

God offered salvation to all mankind according to his grace and by the death of Jesus Christ even before the beginning of time. No work of man could have brought about salvation since mankind had not been created at the time God devised his plan. However, salvation is not by grace only; it is by grace through faith. Some say salvation depends solely on God. If this affirmation were true, we would have to conclude that God has grace and faith, which is impossible. He is omniscient – all knowing, and thus, does not have faith. According to Hebrews 11:1, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. Man is who has faith, and therefore, we conclude that man must appropriate God’s grace through faith: “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). We cannot be saved without faith because it is impossible to please God without it. We must believe that he exists, and that he rewards those who diligently seek him (Heb. 11:6). The word of God teaches that, despite the fact that salvation is a gift of God, both man and God have a part to play in order for man to be saved because faith is a requirement that must be fulfilled by man.

If man is saved through his faith in God who has offered his grace, it is important to understand what faith is. As mentioned, it is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Faith is having confidence in our hope of salvation and being convicted about the things that we do not see, such as the existence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When God commands us to do something, although we do not understand it completely or see the connection, we must do it in order to please him. Faith is not just believing, but taking action according to the word of God. In Hebrews 11:6-30, we are presented with many examples of people who manifested their faith in the actions that they carried out: by faith, Noah prepared an ark; by faith, Abraham obeyed and offered up Isaac; by faith, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau; by faith, Jacob blessed each of his sons and worshipped; by faith, Joseph gave instructions; by faith, Moses suffered affliction with the people of God, forsook Egypt, kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of the blood; by faith, the people of God passed through the Red Sea by dry land; by faith, the walls of Jericho fell down after being encircled seven times; by faith, the harlot Rahab did not perish because she received the spies with peace. All of these people obeyed God and took action. They had obedient faith, not inactive belief (cf. Rom. 16:26).

Since faith is understood as obedience to the commandments of God, we must know what God’s commandments are concerning salvation. We learn about salvation by hearing the preaching and teaching of the gospel or by studying the Scriptures (Acts 17:10-11; Rom. 10:17). The message of the gospel is expressed in simple terms. God manifested himself in human form, and dwelt among us as Jesus Christ. Although he lived just like us, he fulfilled all righteousness and committed no sin (Matt. 3:15; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:22). The very people he came to save crucified him unjustly, and his blood was spilled in order for man to receive forgiveness of sin (Matt. 26:27-28; John 1:1, 14; 1 Tim. 3:16). This sacrifice was an act of grace, which is God’s part. Now, we must do our part and appropriate that grace through faith by being obedient to the commandments of God. We must confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Rom. 10:8-9), repent of our past sins (Acts 17:30-31), and be baptized or immersed in water (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, 22:16). As a result, we receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the Lord adds us to his church (Acts 2:38, 41, 47; cf. Matt. 16:18). We come to see that, as we rightly divide the word of God (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15), these are the commandments of God concerning salvation.

Many reject the plain and simple teachings of the Bible, and manipulate God’s word in order to formulate their own false doctrines (2 Cor. 11:13-15). They deceive themselves (cf. 2 Tim. 3:13) by believing that they have no role in their own salvation. Logically, this kind of doctrine takes all the responsibility off of them. Whether they are saved or lost would not be their fault, but rather God’s. They state that man is saved by grace through faith without understanding what faith truly is. They also deny the essentiality of baptism, and repentance for that matter, in the plan of salvation. However, when one studies the Scriptures with an open and honest heart, it is difficult to deny that God has devised a plan based on his matchless grace and man’s obedient faith.