Are both our “faith and works” needed for Salvation?
It is a long-standing Christian tenet that a person has to have faith and do good works, i.e. follow the Ten Commandments, Aseret ha-Dibrot, Torah ( Ex. 20:1-17; Deut. 5:6-21). As to whether our obedience to the Law is a requirement to be saved, not just faith, is where teachings differ even among those in traditional Christianity. But not to traditional Judaism and Islam that hold “our works” to be essential. What is the truth? What exactly is the proper role of “our faith and works” to salvation? Do our “works” really lead to salvation, or what some believe that having “works” is proof that one is “saved”? Are our good works the “result of salvation”? Notice the reward for our obedience or “works”/deeds:eternal life
Rom. 2:6-9 ” Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;”
The preceding verses clearly support the principle that the reward for “patient continuance” in”our works” is “immortality, eternal life”; whereas, the consequence of sin is death. Why no mention of reward for our faith? Is this really the contextual truth? Eternal life being the result of having “works”, the righteousness of obedience(Rom. 6:16), what then is the end-result of having faith? What then, is in it for “our faith”?
Follow God’s commandments:
The Law is the Ten Commandments given to Moses in 2 tablets of stone. This defined sin as a violation of that Law as in I John 3:4 “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”
From Genesis, disobedience (sin) to the Law even before it was given in Mt. Sinai, nevertheless was met with punishment of eternal death. This is the final death (2nd death) from which there is no resurrection; hopeless, were it not for the set plan of Passover Lamb “slain from the foundation”, as a substitute for us, as in:
Rev. 13:8 “…..the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” (NIV)
Contrariwise, a natural death (1st death) is a consequence of being mortal, and as such can die. If Adam/Eve did not sin, they would still die the natural 1st death as they were mortals. Having been created, as such, humans already have been destined to die and afterwards the judgment at resurrection, as in:
Heb. 9:27″It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”
On the other hand, eternal death, the 2nd death is the consequence of Adam’s sin. It even includes any human being, peri-Adamic, i.e., any human before, during or after Adam’s life on earth. This principle is based on all sin imputed to one man (Adam), after the Law was given at Mt Sinai, so death of one man, i.e. man-Jesus’ can also be imputed to and counted as our death, (and that of humanity) as in:
Rom. 5:12-15 “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.”
Romans 5:17″For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:21 “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.”
The Old Testament (Tanach) clearly confirms that eternal death (2nd death) is a consequence of sin:
Gen. 2:17″but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Referring to the 2nd and eternal death. Note that Adam and Eve did not actually die after they sinned but was driven out of the garden of Eden, lived and had offspring and died a natural death).
Gen. 3:3″but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.”
Ps. 34:21″Evil shall slay the wicked, And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.”
Ezek. 18:20 “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him”
The New Testament also confirms that eternal death (2nd) is the punishment for sin:
Rom. 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
James 1:15 “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
Romans 6:16″Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”
Romans 7:5″For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.”
Romans 7:11″for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me”
The take-home message from the preceding verses clearly exacts eternal death for those who do not follow the Ten Commandments, and continue living in sin, following the “flesh”.
Role of Faith and “works” in defining righteousness ?
Following the Law is commanded for all, otherwise the punishment is eternal (2nd) death. Righteousness that comes from following the Law has its reward, but not our justification or reconciliation with the Father for Adam’s sin, which comes from faith as in:
Gal. 2:16 “know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”
It is “our faith in Christ Jesus” that justified and reconciled us to the Father. It is the “righteousness of faith, not the righteousness of works”. Our own righteousness that comes with following the Law does not compute, as in:
Isa 64:6“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away”.
Rom 3:10 “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one”.
Whatever “goodness” we have is not good enough for reconciliation with the Father. Even Job learned that his own righteousness, following the law on his own, is not what the Father is calling for. Read the whole Book of Job which shows that God decides what is required, even when others consider Job “righteous and an upright man”; God punishes even the righteous as a type for what would happen to man-Jesus. The narrative in Genesis about being “like God” is not going to come to fruition by the action or “works” of Adam/Eve themselves eating the “fruit”, and for that matter, by any man, except by the man-Jesus himself. Nothing can any man do for justification, except to have faith. Rather, death as a consequence of sin, has to be paid for. It took the death of man-Jesus, as a Passover Lamb, to be substituted and imputed for the death of humanity. Jesus’ death, which was his “works” (including following the Law) did not gain “righteousness” for reconciliation of mankind. Rather, it was Jesus’ “righteousness of faith” in the Father, trusting that his death will account for justification and reconciling us back to Father and against the eternal death of humanity . Faith was counted by the Father, in love, as righteousness worthy of reconciliation/justification. As Paul said, in
Rom. 5:6-10 “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”
Righteousness as accepted by God for reconciliation is the “righteousness of faith”, so no one can boast, not the “righteousness of works”, even that of man-Jesus. Having been justified, we then shall (future) be saved. We need to be justified first, and be reconciled with the Father, before salvation comes in the future.
Notice that it was not just anybody’s faith; rather it is the faith of Jesus, to initiate this process, as in
Rom 3:22-23″Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”
Eph. 2:8-10 ” For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Because of the Father’s love and by his grace, that he counted faith for righteousness; the “righteousness of faith” that was for reconciliation.
How did we actually get saved?
As Rom. 5:10 states, Jesus’ death, as proof or aftermath of his faith in the Father that what was promised will come into effect, reconciled us to the Father and ends there. But this “reconciliation/justification” was not based on that “works of Jesus”. It was not because of the “righteousness of works” so “no one can boast”. Rather, it was the “righteousness of Jesus’ faith” that the Father will count his death as full payment for the eternal death of mankind, that reconciled us. That said, while Jesus’ faith was the basis for “reconciliation/justification” that did not actually save us. Instead, we are “saved by his life”. Meaning, Jesus’ faith that the Father would resurrect him back to life for us to be saved.; again “faith-based”, not “works-based”.
What then in his resurrection or his life that empowered us to be saved? Consider what Jesus said before he died in John 16:7, that he has to go the Father in heaven to receive the Holy Spirit for us:
“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
Jesus had to be resurrected to receive this promised “power” and “gift” of the Holy Spirit, based again on Jesus’ faith and trust in the Father. Jesus acknowledged this receipt of the HS to be crucial, for without which, salvation will not happen even in his life. And with that gift and promise of the Holy Spirit in us, what then? John 1:12 states that this is the power that will help us becomes “sons of God”,
John 1:12 “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:”
Note that without the Holy Spirit in us, we will not become “sons of God” And having such, gives us “immortal/spirit bodies” at resurrection, which is the essence of “salvation” from eternal death. This HS is a gift based on the “righteousness of Jesus’ faith”, and not his “works”. And, this was an unwritten covenant between the Father and YHVH/Jesus before any action of Jesus materialized, before the foundation of the world. Hence, trust in the Father that he will fulfill all he promised to YHVH/Jesus and righteousness that comes from “faith instead of works”. Faith or substance/evidence because YHVH/Jesus was with God the Father (Compare Jn. 1:1 and Heb. 11:1 ).
Holy Spirit prophesied to come in Old and New Testaments
Ezek. 32:26-27 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow”
Ezekiel. 39:29 “I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD.”
Joel 2:28-29″And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Compare with Ac.2:14-21)
Isa. 32:15-17 “till the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest. The LORD’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.”
Isa.44:3-5 “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. Some will say, ‘I belong to the LORD’; others will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and will take the name Israel”
Zech. 12:10 “And I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem”
Matt. 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Jn. 1:33 “And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”
Jn. 7:37-39 “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
Jn 14:16-17, 26 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. But you know him, for he lives with you and will bein you.But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
Jn. 15:26-27“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”
Jn. 16:13 (AMP).“But when He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the Truth. For He will not speak His own message ; but He will tell whatever He hears , and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come ”
Mk. 1:7-8 “And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Lk. 3:16 “John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Lk 11:13 “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Lk 24:49 “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Ac 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Ac 1:5 “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Instead of the Ten Commandments written in our “stone heart”, the Holy Spirit was prophesied to come into us and write them in the “fleshly tables” of our heart, and empower us to follow.
Fulfillment of the Promise:
Ac 2:1-4 “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
Ac.2:32-33″God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”
Ac 2:38-39 “Peter replied, “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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
Rom. 8:11-13 “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”
Rom. 8:14-17 “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba,Father.”The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
Eph.3:16 “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,”
Clearly, the preceding verses confirmed that Jesus received this HS from the Father and now has been poured to the apostles starting the day of Pentecost and to many during that time and still being given into us. This will bring life and strength to our mortal bodies for so long as we allowed ourselves to be led by and to walk with the HS. With it, we are adopted to “Sonship”, to be “born” as “sons of God” at resurrection.
Does the presence of the Holy Spirit of power in us, take away our freedom of choice?
Devoid of the Holy Spirit, Adam & Eve had the freedom of choice and they chose wrongly; a bane to whole humanity. Without the Holy Spirit on the other hand, Abraham, also with the freedom to choose, followed God, on faith that his promises to him will be fulfilled. Clearly, without the Holy Spirit of power, one can choose rightly or wrongly. Nonetheless, no matter how good we are, still we are as “filthy rags”(Isa. 64:6).
However, some teachers have it that the Holy Spirit in us is so powerful that we have no “freedom of choice” and in a way has to follow it. Many instances of “forcible compliance” have been mentioned, for those prior to the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit of power was given. As a classic example, notable among them of God’s prevailing power no matter what, was the story of Jonah. The narrative goes that God commanded him to go and warn Nineveh of impending destruction in the hands of God. But, he was so stubborn that instead, he went the opposite way from Nineveh. He was then swallowed by a “big fish”. He was praying before he died in the belly of the fish. After 3 days and 3 nights, he was vomited in the shore of Nineveh, where he was resurrected to life. Fear, being the beginning of wisdom(Prov. 9:10), he then followed God’s command and warned the inhabitants of Nineveh of their impending doom. It can be argued that Jonah was being forced, and he was. Yet, even with that horrible experience, he could still say “No” to God. And there are and will be people in that category that will end up in the “lake of fire”. However, Jonah wised up and followed God this time around, as he should.
The preceding example is ample enough to support the principle that even when forced and without the Holy Spirit of power in us, freedom of choice is maintained. Still, it begs the question: what if we have this Holy Spirit of power? Does it negate our freedom to choose? The narrative about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane proved otherwise. Fully imbued with the Holy Spirit, still he did not follow his own will. Instead, he “walked in the Spirit” and let the Father’s will “be done”, as in:
Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
This is what the Father wants and hopes that we will do, to be “one” with him as his way is “the way, the truth and the life”John 14:6) Our battle is spiritual (Eph. 6:12), to overcome the flesh using the power of the Holy Spirit in us. God desires a “mature and willing soldier”, not a robot.
The aftermath of faith is reconciliation or justification, nothing more. As crucial a step that is, it is just the beginning of the process of salvation. Having been reconciled, we then “shall be saved by his life”. Jesus had to be resurrected to receive the gift of the the Holy Spirit for us , as promised by the Father. The “righteousness of faith”, initiated by Jesus and becomes actionable by us, was the acceptable payment for Adam’s eternal death ( and the whole mankind’s) due to sin that the Father recognized, not the “righteousness of works”, so no man (including man-Jesus) can boast. Conversely, “righteousness of works” is the principle that will “render reward” i.e., future salvation, eternal life/immortality at resurrection, for those who continue to walk “in the Spirit”, those who “bear fruits of the Holy Spirit”. While actionable by us, these are works of the Spirit in us and in conjunction with our “spirit of man”, although strictly speaking not ours, per se.
Salvation is attainment of immortality, eternal life ( Rom. 2:6-9). Jesus proved this with his own resurrection to immortality; he was changed from man-Jesus, in a twinkling of an eye after 3 days and 3 nights being dead in the tomb, into an immortal and glorious body. As Jesus received the Holy Spirit coming out of the water of the River Jordan and with this power that he followed perfectly, he became “one” with the Father. His works or obedience were the “fruits of the Holy Spirit”, and again, strictly speaking not his own, per se. After receiving the Holy Spirit for us from the Father at resurrection, he then at Pentecost gave his church this gift. The “elect” then used this power for sanctification by following the Law, now written, “not in tables of stone but in the fleshly tables of their heart”, to walk in the Spirit.
Our faith and works are needed indeed. But, how did we have faith and works? Paul stated in:
Rom. 10:17 “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”
As humans we were created with ears to hear material things. But, it is God who opens our ears (Matt 16:17) for faith to come and for us to understand”spiritual truth”, a gift, for us to do “good works”. While these are our works, they actually are “fruits of the Holy Spirit”, given as a gift based on the “righteousness of Jesus’ faith and therefore by ” the grace of God”.
Yes, having “works” is proof, but not that one is already “saved” which is yet future at resurrection, nor good works the “result of salvation”. Rather, “good works” accepted by the Father are an indication or as a result of the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, the power that the “spirit of man” follows, to bring forth “fruits of the Holy Spirit”.
Trust is evidence-based, i.e., faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen (Heb. 11:1). CreatorYHVH/Jesus was with the Father (John 1) from the very beginning and knew of his power and will deliver what he promised. He then trusted him with all that was promised him. Righteousness of man-Jesus’ faith imputed his death for the death of humanity, the “righteousness of faith” for reconciliation/justification of mankind. On the other hand, “righteousness of man-Jesus’ “works” result in his “immortality/eternal life”. With his life, he could then receive the promised Holy Spirit from the Father, to then be given to us; as in, we are “saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10). Similarly and on the same mechanism, righteousness of our faith imputed our eternal death to the death of man-Jesus for “reconciliation and justification”; righteousness of our “works” results in our “immortality/eternal life”.
In essence, righteousness of faith brings about reconciliation or justification; whereas, righteousness of works/obedience leads to salvation, i.e., immortality/eternal life. Ultimately, all boil down to God’s love that brings about grace for our reconciliation and salvation. He established the plan for both goals. To paraphrase John 3:16, God so loved the world that he graced and gifted us with his only begotten Son to die as a Passover Lamb, substituted for our death so that we will be reconciled to him. And having done so, we still needed to be saved as promised to his Son. His death, as seminal it was, it was not the proximate cause of our salvation; rather,it reconciled or justified us to the Father. Jesus’ life post resurrection gave us the power to be “sons and daughters of God”, as in:
John 1:12 ““But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name”
Original post: 3/30/17