Apr 24, 2015

Salvation Bible Study

Salvation in the Bible, Study

This article is for the serious Bible Christians who love Christ and want to study the written word of God!

    Salvation is a hot topic among Christian apologists and those who choose to engage in apologetic style conversations. One teaching that Catholic Christians and non-Catholic Christians seem to disagree on is in the area of salvation. That is one reason why I focus a lot on this topic. Scripture has a lot to say about it! I really do want to clear up some things before I begin. Both Catholic and non-catholic Christians believe that we are saved by Grace through faith. Works salvation (the teaching that we are saved by works alone) is not a teaching of the Catholic Church and is only presumed a teaching of the Church by non-Catholics. The only difference between the Catholic saved by faith and the non-Catholic saved by faith is that many non-Catholics often teach that we are saved by faith alone! They discount everything else as having a part in salvation. 

Faith alone is not taught in Scripture, faith is never alone! 

   The Catholic and biblical view of "saved by faith" is this: We are saved first by Grace through faith in Christ, this faith is justified by our works or we have a dead faith. A dead faith can't save us! Our faith must be living in Christ for salvation. In some cases faith that saves a person doesn't come from the individual seeking salvation them self. Obviously an unborn baby, a small child who dies, etc.. are saved first by Grace through the faith of the body of believers in the Church as a whole (all who desire the salvation of others) and not by their own justified faith. We could say they are saved by Grace only and that would be OK. I prefer  however to be mindful of the faith of the faithful who are a real part of the body of Christ! If we were to say like many non-Catholics do that we are saved by our faith in Christ alone, then what happens to those who died without faith and without knowing Christ? As in the groups of people I have mentioned. That is an article in itself but please think about that question. 

Grace is a free gift that God initially chooses to pour out onto us in order to move us to faith in him and hopefully our salvation. But this initial response to God doesn't stop at faith alone! Grace is not something that we get once and then we are saved no matter what. Grace is a gift that nurtures us throughout our lives especially if we are willing participants. Grace is the gift that keeps on giving. It is something we have to cooperate with in order to reap it's full rewards. In Scripture belief is synonymous with obedience and a call to do something more.  It is not that (in the Church) works save us as presumed by non-Catholics. It is by the Grace of God working in us that we do any good works at all. It is by a justified faith in Christ out of love that we can align our wills to God's in order to do good works in the first place. We can only boast for God who is working in us and not our self! Works can never save us apart from Grace and a justified faith in Christ out of love and obedience to God. I may not touch on all of these points in this article, but you can read my other articles linked at the bottom for more information. Now that we cleared that up.

Let's begin!

   In Scripture salvation is talked about in three ways. In this article I will explain and show you the Scripture examples of that. I am using the KJV because it is on the public domain and is accepted by non-Catholics. Either way all translations will apply to what I am about to show you. Please use the translation of your choice to look these up for yourself.

Salvation as in...

 1) A past event: "For we are saved by hope...," 
Rom 8:24. "by grace are ye saved," Eph 2:5. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:," Eph 2:8. "who hath saved us...," 2 Tim 1:9. "but according to his mercy he saved us...," Titus 3:5.

2) A present process: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Phil 2:12. "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:9. 

3) A future event: "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." Matt 10:22. "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.," Matt 24:13.  "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.," Mk 8:35. "we shall be saved," Acts 15:11. "we shall be saved," Rom 5:9-10. "salvation is nearer now then when we first believed" Rom 13:11. "will be saved, but only as through fire," 1 Cor 3:15. "may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus," 1 Cor 5:5. "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Heb 9:28.

We can't only look at the past event verses and say "see salvation is assured to us!" We have to look at all the ways scripture talks about salvation to have a clear understanding of it. We must also do what Christ requires of us, he is clear on that. We can't assume we are saved just because we believe. "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." James 2:19. 

To truly believe is to be obedient to God out of love for him. Jesus said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." John 14:15. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that faith alone brings salvation. In fact in scripture we only see the opposite, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." James 2:24. 

Faith is never alone or it is dead! 

"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" James 2:17-20.

   Jesus himself gave us the prescriptions of what we need to do (choosing to align our wills to Gods) in order to justify our faith in him. We have free will for a reason. He tells us we must love him, we must cooperate with the free gift of Grace by obedience to God our of love! Jesus also has made baptism a way that we can cooperate the free Grace that we have been given. "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." John 3:5 KJV. Peter by the authority of Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells us, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:" 1 Peter 3:21. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Mark 16:16.

Sheep and Goats

   In Matthew Jesus tells us about the sheep and the goats. The sheep are the saved and the goats are the damned. He shows us through this story that the difference between the sheep and the goats essentially are the good works which out of love for God justify faith! Notice that it is those who do not perform the works or mercy who are deemed as the damned goats. I want to encourage you  to go back in your bible and read the whole thing, in Matthew 25:31-46. I have only quoted some of it, but read altogether and it really paints the picture.

"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." Matt 25:42-46.

What about the verses where it is said, "if we believe we are saved?" 

   A popular one for this among non-Catholics is in Romans. "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Romans 10:9. 

If we look at Scripture as a whole and not take verses out of context, then we can see that the context even of these verses is belief that has been justified by works. It would be ignorant for us to assume that when Jesus speaks of belief that saves us he means belief alone, which is not something we ever see in Scripture. Faith is always along with Grace, hope, love and charity! We know that only a living faith or belief in Christ can save us! When you come across such verses you must keep reading and soak in the context which is often followed by baptism, and other good works that justify faith and not faith or belief alone! 

Another verse that is commonly quoted for faith alone is in Roman 8. "For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" Rom 8:24. This verse however  to me shows us the apposite of faith alone assured salvation. Paul says that hope is a necessary part of salvation, but hope that is seen is not hope. In other words if we see or have already received what we hope for then how is it hope, if we already have it? We hope for what we do not see and what we do not yet have! In this case it is salvation which we will only truly know when we reach heaven.

Remember the verse James 2:19 where the devils also believe and tremble? They tremble because even though they know God exists and of Christ's salvation they lacked obedience to it from the beginning. It is simply not enough to just believe. The difference is the demons have a dead faith which is lacking in love for God that ignites good works in us. When we have a faith like this (a dead faith) we will share in the same lot of the fallen angels as Christ says, "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:" Matthew 25:41.

In conclusion

   From my experience non-Catholic Christians who subscribe to the faith alone salvation doctrine ignore not only the context of each verse, but they often ignore large portions of the Bible like James 2. We must be careful not to do that. Always ask what is the context of the verse I am being shown? Read the whole chapter and book if you have to before making any judgments on what you think or someone else is telling you that the verse means.

There are also many verses which say, we are saved by Grace. This is why the Catholic Church first takes the position that we are saved by Grace! We also see we are saved by faith and not works. Many times if read in context these verses speak of a different works than for example in James chapter 2. In Scripture there are works of the law (Mosaic Law) and Christian works of mercy, charity and obedience. We must make the correct distinction when we read scripture. 

What about verses like this, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" Titus 3:5. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Eph 2:8-9.

Verses like these are a beautiful reminder that apart from the Grace of God we can do nothing good at all! It is not because of our self that we do good works, but the Grace of God working inside of us. Jesus says, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." John 15:5. 

We are saved by Grace which is a free gift, but not everyone will cooperate with that Grace. We can all agree on that, and it is not the works alone which save us either. It is not that salvation is free in such a way that we can do nothing and still receive it! It is Grace that may lead to salvation that is free, but we must cooperate with that gift or it will do nothing for us. The purpose of Christian works in Scripture is to justify our faith so that we can have a faith that saves! If we do good works apart from our living faith we are not saved because of works. If we do good works because we have a living faith than we cannot boast for our self, but for God! This is all that is meant by those verses about "not by works of righteousness lest any man should boast." 

We can't boast of our righteousness because we do good works and take the glory off of God and put it on our self. We can take no credit for any good works that we do it is by the Grace of God who works in us that does them! "But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." 1 Cor 15:10.

Taking all of this into consideration this is how we can say, I was saved at my baptism, I am being saved and I hope to be saved! Saved by Grace through faith that is justified by works made possible by the Grace of God is the only Biblical position to take and it is also the Catholic position. Also it is not that Christ's passion or God's free Grace is insufficient that they need us to cooperate in order to complete it. Christ's death for our sins was sufficient and complete on it's own regardless even if no one was ever saved! Christ wants us to cooperate with Grace out of faith, hope and love! We are his coworkers, his laborers. Not that he needs it, but that we do. When we reach heaven we will be gloried with him, and co airs of the Kingdom! I think that says a lot about what kind of relationship Christ wants with us.

I hope you liked this article if you have any questions you can contact me on Facebook or just put it in your comment right here via google+. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my article it is much appreciated. Please like, comment and share. Please open your hearts and minds to the beauty of the Catholic Church which whether you believe it or not was founded by Christ and lives by the power of the Holy Spirit! Something I have learned and am still learning.

Sincerely Joanne Utke

Please take a look at similar articles by me from this blog. Thank you! 

Baptism in Scripture 
Works Salvation
Salvation Assurance

Also see Jimmy Akin's article on Faith Alone a must read and the below video.

Scripture used in this article.

A past event:
Rom 8:24
Eph 2:5
Eph 2:8
2 Tim 1:9 
Titus 3:5 

A present process:
Phil 2:12  
1 Peter 1:9

A future event: 
Matt 10:22 
Matt 24:13   
Mk 8:35  
Acts 15:11 
Rom 5:9-10  
Rom 13:11 
1 Cor 3:15  
1 Cor 5:5 
Heb 9:28  

Verses quoted in the rest of the article:
James 2:19
John 14:15
James 2:24
James 2:17-20
John 3:5
1 Peter 3:21
Mark 16:16
Matthew 25:31-46
Matt 25:42-46
Romans 10:9
Rom 8:24
James 2:19
Matthew 25:41
Titus 3:5 
Eph 2:8-9
John 15:5
1 Cor 15:10

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