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Ephesians 2:8-9:  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.


James 2:14-18:  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.  But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.”  Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.


It is said in church that we are saved by faith, but then we hear talk that makes it sound like our salvation, or at least the maintenance of it, depends on our works, what we do for God.  In the midst of this confusion, skeptics and less grounded believers would look at those two Scriptures above and say that there is a contradiction in the Bible.  However, the Bible is inerrant and God-breathed, so there must be an underlying truth which reconciles these two passages to one another.  What is it?  One of the keys is in the James 2 passage.  Notice that after the initial question, James gives an example of living faith.   You see, we cannot earn or maintain our salvation by works.  Rather, our works are the evidence of our salvation.  This is good fruit in our lives.  See what Jesus says about this:


Matthew 7:16-17:  “You will know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”


Works give evidence of one’s salvation, though it derives from faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  When we do things for God with the right motives we will be rewarded by Jesus at His judgment seat, the judgment of believers (1 Corinthians 3:9-15).  Therefore works are important, but they neither earn nor keep salvation.  So how can one lose (forfeit) their salvation?  You must understand the concept of the covenant.  When we were saved we entered into a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ.  The Lord loves us.  He absolutely does not want us to live in constant fear of giving up our salvation.  God is our heavenly Father and will do all He can to prevent us from falling away, even disciplining us.


Backsliding, or even joining another religion without really meaning it from your heart, is not enough to forfeit salvation.  However, if your heart has become unclean and you are tuned in to your flesh it can trick you (Jeremiah 17:9).  Before Jesus was crucified, Peter honestly believed he would never deny Him, but when the Lord was taken away he denied Jesus three times.  He did not see the fear hidden in his heart, but Jesus did (Matthew 26:31-35).  Likewise, backsliding or trying out a different religion are both like playing Russian roulette.  If you are in sin too long you may decide never to return to Christ.  If you stay involved in another faith you may, from the heart, renounce your faith in Jesus.  This is breaking your covenant with the Lord.  Despite God’s great love for us, He will not take away our freedom of will to either remain with Him or depart, and once you forfeit your salvation, you can never get it back.


Hebrews 6:4-6:  For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.  (Also see Hebrews 10:26-31).


As a believer you are saved by faith, not by works.  Work for eternal rewards and rest secure in Jesus.


2 Responses

  1. Amen! Good works don’t earn you salvation and by your faith you should desire to do good works. They are “good, nice” people in hell today. If you give someone starving a warm meal make sure to feed them spiritually too. There are so many opportunities God give us to spread His Love and His Word. Those works are also casting out demons, healing the sick, etc. What we have received we need to give to others. <3