Obedience vs Salvation by Works
- Published: Monday, 04 June 2018 20:32
- Written by Timothy Chapman
Christian teachers falsely accuse those who teach obedience to God's Law of teaching salvation by works. They conflate the teaching of obedience to the heresy of salvation by works and claim that if you teach obedience, then you are teaching a works-based salvation message. Don't be deceived: Salvation by works and obedience to God's Law are two different teachings and it's wrong to conflate them as if they are the same. I'm not entirely convinced that these teachers are not deliberately conflating these teachings. After all, if those who are saved by faith also need to keep God's Law, then there is no excuse for setting aside God's Law for unbiblical human traditions. These teachers also deny the fact that Jesus and all of the disciples commanded Christians to keep God's Law and even explicitly stated that we do not nullify the Law by our faith, but rather, we uphold the Law [Romans 3:31]. Any apparent evidence that Jesus or the disciples taught against the Law is the result of being indoctrinated to have the starting point that they taught against the Law, finding a passage the at first glance appears to support that belief, and concluding that the New Testament speaks against God's Law.
Another thing that traditional Christianity conflates is the teaching that we're not under the God's Law with the teaching that we are free from God's Law. However, the Bible clearly states the exact opposite in 1 Corinthians 9:21. If not being under the Law means being free from God's Law, then we have a contradiction in Scripture. The only way to resolve this apparent contradiction is if the meaning of not being under the Law is not synonymous with being free from the Law. Instead, what is meant by us not being under the Law is that our righteousness does not depend on us keeping the Law, even though we are still supposed to be keeping it. In fact, in James 2:12, we read that we are supposed to act as if our righteousness does depend on us keeping the Law. It also says that God's Law gives freedom. So what does that say about those who refuse to keep it? Are they not in bondage?
Sin is defined as breaking God's Law [1 John 3:4]. Righteousness is defined as keeping God's Law [Romans 2:13]. The Bible also says that righteousness is by faith [Romans 3:22]! So which is is? Are the ones who keep the Law righteous or are the ones who have faith in Jesus righteous? Consider this: The only way you can be righteous by keeping God's Law is if you do not break the Law even once. If you sin, then you cannot be righteous by keeping the Law. The only thing that's left is if somehow the record of your transgression is erased. The good news is that this is done simply by believing in Jesus [Romans 3:22, 25 & 26]. The blood of Jesus washes away the record of our transgression, and where there is no record of sin, there is no demand for punishment. So if righteousness is keeping the Law, but righteousness is also by faith, that means that obedience to the Law is by faith. And in Romans 3:31, we read that those who are saved by faith do not nullify the Law, but uphold it instead.
In fact, the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that we are either slaves to sin or slave to righteousness [Romans 6:18]; slaves to sin or slaves to obedience [Romans 6:16]. Jesus himself said those who sin are a slave to sin [John 8:34]. And remember: Sin is breaking God's Law. So those who are slaves to sin are slaves to transgressing God's Law. Being a slave to sin (breaking the Law) is mutually exclusive to being slaves to obedience and righteousness. And obedience and righteousness are treated as synonymous, with righteousness defined as obedience [Romans 2:13]. So if you are not a slave to sin, but instead are a slave to righteousness, then you are by definition, a slave to the obedience of God's Law. You are either a slave to sin, or a slave to obedience. For you cannot have two masters [Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13], and there is no third option.
The Bible teaches that the Law is spiritual [Romans 7:14] and we are to delight in it [Romans 7:22]. How can we delight in something that we do not obey? Furthermore, knowing God is defined as keeping his Law [1 John 2:3-4] as is how loving him is defined [1 John 5:2-3]. In fact, according to scripture, anyone who claims to know God but breaks his commands is a liar! His commands are not burdensome [1 John 5:3]. But you may say "if we need to keep God's Law, then where is God's grace?" Hebrews 10:26 gives us a good answer to this question. Whoever receives the truth that they are sinning, yet deliberately continues in it, then their atonement for sin has run out. This verse serves as a warning to those who refuse to keep his Law, but it also serves as a reminder of God's grace. For this warning only applies to those who continuously and deliberately do that which they know is wrong. Also, consider that God himself will make us stand if we stumble [Romans 14:4] and the fact that we are being saved from our sinful nature, which compels us to sin in spite of the fact that we don't want to sin [Romans 7:22-25]. How great is our God who delivers us from our sinful nature that continuously tries to destroy us!
So in conclusion, just as our faith does not nullify God's Law, so does our obedience to the Law not nullify God's grace. And the numerous commands to obey God's Law (of which this article only mentions some) do not nullify God's grace nor do they in any way make us dependent on obedience to the Law for our salvation (this is impossible anyways).