My April 3rd article at Forthright was entitled, Grace and Conversion as a follow-up to my March 27th article, Holy by Grace. In the Conversion article, I clearly established that we are saved by grace.
The death of Jesus was full of grace, being something that we have no right to be offered. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). His love, grace and mercy is solely responsible for the availability of salvation.
Later in the article I wrote:
Finally, we will be saved by works, indicating our allegiance and commitment (Revelation 20:11-15). Yet, when our lives are over, no matter how obedient we have been, we will still need grace to be saved (Luke 17:5-10).
A reader commented and focused on the first sentence and overlooked the second. I established without any doubt that we cannot save ourselves. While obedience is a necessary part of salvation, we will still enter heaven solely by grace. However, the reader demanded to know how I could say we were saved by works.
It is always troubling when someone’s doctrinal mindset is beset by blindness. If we have to ignore entire passages of Scripture in order to reconcile our own beliefs, we have serious problems.
Simply put, either the same Holy Spirit wrote both Ephesians 2:8-9 and Revelation 20:11-15 or they didn’t. Either they are both inspired or neither are (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We can either accept both as true and keep studying until we figure out how they work together or we simply dismiss one or both of them. However, ignoring Scripture puts us at great peril (John 12:48).
Revelation 20:11-15 is Scripture and inspired. Therefore, it is true. God said:
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
We study and obey or we dismiss it and call God a liar.
In Romans 5, the text says we are “justified by faith” (Romans 5:1) and we are “justified by His blood” (Romans 5:9). Just like before, we can either accept both or pick and choose whichever one best suits us.
I prefer to keep studying and reconcile them since I believe Scripture is inspired by God.
We are justified by the blood of Christ so that we can approach God for salvation (Romans 5:6-11). When we stand before God, we are justified because we have the blood of Christ on our souls. However, we are also justified by faith.
Our faith and our works show our allegiance and commitment to God (James 2:20-26). We remain with Christ because we are serving Him. However, these works do not ultimately save us because that can only happen by grace and the blood of Christ (Luke 17:5-10).
It is simple and complicated at the same time. The reader needs to see the larger picture rather than blindly focusing in one thing and ignoring everything else.