The New Testament Teaching about salvation is very clear, Jesus came into this world to save sinners from all the consequences of their sin. We as sinful people can do nothing to achieve salvation it is only something we can receive from God as he holds out the gift of eternal life to us. We know that the scripture describes man as sinful and in need of a Saviour, yet we also know that because of who God is in his character that there is no way that we can please him. The Apostle Paul expounds the glory of the gospel of grace in his Epistles, in Romans chapters 1-8 he shows both the lostness of man and the free grace of God., in the letter to the Galatians he spends the whole Epistle defending the gospel of grace against the inroads of the legalizer’s . In Ephesians 1-2 he extols the grace and mercy of God. I want to look briefly at some verses from these letters. Firstly lets look at some important verses from Romans
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:1–5).
In this passage it is abundantly clear that we can not do anything, all that is required is our trust in Christ and his promises, nothing can be added to the finished work of the cross.
Paul in Galatians repeats this argument very strongly, he says,
I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Ga 3:2–9).
Nothing could be as clearly stated as this, Paul here underlines the free nature of grace, once again he refers to the example of Abraham believing, he shows us the folly of trying to rely on our own works. Yet again in Ephesians he does the same thing,
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
All boasting is ruled out, salvation is a free gift, we can add nothing to what Christ has done, he shows us the greatness of God’s mercy, and we should revel in this. Our salvation is entirely by the grace of God.
This wonderful salvation has been given to us for a purpose, and that is that we might become like Christ, the observant reader will have noticed that in the above I have not shown the fullness of the Apostle argument but rather I have stopped short, lets revisit these letters and see what they have to say. In the book of Romans Paul in chapter 6, Paul spell out clearly the implications of having been saved, he says,
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:1–8).
Down the centuries there have always been some who said that it does not matter how we live, because we have received the gift of salvation,Paul here contradicts such false teaching and shows that the purpose of God’s saving grace is to change us from sinners into those who are Christlike. This can be seen again in the letter to the Galatians,
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
6:1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. (Ga 5:13–6:1).
The Christian is one who by God’s grace should be manifesting the fruit of the Spirit and living a life of Christlike love. This is the fruit of God’s amazing grace. Paul believes that grace leads to holiness of life. In Ephesian 2 he says,
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Here, Paul states very clearly the purpose of God’s saving grace and that is that we might do good works.
Those who deny this teaching are denying an essential element of the gospel, and that is that that conversion is a life transforming experience by which we become disciples of Christ and therefore seek to be obedient to his will.