In the previous post, Bonald raises, among other things, the question of whether we can have assurance of salvation.
The Bible contains many verses saying that one is saved, or made righteous, or justified, by faith in Christ (or by believing in Him) and by nothing else. See, for example:
Acts 16:30—31: And [the jailer] brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And [Paul and Silas] said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
Note that Paul and Silas did not add any other conditions to salvation.
Romans 4:5: But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
“His faith is counted for righteousness” is the very definition of the concept called “imputed righteousness.”
Romans 3:28: Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
“Justified by faith without the deeds of the law” is the definition of the concept called “justification by faith alone.”
And note that it is not “justification by nothing.” It is justification by faith, and the Bible also teaches the need for repentance and baptism. [The exact role of baptism is a controversy that I ignore for the present.] So there are a few things that you must do in order to be saved. But you do not have to do the things that people instinctively think that you must do. The natural man, before he is properly instructed and comes to have faith in Christ, instinctively thinks that you have to be enough of a do-gooder in order to be saved. But this is not the teaching of the Bible.
And this is not “easy-believe-ism.” Repentance and faith can be difficult, they are gifts of God, and they must be done anew each day. But the description of salvation is easy to give, and we must guard against the false teachings that are so prevalent in the church.
Continuing with the verses on salvation:
Ephesians 2:8—9: 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.
1 John 5:12: He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
To be sure, there are other verses that certainly appear to say that you have to be morally good in order to be saved. But the Bible also addresses this apparent contradiction head on. For example, recall Romans 3:28:
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
And Romans 3:20 says:
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
That is, the purpose of God’s moral law is not to enable us to go to Heaven by obeying it perfectly, but instead to show us that we are sinners needing a Savior.
Further, the Bible also states that good deeds are properly the result of salvation, not its cause: First, good works cannot be the cause of salvation, since the Bible teaches that they are not (see, e.g., Romans 3:20 above.) Furthermore, as the above quoted verses show, the Bible also clearly identifies the cause of salvation as faith (trust, belief) in Jesus. Logically, therefore, there is either no necessarily relation between good works and salvation, or else good works are the result of salvation. But consider:
1 John 4:19: We love because he first loved us.
Titus 3:8: This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
These verses, and many others, show that salvation results in good works.
We must, of course, mention James 2:24:
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Is James contradicting Paul? That is, since the ultimate Author of Scripture is God, is God contradicting Himself?
No. God does not contradict Himself. The word “justified” has two meanings. When Paul speaks of justification by faith (and Moses also speaks of justification by faith in Genesis 15:6), he means that we are credited with righteousness because of our faith alone. When James 2:24 says “justified,” it means “proved.” Works prove justification but are not their cause. To say anything else is to say that Scripture contradicts itself.
In the linked post, Bonald says that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (that’s what we Protestants call it) ought to frighten us with the suggestion that an otherwise good man can be damned for one sin. I agree. God’s law says that we are to obey it all of the time, and even one sin is warrant for eternal damnation. That is the curse of the law, because we know that we cannot obey it.
Now recall Romans 3:20 quoted above: “…by the law is knowledge of sin.” Frightening you is God’s purpose for the law. But the Scriptures do not begin and end with law. In Christianity, and only in Christianity, there is also gospel, good news. That’s the good news that your sins can be forgiven if you repent and have faith in Christ. Law and gospel are a package deal, and to downplay either is to distort Christianity.
Finally, we can have assurance of our salvation. Consider 1 John 5:13:
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.