Earning Salvation Through Obedience

If you’re going to teach that, you’ll have to ignore or explain away:

“All of us have become like one who is unclean,
   and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
   we all shrivel up like a leaf,
   and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” ~ Isaiah 64:6

Our righteousness is worthless before God.

“‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
“But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” ~ Matthew 20:12-16

God is sovereign. He pays the denarius at the end of the day. It is His denarius.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. ~ Ephesians2:8-10

We are not saved by our works, but to do good works.

“Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.’ ~ Hebrews 6:17-18

God doesn’t communicate His purpose or promise unclearly: it is our hope. He does not hide His instruction for us by His silence, nor does He obscure it in code requiring logical decryption from the awardees of Ph.D.s in biblical languages and deductive reasoning. His desire is for all to come to repentance, not just the smart people.

Those few are just a handful of verses you’ll have to ignore or explain away in scripture in order to teach that we earn our salvation through our obedience.

You see, Jesus earned it through His obedience (Romans 5:19). Our obedience comes from faith in Him (Romans 1:5). And faith itself is God’s gift to us (Ephesians 2:8).

There are a lot more verses like that.

But these few are enough.

8 thoughts on “Earning Salvation Through Obedience

  1. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. Hebrews 5:9For it is time for judgement to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? IPeter 4:17

  2. Royce, thanks as always for your support of the gospel of grace.Anonymous: More good thoughts! I hadn't thought of the 1 Peter 4:17 verse in the context of Christians' works – in this case, suffering – being no more salvific than nonbelievers' works.Chad, I think you've encapsulated another one – Philippians 2:12 – about as concisely as possible.

  3. Truly life to the full cannot be accomplished until we realize and accept this fact….we can't earn it, we don't deserve, but God wants us to have it anyway. What joy!

  4. I would not describe obedient faith as "earning salvation through obedience" but it is clear in scripture that faith is a response of obedience rather than just intellectual agreement or confession. Interestingly, the Apostle Paul describe his own mission in Romans as to bring the "obedience of faith" (Rom 1.5, NRSV, ESV) among the gentiles for which the NIV erroneously translates as "faith and obedience" as though faith and obedience are two separate realities (which I believe reflect an unforunate protestant-evangelical bias in the translation…but that is another subject). My point is that while our obedience does not earn the God's gracious gift of Christ crucified, grace calls us to faith and that faith is a trustful obedience. It is what I describe as a 'confessional comittment' – those who believe must respond in accordance with that belief. In other words, a person cannot say "I believe Jesus died to set me free from sin" and not repent from sin – or – one cannot say "I believe Jesus is the way, truth, and life" and continue on living a life that rejects the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And this is more than just accepting repentance and baptism followed by the acceptance of a pious lifestyle congruent with Puritan values. It is a radical faith – one which I am still learning – which pursues the recless abandonment of discipleship (I am thinking of examples such as Deitrich Bonnhoefer, Jim & Elizabeth Elliot, and the many others who remained faithful when conventional wisdom would have them labeled as fools).Grace and peace,RexGrace and peace,K. Rex Butts

  5. "Faith" in the Bible has 3 components. 1. It is intellectual. One must know some facts and give mental assent to those facts. (Sadly, this is where many people stop and still call it faith) 2. It is emotional. One must embrace the truth claims with the "heart". At the very seat of our emotions we must embrace the truth, rely on, trust, depend on the truth. 3. It is volitional. One must then act.One who comes to God must believe that he is (1) and that he rewards (2) those who seek (3) him.So it is true that faith without works is dead. And, just as true that works without faith is dead.Faith not only always trusts but also always acts. Believing facts is not faith. Believing facts, depending on the facts, and then acting on those facts is faith.Royce

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