Good Works & Salvation

Sin
We believe all human beings are sinners (Rom. 3:23), possessing active sin natures that result in our physical and spiritual deaths. Man is not inherently good, despite what some people are inclined to say.

Sin entered the world when Adam rebelled against God: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (5:12). “Both Jews and Greeks [Gentiles] . . . are all under sin” (3:9).

From our perspective, Adam didn’t do anything evil. He didn’t steal, kill, or hurt anyone. He simply ate a forbidden fruit. Yet in doing so, he broke God’s command: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (Gen. 2:17). From God’s perspective, any act of disobedience is sin and worthy of His judgment.

A story is told that, following an argument, two ancient rabbinic schools once decided it would have been better for man not to have been created (Talmud Eruvin 13b) because man is essentially a sinful creature, always earning God’s condemnation: “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin” (Eccl. 7:20).

However, the ancient rabbis never understood that man inherited Adam’s sin and guilt. So many religious belief systems reject the doctrine of original sin, yet God spends chapter after chapter in the book of Leviticus impressing on us how sinful we are and that He is holy and cannot dwell in the presence of sinners unless we have been cleansed by blood (Lev. 17:11).

Sin can generally be defined as lawlessness (cf. 1 Jn. 3:4). However, sin is more than merely violating the 613 commandments found in the Torah (Five Books of Moses). It is a direct attack on God’s holy character. Sin can be seen as anything we do that God Himself would not do. He does not compare us to each other; He compares us to Himself: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). In other words, being sinless requires being as good as God.

Sin separates us from God: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isa. 59:2). Sin, in fact, is so evil and destructive that it took the suffering death and resurrection of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, to provide atonement for us. His blood was sufficient to cleanse all of humanity; and His sacrifice of Himself on Calvary’s cross carried our sins as far as the east is from the west—providing we believe (Ps. 103:12; Jn. 1:29).

— Peter Colón, FOI creative resource coordinator

Good Works
We believe God created us to do good works (Eph. 2:10), but not as a means of getting to heaven. That is accomplished through faith alone.

The American dream tells us we can be whatever we want to be and accomplish whatever we want to accomplish if we work hard enough. But there’s one thing we can’t work hard enough or be good enough to achieve, and that’s a place in God’s heaven.

No amount of charitable giving, selflessness, or random acts of kindness can remove our sin. Only God can do so: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mk. 2:7; Lk. 5:21).

We believe God is holy, as so many Old Testament passages teach (Lev. 10:3; 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:3; 21:8). People often make the mistake of comparing themselves to those around them and thinking their actions stack up well. They think God has a merit system that weighs our good deeds, hard work, and all our altruistic efforts against our sins and failures.

There is no such celestial scale. Our sin condemns us, and our good works can’t save us. God tells us we are all like an “unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). If our good deeds are filthy rags, what does that make our bad deeds? If you are depending on your goodness to get you to heaven, you are destined for hell.

God saved even the patriarch Abraham based on his faith: “And he [Abraham] believed in the LORD, and He [the LORD] accounted it to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6).

Salvation involves a change from a heart that is sick with sin to one that has repented and been transformed by the Holy Spirit. The final sacrifice for sin has been made. No longer is the blood of bulls, sheep, and goats needed. The Lamb of God shed His blood “once for all” (Heb. 7:27). As John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

If we place our faith in Him and not in ourselves and our own good deeds, He removes our sin and makes us His children. Then our good works please Him because He does them through us.

— Tom Simcox, FOI Church Ministries training coordinator

Salvation
We believe there is only one way human beings can be saved from sin and have a restored relationship with God: through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

ROMANS
Check out what else Paul teaches about salvation in Romans: The Gospel of God’s Grace by Alva J. McClain.

All roads may lead to Rome, as the saying goes, but all religions do not lead to the living God and forgiveness of sin. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6). We believe the only way to heaven—regardless of race, religion, or nationality—is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (3:16; Eph. 2:8–9).

God’s salvation plan for humanity is threefold:

First, God came to Earth in the person of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, to save us from the guilt and penalty of sin. This feat was accomplished when He gave Himself on a cross as the perfect, sacrificial Lamb of God. Isaiah prophesied about His sacrifice 700 years before Jesus’ birth:

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:5–6).

There is no other sacrifice for sin and no other way to receive forgiveness and everlasting life except through faith in Christ.

When the Philippian jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” the apostle Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30–31; cf. 1 Cor. 1:18; Heb. 9:26).

Second, after paying the penalty for sin on our behalf, Jesus rose from the dead, delivering us from the power of sin: “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (8:2).

Third, Jesus Christ will appear again and ultimately deliver us from the very presence of sin:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Pet. 1:3–5).

“To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Heb. 9:28).

Jesus died once to bear the sins of many. There is no other sacrifice for sin and no other way to receive forgiveness and everlasting life except through faith in Christ: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn. 3:36).

— Peter Colón, FOI creative resource coordinator

Eternal Security
We believe once people come to faith in Jesus, they cannot do anything to lose their salvation.

The Bible says God keeps believers saved and that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:35, 38–39). If we genuinely placed our faith in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins, then we are eternally secure and “kept by the power of God” (1 Pet. 1:5).

Scripture says the moment we are saved, we are born from above (“born again”) and receive new life in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). We are immediately sealed by the Holy Spirit, “who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession [the believer], to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:14). Being sealed declares ownership. The Holy Spirit marks us, affirming that we belong to Him. He also indwells us, taking up residence in our lives. Second Corinthians 1:22 says God “has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”

The Holy Spirit’s presence is the assurance that God is able to fulfill the promise He made to all believers regarding the glorious destination of their eternal souls. Nothing in Scripture talks about becoming unsealed.

If that weren’t enough, Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” (Jn. 10:28–30). When a person becomes a believer, that individual’s soul becomes God’s and is pictured as being protected by His hand.

If our salvation were not secure and could be lost by our faithless behavior, our redemption would depend on works, rather than on faith in “the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:19). Yet Scripture clearly states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).

Salvation is completely by God’s grace. We don’t merit it when we first put our faith in Jesus, and we surely cannot live a completely sinless life to merit keeping ourselves saved. Praise God it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Ti. 3:5). And He keeps us by His power.

— Tom Simcox, FOI Church Ministries training coordinator

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