How do we get to Heaven? Is it by our own good works? Or is it through faith alone? The question of salvation by faith alone or by faith with works is really not a question at all because the two work hand in hand together.
There are a number of passages in the Bible that are commonly used to defend sola fide, or the belief in salvation through faith alone. If we look at these passages alone, it can be easy to see where this belief comes from. But these passages are not meant to be read as small excerpts, but rather as a part of a whole. If we read further, it is clear that faith and works go together. For example, those who believe in sola fide may point to the following passage:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:16-18
But if we continue to read…
“And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” John 3:19-21.
By reading further on in this passage we can see that Jesus is telling us that our belief in Him should compel us to turn away from darkness and come into the light. To stop from doing evil deeds and instead to do good deeds in the light of Christ so that others may see and know the Lord.
Here is another example:
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him. ” John 14:6-7
But by continuing to read on in the chapter Jesus explains that He and the Father are One, and he uses works as a means for His explanation. Furthermore, Jesus then tells him that whoever believes in Him will do His works!
“Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” John 14:8-14
Another example might be this:
“For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.” Romans 3:28
Again, by reading further into the passage we gain a clearer understand of just what Paul was saying:
“Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” Romans 3:29-31
We see that Paul is describing faith apart from works of the law in order to make known the greater point, that is that salvation is for all. Those who are familiar with the Jewish teachings, the Torah, the law, are not the only ones who can be saved through Christ. God is the God of the Gentiles too, despite the fact that they were not following the same law. And still, Paul reminds us that we are called to uphold that law! The law of the prophets, that is fulfilled in Our Lord!
One more example:
“Yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.” Galatians 2:16
“But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:17-20
If, even though we have faith in Christ, we resort back to bad habits, Paul says that we are then transgressors, sinners. Isaiah 53:5 tells us “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” Because of Christ we have been saved and now are called to live to God with Christ within us. Christ did not sit and simply state His belief in the Father, He lived it. He healed the sick, comforted the sorrowful, performed miracles, helped the poor and the sinners. He was so active that He could scarcely even get away for rest without people following Him.
So where does all this leave us? Back to the question I asked at the beginning, how do we get to Heaven? By citing these examples does that prove that we need to earn salvation? No!
Salvation is through grace! It is through the wondrous grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ that we can spend eternity with Him in Heaven. We do not earn grace, it is a gift given freely to us by Our Lord through His death and resurrection!
…Since this is already quite lengthy, I will post the rest of it tomorrow. To be continued! 🙂