Can You Be Saved by Faith and Works?

The Epistle to the Romans is my very favorite book in the Bible. The essence of the book of Romans is this: by God’s grace, eternal life is granted through faith in Christ, and only through faith in Christ.

A commenter recently asked the question “Why is it that if I believe in works I cannot believe in faith, or the grace of God? Why must these things remain separate?” I responded by taking him to the eleventh chapter of Romans where the Apostle Paul boldly testifies: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

In response, the commenter has written: “IF you care to examine the entire chapter of Roman’s 11 you will notice that Paul is not talking about salvation or eternal life. He is talking about being born into the covenant line of Israel, or the church. This is a blessing given by the grace of God that we have done nothing in this life to earn. It is by grace, and not by works.

To examine the eleventh chapter of Romans we must first examine the tenth chapter, and all those before it. When someone writes a letter it is expected that whoever reads it will start at the beginning and read it through to the end. By the time Paul gets to chapter eleven, he has already stated multiple times that salvation is a freely offered gift granted ONLY to those who believe. In fact, through the entire Epistle, Paul has never stopped talking about salvation and eternal life. He hasn’t changed his message or theme: by God’s grace, eternal life is granted through faith in Christ, and only through faith in Christ. Because Paul is so sure of this grace, he tells his readers not to give up on the unbelieving Israelite’s. He gives the example of the remnant saved by grace during Elijah’s time, as it was also true for Christian Jews during Paul’s time. All people are saved the same way–only through God’s grace and not through works.

Paul begins his testimony in chapter one: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (verse 16). The salvation he speaks of is eternal life: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (6:23).

The reason salvation is granted solely through faith is because that is the only way a person can meet God’s requirement to be righteous!! One must be perfect to enter into God’s presence. Jesus came to earth and was perfect for us, in our place. It is only through faith in Him, as our substitute, that we are declared righteous!! This was true for Abraham and as well as for us: “And therefore it [faith] was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;” (4:21-24).

It is impossible to gain eternal life by being obedient to God’s law, or by trying to add your works to your faith. Paul explains, using Old Testament scripture: “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one ” (3:11-12). no one will be declared righteous by trying to follow God’s law: “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” (verse 20). Notice the important words “in his sight”. Heavenly Father has demanded we be as perfect as Him (Matthew 5:48). In HIS sight, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (verse 23).

The unbelieving Jews were sincere, but they were sincerely wrong! They earnestly sought righteousness, but they tried to acquire it in the wrong way. They thought they had to gain eternal life through obedience. They believed they could be righteous through their own works. They had a zeal for God, but they were ignorant of the truth! (9:30-10:4)

What is God’s truth? Eternal life is purely a gift of God, received by faith, without any works!!! In fact, if you bring works into the picture you ruin God’s free gift and you loose His favor!! That’s what Paul meant when he wrote: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Turn to your Savior who grants you His righteousness through faith: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (10:9-10).

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