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Salvation:  What part does man’s work play in it?

Gary Googe Apr 23

It is not hard to see why there are people who think man’s works have a part in his salvation.  I completely understand that.  After all, there’s plenty of Scripture in the Bible that can be quoted that gives that impression.  Here are some examples of that. 

Matthew 16:27

27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. [Emphasis added]

James 2:14

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? [Emphasis added]

James 2:20-21

20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? [Emphasis added]

James 2:24-26

24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. [Emphasis added]

Then we even have the words of Christ to the one spoken of as “the rich young ruler.”  This young man clearly asked what he must do to have eternal life.  What are we to think of this?

Matthew 19:16-22

16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

At this point this young man has no idea he’s speaking to his Messiah, the God/man.

18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,

19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. [Emphasis added]

Here we have our Lord even adding to the message, saying he must sell his possessions and give away all the proceeds to the poor.  We then see that believers did this very thing.

Acts 2:44-45

44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;

45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. [Emphasis added]

Acts 4:34-35

34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,

35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. [Emphasis added]

What are we to think of all this? When you look at the content of these passages, it is easy to see why people would come to the conclusions they do, along with some frustration.  Furthermore, when you consider the high value of salvation and the everlasting blessing it provides, we’re accustomed to thinking that something so precious would surely need to be earned or paid for in some way.  But on the other hand, we have all these others passages of Scripture that say it is free and that it is not something earned or deserved.  Here are a few of them.

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. [Emphasis added]

Romans 4:4-5

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. [Emphasis added]

Clearly all these passages tell us works have nothing to do with it.

Titus 3:5

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; [Emphasis added]

Faith and not works is said to be the key to it!

Romans 5:1

Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: [Emphasis added]

Galatians 5:5

For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. [Emphasis added]

One way or another there are many passages that speak of the matter of faith as it relates to salvation and more.

Colossians 1:5

For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; [Emphasis added]

Then we have passages like this next one that tell us specifically what God has done to make salvation so easily accessible to us.

2 Corinthians 5:19-21

19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]

Then, what’s all this about that demands repentance for salvation? What does that mean? Furthermore, must a person be baptized, join a certain church, repent of one’s sins, speak in tongues, and perhaps do some other things?

Then we have the fact that if you believe salvation is free and without works of any kind, you’re in a small minority.  Could this small group be right? The list of questions people have about all this are seemingly endless.

Must I get my sins forgiven to be saved?

Must I get sin out of my life to be saved?

How is it that I’m to repent?

Of all these churches and their different beliefs, which group is right?

Is it any wonder that some people claim the Bible is contradictory?

Then on top of all this we read that Satan is working to blind us to the truth about the means to our salvation and much more.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. [Emphasis added]

So, what is a person to think of all this? What is the truth about what one must believe and/or do to gain eternal life? Why all the confusion about such an important matter? I’m afraid the true answer to this question is one most people have no understanding of at all.  They aren’t even prone to accept the truth about this upon learning of it because it runs so contrary to so much of what they’ve heard in the past.  Furthermore, it seems most people do not care about this enough to figure it out so as to know.

Many years ago, when I was serving as the pastor of a local church, I began to see these things that seemed to be contradictions in Scripture.  The conflicting issues steadily became more numerous.  Then when I learned of the answer, I was relieved and excited about what I was learning.  It was then of course that I began to make some changes in my beliefs and what I’d been teaching.  As you know, change can be hard.  That’s especially true when you know your changes are going to affect other people.  You wonder how they’ll take it.  You even wonder how it’ll affect longstanding relationships.  But by going ahead and making the changes, so many things in the Bible made sense like never before.  It was truly a major revelation.  When I say what this change was, I’m afraid most people won’t even see or understand the significance of it.  But I can assure you it was major for me, and it could be for anyone.

The answer to this rests in understanding the full significance of the ministry and the teachings of this man called the apostle Paul. It is when this is discovered that the changes in one’s beliefs begin.  Scripture clearly tells us he, the apostle Paul, is OUR apostle and the pattern for all people today.

1 Timothy 1:16

16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. [Emphasis added]

Yes, Paul, not Peter, not Moses or any other is our pattern.  We today are to give special attention to his teachings.  Please notice that I didn’t say exclusive, I said special attention.  That’s because while all the Bible is FOR us it is not all TO us or ABOUT us. Unlike Peter and the eleven, Paul is spoken of as the apostle to the Gentiles.  Then please notice what he says about his office, his God-given position of service.

Romans 11:13

13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I [Paul] am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [Emphasis added]

Does the church today “magnify” Paul’s office? Is it his writings that get the most attention? No, they are not! They should be but they are not.  Just as Moses had a special role in disseminating God’s Word to His people in times past, so it is now with the apostle Paul.  It is in Paul’s writings that God’s people get their instructions for salvation and what we speak of as the Christian way of life.  So, what do believers today know about his teaching? Not much! Even so much of what they know has been blended in with all the other writers of Scripture, creating distortions and mass confusion.  Denominationalism is the proof of this.  So, where can the truth be found? What is it that God would have us know and believe today? The answer is centered in the writings of the apostle Paul.  It is because of this fact that this website ministry exists.  It is even named to represent this principle—4Us2UsMinistries.com.

So many of the articles on our website address this issue regarding the place of works in man’s salvation today.  If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll take the time to read the articles and watch the videos.  Here are the titles of some of the articles—

4Us2Us:  What does this mean?

Bible:  How should one study it?

Bible:  What is the Dispensation of Grace?

Bible:  What are The Two Programs?

Bible:  Where should a person begin studying?

Church:  Are we the New Testament Church today?

Church:  Did ours today begin at the time of Acts 2?

Commission:  Which one is ours?

Dispensation:  What does this term mean?

Dispensations:  When did ours begin?

Gospels:  Did Peter & Paul preach the same gospel?

Mystery:  What is the key to understanding the Bible?

Paul:  Do we make too much of him?

Paul:  What’s so special about his teaching?

Salvation:  Is it really a gift?

Works:  What about verses that seem to demand them for salvation?

Works certainly play a part in man’s salvation today, but it is not man’s works.  Salvation today centers in what happened in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The details on that are not found anywhere in the Old Testament or Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.  It is in the apostle Paul’s writings that the answer is found.  There we are not told to DO anything to gain salvation.  Instead, we are commanded to put our faith in what has been DONE.  It was God alone who did the work through Jesus Christ to provide a way for our salvation.  God simply requests that we put our faith in what He did and that alone.  As I often stress, here are two passages of Scripture written by the apostle Paul that sum up God’s means for our salvation today.  Please learn the meaning of them, believe it, and share it.  The first one [2 Corinthians 5:18-21] we saw earlier in this study.  Here’s the other one.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]

What God wants is our faith in what He has done, not our own works of any kind.  God removed the obstacle of sin to make salvation a matter of faith alone.  One’s focus must be on the cross and resurrection, not sin.  Getting saved is not about getting your sins forgiven.  It is about gaining the righteousness of Christ by faith.  To gain salvation you must accept what God has already done about your sins through Jesus Christ.  All that is a matter of history. Jesus Christ completely satisfied the just demands of God regarding our sins when He was judged for them on the cross of Calvary. That’s why our faith in Him is the way of salvation.  Our Lord stated this general principle in His earthly ministry as well as His heavenly one.

John 14:6

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. [Emphasis added]

For a time, salvation was gained by accepting Jesus as one’s Messiah, believing in His name.

Acts 4:12

12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. [Emphasis added]

The way of salvation has always been a narrow one.

Matthew 7:13-14

13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. [Emphasis added]

Doesn’t that passage and others tell us that there are few who gain salvation?  You will certainly be in the minority if you accept the content of this article. 

It was through the apostle Paul that it was revealed as to what Christ accomplished through His death, burial, and resurrection.  It is now that which must be believed as one’s means of salvation.

Again, 2 Corinthians 5:19-21

19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]

In times past people always had to do something to get their sins forgiven. 

Matthew 6:14-15

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. [Emphasis added]

The apostle Paul never issues such a statement.  Instead, we’re just told to forgive as we’ve already been forgiven.

Ephesians 4:31-32

31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. [Emphasis added]

But even when we don’t do this, we’re still saved.  Being forgiving doesn’t achieve salvation for us and being unforgiving doesn’t deprive us of it.  Again, there’s no work that ever gains salvation.  As I’ve often said, we don’t DO anything to gain salvation and we can’t DO anything to lose it. Understanding that is orientation to God’s grace.  It is extremely important that you understand that today our sins have already been forgiven!

Colossians 2:13-14 

13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; [Emphasis added]

Didn’t Christ die for the sins of the world? Yes, Christ has already paid the penalty for one’s sins, even the sins of the entire world.  In fact, one must believe this fact to get saved.  One must believe Christ died for one’s sins on the cross of Calvary.  What people then need is God’s righteousness applied to them for justification and resultant salvation.  That happens when anyone believes Christ died, was buried and arose for their salvation.  So many don’t understand that having your sins forgiven and being justified are TWO different things.  Forgiveness was necessary to provide a way of salvation, but it is when one gains the righteousness of Christ by faith that justification and resultant salvation is gained.


There’s no work at all that man can accomplish that will give him salvation.  It was for this reason that God sent a Savior.  The moment one puts his or her faith in His work—His death, burial, and resurrection, salvation is immediately and permanently provided.  And, as I said earlier, knowing that we didn’t DO anything to get it and that we can’t DO anything to lose it is a wonderful truth everyone needs to know.  It is no wonder that this message is called the gospel, meaning good news! I hope you’ll work to share this news with someone today.

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