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10/17/2011 / Kaitlin Zhang

Is Salvation Faith or Faith by Works?

I am reading a book called “Radical” by David Platt, who is a pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, Alabama.  As I was reading his book, I had a lot of questions come up.  I hope this post can open up some discussion.

One of the main questions Platt raises in his book is “whether we have ever truly, authentically trusted in Christ for our salvation“.

He quotes the Sermon on the Mount:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers!’ ” – Matthew 7:21-23

Platt thinks that Jesus is talking to people who are Christians. He says they are “devoutly religious people who were deluded into thinking they were on the narrow road that leads to heaven when they were actually on the broad road that leads to hell”.  He doesn’t believe that our salvation is a one-time decision.  He says that as a pastor, he thinks that many people in his congregation think they are saved but actually are not, and will be shocked to find that they are not in the kingdom of God at all. (see book page 38)

What Platt is saying is contrary to what I was taught. I was taught that we are saved by believing in Jesus Christ as the saviour. I thought our good works only matter in terms of how much treasure we get in Heaven, but they don’t affect our salvation.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8

And even though we are transformed by the Holy Spirit, we are still sinners.  We will continue to sin for the rest of our life. I don’t see any Christians who are loving God with all their mind, strength, body and soul.

Is salvation just decision to accept Jesus?

Does salvation require us to “take up our cross”, “die to ourselves” and “follow Jesus” in our actions?

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13 Comments

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  1. Esther / Oct 18 2011 4:38 pm

    In my English class this morning, we were talking about rennaissance and came up with catholism and protestant. It really reflected what you are talking about there, catholic believes that salvation is through hard-work and protestant emphasizes on the idea of “direct relation to God, salvation through faith”, that we do not decide whether or not we are going to heaven, but through god’s decision, from the moment we are born. Really interesting that you were thinking just what I was asking my prof about this morning!!!

  2. Cici / Oct 18 2011 4:40 pm

    I was about to post this quote: “To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.” Mahatma Gandhi, but then I saw May’s assessment and realised I was raised Catholic, so perhaps I’m biased…

  3. Esther / Oct 18 2011 4:40 pm

    I was just down in Irving library talking to pastor Craig O’Brien about this, and he touched on the point that fundamentally catholic and protestant both believe in salvation through god, the ultimate decision comes from god. To the quote “to believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest”, perhaps we can elaborate ” living it” as “putting effort on it, not just saying it but acting the opposite way”, interesting…. so how is that to “hard work” to salvation, I guess my question is what is the meaning of “hard work” in catholism? or the direction of hard work? 🙂

  4. K Zhang / Oct 18 2011 4:40 pm

    I guess what I am also trying to say is that… how can we live it? Nobody can live up to the standard of what God wants… “to love with all your being”. Where do we draw the line between enough works and not enough works?

    • Marianne Lordi / Oct 25 2011 7:21 pm

      Hi, I hope I can add a little light to the questions you are asking. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone. Jesus did it all. The Apostle Paul said that to add anything to the cross of Christ is to empty the cross. Good works can’t get you to the door of heaven. With that being said, IF you are truly saved by grace through faith, then you will do good works. You will do them because Christ now lives in you and he has prepared works for you before you were born. Your life should show the change. The good that you do is an outward sign of an inward change. You can never do enough good things and works to save yourself or even add to your salvation. Jesus did it all! The thief next to him did nothing but believe. When you are saved, the bible says that God replaces your heart of stone with a heart of flesh that is willing to hear and obey. Since your flesh is not saved, you will still battle the desires of the flesh but because Christ lives in you, you have the power over sin in your life. The bible tells you to examine yourself to be sure that you are in the faith. Too many people think they are saved through their works or religion but are going to be told by Christ that he never knew them. Religion and works can’t save. If they could, Jesus would not have had to suffer and die for us.

      You also asked how can we love with all of our being? The truth is that we can only love because Christ first loved us. When you know Christ as Savior and Lord, it is by HIS power that we learn to love with all of our being. We learn to crucify ourselves and our carnal desires and surrender it all to him.

      The closer you get to Christ, the more your knee will bow in humbleness for all he has done for you. Remember that we are going to be joint heirs with Christ in a kingdom that will never end. There is nothing that this earth offers to come close to matching that! God bless you all.

      • K Zhang / Oct 26 2011 12:00 pm

        Thank you so much for such an insightful comment. I agree with you.

        Someone once told me an analogy regarding faith and works. Imagine Jesus is in the center of a circle. People who believe in Jesus are facing him. People who don’t believe in Jesus are facing outward. People who do good works are closer to Jesus (proximity-wise). People who sin more are further away from Jesus.

        In the end of the day, it is whether you are facing Jesus or not, that determines your salvation. You can be a buddhist who does a lot of good work and is really close to the center, but if your face is turned away from Jesus, you will not be saved (because Jesus doesn’t know you). On the contrary, if you are a Christian, but you are quite far away from the circle because you still struggle with sin a lot, you are still saved.

    • Marianne Lordi / Oct 30 2011 9:03 am

      Hi K, please bear with me once more to add to what you just said. IF you are a Christian, you should have the power of Christ living in you to overcome your sinful nature. That does not mean you will not sin, BUT you should not sin as you did before! Examine yourself. If you are truly in Christ, you should have a different relationship with sin. The power of the Holy Spirit living in you should be leading you on a path that opposes the flesh and its desires. It that is not happening, I don’t care who you think you are facing, you are not with Christ. That is why Jesus said narrow is the road that leads to life and FEW find it. We are all sinners. When you are born-again you have the power of the resurrected Christ living in you to give you power not to sin. In other words, you will not sin as you did before. Sin will always be a struggle but for true believers, sin no longer has power over you. You have been set free.

  5. Cici / Oct 18 2011 4:41 pm

    ‎”Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matt 5:48

    Obviously we’ll fall short, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try – that would be like saying we’ll never know the composition of the universe, so there’s no point studying quantum physics.

    Out of respect for the abilities God’s given us, and the sacrifice He’s made for us, we should just try. and then, when we fall short, someone else will step forward to make up for what we’ve missed, and as a group, we can help move each other forward…

  6. K Zhang / Oct 18 2011 4:41 pm

    I agree we should try. But the question is whether our salvation is dependent on our efforts. What do others think?

  7. Cici / Oct 18 2011 4:46 pm

    My inexpert view is yes. for the same Matt 7 reason you reference in your post – if we can’t even be bothered to try to live out Jesus’ teachings, can we really call ourselves followers? and if we’re not following Him, do we really believe He is who He, God, and first hand witnesses from the time say He is?

  8. Craig O'Brien / Oct 20 2011 9:21 am

    HI thanks for including me in the discussion. Read Radical. And I grew up in the setting of cultural Christianity that David Platt is pushing back on. I think David would persist in the idea that salvation is by faith in Christ alone by grace. His concern seems to be that salvation is both event and process. Believing Jesus, trusting Jesus must be translated into following Jesus and a lifetime then of believing and trusting Him. Salvation can be an event, but it also a reality we keep living in. Even the next paragraphs in Chapter 3 of Radical affirms this understanding:

    “Biblical proclamation of the gospel beckons us to a much different response and leads us down a much different road. Here the gospel demands and enables us to turn from our sin, to take up our cross, to die to ourselves and to follow Jesus. These are the terms and phrases we see in the Bible. And salvation now consists of a deep wrestling in our souls with the sinfulness of our hearts, the depth of our depravity, and the desperation of our need for his grace. Jesus is no longer one to be accepted or invited in but one who is infinitely worthy of our immediate and total surrender.

    You might think this sounds as though we have to earn our way to Jesus through radical obedience, but that is not the case at all. In deed, ‘it is by grace you are saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.’ We are saved from our sins by a free gift of grace, something that only God can do in us and that we cannot manufacture ourselves.” p. 38-39

    I’m not coming up with who said this first but it has been helpful to me. “By faith in Jesus through grace–I was saved, I am saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.”

    • K Zhang / Oct 22 2011 2:38 pm

      Hi Craig,

      I love that quote you gave in the end. God is really working with me on this issue. I know it may take a life time to understand.

      Right now my experience is that the head knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and the compelled radical actions don’t always match up. I know I am a work in progress. I pray that God will grant me more wisdom.

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