Question 5: Is the doctrine of salvation by works as taught by the majority of the Churches of Christ in accordance with Biblical teaching?

According to my understanding based upon what I have generally heard taught through the years my answer is no. Seldom did I hear a sermon on grace when I was growing up, and I can’t remember any of them being taught to extol or thank God, but rather to advocate the ideas that good works contribute to our salvation and that the New Covenant scriptures are a law or written code with which we must correctly and circumspectly comply to be saved. The end result was that salvation is not really a gift of God.

Oh, I heard Ephesians 2:8 quoted many times, but seldom without a rejoinder. The rejoinder was essentially this: We are to do the best we can and then God’s grace kicks in to make up the difference or where we fall short. We wanted it both ways and so taught (many still do), but we can’t have it both ways. We are either set right with God through Jesus’ work as our representative or through our own performance. Either we seek a righteousness that comes from God through faith (Romans 9:30-32; Philippians 3:9) or we seek a righteousness of our own establishment. God’s grace is not something earned.

Obviously this doesn’t set well with the legalists of the one cup Church of Christ, or any legalists. They want good works, especially adherence to their views on the identifying marks of the party, to be determinative and not indicative of one’s salvation. They want good works to be the cause of (at least partially) divine favor and not the thankful fruit of being saved.

It is interesting that the legalists will twist what James says in James 2:17 to support their assertions, yet just prior it is James who indicates we cannot be saved by keeping a law (James 2:10). Common sense tells us that we cannot be saved by our own good works or obedience. Who among us will declare that they are perfect? We have to rely completely on the One who did live perfectly here on this earth. It is in him that we are found righteous (2 Corinthians  5:21).

When I look back on my own life and realize that as a young legalistic whippersnapper I had the audacity to think and teach that salvation was a result at least partially of one’s own personal rightness I shudder at my infringing upon the glory and honor and praise that belong to God alone. Thank goodness for His grace!


8 responses to “Question 5: Is the doctrine of salvation by works as taught by the majority of the Churches of Christ in accordance with Biblical teaching?

  1. Pingback: New Posts by J. James Albert at “California Letter” « One In

  2. If the churches of Christ taught justification by works then they would deny the necessity of belief in Jesus just like me. Why does the church of Christ say that the man who never did anything wrong but tell one little white lie will go to hell if they believe in justification by works? I believe in justification by works and that’s why I say this guy will go to heaven even though he doesn’t believe in Jesus, because look how good he is.

  3. I have a question my friend from a casual observer here not to be misconstrued as associated with an CoC whatsoever. I’m a very independent soul in my interpretation of the Bible and no church will ever agree with me. Now, I realize that Paul seems to teach faith onlyism in chapters 3 and 4 of Romans where he takes several OT passages out of context (or rather, where the 2nd century Catholic or ‘proto-orthodox’ that added these chapters to the epistle does). The string of quotations in chapter 3 to establish that nobody can be righteous (all taken out of context of Psalms and Proverbs about atheists) and then the twisting of the story of Abraham about Abraham being justified by faith alone when clearly in the OT itself he was justified for leaving his homeland when God told him to, not even knowing where he was going!

    So yes, you are right that PART of Romans teaches faith onlyism. But other parts teach otherwise. Here is an obvious example:

    Romans 2:6-11 “[God] will render to every man according to his deeds: (7) To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: (8) But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, (9) Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; (10) But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: (11) For there is no respect of persons with God.”

    Does’t this teach justification by works + faith? It certainly teaches that to have eternal life you must seek it by continuing in good works! With respect to faith, it follows the model of Hebrew 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please [God] for those who come to him must believe He exists and that he rewards those who diligently seek him.” Here Paul in Romans 2:6-11 (the authentic Paul, not the 2nd century editor who only appears when the OT is being taken out of context) promises salvation to those who seeks it in faith by works believing that God rewards those “who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life” with glory and honour and immortality, eternal life!

    How very different is some of the Bible from the faith-onlyism that Protestantism teaches. Yet surely the Protestant faith-onlyism is taught by the 2nd century editor who constantly takes the Old Testament out of context to produce a sad wimpy and stupid argument in favor of this silly and immoral doctrine. I will stick with Romans 2:6-11!!!!!!!! I know not what these “one cup churches of Christ” will do. But as for me and myself, I will stick with the authentic Paul and anathemize the 2nd century editor as preaching a different gospel and twisting the Old Testament to do it! Amen.

  4. I am trying to learning something, so please help me.

    How do you know what is taught by the majority of the Churches of Christ?

    What research do you have to cite?

    I want to see such research so I can further my studies.

  5. I grew up in the churches of Christ as well and I can say that I was certainly taught justification by works and always heard Ephesians 2:8 with a disclaimer. Great post.

  6. Doesn’t Paul always present the disclaimer that adulterers and fornicators and such-like will not inherit the kingdom of God? What foolishness it is to condemn attaching a disclaimer to Ephesians 2:8 when Paul himself does it. Is it not in Ephesians that he says “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God”? (Ephesians 5:5) Only Satan or those who do his work would rail against such a disclaimer being put on justification by faith.

  7. I have even heard it taught that Ephesians 2:8 intends that water baptism is the “gift” referred to.

    Rey, why would you ever imagine that a Christian would run with whores, want other people’s stuff, worship idols, etc? Paul goes on to say in context in the Ephesians 5 passages “you were darkness but now are light”. In another place he mentions some of those same sins and then says of believers “and such were some of you”.

    Your plan is to take some of the glory that belongs only to God and be able to boast of your own self righteousness. It is a fatal plan. You had better put you complete trust in Christ alone.

  8. 1.) “Your plan is to take some of the glory that belongs only to God”; That’s impossible since God’s glory is not finite but infinite. It cannot be detracted from, which makes the Calvinistic psychosis about taking God’s glory uber silly. After all, God gives his glory away freely without diminishing it at all, for “whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Rom 8:30) So much different from being some insane miser glory-hog, God actually glorifies men!

    2.) “Your plan is to take some of the glory”; Paul says we are to seek glory. For, Paul says, “those who seek for glory, honor, and immortality (by patient continuance in doing good) will receive eternal life.” (Rom 2:7) Would it not, therefore, be stupid to not seek glory, seeing as how it is those who seek glory that get eternal life????????????????????

    3.) “Rey, why would you ever imagine that a Christian would run with whores, want other people’s stuff, worship idols, etc? “; Why would Paul? I’m just quoting him. And the answer to some extent is because we’ve seen it (both Paul and myself). That’s why he has to urge “let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;” (Eph 5:3) because he knows it is being named among them. As in 1 Corinthians 5:1 “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.”

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