The religious world today does an injustice to God’s plan of salvation. With their “Faith Only” doctrine many are being deceived into believing that they have received the blood of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins, when in actuality they have only completed half of Jesus’ instructions regarding salvation. He told his disciples, before he ascended to the father, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). Many of these religious leaders couple “faith only” doctrine with “once saved always saved” doctrine, or “the impossibility of apostasy.”
This teaching negates any need for someone to conform their life to Christ’s. They just “get saved,” and then go on their way doing as they please, paying no attention to the commands of God. Why wouldn’t they? According to their church it is impossible for them to be lost, so they might as well do as they please. They claim to be “created in Christ Jesus for good works,” but then they do not do the work they have been created in Christ Jesus to do.
Proponents of such false doctrines will accuse those who believe that baptism is necessary for salvation, and who believe one can, in fact, fall away once they have been saved, as believing in “works salvation.” They think we teach that one must work to earn their salvation. These men often appeal to passages like Eph 2:8-9 to make their point. Paul says here, “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
As our religious friends teach, we are saved by grace. When they quote Eph 2:8-9 I agree 100% with what they say; however, being saved by God’s grace does not mean there is no work for us to do. You might be thinking, “If being saved requires work, what’s grace got to do with it?” The answer seems rather simple to me. We just have to find the balance between grace and works. As Paul says, we are saved by grace. Therefore, there is absolutely no way for us to earn our salvation by works. When Paul speaks of not being saved by works, he is refering to works of the jewish law. Perfect law keeping, or salvation by works, would make God's grace unnecessary. Sin separates us from God. If one kept the law perfectly, they would still be in a good relationship with God, and wouldn't need his grace to forgive their sins (they are sinless). In fact, if one recognizes the need to be baptized for the remission of their sins, they are, by this realization admitting the fact that they cannot be saved by works. If they could be saved by their works, they wouldn't need to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, because they would have no sins to forgive. Do you see the problem with arguing that baptism is "salvation through works." Baptism is simply a work of obedience, by which we receive God's grace. Works of obedience are merely the actions through which we carry out God’s commands, not the direct means by which we are saved.
Let me explain: Some one decides that they want to give you a new car. When they hand you the keys they say “all you have to do to have this car is get in and turn the key in the ignition,” which you happily do. Then you quickly drive off before they change their mind.
Let me ask you, why do you have that car? Did you earn it by turning the key in the ignition? Of course not! No one would suggest such a thing. How can turning the key in the ignition earn you a $20,000 car? Obviously you received the car by the grace of your friend. It was not because of anything you did, but simply a gift from them.
Being saved by grace is that same idea. How could baptism and living faithfully ever earn our salvation? It cannot, and that is not the point at all. We do those things because God, who has saved us by His grace, requires us to act in faith to receive this priceless gift. That is why Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith…” If you never turn the key, you cannot drive away with the car, right?
Where much of the religious world falls short is by omitting the end of Paul’s thought in Eph 2:8-10. They typically end with Eph 2:9, or at least fail to explain Eph 2:10. Let’s look at the entire passage:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:8-10).
Paul tell us we are saved by grace, through faith. We are not saved solely by works, which means no one can boast about their salvation because of their own good deeds. Why? “For we are His workmanship.” We are workers for the Lord, not for ourselves. More than that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works.”
When are we “created in Christ Jesus?” Consider these few passages written by Paul: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27), and “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).
Anyone in Christ is a new creation. We are in Christ when we are baptized into Christ, which means we are “created in Christ Jesus” when we are baptized into Him. When this happens we have been “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” These good works were prepared by God “that we should walk in them.” This is a statement that implies action. We do not work to earn our salvation. We work because we have been created in Christ Jesus for that purpose (Eph. 2:10). We do not baptize believers because we think baptism earns salvation. We baptize believers because God’s word tells us to do so. The Bible clearly states that baptism is necessary for salvation (Mt. 28:19, Mk. 16:16, Acts 2:38, Rom 6:3-8, Gal 3:27, Col 2:11-14, 1 Pet 3:21).
Besides that, I would like for some one to explain to me how saying the “sinners’ prayer” is any less of a “work” than is baptism. Faith only doctrine is contradictory to the core. Its proponents teach that one cannot be saved by works, but then they turn around and require people to say the “sinners’ prayer” to be saved. Prayer is just as much a work or an action as being submerged in water. But when it comes to salvation there is a difference between these two actions, and it is rather important. God’s word says, “‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…’” (Acts 2:38). On the other hand, God's word never mentions the “sinners’ prayer.”