By Grace Alone
Is salvation God's work, or is it man's work, or is it both God's work and man's work? Another way to put it: Is faith in Jesus Christ alone enough to save us? Is grace enough?
In Acts 15, a group came forward in Jerusalem and told the brethren that they needed to be circumcised in order to be saved. These legalists were known as the Judaizers, and they were influential because they were very schooled in the Law; they were Pharisees. The books of Romans, Galatians and Hebrews hadn't been written yet, so the question of law versus grace hadn't been hammered out yet. It was because of the council in this chapter that this was done.
These men said it was "necessary" to obey the Law of Moses. Not that it would be nice for fellowship, but that you couldn't be saved without it. Imagine if these men had prevailed. We might be singing, "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the Law of Moses," or perhaps "A mighty fortress is the Law..."
But remember this: Whenever any leader stands up and says, "You can't be saved unless you believe in Christ AND keep our rules, or obey our ceremonies, or whatever," they are denying the gospel.
Adding anything to the Gospel -- be it circumcision, baptism, confirmation, extreme unction, any additional work -- is saying "Jesus Christ is not a complete savior. He didn't do a good enough job." It's telling Him, "It was a good start, Jesus; now we'll finish the work."
But salvation is, according to the scripture, totally by God's grace through faith. As it says in Ephesians 2:8-9, "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."
Now, you might say, "That's a pretty dangerous doctrine. You have to keep young Christians tethered with some rules, or they'll run wild." That's where you're wrong. There is no stronger tether than relationship. Not rules, not rituals -- relationship. Rules without relationship leads to rebellion. Love that leads to relationship that leads to obedience ... there's no stronger tether than that.
We don't obey God in order to earn His favor. We obey Him because we love Him. And "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).
Jesus Christ IS a complete savior. Jesus Christ DID do a complete work on the cross to secure our salvation. Faith in Jesus Christ IS enough.
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