PART 9 CHURCH DECLARATIONS

PART 9 CHURCH TEACHINGS

6D

TO LEARN ABOUT THOSE DOCTRINES THAT ARE CONSIDERED DISPUTABLE

D.  DO GOOD WORKS EVIDENCE AND SECURE OUR SALVATION?

This is a disputable doctrine that most churches might think; what is there to dispute? It appears there is only one way to look at this. What I’m talking about is the doctrine of good works. The misperception about this is really the answer to the following question. What are good works? How this is defined will determine a church’s teachings on it. Are you ready to take a look at this final disputable topic?

 

THE NON-DISPENSATIONAL APPROACH

Good works evidence salvation, without which the confirmation of such a believer could be determined by leadership as not being obedient to Christ’s commands and possibly might not have ever been saved or might no longer be saved. This perspective is taken from the book of Ephesians.

 

Ephesians 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Many churches espouse that obedience to the leadership’s commands is what confirms to them and God that you are saved and doing His will. Good works could be described as tithing – Malachi 3:10, free will gift offerings – Leviticus 23:38, not drinking alcohol – Proverbs 23:31, observing certain days of the year – Exodus 23:16, showing up for group prayer – Acts 4:31, visiting the fatherless – James 1:27, helping the less fortunate – James 2:15, and doing whatever the church leadership requests – Hebrew 13:17.

The following verse from the book of Hebrews is often used to support the conjecture that good works are necessary in order for a believer to evidence and keep their salvation.

 

Hebrew 5:9

And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Christ is the author of eternal salvation to all those who obey him (those who are loyal to his commands111; only those who "obey" him have any evidence that they will be saved112; on an obedience modeled after that of Jesus who also suffered113; [it’s] not merely believers, but obedient believers, that shall be finally saved114; repent, turn from sin, believe on Jesus as being a sufficient ransom and sacrifice for his soul, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, be a worker together with him, walk in conformity to the divine will through this divine aid, and continue faithful unto death115).

Obedience to leadership requests for involvement is expected. Failure to participate in a consistent way in some or all of the aspects of ministry will sound the alarm. Warnings will be brought forth from the pulpit reminding those, who are not participating enough to be careful about their commitment to Jesus and the possibility of losing their salvation.

Obedience to the commands of leadership is further emphasized in the book of Hebrews.

 

Hebrews 13:17

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

The book of Hebrews doesn’t appear to be written for any particular church, but rather it’s intended for Jewish converts of the Christian faith. These believers are urged to follow and obey the overseers of the Christian churches and submit to their authority and admonition.

What we’ll now take a look at is an opposing view that looks at this disputable doctrine in an entirely different way.

 

THE DISPENSATIONAL APPROACH

The receiving of the Holy Spirit is the confirmation of salvation. Operating in the fruit of the Spirit produces godliness. Godliness should be the basis or motivation when performing good works. The receiving of the Spirit is the confirmation of salvation found in the book of 1 John.

 

1 John 3:24

…And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

The Apostle John says that we know that God the Father abides (fellowships) continually with us (with himself and His fellow disciples), by the Spirit (when He rules and governs their life) who was given to them at Pentecost.

What we’ll take a look at in the following verses is what produces godliness. Please go to the book of Galatians.

 

Galatians 5:22-25

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Godliness (being righteous in conduct; having fellowship with God the Father) can be described as operating in the fruit, the spiritual qualities, or the graces of the Spirit, which relate to Christian character. In order for godliness to be produced in a Christian, he/she must be filled with or under the rule of the Spirit. When the Spirit is in control, He will supply us with Himself, and because of such, He will guide us in His own unique ways (recalling Scripture to our mind, giving us insight as to the meaning of a particular word from Scripture, prompting us in some way, and at times allowing us to experience His presence (divine love, divine joy, and divine peace).

In order for these spiritual realities to take place in a believer’s life, he/she must be yielded to Him. How does this yield take place?

This submission takes place when the believer recognizes sin (mental, verbal, or overt) in their life, confesses it to God the Father, and recovers (renews their mind with God’s perspective according to the Word).

With these thoughts in mind, good works could be defined as works whose perspective is from the Word of God and whose power source and guidance are from the Holy Spirit. With that said, the evidence of works or the lack thereof shouldn’t define or characterize a believer by leadership as to their eternal standing. But instead, what this actually has to do with is a believer’s spiritual growth, i.e., their sanctification. The leader’s focus should be on helping them no longer reflect and rely on carnal thoughts, regretful memories, caustic words, and abusive actions but rather on the new person God has made them be by providing teachings on how to think with the new thoughts and speak with the new words from Scripture about themselves, others, and the circumstances of life, which will activate the ministry of the indwelling Spirit.

If good works should not be the focus of a believer’s walk but rather godliness (inward transformation), then what does it mean when the following verse from the book of Hebrews seems to indicate that a believer’s salvation is secured by evidencing good works?

 

Hebrews 5:9

And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Christ is the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him (of those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ116). When we think of the word obey, what comes to mind is doing this or that. But salvation has nothing to do with dos and don’ts.

Please turn to the book of 2 Thessalonians.

 

2 Thessalonians 2:13

But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

Obedience to salvation, or obedience to becoming saved means the same thing as God choosing us to salvation. What this has to do with is the sanctification of the Spirit, i.e., how the Spirit made you God's holy person, and belief of the truth, i.e., of how you have put your confidence in the truth,117 in the gospel message of repentance and belief.                                                                                                                                                   

To further substantiate this translation of what the word obey means in terms of salvation, please go to the book of 2 Thessalonians.

 

Suggested Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:                            

6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

8a In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God,…

The Apostle Paul is holding up the Thessalonians as an example to the churches of God for their patience (perseverance) and faith (confidence in God) in all their persecutions from both unbelieving Gentiles and Jews along with the tribulations (trials) that they were enduring. He goes on to tell them that it is a righteous thing (agreeable to divine justice) that God recompense (pays back) tribulation (trouble) to those who troubled (afflicted) them. Therefore, they were encouraged to rest in the divine retribution, which will occur at some future time. Some commentators believe that this judgment on those people (unbelievers) who know not God will occur at Christ’s first advent (His return to the earth) following the seven-year tribulation period. Others believe this refers to the final judgment for all those who didn’t believe in God (Jehovah) in the Old Testament, along with those who didn’t believe in Christ during His incarnation and declaration of His gospel during the Church Age.

8b …and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

And then he made this statement about those who know not God. They are those that obey not the gospel. As Calvin’s Commentaries puts it, if obedience is not rendered to the gospel through faith, … unbelief is the occasion of resistance to it.118 Therefore, we can deduce that those who obey not the gospel of Christ are not saved. The word obey doesn’t mean obedience to perform good works. It has to do with repentance and belief.                                                                                                                            

Let’s take one more look at what the word obey means from the book of Hebrews, and then we’ll summarize.

 

Hebrews 13:17

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Another way to translate the word obey according to Koine Greek would be to say this refers to someone who allows oneself to be convinced by someone else. Someone else would be those who have the rule over them, i.e., those who are the overseers and leaders of the Christian churches. And how would a believer be convinced by them? This would be by submitting themselves to their teaching.

In this regard, obedience is not relegated to following their commands of doing this or that but by being convinced about them as being those that are being used by God to help them grow to spiritual maturity through their teachings. Why would these words be interpreted in this way? Because this verse proceeds to tell us what the leaders’ responsibility is in respect to the flock, and that is revealed by the words watch for your souls. The word watch means in Greek means to have continuous and wakeful concern for. And the word souls mean to characterize a person that by the right use of the aids offered it by [God,] it can attain its highest end.119 What is a believers’ highest end? It’s to be conformed to the image of God’s Son.

In summary, while there might be a few disputable doctrines that we didn’t cover, I hope you have a better understanding as to why leadership teaches on these topics in the way they have chosen to do so. If someone doesn’t agree with you or me as to our perspective in respect to any of these doctrines, I will hope that this wouldn’t deter them from co-laboring with us. This is easier said than done.

Before you proceed to the next chapter, I would like to leave you with two very articulate articles on salvation and good works. The reason why I’m presenting two short articles on salvation and works is because I couldn’t find one article that would do this contrast justice as to whether good works substantiates/assures salvation or whether they play no role whatsoever in this regard. Enjoy.         

The first article focuses on good works substantiating/assuring salvation. Churches that believe that good works are necessary as evidence for salvation might follow some of the reasons outlined in this article.

 

WHY GOOD WORKS ARE NECESSARY FOR THE CHRISTIAN

Anthony Burgess (d. 1644) argued that while good works should never be construed as meritorious for our justification, they were still necessary as our duty on the way to final salvation. Here are [thirteen] reasons why:

  1. “They are the fruit and end of Christ’s death” (Titus 2:14).
  2. “There is an analogical relation between good works and heaven insofar as God has appointed the way (good works to the end (heaven).”
  3. “There is a promise made to them” (1 Tim. 4:7-8).
  4. “They are testimonies whereby our election is made sure” (2 Peter 1:10).
  5. “They are a condition, without which a man cannot be saved. So that although a man cannot by the presence of them gather a cause of his salvation; yet by the absence of them he may conclude his damnation; so that is an inexcusable speech of the Antinomian, [good] works [don’t] profit us, nor bad hinder us.”
  6. “They are in their own nature a [defense] against sin and corruption” (Eph. 6:14-16).
  7. “They are necessary by a natural [connection] with faith, and the Spirit of God.”
  8. “They are necessary by debt and [obligation. . .] We cannot merit at God’s hand, because the more good [we’re] enabled to do, [we’re] the more beholding to God. Hence it [is] that [we’re] his servants.”
  9. “By the command of God” (1 Thess. 4:3).
  10. “They are necessary by way of comfort to ourselves. And this opposes many Antinomian passages, who forbid us to take any peace by our holiness.”
  11. “They are necessary in respect of God, both in [that,] he is hereby pleased, and also glorified.”
  12. “They are necessary in regard of others” (Matt. 5:16).
  13. “Holiness and godliness inherent is the end of our faith and justification.” (Quoted in Jones, Antinomianism, 68).120

The second article declares that good works don’t substantiate/assure salvation. While good works might evidence compassion and concern toward others, the character of those committing them might not ever evidence godliness in disposition and the presentation of the gospel message of salvation.      

 

ARE GOOD WORKS NECESSARY FOR ASSURANCE?

*Editor's Note: The following excerpt is [taken] and edited, from one section of the article, "We Believe In: Assurance of Salvation," in the Autumn 1990 issue of The Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society. See Resources [with a] Focus on Grace for ordering back issues. 

The reader of John's Gospel will note how often [it’s] mentioned that the one who believes in Jesus has eternal life. Not once, however, does the inspired writer suggest that this guarantee can be disallowed if there are no good works in a believer's life.   

Of course, there is every reason to believe that there will be good works in the life of each believer in Christ. The idea that one may believe in Him and live for years totally unaffected by the amazing miracle of regeneration or by the instruction and/or discipline of God his heavenly

[Father] is a fantastic notion-even bizarre. We reject it categorically.  

But this [isn’t] at all the point. The issue here is assurance. And with this, works can play no decisive role whatsoever.  

We should have known this fact all along. After all, did not the Apostle Paul write: 

But to him who does not work (italics added) but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness. . . (Rom 4:5)?  

In the face of this assertion, how can anyone suppose that "works" must nevertheless be the real grounds on which [I’m] assured of my salvation? That is, how can good works be indispensable to my certainty that [I’m] justified without works

What nonsense! [It’s] as though God had said, "My justification is for the person who does not work, but [the] assurance of my justification is only for someone who does!" Any form of theology that reduces to that stands self-condemned. 

In the same way, the Apostle Paul declares that salvation is God's free gift and that [it’s] "not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph 2:8,9). But according to many teachers today-both of the Arminian and "lordship" persuasions-assurance IS ["of works!"] [It’s] not surprising that such theology reinvigorates man's latent desire to boast. For, on this view, my "good works" become the badge of my acceptance before [God,] and they are the basis on which I can judge others as "unworthy" of the name of Christian. Let there be no mistake; where such views are held, they are often accompanied by spiritual pride and by a harsh, judgmental spirit toward those who [don’t] "measure up." 

[It’s] pure sophistry to argue that what is meant in such theology is only that works are produced by grace and are simply its necessary results. On the contrary, if I cannot get to heaven apart from the regular performance of good works, those works become as much a condition for heaven as faith itself. Many theologians who hold to the kind of synthesis [we’re discussing] honestly admit that good works are a condition for heaven! But in [saying so], they run their ship aground against Rom 4:4 and 11:6, and indeed against the whole biblical doctrine of grace.

We said earlier that we believe that all born-again Christians will do good works. We believe it, however, because it appears to be the only rational inference from the scriptural data. But, let it also be said clearly, it is an inference. No text of Scripture (certainly not Jas 2:14-26!) declares that all believers will perform good works, much less that they cannot be sure of heaven unless they do. No text says that! 

The "bottom line" is simple: If I seek assurance through examining my good deeds, one of two things must necessarily result: (1) I will minimize the depth of my own sinfulness and the extent to which-even as a Christian-I fall short of the glory of God, or (2) I will see my deep sinfulness as hopelessly contrary to any conviction that [I’m] saved. 

Those who travel the first route are traveling the highway of self-righteousness. They are utterly blind to the reality that they are evil people whose lives are still infinitely remote from the perfect holiness of God. The claim they make that their lives are "good enough" to verify their salvation clashes blatantly with our Lord's assertion: "No one is good but One, that is, God (Luke 18:19)." Such claims to goodness are the very essence of Pharisaism and are perfectly exemplified by the Pharisee who prayed:

"God, I thank You that I am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector (Luke 18:11)."

But he was like other men. He was not good!  

Those, however, who follow the second route and decide that they are too sinful to claim to be saved are traveling a highway that leads to frustration and despair. In many such individuals,] the road also ends in depression. 

No. Good works can never be a fundamental ground of assurance. [It’s] logically and theologically absurd to claim [that salvation] which is apart from [works] is not recognizable except by works. God's Word teaches no such thing. Assurance must always rest on the promises God's Word makes to the believer (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; Acts 16:31; Eph 2:8-9; etc.).121

I’ve been to many different churches where these disputable doctrines are considered paramount to the acceptance of church membership and attendance. Obey the teachings or leave. While it might not be said in this manner, it’s continually hammered home in the messages. As you get to know those who attend faithfully to the many obligations of the church, they will also get to know you in terms of your beliefs as to these admonitions. If you believe the same as they do, then all is good. You might even be asked to oversee a Bible study. However, if you believe differently, then you will be asked to change your views, especially if you want to be used in any leadership capacity.

Enough said. I have another classification of doctrine to follow that I would like to present to you. I will call these doctrines the Doctrines of Destruction. They will either subvert the foundational teachings of the Christian faith or will inhibit us from growing spiritually. When attending any church, you need to have been thoroughly scripturally informed beforehand and focused in order to recognize these teachings if and when they are presented. And if they are proclaimed to be teachings that you must obey, then you can obey them by walking out the door.

 

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Endnotes

111UBS New Testament.

112Barnes Notes.

113Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament.

114Adam Clarke’s Commentary.

115Adam Clarke’s Commentary.

116The Bible Exposition Commentary/New Testament.

117UBS New Testament.   

118Calvin's Commentaries.

119Thayer's Greek Lexicon.

120Kevin Deyoung. “Why Good Works Are Necessary for the Christian,” TGC 23 April 2020 <https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/why-good-works-are-necessary-for-the-christian/>. 

121Zane C. Hodges. “Are Good Works Necessary for Assurance?” 23 April 2020 <https://faithalone.org/magazine/y1993/93march1.html>.

 


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Do Good Works Evidence and Secure Our Salvation?
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