This was presented on October 5, 2014 as a special message on salvation.
I grew up in the church and was even president of my confirmation class. When I gave the graduating class message, a woman came up to me and said I was going to be a pastor one day. I almost laughed at her, because that was the furthest thing from my mind. Well, it was religiosity that held my life captive. I was confused trying to be a good boy and do what people said. Then at a church camp in 1970 when I was 14, I understood the clarity of the gospel. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for my sins and was the only way to heaven. I trusted in Him by faith alone and began a growing relationship in Him.
There is confusion in churches today over the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Confusion had settled into the church of Galatia.
Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, (Gal. 1:1-6 NKJ)
Paul begins his letter talking about the most important issue in your life – the gospel of Jesus Christ. Gospel means good news. It is good news that there is an answer for our sins. Did you know we are all born sinners? We prove that because we sin. We do what we should not – like lie, or gossip, or worry, or desire what others have. And we don’t do what we are supposed to do – like be ready to share the gospel with others, lead them to Christ and disciple them, and many other things like loving our spouse, etc. The good news is that the Lord Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, so that the holiness of God was satisfied. Everyone who accepts Jesus Christ is given the right to become a child of God.
7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:7-9 NKJ)
To whom was Paul speaking? He said, “…any other gospel to you than what you have received.” They were believers who had already accepted the Truth of the gospel.
So let’s go back to verse six. Paul said they turned to a “different” (heteros) gospel. All the modern versions have “different,” because they took into account it means “another gospel of a different kind.” There are actually two words that are used to translate “another” in the Greek. The other is allos, which means another of a similar kind. This is the word used in 1:7. They are not turning to a gospel of a similar kind. There is only one gospel. There is one way of salvation. Some are troubling you, causing you to be confused, even disturbing you with this different gospel. They “want to pervert the gospel,” which is a great translation. The word means to turn or change, which is how it is used in James 4:9, “your laughter is turned into mourning.” Turning the gospel is not a slight change, it is a perversion. Why? Because it perverts the holiness of God’s grace.
Then Paul says, if we preach “any other gospel.” That comes from a preposition “para” which means alongside, like “parachurch,” which means “an organization alongside the church.” The perverted gospel is alongside the gospel, but is not the gospel. Why? There is only one gospel. Let him be accursed.
Paul affirms this with a second charge that he be accursed to eternal condemnation. Why so strong? Any change of the gospel prevents people from heaven. How did they pervert it? They added works to salvation. For example, they added works:
3 Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), (Gal. 2:3-4 NKJ)
They made a false gospel by adding circumcision;
2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Gal. 3:2-3 NKJ)
They made a false gospel by the works of the law and flesh;
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. (Gal. 5:1 NKJ)
Paul warned to avoid a gospel of bondage. Let them who pervert the gospel be accursed Why is there confusion over the gospel? This has been argued since Acts 15 and the battle lines continue.
1) The Lord Jesus has allowed three positions in evangelicalism.
The first view teaches that believers can turn from grace and lose their salvation. The author of this view wrote, “If David had died in the very moment in which he sinned against Uriah by adultery and murder, he would have been condemned to death eternal.” (Freely By His Grace, p. 1-2) This view is one of “maintenance.” At any given moment a believer may lose his salvation through a moral defection or by renouncing his faith. So if he lapses into a pattern of sin or defects from the faith altogether, then he has lost his salvation. This position could not say with certainty, “I am going to heaven.” He might lapse.
A great young man in my church in Minneapolis, who grew up in a godly home and was godly himself, as well as being Biblically knowledgeable, went to China to study Mandarin. When he came back, he had renounced his faith to the anguish of his parents. Was he now condemned to hell?
The second view teaches “the sinner who wants to be saved must not only trust Christ as his Substitute for sin, but must also surrender every area of his life to the complete control of Christ. In other words, the sinner must enthrone Him as absolute Lord of his life or he cannot be saved.” In other words, the essence of faith is “unqualified compliance,” “absolute humility,” “unconditional surrender,” “absolute submission.” “If Jesus is not made Lord at the time he trusts Him as Savior, there is no salvation.” (Freely, 3) This debate did not really begin until the mid 1900s. The view states, “So, before you make the decision to believe, you must “believe in the Lord Jesus and commit earnest endeavor, untiring energy and the utmost exertion.” (Freely, 4)
One author wrote, “Unless you who call yourselves Christians, who profess to be justified by faith alone and therefore confess that you have nothing whatever to contribute to your own justification, unless you nevertheless conduct yourselves in a way which is utterly superior to the conduct of the very best people who are hoping to save themselves by their own good works, you will not enter God’s kingdom because you are not Christians in the first place.” That is what I call double-speak. J.B. Hixson summarized this inconsistency, “this asserts the belief that salvation is by faith alone…yet insists that works are not optional for those who wish to go to heaven.” (Freely, 5)
This view also has no assurance of eternal destiny. As one person wrote, “The possibility of a failure to persevere undermines assurance.” (Freely, 5) But 1 John 5:13.
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13 NKJ)
In the Statement of Faith for Grace, it reads: THE ETERNAL SECURITY OF THE BELIEVER We believe that all true, genuine believers are kept secure forever. (John 10:27-30; Romans 8:1, 38-39; 1 Corinthians 1:4-8; Ephesians 4:30; 1 John 5:11-13)
Was Solomon a believer? According to this view, he was condemned to hell, because although God gave him unsurpassed wisdom and his kingdom was one that others came to see the glory of the one-true God, he fell into idolatry.
The third view maintains that salvation is by the grace of God through faith alone in Christ alone and not by works of any kind. This view takes literally Christ’s words on the cross, “It is finished.” He meant the work of salvation and not His life, because He was still living. This was actually the sixth statement of seven made on the cross.
That statement of finished work is essential. The book of Hebrews recorded,
10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Heb. 10:10-14 NKJ)
The priests always stood, because the work was never done. The Lord Jesus completed the work forever, so He sat down. Any additions are an insult to God’s character, plan and grace.
By the way, the first view is the Arminian position, the second is the Lordship Salvation position and the third is the Free Grace position. Scripture is clear salvation is by faith alone.
2) Scripture makes clear that salvation is by faith alone in the Lord Jesus John 6:22-29
22 On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone–…25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?” 26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” 28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:22-29 NKJ)
This was a perfect opportunity to be clear on the gospel. Jesus addresses no commitment, confession of sin, stopping all sin and no vows.
Another great passage is how Jesus responds to Martha at the death of Lazarus,
20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:20-27 NKJ)
The only requirement is genuine faith, which is the same as John 3:16. Speaking of John 3:16, look at John 3:18,
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18 NKJ)
The word “believe” is used three times to emphasize the point that faith alone is the requirement. It’s interesting that John begins and ends his gospel with faith alone.
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: (John 1:12 NKJ)
And to close his gospel, John wrote,
30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30-31 NKJ)
There is no requirement before or after faith in Jesus Christ that is necessary for us to be Christians. There’s also an interesting example in the book of Acts, when Peter was giving the gospel to Cornelius and his family,
30 So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31 “and said, `Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 32 `Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ 33 “So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.” 34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 “But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 “The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ– He is Lord of all– 37 “that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 “And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree.40 “Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41 “not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 “And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43 “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:30-47 NKJ)
While Peter spoke, “…whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins…” they believed and the Holy Spirit came upon them. Afterwards, they were baptized.
Salvation is a gift; it cannot be earned or deserved by works. Paul wrote,
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:23 NKJ)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Eph. 2:8-9 NKJ)
A gift is not a gift if it is earned or deserved in any way. Salvation is not part of a barter system in which a person bargains with God through surrender, commitment, a vow or any works. Then it would no longer be a gift, but a paid wage. Finally, let’s note that works and grace must be separated.
3) Scripture distinguishes works and grace Rom. 11:6
And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. (Rom. 11:6 NKJ)
Grace cannot incur a debt. No form of works can be added or it is no longer Grace. The rat poison “d-Con” is only 2% poison. The rest is harmless. Works are a poison to Grace.
If you add anything to the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, you no longer have the gospel and as Paul said in Gal. 1:8-9, let them be accursed.
So, why is there confusion? It’s very simple.
16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. (Jam. 3:16 NKJ)
Where people are selfish and seeking their own there will be confusion. In the midst of the evil age in which we live, there is confusion. And what do we know about our God?
33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (1 Cor. 14:33 NKJ)
It’s the enemy who seeks to create confusion. All he has to do is add a little poison to the gospel and it is no longer the gospel. People think they are going to heaven, but they are not.
Salvation is by Grace alone in Christ alone, by faith alone.
- If you add anything prior to faith, it is not faith alone.
- If you add anything after faith, it is not faith alone.
- The Free Grace position is the only biblical position.
Do works matter? Absolutely, but not for salvation. If you are not diligently working and laboring with the gospel to win others to Christ and disciple them in the Great Commission, you are missing God’s blessing.
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) When did you first understand the gospel of Jesus Christ? Who explained it to you?
2) Faith is trusting in or reliance upon something. Faith requires an object for the action. For example, you have faith a plane will get you to point b. So you get on the plane and sit there. You have done nothing to help the plane take off, fly, or land. There is no merit given to the person who has faith, because the “faith” does not accomplish “the action.” What are other examples of faith? Who are examples of faith in the Scripture?
3) When Jesus said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), did He mean that the work for salvation was completed? _____________ If the work of salvation is completed, then what still has to be done?
4) Can a person know if he is saved or not? _____________ What are the visible signs that he can have assurance of his salvation (Heb 6:10-12; 10:22-24)? If he does not have works, what does that possibly communicate (Eph. 2:10, 1 Cor. 3:1-3)?
Making application from the message:
5) If salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, what passages of Scripture would you use to stir someone to pursue good works for God’s glory?
6) What happens if someone thinks he has salvation and chooses not to diligently pursue godly works? What are the possible ways his relationship with the Lord Jesus is affected?
7) How does a growing Christian (a disciple) keep grace in mind while he is “working” for the Lord Jesus (Eph. 5:18; Col. 1:29; Gal. 5:22-23)?