Know Your Bible

VOL. 7                           November 30, 2008                           NO. 45

Christianity Does Not Require Strict Rules

    In a recent article addressed to Billy Graham, a writer expressed concern over a relative whose life as a Christian "mainly consists of following a lot rules." The answer submitted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association hinges upon two truths: the belief that salvation is "solely by our faith in Christ, not by our works" and "Rules alone won't change us, we need the help of the Holy Spirit if we are to live the way we should." [Gainesville Sun, October 27, 2007]

    The Bible never teaches that salvation is "solely by our faith in Christ." Contrast Billy Graham's answer with God's answer: "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24). To say that we are saved "solely by our faith" is to say we are saved "without another; to the exclusion of all else" [Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary]. The teaching of salvation by faith alone gives false hope of salvation.

    We are not saved solely by works. The principle of James 2 illustrates the purpose of works and faith together. "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected" (James 2:19-22). According to Billy Graham, demons would be saved "solely" by faith. Abraham believed God when told to offer his son as a sacrifice but he had to express that faith in works to be justified before God. As a result of his obedience to the command of God; the rules of God - his faith was perfected.

    Faith alone salvation misunderstands 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 as a result of works, so that no one may boast." You can understand this passage from the story of Noah (Genesis 6-9). God's grace told Noah two things Noah could not know apart from God: the coming of the flood and how to be saved from the flood. Noah was saved by the grace through faith; as a gift of God; not of any foreknowledge Noah would have had of the flood or the ability to know how to be saved from the flood. At this point, Noah is not saved. He cannot boast of himself to know of the flood nor the manner to be saved. Noah believed in the grace of God and his faith worked with his works (building the ark) to save him from destruction. Was he required to follow strict rules? Consider the instructions to build the ark (Genesis 6:14-16). These were strict rules that if he did not follow would bring about his death. Was Noah saved by faith? Yes! Was Noah saved by works? Yes! Was Noah saved "solely" by his faith? No! Was Noah saved "solely" by his works? No! "You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected" (James 2:22).

    Salvation is the same today. We are saved not by faith alone but by allowing our faith to do the will of God. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter" (Matthew 7:21). Are you doing the will of God?

---Kent Heaton

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Do We Have Rules To Follow?

    The feeling of most in the Protestant churches embrace a doctrine of salvation that is based more on feeling than expressions of works. Salvation solely by faith is the foundation of most teaching in the denominations of our community. The emphasis is the Calvinistic theory of indwelling of the Holy Spirit dismisses any need to be saved by works. Billy Graham wrote, "We are saved solely by our faith in Christ, not by our works." [Gainesville Sun, October 27, 2007]. Are Christians required to follow rules to be saved?

    The Bible teaches that salvation is not by faith alone nor by works alone. James 2 clearly testifies that justification is by faith AND works. God demands that His children be obedient to Him which requires an action of works. Jesus taught in Matthew 7:21 that salvation cannot be accomplished without doing the will of the Father. If we were saved by faith alone there would be nothing else to do. The apostle Paul believed that salvation was more than faith alone: "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). He does not contradict what he told the brethren at Ephesus in Ephesians 2:4-10. The salvation of Ephesians 2 is the salvation that can only come from the Lord and his grace; the salvation of James 2 and Philippians 2 is what man is required to act upon that grace.

    If Christians do not have rules to follow then we are without obligation to keep the law of God. Failing to keep the law of God would mean we do not love Jesus Christ. "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10). Jesus said we must keep His commandments. From the Law of Moses we find the Lord telling the children of Israel to "diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you. You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 6:17,18).

    The child of God cannot do what is right and good without doing (works) the will of the Father. God has always had commandments, testimonies, statutes, laws, rules and regulations for His people to keep. The life of a Christian is not one of the drudgery of law keeping but keeping the law because we love the Lord. "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith" (1 John 5:2-4). Salvation is by our faith working with our works, and as a result of our works, faith is perfected (James 2:22).

    Jesus said, "Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it." "If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (Luke 11:28; John 14:23). Without keeping the word of God, we will never find the blessing of a full life here or the promise of eternal life.

---Kent Heaton

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***SENTENCE SERMONS***

"May we never let the things we can't have, or don't have, or shouldn't have,

spoil our enjoyment of the things we do have and can have."

***

"Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least."

***

"We are responsible for what we do    PERIOD!"

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