"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.V No.I Pg.8-9
August 1942

Contributorial — Grace, Faith, And Works

Ted W. Mcelroy

Sectarians have mutilated and perverted the Bible plan of salvation, and have "turned the truth of God into a lie." The three words at the heading of this article are Bible terms, and it is our purpose to investigate each and show what the Bible teaches, as contrasted with the doctrines of men.

Grace may be defined as unmerited favor from our Creator. Paul said concerning grace, "It is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;" the fact that we cannot merit the grace of God is inherent in the meaning of the word itself, as well as in the declaration of Paul. But the fact that men cannot merit grace does not prevent them making it void or doing despite to it by their disobedience.

Paul said, "By grace ye are saved" (Eph. 2:8), hence no one can believe the Bible and not believe in salvation by grace. Our Baptist friends have exaggerated this teaching. They say, "we believe that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace..." (Baptist Manual art. 4) They have presumptuously added the word "wholly," for it is not in the word of the Lord, nor is it implied. The Bible teaches how one is saved by grace, and clearly shows that it is not by grace only. Please note the following lessons on salvation by grace: Paul explained his ministry "to testify of the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24), he commended men to accept "the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among them that are sanctified" (Acts 20:32); he declared that the "grace of God had appeared to all men, teaching" (Tit. 2:11), and finally "even so might grace reign through righteousness" (Rom. 5:21). None not under the reign of grace can logically claim the protection or blessings of grace, grace reigns through righteousness, which is God's law (Ps. 119:172), and we must submit to his righteousness or law to be under the reign of grace; if one is not under the reign he has no protection. To be saved "wholly by grace" without obeying the teaching of the word or gospel of grace is a strange doctrine so far as the Bible is concerned.

To further show that salvation by grace depends on man's acceptance of God's proffered grace, we refer you to 2 Cor. 6:1, "We beseech you that ye receive not the grace of God in vain;" also Gal. 2:21, "I do not frustrate (make void R. V.) the grace of God;" and Heb. 10:29, "And hath done despite to the spirit of grace." These scriptures show that man can by certain offensive acts "receive the grace in vain," "make it void," and "do despite to the spirit of grace." Will a man be saved in spite of his scornful attitude toward the grace ? Most assuredly he will not. Those who are saved by grace, are they who hear the word or gospel of grace, accept its teaching, as the reigning and ruling principle guiding their lives; those who refuse to be taught by the word of grace make it vain and void, and by their rebellion do "despite to the spirit of grace," and will not be saved.

Salvation by grace is "through faith" (Eph. 2:8), and it is by faith that we have "access into this grace" (Rom. 5:2). It is plainly declared that we are "justified by faith" (Rom. 5:1). That faith is a condition of salvation is stated in John 3:16, Acts 16:31, John 8:24. What these scriptures say about faith does not make void what the Bible teaches about repentance and baptism, just because these subjects are not mentioned in the verses. Denominations have perverted the Bible teaching about faith by adding the word "only." Methodists say, "Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort." (Methodist Discipline, art. 9). Baptists say, "Justification is solely through faith in the Redeemer's blood." (Baptist Manual, art. 5). Again you can see that men have exaggerated a divine condition of salvation by adding their idea "only," which excludes other conditions just as divinely authorized. The Baptist position is paradoxical, with one stroke of the pen they say "salvation is wholly of grace;" the word "wholly" excludes everything else, even faith; and with the next breath they contradict themselves by saying "salvation is solely by faith;" the word "solely" is exclusive and excludes everything besides faith, even grace.

We learn from the Bible that saving faith is obedient faith; and for faith to be of value it must be obeyed. "And a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7), and Paul says the revelation is "made known to all nations for the obedience of faith." (Rom. 16:26). There is one faith. (Eph. 4:5). It comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17), which is the law of faith (Rom. 3:27), and we have already shown it must be obeyed. (Acts 6:7; Rom. 16:26). Hence it is conclusive that the saved believer is the obedient believer.

To prove this beyond a possible doubt or quibble the Bible records something about disobedient believers, and shows they were unsaved. Note John 12:42-43, "many believed on him," but "they did not confess him" because "they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God;" in Matt. 10:32-33, Jesus teaches that those who do not confess him will not be confessed before the Father, and hence will be lost. These believers refused to confess, and therefore will be lost. Another example of believers not meeting the approval of Christ is in John 8: 31-32. The scripture says these people to whom Christ was talking "had believed." The conversation and teaching continued and reached its climax in verse 44 when Jesus said to these believers, "Ye are of your father the devil." Even though they "had believed" these people were not saved, their father was the devil. In Jas. 2:17-26 the inspired apostle taught, "Faith without works is dead." That should be enough to convince Bible believing people that men can't be saved by faith only. But James made it plainer by saying, "Ye see how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only" (verse 24). This is the only time that the phrase "faith only" appears in the Bible and it is preceded by the negative word "not." Methodists declare justification is by "faith only." The Bible says it is "not by faith only." I choose to believe the Bible and hence must reject Methodist doctrine. In verse 19 of the same chapter James tells of some more "faith only" folks. He says, "The devils believe and tremble." So if the sectarian doctrine of salvation by "faith only" was true, the devils would be saved because they have done all the secretarians say is necessary, "they believe." They even go a little further and "tremble." No, friends, the doctrine of salvation by "faith only" just is not true. The Bible teaches that it is obedient believers who are saved.

We come now to the very controverted subject of works. Secretarians tell us that we are not justified by works of any kind. This is an effort to set aside what the Lord said about baptism. Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mk. 16:16.) The sect argument runs like this: we are not justified by works, baptism is a work, therefore baptism has nothing to do with our salvation. This argument proves too much even for the sects, it excludes faith, for Jesus said, "This is the work of God, that ye believe"-"and ye must work the works of God." (John 6:29-30.)

Let us notice that the Bible teaches that there are two kinds of works; works that are necessary, and works that are forbidden. Note in Jas. 2:24, "Ye see how that by works a man is justified." This does not contradict what Paul said in Rom. 5:1, but it does make "works" as much a condition of justification as faith. In Acts 10:34-35, the apostle Peter tells us what kind of works are necessary, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness is accepted with him." To work righteousness is to obey the commands of the Lord. (Ps. 119: 172; Phil. 3:9.) The righteousness which we must work is revealed in the gospel. (Rom. 1:16-17.) The following texts further emphasize the importance of God approved works: "And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations" (Rev. 2:26); again, "A doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed" (Jas. 1:25); and Rev. 20:11-14 teaches that we will be judged by our works in the last day. According to these scriptures doing the works God authorized is pretty important, they determine our acceptance with God now and will decide our destiny in eternity. Baptism is a part of God's righteousness, one of God's commands, and God speaking through Peter made baptism a condition of salvation. "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us." (1 Pet. 3:21.)

There are many works excluded. Paul said, "Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph. 2:8.) It is certain that Paul here did not intend to contradict what Peter said in Acts 10: 34-35, and any such interpretation of his language is a perversion of the truth.

The works of the law of Moses are forbidden under the new covenant. Because some in the early church sought salvation by doing the works of the law it was necessary for the apostles to tell them repeatedly that they were not justified by the works of the law. (Rom. 11:6; Gal. 2:16.) The context shows that the works excluded are those of the law of Moses. But saying they were not justified by the works of the law, does not exclude the necessity of obeying God's commands in order to salvation in the new dispensation.

The works of the doctrines of men are forbidden. If men could be saved by working or failing to work according to the plans devised by men, and put into sectarian creeds, the men who made the creeds would have something to boast about. But it is not of works which men can boast about (Eph. 2:8-9), nor by works of righteousness which we have done. (Tit. 3:5.) Note the distinction that is made between submitting to God's righteousness and establishing another plan (Rom. 10:1-3), "They being ignorant of God's righteousness" (working this is necessary to acceptance with God, Act 10:34-35), and "going about to establish their own righteousness," i.e., making systems of their own, and had not "submitted themselves to the righteousness of God." Sectarians are following in the footprints of these Jews, in that they willfully stay ignorant of God's righteousness, i.e. the plan of salvation revealed in the New Testament; they go about to establish their own standards of righteousness, i.e. making human creeds, manuals, and disciplines. Every human creed is evidence of a refusal on the part of the men who made and those who accept it to submit to God's righteousness, and an effort to establish their own righteousness. Such works of men's righteousness are forbidden. "In vain do they worship me, teaching as their doctrines the commandments of men." (Matt. 15:9.) So it is obvious from this array of scriptures that men must "submit to" and "work" God's righteousness for the purpose God stated; and that we must leave off, absolutely refuse, the works of the law, evil works, and works of men's righteousness—the commandments of men.