Are We Saved By Works or By Faith?

There is often confusion about whether we are saved by our works or our faith. This debate is pointless, because the true answer is that we are saved by the grace of God (although faith plays a critical role at our end of things).

God's grace can be thought of as an invitation extended freely to everyone to know him through belief in Jesus. Yes, that's right – an invitation to all of us sinners. Faith is the means by which we accept this invitation. It is true that without faith, we cannot be saved. So faith is critical, but make no mistake – if God hadn't issued this invitation by His grace, all the faith in the world wouldn't save us.

Let's move on to works. Works are a way God knows us (provided we are doing the works for His glory). In contrast, if we are doing good works without a thought of God, this alone certainly won't save us. If we truly have faith, truly believe, then our actions will be in line with the Bible and this will be evident in an outpouring of works. So really, there shouldn't be any faith vs. works debate – our works are simply a result (a side-effect) of the faith we have.

For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God's gift— not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation—created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2: 8-10


To sum up this passage, we are saved by grace, through faith, for us to do good works.

This all points to the idea that salvation really is a moment of surrender.  Salvation is not anything we can create ourselves, it is a turning over of ourselves to God and asking Him to save us.  Now the decision to make that turning over (by believing in Jesus and knowing God that way) is our decision, but it is God that saves us from that point onward, not ourselves. 

It is a bit like jumping onto a swinging vine – you can make the decision to jump (faith), but it's only because the vine is there (God's grace) that it will do you any good.  So we shouldn't be so bold as to think we can save ourselves – instead we can turn ourselves over to God (through belief in Jesus) and ask Him to save us.  It's a fine distinction, but an important one.

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