Monday, September 12, 2011

"Contradictions in the Word of God": #3- Can Salvation be Attained by Works?

Can Salvation be Attained by Works?

This is the 3rd question asked on the video which claims to reveal contradictions in the Word of God.  The two answers given are "No", using Galatians 2:16 and Romans 3:28 for support, and "Yes", referencing Matthew 19:17; Luke 10:26-28; James 2:24.

I began to answer this alleged contradiction and then decided my time constraints at the present would prevent me from fully elaborating on the matter. This particular question needs a solid and careful response.  It is an important question for each person to consider.

The question has been debated by Protestants and any other religious group (including Roman Catholics) for centuries. Sometimes it is framed a bit differently by saying that Paul (the author of Romans and Galatians) disagrees with James. So, can salvation be attained by works?

The correct answer to this question is a “what do you mean”? Terminology is important with any question and that goes for this one. What do you mean by “salvation”? What do you mean by “attained”? What do you mean by “works”?

My guess is the question being asked is something like: “Can a man earn a right relationship with God and receive eternal life by doing certain good deeds ?” The answer to that question is a resounding “NO”.

The passages in question (and there are many similar ones on both sides) do not contradict each other. Obviously the individual(s) who put together the little video did not do much research. If they truly believed this question was a serious issue on the faithfulness of the Scripture, they would have spent a little effort seeing what Protestant scholars have said on the matter over the past 500 years.

Since I do not have the time at present to answer the question in depth, I am providing some references to responses by a few, good Protestant men on the matter. I would encourage you to listen to them and see if they provide an answer to what you believe is a contradiction in the Scripture.

Furthermore, if, after listening to their responses, you would like to discuss this specific question in more detail, please let me know.

  • Dr. John Piper, current pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, briefly shares his understanding of the doctrine of justification by faith alone here. He also addresses the alleged contradiction between Paul and James here.
  • The 19th century English Baptist pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, preached on this topic and you may read his sermon here.
  • Dr. John MacArthur is the current pastor of Grace Community Church in southern California and has addressed the matter in two sermons from James chapter 2.  His first is on dead faith and may be found here.  His second is on living faith and may be read here.

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