Saved By Grace Through Faith, Not By Works

Q. You may have answered these questions somewhere that I haven’t been able to find on your site. But I would appreciate an explanation concerning verses Matt. 7:21 – 23. Jesus is saying that not everyone who calls him “Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven – if they call him Lord – doesn’t that indicate that they believe?

Also James 2:19 which states that “…Even the demons believe and tremble”.

And Matt. 8:28 when the demons in the two men cried out saying “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God?”……’
Doesn’t that indicate that they believed?

I was brought up on the OSAS belief but these verses have always troubled me. I would appreciate any help you may give so that I could understand the belief only context. I know that no one can earn their way to heaven by good works. I also know it’s all a product of God’s grace that provides salvation. But my understanding is that true believers – those who believe in Jesus as Messiah, who died and rose again and is our only path to heaven must also strive to live their lives in an ongoing process of becoming more like Jesus and without that second part just belief only seems to put one in the shallow ‘demon’ category. Please clarify.

A. In John 3:3 Jesus said that unless we’re born again we can’t enter the Kingdom of God. There are many religious people who call Jesus Lord every Sunday morning but will not enter the Kingdom because they aren’t born again. Some of them believe they’re saved because they go to a certain church. Others think it’s because they do certain things, or behave a certain way. People who believe this are not saved and will not enter the Kingdom, no matter what “good works” they’ve performed.

The rest of Matt. 7:21 says that only those who do the will of the Father will enter the Kingdom. And what is the will of the Father? In John 6:40 Jesus said the Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life. That excludes anyone who subscribes to a plan of salvation that isn’t based solely on the fact that Jesus paid the full penalty for all the sins of our life, leaving nothing for us to do except believe that and accept it.

As for James 2:19, we have to remember that the demons believe in God because they’ve seen Him. But believing in God does not save anyone. As we see from above, it also takes believing that Jesus died for all our sins. This is where the demons fall short. Either they don’t believe they’ve sinned or they don’t believe Jesus died for their sins.

Your comment that we have to strive to live our lives to become more like Jesus is not a condition of salvation. It’s something we do out of gratitude for the salvation we’ve been given, and it comes from following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise it’s just an attempt to attain the goal by human effort instead of relying on the Lord’s completed work. Remember, grace plus works equals works. We’re saved by grace through faith, not by works. (Ephes. 2:8-9)

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