Isn’t that our primary spiritual concern? That is, we want to reach a ‘state of heart / spirit’ that guarantees our best life on Earth, as well as opening the gates for our heavenly arrival.
It’s obvious to those of the Christian faith exactly who does the saving:
“…you shall name Him Jesus (The LORD is Salvation), for He will save His people from their sins.” Mt. 1:21 AMP
“For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” Mt. 18:11 NKJV
“I am the Door; anyone who enters through Me will be saved [and will live forever], and will go in and out [freely], and find pasture (spiritual security).” Jn. 10:9 AMP
“This Jesus in the STONE WHICH WAS DESPISED and REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH HE BECAME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among people by which we must be saved [for God has provided the world no other alternative for salvation].” Acts 4:11 – 13. AMP
…having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. Rm. 5:9 NKJV
That pretty much puts that question to rest…
So, how do we get saved? The Bible seems to have two ‘camps of thought’ on this matter. The first we shall consider is what the Holy Spirit gave the apostle James (Jesus’ brother), to speak to God’s children:
What is the benefit, my fellow believer, if anyone claims to have faith but has no [good] works [as evidence]? Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient – genuine faith produces good works.] James 2:14 AMP
…faith, if it does not have good works [to back it up], is by itself dead [inoperative and ineffective]. James 2:17 AMP
James even brings up Abraham as an example to justify his position:
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? James 2:21, 22. NKJV
It appears that James is teaching that faith alone cannot confer salvation upon the believer.
The apostle Paul seems to teach the opposite:
In fact, he quotes the Old Testament regarding Abraham, to justify his stance:
Then Abram believed in (affirmed, trusted in, relied on, remained steadfast to) the LORD; and He counted (credited) to him as righteousness (doing right in regard to God and man). Gn. 15:6 AMP
What is salvation? is it not the conferring of Christ’s righteousness upon a child of God – cleansing the recipient of sin with His sacrificial blood? And, according to Paul, this is not something that we can do for ourselves, it is a gift from God:
For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that not one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for this salvation]. Eph. 2:8, 9. AMP
Oh, there is something that we must do – it is not a work, but it is rather to make ourselves available to receive our salvation:
‘AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD [invoking, adoring, and worshiping the Lord Jesus] SHALL BE SAVED (rescued spiritually).’ Acts 2:21 AMP
For Paul, it’s a matter of having faith:
…if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Rm. 10:9 AMP
For we maintain that a man is justified apart from the works of the Law. Rm. 3:28 NASB
Well, here we have two mighty men of God, both of whom are Holy-Spirit inspired to write God’s truth. Which one is correct? They both are.
Paul rightly teaches that salvation is a gift of God’s grace – given in exchange for one’s faith in Jesus Christ as being the Son of God, that He died for their sins, and that He was resurrected to the right hand of HIs Father in heaven. Being that salvation is a gift, you cannot earn your way into the kingdom of God – even through good works.
Jesus Himself said the same:
“He who has believed [in Me] and has been baptized will be saved [from the penalty of God’s wrath and judgment]…” Mk. 16:16 AMP
All we have to do is hold onto that faith:
“…it is the one who has patiently persevered and endured to the end who will be saved.” Mt. 10:22 AMP
Thus, it’s about having faith and declaring that faith. Looks like Paul was right. But wait, Jesus also said:
“Repent [change your inner self – your old way of thinking, regret past sins, live your life in a way that proves repentance; seek God’s purpose for your life], for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Mt. 4:17 AMP
To ‘repent’ means to turn away from sin with true remorse, and to make our best effort not to repeat that sin. And we repent in faith, believing that God’s way is the best way.
James rightly states that if we turn from our worldly ways and walk in the love of God, our character will change – which cannot help but change what we do, i.e. our ‘works.’
God gave the same message to King David as well:
LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness… Ps. 15:1, 2. NKJV
Similarly, Jesus said that our works are a product of our godly transformation, and that they become part of our testimony for the glory of God:
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Mt. 5:16 NKJV
Our ‘transformational character is born out of our best efforts to be more Christ-like. And we can thank God that He helps us do that very thing, by changing us from the inside-out:
…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ… Phil. 1:6 NKJV
So, we see that James is just as correct in his own way as Paul; because if there is no change in a person’s heart, there will likewise be no change in the way that they conduct themselves. That person then, did not accept Christ in earnest in the first place.
We are saved by faith; and then that faith clears a path before us for taking righteous actions…
Goodnight and God bless.