CG7 on Faith and Works; LCG on Grace and Obedience


In the Mar-Apr 2012 issues of CG7- Denver’s Bible Advocate, its former president Calvin Burrell wrote the following answer to the listed question about faith and works:

Question Your church doctrinal statement suggests to me that salvation requires faith plus works. Do you believe that good works are required for saving faith?

Answer Teaching truth on this topic requires more than a simple verse or paragraph. Accuracy and simplicity don’t often come in the same package. On one hand, Christian salvation comes by God’s grace to humble (repentant) sinners who call upon the name of the Lord in faith — before they respond with good works. This fact is found in many texts, like Luke 18:9-14; Acts 16:31; Romans 3:20-28; 4:1-6; 10:13; Galatians 2:15, 16; and Titus 3:4-7. In this sense, saving faith does not require us to produce good works nor attain a minimal level of obedience in order to be fully pardoned for our sins. We stand righteous before God — justified — ever and always by His grace through faith, not by our works (Eph. 2:8, 9). On the other hand, those who’ve known and trusted God’s free gift of grace do give evidence of their saved condition by obeying God’s Word and doing good works. This fact too is taught in many scriptures, like Matthew 5:16; Titus 2:14; 3:8; Hebrews 11:23, 24; James 2:14-26; and 1 Peter 2:12. In this sense, we who are forgiven embrace good deeds as the natural twin and outgrowth of saving faith, but we never endorse works as the cause or source of our salvation (add verse 10 to Eph. 2:8, 9). The two truths outlined above find classical expression in the New Testament. Paul states the first like this: “A man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ . . . by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Gal. 2:16). The second truth comes from James’ pen: “A man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). These two quotes offer clear contrast: James says both faith and works are required to be justified, while Paul says works justify no one. This is a paradox, as is the ambiguity noted in our doctrine — but not a contradiction! Further study shows that Paul’s and James’ unique emphases fit their respective audiences. Writing mostly to Gentiles, Paul chooses the word works (Gal. 2:16) to preserve the simple gospel from legalistic pollutions. James (2:24) uses the same word in rousing complacent Hebrew Christians to put their faith into action. Similarly, the word justified has the technical meaning of “salvation” in Paul and a more general sense in James — that of supplying evidence. Thus we see how the two apostles wrote harmonizing truths, not contradictions. Combining Paul and James into a single, notso- simple sentence, we may say this: Works do not save a man, but a saved man works. Or this: We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone. A third attempt at synthesizing Paul and James is this: We are not saved by faith and works, but by a faith that works (see Gal. 5:6). No, we do not believe that saving faith requires faith and works. Sins are forgiven and eternal life bestowed by God’s grace alone, in response to faith. This simple gospel comforts the afflicted and reassures every struggling soul who truly trusts! Yes, we do believe that good works and godly obedience are present to some degree in every Christian life. Those who stand right with God by faith in Christ do have a growing desire and commitment to follow their Lord and Savior in all that’s good and right. This truth afflicts the comfortable and points us ever to Jesus, who alone can save. — Elder Calvin Burrell

There are a few scriptures that CG7 did not fully quote that perhaps should be added as they may make the subject clearer:

11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!  (Romans 6:11-16)

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.   18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?  21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.  25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?  26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:14-26)

Christians are to be dead to sin, hence not sin, in order to having a living faith.  The faith of Jesus.

In its latest commentary, the Living Church of God has the following:

By Wyatt Ciesielka | Saturday, March 10, 2012
Can we obtain salvation by our own efforts? If we obtain salvation, is it true that “once saved, always saved”? Many people are confused about the truth behind these doctrines. Scripture tells us that a Christian is justified by grace (Titus 3:7). So, what does it mean that we must not lose what we have worked for (2 John 1:8)? If justification is by Christ’s blood (Romans 5:8-10), then why is eternal life the reward of the righteous (Matthew 25:46), while eternal death awaits the unrepentant sinner (Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23; Revelation 21:8)?

To help answer these questions, consider a vital but often-misunderstood verse in Scripture. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (KJV).

Clearly, grace is a “gift from God.” But, is this grace a permanent state, such that “once saved, always saved”? To find the answer, we can look more closely at this verse. The phrase “are ye saved” uses a present-progressive verb. A “present-progressive” verb describes an ongoing action. Any good Bible concordance will verify that the KJV correctly renders the tense of the original Greek verb. Sadly, many newer translations wrongly translate the phrase as “you have been saved”—which can wrongly imply a permanent condition—leading readers to infer wrongly the “once saved, always saved” doctrine.

Note in particular that the Greek verb este, used in this verse, does not demand a permanent state. A similar verb construction occurs in Luke 9:55, where Christ rebuked James and John for wanting to call fire down from heaven. Jesus told them, “You know not what manner of spirit you are [este] of.” The context makes it clear that this was a presently continuing state (“present-progressive”), and not a permanent condition. At that particular time (“presently,”) James and John were speaking according to a wrong spirit, but it would be foolish to suggest that these two apostles remained forever in that state! Rather, as with any present-progressive verb, the condition may or may not continue into the future.

So, putting all this together, the most precise translation of Ephesians 2:8, in light of modern English grammar, would be that we “are being” saved through faith.

And what of obedience? Millions believe that once they accept Christ and receive the Holy Spirit, they “are” saved. This is the “once saved, always saved” doctrine. Although some find it comforting, it is a dangerous false doctrine, for it is not what the Bible teaches! Notice that, as ancient King David recorded in Psalm 51, the Holy Spirit can be “taken” from someone who is obstinately sinful and unrepentant. David had only to remember the tragedy of King Saul, who had the Holy Spirit taken from him (1 Samuel 16:14). The Apostle Paul further develops this point in his letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 6:4-6). So, we can see that the Bible does not teach “once saved, always saved.”

The key to understanding these points is that many have been convinced to assume a false dichotomy. They wonder about grace or obedience, when the Bible teaches the interrelationship of grace and obedience.

Grace is God’s unmerited love and pardon toward us (Titus 3:4-5; Romans 5:10). No one who has ever lived, with the sole exception of Jesus Christ, has ever deserved grace. And no amount of our effort can earn us God’s grace. Grace is a gift from God.

However, grace does not give us a right to sin. Paul asked whether Christians should continue in sin just so grace should abound, he answered definitively: “Certainly not!” (Romans 6:1-2). Rather, by our Christian faith, we “uphold the law” (Romans 3:31). If we sin, we commit lawlessness—we break God’s law (1 John 3:4)! We cannot break a law that does not exist! Instead, we use the Holy Spirit that God has given to us, and through that Spirit we grow in grace and righteousness, able to receive God’s gift of eternal life (Romans 6:20-22).

For further study on this vital subject, read our informative Tomorrow’s World article, “Obedience vs. Grace?” or watch our telecast, “Law or Grace?

Many, especially those who claim a certain type of Protestantism, misunderstand most of the truth about the law and salvation. The truth is that while obeying it does not bring salvation (which only comes through Jesus Christ), intentionally disobeying can demonstrate lack of conversion.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

Are the Ten Commandment Still in Effect? This article quotes the ten commandments and they are shown at Mount Sinai, before Mount Sinai, in the teachings of Jesus, after the crucifixion, and in the teachings of Paul. It addresses the most common “traditions of men” regarding them as well.
Were the Pharisees Condemned for Keeping the Law or Reasoning Around it? Many believe that the Pharisees were condemned for keeping the law, but what does your Bible say? If they were not condemned for that, what were they condemned for?
The Ten Commandments Reflect Love, Breaking them is Evil Some feel that the ten commandments are a burden. Is that what Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, and John taught?
Was the Commandment to Love the Only Command? Some have stated that John’s writings teach this, but is that what the Bible really says?
The Ten Commandments and the Early Church Did Jesus and the Early Church keep the ten commandments? What order were they in? Here are quotes from the Bible and early writings.
Is God Unreasonable? Some have suggested that if God requires Sabbath-keeping He is unreasonable. Is that true?
Which Laws Are Done Away? Which Remain? What about the Ten Commandments? What about the 613 regulations (called 613 Mitzvot) in the Old Testament?
True vs. False Conversion Are you really converted or willing to be? What is true conversion? What is false conversion? What are the dangers of false conversion? Evangelist Roderick Meredith provides information on those important questions.
Church of God, Seventh Day: History and Teachings Nearly all COG’s I am aware of trace their history through this group. Whaid Rose is the president of the largest CG7 group (Denver). Do you know much about them?
Hope of Salvation: How the Living Church of God differ from most Protestants How the Living Church of God differs from mainstream/traditional Protestants, is perhaps the question I am asked most by those without a Church of God background.
The Similarities and Dissimilarities between Martin Luther and Herbert W. Armstrong This article clearly shows some of the doctrinal differences between in the two. At this time of doctrinal variety and a tendency by many to accept certain aspects of Protestantism, the article should help clarify why the Living Church of God is NOT Protestant. Do you really know what the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther taught and should you follow his doctrinal example?
There are Many COGs: Why Support the Living Church of God? This is an article for those who wish to more easily sort out the different COGs. It really should be a MUST READ for current and former WCG/GCI members or any interested in supporting the faithful church. It also explains a lot of what the COGs are all about.

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