Saved By…?

There are at least ten different passages in the New Testament which state that people are saved by “something,” in spite of the fact that so many people in the world today make the broad statement that we are “saved by faith – only” or “saved by grace – only.”

I have also found at least 24 additional verses that refer to salvation in some way. While certain thoughts and themes are repeated in many of those verses, they also list a variety of elements, conditions, and actions that are included in the overall concept of salvation.

“The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” (Psa 119:160; NKJV). “The entirety of Your word is truth…” (HCSB). “The sum of your word is truth…” (ASV, ESV, NRSV).

In short, God’s word is truth in its entirety. What is said in one part of Scripture does not negate, cancel, or contradict another part of Scripture. All too often people have tried to play one passage off against another in order to support and sustain some belief that they have in an effort to justify a particular behavior. That is a spiritually dangerous thing to do.

For example, how many times have you heard someone say, “The Bible says we ought not to judge!” They base that assertion on the statement of Jesus found in Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” However, they fail to consider the next few verses, which puts Jesus’ statement in an entirely different light. In context, Jesus is letting us know that, before we pass judgment on the conduct of someone else we need to “get our own house in order.” Such a statement also conveniently ignores other statements also made by Jesus. Just a few verses later Jesus encouraged us to judge the “fruits” of those who would claim to be prophets (Mat 7:20). The judgments we render should not be based solely on outward appearances, but should be “righteous judgments.” Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (Jn 7:24).

The same principle is true in the area of salvation. Martin Luther (1483-1546) did a grave disservice to the world in general and to Christianity in particular when he published his commentary on Paul’s letter to the Romans. Luther even went so far as to add the word “only” to Paul’s statement in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith [only]…” Because of the link James, the brother of the Lord, made between faith, works, and salvation (cf. Jas 2:24) Luther went so far as to refer to the Epistle of James as “the Epistle of Straw.” While it is understandable that Luther would reject the Catholic doctrine of salvation by works (which he was justified in doing) he failed to make a distinction between works of obedience/faith and works of merit (“earning” one’s salvation).

While many today wish to maintain a doctrine of salvation apart from any action on the part of the person seeking salvation, even their own teachings do not sustain such a doctrine. All, with very few exceptions, will maintain that, in order to be saved a person must, in addition to having faith in Jesus Christ, repent of past sins and must at least pray for salvation. Generally speaking, this is done in an effort to divorce water baptism from salvation.

At the beginning I mentioned that at least ten different passages in the New Testament mention “something else” in connection with salvation. A sampling: saved by words (Acts 11:14); saved by Christ’s blood (Rom 5:9); saved by the death and life of Jesus (Rom 5:10); saved by the gospel (1 Cor 15:1, 2); saved by grace (Eph 2:5, 8); saved by mercy (Titus 3:5); saved through water (1 Pet 3:20); saved by baptism (1 Pet 3:21).

If there is no denial that a saving faith also requires mercy, grace, and repentance why should there be any denial that baptism is also a requirement. Remember, just because the Scriptures requires something in one passage does not negate what it may additionally require in another passage.