By Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor


This group mixes faith and works predicated on James 2:17, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."  Their philosophy is a bit confusing when analyzed...for they say one thing and hold to another.  They claim emphatically that one is saved by grace BUT if you do not have good works, you are not really saved.  They emphasize that when you are saved your life change immediately.  This is based on 2nd Corinthians 5:17 which reads "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (creation): old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."  We will discuss this Verse at length a little later.  In Romans 11:6 we are told "And if by works, then is it no more grace, otherwise work is no more work."  In other words if eternal life is by is by grace alone.  If it is by good works, then it is by good works 100% and not one bit of God's grace is involved.  Salvation is either 100% by grace or entirely by works, not a mixture of the two, no matter how little of each we try to add.  If we take the Word of God as our Authority, the answer becomes clear.  Let us consider the following...

A CONTRADICTION: If James 2:17 means that we are lost eternally unless we have good works, then God definitely contradicts Himself for Romans 4:3 states "For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness."  In Romans 4:5 God makes it clear that Abraham was justified and declared righteous without good works, "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."  Salvation is by faith alone or faith and works, one of these two ways...

A  CONSIDERATION:  God does not give two formulas for eternal life.  THERE IS ONE WAY ONLY.  In John 14:6 we are told "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."  The Word of God does not say "You are the way," but that "Christ is the way."  Not what you may try to do by your good works, your way, but the good and perfect work Christ did when He died to pay for our sins.  The only way is faith in Christ's finished work, and not our own works of righteousness, so called (Titus 3:5).  We come to the Father only by trusting in what He did for us, not on what we can do for Him.

A CONCLUSION: Notice carefully that Romans 3:4 states "For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness."  This is a direct quote from Genesis 15:6.  This is when Abraham was saved by faith without works.  This was Abraham's justification in GOD'S EYES for salvation.  God does not need works to know we are saved but man does.  Now notice again in James 2:17, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."  James continues and illustrates this point by using Abraham as an example, "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the alter?"  James refers here to a different time in Abraham's life, many years after he was saved.  This record is found in Genesis 22. This is justification in MAN'S EYES.  If we say we are Christians and our way of living does not back it up, then no one will believe our testimony.  We must have good works to substantiate our faith or our testimony will be dead and lifeless as far as anyone believing what we say. When we claim to be a Christian, our lives are always
watched by someone.

ABRAHAM WAS WATCHED: In Genesis 22 when Abraham offered Isaac, he was being watched by two men he had taken with him, "And Abraham rose early in the mourning and saddled his ass, and took TWO of his young men with him..." (Genesis 22:3).  They, no doubt, heard Abraham many times testifying of God's grace, goodness, and provisions.  Now they were watching every minute to see what Abraham was going to do. Abraham offered Isaac and God honored his faith by providing a ram sacrifice.  These two men, along with people today, will only believe what we say if they can see it by the way we live.  If our life substantiates our faith then we are JUSTIFIED IN MAN'S EYES as they believe our testimony, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified (in other people's eyes), and not by faith only" (James 2:24).

ROMANS 4:3: In the light of the context there is definitely not a contradiction between Romans 4:3 and James 2:17.  In Romans 4:3 we read, "For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God and it was counted
unto him for righteousness.
"  Again, this is referring to Genesis 15:3 when Abraham was saved by faith without works. This is his justification before God...Salvation.

JAMES 2:17, 24, 21: "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone ... Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only ... Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the alter."  Here James refers to Genesis, Chapter 22, a time years after Abraham was saved.  This he used to illustrate that testimony without works will fall dead and lifeless to the ears of the lost.  If our works back up our faith, then men justify our testimony as being true.  James is talking about our justification before men. "Even so faith if it hath not works is dead..."  This does not say that one
is lost without good works, only that his testimony falls dead and lifeless.  This is like a car with a charged-up battery. . . the headlights will shine.  If the battery goes dead, the light will not shine but the battery is still there.  We can be saved and our life may not be charged up by God's Word and shining the way it should. . . but the Holy Spirit is still within us and we are still saved.  This is made clear by Ephesians 4:30, "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are SEALED UNTO THE DAY OF REDEMPTION."

ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT OF WORKS.  Remember, we are not maintaining that good works are necessary to go to Heaven.  Salvation is a free gift and not of works, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, least any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8,9).  But let us be careful to maintain good works which will prove our faith to the lost and be a source of reward prove our faith to the lost and be a source of reward to us AFTER we get to heaven.

GOOD WORKS RECEIVE A REWARD.   1st Corinthians 3:14, "If any man's (Christian's) work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward."  Notice, this is not referring to Heaven or eternal life, but rewards you receive after you get to Heaven.''  Heaven is a free gift by faith while rewards have to be earned by our works.

BAD WORKS RECEIVE LOSS OF REWARDS, BUT NOT LOSS OF SALVATION.  I Corinthians 3:15,  "If any man's (Christian's) work shall be burned, he shall suffer (loss of rewards, not salvation); but he himself  SHALL BE SAVED,  yet so as by fire.

OUR RESPONSIBILITY.  In Matthew 5:13 we are told that we "are the salt of the earth..."  In Romans 10:17 we read "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."  Therefore..."Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven
(Matthew 5:16).  How will they glorify your Father which is in Heaven?  By trusting Jesus Christ as their own personal Saviour, because your life backed up your testimony which was received as the living truth, instead of falling lifeless upon dead ears.  Will you trust Jesus as your Saviour right now?

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me (Christ) hath everlasting life." (John 6:47)

A few years ago I attended a Bible conference at a large Bible college in the South.  One of the speakers spoke on the "so-called contradiction" in James 2:17.  At the conclusion of his message he made this startling statement, "If you are really saved, you will live it! His other remarks along with this led all to believe that if you had sinned since being saved or were not really dedicated to Christ, you had better check to see if you were really saved.  At the invitation thirty-five to forty college students came forward.  It was later announced that they had come for REASSURANCE  of their salvation. 

It was a subtle way to get one to doubt God's faithfulness to His promise of everlasting life because of one's unfaithfulness to Him.  This left no room for being in a backslidden condition and that chastening could result if one did not get back in fellowship with the Lord.  In 1st John 1:9, 7 we are told "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness ... But if we walk in the light God's Word), as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."

This was never brought out at all in his message.  The sad thing was that dedication and coming forward was in intermingled with salvation.  The next time any of these students should sin or not be 100% dedicated, they very likely will again doubt their salvation.

Since that message was not delivered in its proper context, one will never know the devastating effects it will have on some of these students in the future.  The whole message was summed up in doubting one's salvation, instead of realizing the Christian's testimony will fall dead on the ears of the lost if our life does not incorporate good works.

In discussing 2nd Corinthians 5:17 which states "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature creation): old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."  We should notice how this Verse is applied when used in inviting people to trust Christ at the invitation.  It is usually emphasized that if one is willing to lay all on the altar, i.e., willing to confess and forsake all known sin, then Christ will accept the person and give them eternal life.  This may seem like sound theology because God does want us to forsake our sin; but not as a condition to be saved.  Then why would God want us to confess and forsake our sin if it is not to have eternal life?  The answer is made perfectly from 1st John 1:6, "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another..."  When a Christian is living in sin his fellowship with God is broken.  The way to restore that fellowship between Christ and the believer is set forth in Verse 9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all righteousness." Now notice carefully, when we forsake, confess, and walk with Christ we have fellowship, not salvation and Sonship.

Some have tried to argue this by saying 1st John was written to lost people and not to Christians.  The Word of God refutes this argument abruptly.  Let us quote 1st John 5:13, "These things have written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life. . ."  Who did John say he wrote these things unto?  Christians, of course, "to you that believe."

I hope you begin to see how confusing the terminology of "laying all on the altar" becomes to a lost person.  He is led to believe that confession and forsaking all sin is a requirement before God will accept him.  The Bible says that "while I was a sinner Christ died for me" (Romans 5:8).  He did not say, "When you forsake all your sin, Christ will die for you."  We must remember that before a person is saved he is the natural man (Corinthians 2:14) and is not indwelt with the Holy Spirit which is the power that changes a person's life.  The Holy Spirit is given to each person simultaneously with his faith in Christ and is not a result of confession, promises, or works.  Paul had this same problem with the Galatians, "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched (i.e. tricked or fooled) you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?" Then Paul asked them the question, "Received YE THE SPIRIT BY THE WORKS OF THE LAW, OR BY THE HEARING OF FAITH" (Galatians 3:1,2; Ephesians 1:13)

Let us present God's salvation, not man's.  God's salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Can we not then trust the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to convict and provide the power to change a life, to that which will be pleasing unto God.

Now, a text found in 2nd Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new."  This is simply our POSITION before God, the way a sinner looks in God's eyes at the point of salvation.  God views one as a new creation, born again by faith in Christ, he is a new creation by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  "Old things are passed away..." (He will never be judged, or chastened, for any sins committed in the past).  "...All things become new."  What a salvation!  The past is forgotten and forgiven, one can now begin a new life with full assurance of eternal life.  In Ephesians 2:6 we are told that God ". . . hath raised (past tense) us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Notice the past tense of this Verse.  God's salvation is so complete, sure, and reliable that He is letting us know that He looks upon us (the saved) as though we were already in Heaven.

The misuse of 1st Corinthians 5:17 has led many into thinking that when they trust Christ as Saviour, immediately they will lose their desire to sin.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Just because we are saved does not mean we lose our old nature or its influence.  God wants the believer to recognize this, so he will not be deceived into doubting his salvation when he does sin.  There is not a Christian who has not sinned, "If we say that we (believers) have no sin, we deceived ourselves and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8).

One night, one of our deacons and myself were visiting a young couple.  I asked the wife if she knew where she was going when she died.  She replied, "Yes, right to Hell!"  We had explained salvation previous to this and when I asked her why she was going to Hell she explained.  She said still had a desire to do things she did not think a Christian should do.  She thought if she accepted Christ she would no longer have a desire to do anything wrong.  She simply did not understand the working of the two natures.  In Galatians 5:17 we are told, "For the flesh loseth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these contrary the one to the other."  When she realized God did not eradicate the old nature, she understood why the old desires still tried to assert themselves.

I am happy to say they did attend church regularly, their lives changed as they grew in the grace and knowledge of Christ.

Many times people are confused and doubt their salvation when led to believe everything in their life will change immediately when they are saved.  We must remember growth comes with knowledge of God's word, "But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. . ." (2nd Peter 3:18).  Read 2nd Peter 1:2,5,6.  Whenever an invitation includes laying all on the altar for salvation, it can very well lead that person to believe their promises had something to do with their salvation.  No matter how many promises, pledges, forsaken habits, nor how sincerely all this is done. . . eternal life is given only as a free gift, not a debt that God owes us (Romans 4:4).  Should we not give the invitation to the lost the same as God does, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. . ." (Acts 16:31).  Once a person is saved, can we not trust the Word of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit to change a person's life?  God does the saving and the Holy Spirit does the changing.

Salvation is not "faith and works" or "faith and promises" but FAITH PLUS NOTHING. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us. . ." (Titus 3:5)


God provided salvation for all by sending Christ as payment for the sins of the world, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that who so ever believeth on Him should not perish, but have a everlasting life."  His sacrifice was complete and accepted by God; therefore, it was never required again.  In Hebrews 10:12 we are told, "But this man after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God."  God's acceptance of Christ's payment was evidenced when He raised Him from the dead.  In Romans 4:25, He ". . . was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification."  Salvation was provided by God and completed by Christ.  Christ is the Author and Finisher of our faith, He designed it . . . Christ's coming to earth to take on human flesh. . . and completed it. . . His death on the cross and His resurrection. . . without the help of man.  Therefore, it will be offered to man only on God's condition.

  1. Salvation for all. Christ's sacrifice has paid for all sin, past. . . present. . . and future.  Therefore, since the wages of sin is death, if one sin was left unpaid for, Christ would still be in the grave.  Since we have all sinned and the penalty for sin has been paid, then all are welcomed to God's salvation. "God so loved the world (everyone) that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him (Christ) should not perish, but have everlasting life."  The world is everyone, the invitation is to whosoever; therefore, "This is the record that God hath given to us eternal life and this life is in his Son.  He that hath the Son hath life and he that hath not the Son of god hath not life."

  2. Salvation given only as a free gift by faith. Notice Ephesians 2:8,9, "For by grace are ye saved, through faith, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast."  Let's analyze each part of this verse:

"Grace" - grace is giving us what we do not deserve. Since all have sinned - none deserve eternal life, "But God commandeth His love toward us, in what, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  That's grace, Christ dying for us while we cared nothing for Him. 

"Are ye saved." - since Christ paid for our sins, we are saved from eternal damnation by not paying the debt of our own sins.

"Through faith." - faith and believing both mean the same, i.e. trusting and relying upon God's payment for our sin, the death and resurrection of Christ.

"Not of yourselves." - faith excludes any human good on the part of the believer for salvation.  Salvation is never given on behalf of promises, resolutions, commitments, or discarded bad habits. "Not of yourselves" means "not of yourselves" (Titus 3:5, Isaiah 53:6).

"A gift of God." - salvation is a gift... period! There is no payment for a gift or it then ceases to be a gift.  Salvation is a gift of God received by faith only.

"Not of works." - this is the same as "not of yourselves."  Twice God emphasizes that no human good can obtain the salvation of God.  Isaiah 64:6 "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."

  1. Works before salvation. In John 6:28, 29 a group of lost people asked Christ what good works they could do for God. Here is the record, "Then said they unto Him (Christ), What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? (vs. 28).  Since they were lost, no amount of good works would justify them.  Our Lord answered them in one clear and concise statement. "Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that YE BELIEVE ON HIM (Christ) whom he hath sent" (vs. 29).  Our works account for rewards only after salvation, not before.  They are considered as filthy rags prior to salvation (Isaiah 64:6).

  2. Self-righteousness.  In Luke 16, just after Christ had given the parable of the unjust steward, He was derided by the Pharisees.  In Verse 24 we are told, "And the Pharisees also who were covetous heard all these things and they derided him (Christ)."  The reason they did this is given in Verse 15, "And He (Christ) said unto them, ye are they which JUSTIFY YOURSELVES before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God."

  3. The Pharisee and the Publican.  Here is the record, Luke 18:10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee and the other a Publican."  What caused Christ to give this parable?  The answer is found in Verse 9, "and he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others."  One can easily see why Christ condemned this Pharisee after listening to his self-righteous prayer.  Listen to him in Verses 11 and 12, "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, and adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all I possess."  This man is characteristic of many self-righteous church members today.  Church members, but lost.  Self-justified, but condemned.  The publican pictures the sinner, who knows and admits he is a sinner.  Until one realizes he is a sinner, he has no need of a Saviour.  The publican came, not justifying himself, or even worthy to look to Heaven, "And the publican standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes into Heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, GOD BE MERCIFUL TO ME A SINNER."  Now let us see who God accepted in Verse 14, "I tell you this man went down to his house JUSTIFIED rather than the other."

  4. The Jews. In Romans 10:1-4, Paul prayer was that his kinfolk, Israel, would be saved.  He acknowledged they were religious; but, self-righteous and lost.  Here are verses 1-4 in their entirety.

"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."

Yes, religious and self-righteous, but lost. They, as many today, will not submit themselves unto the righteousness of God; but are trying to establish their own righteousness. One does not need Christ's righteousness when they are convinced their own is sufficient.

FAITH GIVES US CHRIST'S RIGHTEOUSNESS.  In 2nd Corinthians 5:21 we are told that "For He hath made him (Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (Christ)."  When I trust Christ by faith as my Saviour, God gives me the righteousness of Christ and takes my sin and judges it completely--paid for at the cross. . . where He was made sin for me.  Now I can "be found in him (Christ) NOT HAVING MY OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Philippians 3:9).  Paul, in Galatians 2:21 said, "I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain."

In God's Word, faith. . . believe. . . and trust all have the same meaning when appearing in connection with salvation.  All three mean you are relying 100% on Christ as your payment for sin.  Then, and only then, can one have the absolute assurance you will never perish but have everlasting life.  I can then say with Paul in Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

What a relief it is to know for sure where I am going when I die.  "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son (Christ).  He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.  These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life. . ."

There are only two ways to approach God. . .

Rejected - coming to God with your OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Accepted - coming to God as a sinner, accepting Christ by FAITH.

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Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor

P.O. Box 573
Walnut Grove, MN 56180
Telephone (507) 859-2519


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