Faith + Nothing = Salvation

The gospel presents a radically different idea of salvation than most people believe, even among those who call themselves Christians. Salvation is either thought of something you earn, or as a belief only. These two forms of salvation are called Moralism and Relativism.

Depending on where you life, Moralism or Relativism may be more or less popular. To generalize, Moralism is often popular in the red states, while Relativism is more popular in the blue states. On the surface, Moralism appears more dangerous because there is a perceived goodness in the individual that provides them with salvation, while it is often clear the Relativist is living in sin. In reality, they are both just as dangerous and need to be corrected by the gospel.

What is Relativism and Moralism? How does the gospel correct them both? Let’s start with the former of the two questions.

Relativism and Moralism

Relativism stresses grace without truth. God accepts us all, sin has no bearing on us, and we have to decide what is true for us. While the Moralist creates additional laws, the Relativist cast off law completely, thinking they can do whatever they like because they have been extended God’s grace.

In doing so, they create a god of their own making. A god they only have to believe in, not one who is the Lord of their life. The reason they do this is to appease their conscience and their fleshly desires at the same time. Belief in God provides their conscience with comfort, while a license to sin provides for their flesh. The gospel, however, tells us we can’t have our cake and eat it too.

Moralism stresses truth without grace. Salvation is obtained by obedience only. Grace is thrown out for proper behavior and additional self-imposed laws, which are believed to help them earn God’s grace.

The Moralist, just like the Relativist, creates a god of their own making, even though their god is completely different. Instead of allowing them to live how they want, the god of the Moralist only accepts them based on their works. Legalism then dominates Moralistic societies.

The Gospel: A Third and Better Way

In contrast to both Moralism and Relativism, lies the gospel, which is not a set of rules. Rather, it is an understanding that believing in Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient for salvation.

How the Gospel Differs from Both Moralism and Relativism

The gospel differs from Moralism in that it does not require someone to earn their salvation. Rather than earning their salvation, they are saved through Christ’s sacrifice alone, which means they are then freed to live out their righteousness. In other words, their righteous actions become a product of their salvation, not a way to earn or keep their salvation [1].

The gospel differs from Relativism in that it does not give one a license to sin. Paul makes this explicit in Romans 6 when he says,

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:1-4)

God’s grace is not to be abused. Rather, His grace frees us to walk in newness of life. It frees us from the grip of sin. It allows us for the first time in our life to live according to God’s commandments.

Conclusion

Relativism and Moralism show us that man has a tendency to distort the Bible’s teaching in an effort to save himself independent of God. The biblical model of salvation, however, leaves no room for either Relativism or Moralism. The Bible heralds the message of justification by faith alone apart from any works of the Law. A message that is radically different than the world’s, but one that is radically freeing. Through the gospel alone we are free to live out our righteousness without seeking to earn our salvation, as well as we are freed from the grip of sin to live in accordance with God’s commandments. Therefore, the Bible’s message of salvation is: Faith + Nothing = Salvation.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you see yourself obeying God’s Word in order to earn something from Him?
  2. After reading Romans 6, do you think you abuse God’s grace?
  3. How does the gospel radically change your idea of salvation?
  4. Why do you would obey God’s Word?

Resources

[1] Thoughts on Moralism, Relativism, and the Gospel taken from The Centrality of the Gospel by Tim Keller

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We Can’t Refine Ourselves

The gospel tells us that we can’t refine ourselves, because we are inherently sinful. But knowing that does not keep people from trying. One way they try to do this is by adding to the gospel message, thinking that their additions make them more holy and more acceptable to God. However, this is simple not true.

Justification by Faith Alone

Throughout biblical history, many groups have sought to impose laws along with the gospel as a means for salvation. The Judaizers, in Galatia, are one example. They believed the Gentiles must first become Jewish proselytes and submit to the Mosaic law along with believing in Jesus as their Savior in order to be saved (Gal. 1:7; 4:17, 21; 5:2-12; 6:12-13). But this is not the Bible’s message of salvation.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul disagrees with the Judaizers’ when he says,

a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ…because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Gal. 1:16)

Paul makes it clear that we are not justified by the works of the law but by grace. This is a theme he will re-enforce time and again throughout the letter.

Christ of No Advantage

Paul tells the Galatians that the Judaizers who add to the gospel message by requiring the Gentiles to be circumcised are creating another gospel. One that does not save. He tells us that

those who “accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage” to them (Gal. 5:2).

In other words, when one adds to the gospel, they are no longer justified by Christ’s work on the cross, but by their own works.

Obligated to Keep the Whole Law

In the case of the Judaizers, who are saying gospel + works = salvation, do more than just add a few works to an already free gospel. They are obligating themselves to keep the whole law since their gospel is not the gospel of Christ. In other words, by eradicating the true and free gospel of Jesus Christ they are placing themselves under the stipulations of the law, which must be kept perfectly in order to provide them with salvation.

Conclusion

What we find then is that we cannot reconcile ourselves to God (Gal. 2:16; 5:3-5). For if we try to add to the gospel, then we make Christ of no advantage to us, and we force ourselves to keep the law perfectly, which we cannot do. The true gospel tells us that we can only be justified by faith alone (Gal. 3:10-14). So then, we can’t refine ourselves. We can only be refined and reconciled to God through the gospel.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are there things that you add to the gospel message, requiring people in your church to do before they are saved?
  2. How does the gospel free us from having to do works in order to be reconciled to God?

Resource

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