Note: All Scripture quotations found in this article are from the text of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible.
There are many people in the world today that believe that we are saved by the law or kept saved by the law. As Baptists we know that we are saved and kept by grace alone. That is Baptist doctrine and that is Bible doctrine. Some of this will be repetitive, but bare with me because I want to make things clear to those who do not fully understand the subject.
In Acts 15:1-11, the questions, "What does a man have to do to get saved?" and "Do we have to do anything to keep saved?" are answered. In verses 1 through 11 you will see that at the council in Jerusalem around 40 A.D. the apostle and elders decreed that a man is saved and kept by grace through faith alone. This means that water baptism, keeping the law, circumcision, sacraments, speaking in tongues and laying on of hands have nothing to do with salvation.
Legalism, correctly defined is when someone tries to get saved or keep saved by works and not faith alone. The Galatian church had this problem and the Apostle Paul corrected them on the subject. His answer to them is that we are saved and kept by faith and not by the law.
Galatians 3:3 "Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith."
This is where all the Campbellites and Catholics argue that Baptists teach that we can do anything we want after we get saved and sin willfully. This is answered by Paul again. Paul was not against good works and that is clear with the verses below. We are not saved by works, but we do good works because we are saved just like a dog does not bark to become a dog, but he barks because he is a dog.
Romans 6:1 "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"
Philippians 2:12 "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."
To understand the doctrine of Eternal Security one must understand the doctrine of Rightly Dividing. The people that believe that salvation is by works will quote James 2. Before applying James 2 to any Christian, there are many things you must consider. The text is talking about Abraham, not a Church Age Christian. The Illustration was Rahab under the Old Testament under the LAW, not a Christian under the New Testament. Finally, James wrote to the twelve Jewish tribes of Israel under the law, not the Body of Christ (James 1:1).
Now let us define the Law. The Law includes the Ten Commandments and all the other commandments of God. Law means the entire Old Testament and sometimes it means just the Ten Commandments. Simply, it means anything that shows up before the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though we are not saved or kept saved by the law in this age, it is still good, holy, just, pure, right and perfect.
Romans 7:12 "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good."
Psalms 19:7 "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes."
Grace is something entirely different though. Grace is unmerited favor and the kindness of God toward us. Under the law, God demands righteousness, but under Grace, God gives righteousness. We can get that righteousness today by putting our faith in His Son alone. It is a free gift that we cannot earn and does not come by counting on our own righteousness.
Romans 10:3 "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
This is the reason why people that count on works to save them or keep them saved always doubt their salvation. They never know for sure if they will get to Heaven because they have rejected the righteousness that they could get by faith alone in Christ and have counted on their own self-righteousness.
Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast."
The fact is, no one can keep the law perfectly. Jesus Christ was the only person to keep the law fully. Moses did not because he murdered a man. Daniel did not because he let a king worship him. No one alive today can keep the law perfectly either. Not one person has lived good enough to be saved.
Romans 3:10 "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:"
Psalms 39:5 "..verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.."
Isaiah 64:6 "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."
The Law condemns everyone because everyone has at least broke one commandment sometime in their life. If everyone was honest they would admit they have broken a lot of laws in their life, over and over.
James 2:10 "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."
Grace is willing to forgive the lawbreaker though.
Titus 2:11 "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,"
The Law sets up a standard that people are helpless to keep. The Law shows us that we are far from righteous. Grace is what restores righteousness that the Law took from us. Someone said that GRACE stands for "God's Riches At Christ's Expense" for the lost sinner.
Under the Law we are cursed, but under Grace are justified and redeemed.
Galatians 3:10 "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."
Romans 3:24 "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:"
Grace teaches Christians to avoid sin and to do good works, but Grace does not teach that works can save or keep us saved by works.
Titus 2:11 "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;"
Acts 13:39 "And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses."
Hebrews 7:19 "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God."
The only way for a man to deny that salvation is by grace through faith alone is to take scriptures and apply them to a Christian when the verses are not for Christians, like we covered dealing with the book of James.
The verses we have covered have shown what the Law could not do, Grace did for us. We cannot keep the Law, but Jesus Christ did. We cannot earn salvation by works, but God gives salvation as a free gift by Grace. The Law condemns us, but Grace can forgive, redeem and justify us.
The Law was given to show us our transgressions, not to save us as some Catholics and Protestants believe. The Law gives us knowledge about our sin, so that we will realize that we are a sinner and go to Jesus Christ to save us.
Galatians 3:19 "Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator."
Romans 3:20 "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."
Galatians 3:24 "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith."
That explains what happens to babies and children that die. They go to Heaven because they did not reach the "age of accountability".
Romans 5:13 "(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law."
Romans 4:15 "Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression."
To those of us who understand this simple doctrine of Grace that is so clearly presented in the scriptures are joyed when we sing songs like "Amazing Grace". No Catholic or Campbellite can sing that song and believe the words of it. It is a shame that they do not believe the words of God when he says that salvation is by faith alone.
Romans 4:4 "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
As saved believers, we are not under the law, but we should have a clean walk and obey the commandments that do apply to us, not because they save or keep us saved, but because we are saved. We should not use our liberty in Christ as a license to sin against God, but rather to do good (Romans 6:1-2).
Romans 6:14 "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace."
1 John 2:6 "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked."
Galatians 5:13 "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another."
Since we are saved and Jesus Christ bought us with His Blood, we should be a good servant by obeying Him (Romans 1:1).
1 Corinthians 6:19 "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
We cannot lose our salvation under Grace, but there are things that we can lose as Christians if we continue in sin. We can lose our testimony, character, assurance of salvation (have doubts), joy, money, health, rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ and even our own physical life if we continue to disobey the Lord.
The Catholics and Protestants are simply wrong when they say that Baptists teach that a person can do anything after they are saved and has a license to sin. Baptists teach that even though you are eternally secure and cannot lose your soul, you can lose everything else if you refuse to obey the Bible. Those who do not believe salvation is by grace only work because they believe it saves them, but we do works because we simply love Jesus Christ and want to make him happy.
Galatians 5:18 "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law."
Those that are counting on their works to be saved are said to be "fallen from grace" according to the word of God. The below verse is not to a Christian that is saved already by Grace, but to a person that has rejected Grace altogether.
Galatians 5:4 "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace."
In conclusion, it is evident that grace is not works and works is not grace.
Romans 11:6 "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."