We teach that Christians are saved by grace, justified by faith and judged according to their works. Salvation can’t be earned through human effort but can be lost through deliberate sin because our works are the visible evidence of faith or unbelief. Thus, faith and repentance are necessary for salvation.
Every human has sinned and deserves the death penalty in the lake of fire. We can’t escape this punishment through our own good deeds or penance or future obedience, but Jesus Christ gave His life to pay the penalty for our sins.
Christians are saved by grace. Grace is unmerited favor or kindness; it is an act of love and mercy that isn’t deserved and can’t be earned. In Ephesians 2:8-10, Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Christians are justified by faith. When a person repents of his sins and accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, God wipes away that person’s sins and declares that person not guilty. That person is justified, in other words, declared to be innocent.
Christians are judged according to their works. Faith is invisible; it exists inside the mind and heart, but people demonstrate their faith by what they do. Repentance, obedience and good works are the tangible evidence of inner faith. As James 2:17 says, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Genuine faith always brings forth the good fruit of obedience and good works while unbelief brings forth the bad fruit of sin and selfishness. Jesus came to save us from our sins, not in our sins, so God expects His people to grow in faith and overcome sinful behavior.
As a result, Christians can lose salvation though deliberate, repeated sin and a lack of repentance. Hebrews 10:26-27 says, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”
So, grace is not a license to sin. Faith and repentance are necessary for salvation, but obedience and good works are the evidence of genuine faith, not the means of forgiveness and justification.
As part of the New Covenant, Christians receive forgiveness of sins and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Through these two blessings, God promises to save His people from the second death in the lake of fire and give them the gift of eternal life in sinless perfection, so we can dwell with Him for all eternity.
All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.