I’ve been needing to write something short like this for a long time …
Salvation comes in two steps.
- Deliverance from slavery to sin and the living death it produces: This comes by faith alone. We are born again, made new creatures, given the Spirit, and delivered from sin and empowered for holiness by grace.
- Entrance to Christ’s everlasting kingdom: This is a reward for good works and doing the will of the Father. Faith is not taken into account, only the works that you have done in obedience to God and conscience. If you are saved by faith, you will by greatly aided by God in that obedience.
There it is, short and simple. The fact is, the Scriptures line up neatly when you see salvation as two steps in this way.
Testing Those Steps Scripturally
Describing salvation in this way terrifies Evangelicals. I was going to say it stumbles them, but that’s not true. Their own doctrine stumbles them and causes the majority of them to be unsaved. That is, they do not have grace giving them power over sin, and they do not have grace teaching them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. Instead, most Evangelicals are still slaves to sin, and many of them aren’t even bothered by it.
Not all of them, just most.
If you don’t know the Scriptures well enough to compare them to those two steps, then you can go through my pages on salvation at the Rest of the Old Old Story.
If you do know the Scriptures well enough, just go through them on your own. The things Paul said and James said both fit neatly into the steps I gave above.
You’ll need a better description of the atonement than "Jesus paid the penalty for your sins," though. That’s coming soon. Suffice it to say that if you search for something in the Scriptures saying "Jesus paid the penalty," you’re in for a long search. Most passages fit much better into the ideas expressed in Romans 8:3-4.