One of the strongest attacks against Arminianism is the idea that Arminians believe in works salvation (or that we are saved by our good works). Some go so far as to teach that not only do Arminians believe that Man is capable of saving himself but also that it is through our good works that we remain saved. Is this true? Do Arminians really believe that it is through our own good works that we are saved?
The answer of course is no! While it is true that liberal Arminians begin to exalt the so-called goodness of humanity following the death of James Arminius, classical (and I call Reformed) Arminianism has always stood firm with the Reformation in that our good works do not bring nor do they secure our salvation. It is through the blood of Jesus alone that we are saved and forgiven (Matthew 26:28). Jesus himself said in John 6:29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (ESV). Isaiah 64:6 reminds us that “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (NIV). Of course, Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5-7 are two prominent New Testament passages that deny that our own goodness or good works can bring about salvation. The only hope of our salvation is through Christ (John 3:3-7) and this only occurs by the work of the Spirit (John 16:8-11) through the Word of God (Romans 10:14-17).The entire Christian life, from beginning to end, is by faith in Jesus Christ. This is why Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (NIV). Notice that the writer doesn’t say that we should make sure we do good works but that we should focus our faith and our attention on Jesus alone.Good works do have a place in the Christian life. James 2:14-26 reminds us that we demonstrate our faith by our good works. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ESV). Titus 2:14 exhorts us that Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (NIV). Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15 NIV). Paul said that his preaching included “that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20 ESV). 1 John 2:3-6 gives a strong rebuke to anyone who claims to be a disciple of Christ but does not obey his commandments.But we must be careful to make sure that we don’t become legalistic and suppose that we are saved by God’s grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus only to now have to keep ourselves saved by ritual obedience. Our obedience will naturally flow from our love and our relationship with our Lord. Obedience is not something we can conjure up in our flesh but it is through the presence of the Spirit of God living within us who helps us to walk close to Jesus (Galatians 5:16-25). I have been in that cycle of allowing a missed time of prayer or a missed time in Bible study to cause me to even doubt my own salvation. This is not necessary and a true understanding of God’s grace will help us avoid a “works salvation” mindset that all of us, whether we be Arminians or Calvinist, can find ourselves in. A performance trap will always lead to a cycle of sin and despair.In conclusion, Arminians believe that we are saved by the grace of God alone. I do not teach that a man is saved by any other means but by the grace of God in Christ Jesus. I teach practical Christian living but again the stress of my teaching should always be on the love, mercy, and grace of God for his children. Keep in mind that Jesus died for me before I was born (Romans 5:8-9) and it is his life that keeps me saved (Hebrews 7:25) and not my own good works or my own personal righteousness. My pursuit is to be like Jesus (1 Peter 1:15-16) but thankfully I am made righteous by faith in Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:9; Hebrews 10:14) and not by my own good works. I do work out my salvation but only by the power of God living in me (Philippians 2:12-13). My salvation is found only in Jesus (2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 9:27-28).
[Link to original post and comments on Roy Ingle’s blog Arminian Today]