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The New Testament exhibits a tension between two aspects of grace: the idea that grace is from God is sufficient to cover any sin as well as offer redemption (except the Unforgivable sin) and the idea that grace does not free humans from their responsibility to behave morally.
John the Baptist, who preached a baptism of repentance, connected repentance with bearing fruit saying, "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matthew 3:8). Jesus himself encourages people to live a life without sin after receiving grace and forgiveness from God as the incident with the adulterous woman shows (John 8:11). He mentions good works explicitly as a good testimony to other people (Matthew 5:16). In 1 Peter the same encouragement for Christians is expressed that they should keep their conduct among the Gentiles honourable so that they may see the believers' good deeds (1 Peter 2:12).
The apostle Paul connected grace with works, writing to his fellow-worker Titus in Titus 2:11-12 that the grace of God has appeared in order to live an upright and godly life. For him, good works are a consequence of grace (compare 2 Cor 6:1) and he even says that on the Judgment Day "...each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body" (2 Cor 5:10). The Letter to the Hebrews says that doing good is a sacrifice which pleases God (Hebrews 13:16). Furthermore, like in every book or epistle of the New Testament, doing God's will is emphasized (Hebrews 13:21).
This verse also speaks about the cooperation between the believer and God in regard to the believer's deeds because God works out in a Christian what is pleasing in his sight. James states in his letter that a person is "considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone" (James 2:24). The Apostle John describes the life of a Christian as walking in the same way in which Jesus walked, which includes necessarily also deeds (1 John 2:6). In his letter, Jude describes false teachers as "fruitless trees in late autumn", indicating that true believers should bear fruit in their lives (Jude 12).
Principle of Sola fide
The Protestant principle of Sola fide states that no matter what a person's action, salvation comes through faith alone. Ephesians 2:8–9 reads, "For by grace ye are saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (KJV) According to Protestants, salvation is God's gift at God's sole prerogative. Were it achieved by works, men could take pride in their efforts toward holiness, and God's gift of grace would be diminished in contrast to man's efforts.
On the other hand, apostle Paul says that God's chosen one who has been made holy by grace must show faith by actually loving (see Galatians 5:6) and in this way obeying the law, i.e., the law or commandment of Christ and his Spirit (see Romans 8:2). In line with this, a more works-orientated perspective is presented by the Epistle of James, which concludes that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:26). By works the author here appears to include both acts of charity and righteousness according to the "laws of the Spirit" (Romans 8:2), as opposed to Mosaic Law. The Sola fide views holds that James is not saying that a person is saved by works and not by genuine faith, but that genuine faith will produce good deeds, however, only faith in Christ saves.
The Latter Day Saints (Mormon) view
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' (LDS) view respects both faith and good works as essential, however it sees salvation as free, a gift from God based on the merits of Christ for ‘there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise’ (2 Nephi 2.8). As such salvation cannot be earned. Indeed, one purpose of writing the Book of Mormon was ‘to persuade our children…to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do’ (2 Nephi 25:23). Accordingly, faith is seen as a pre-requisite for this reconciliation opening the door to salvation. The LDS view of salvation is seen as life in one of the mansions or kingdoms Jesus prepared for his believers (Jn. 14.1-2). As Paul, they view the heavenly estate as divided into three glories likened to the sun, moon and stars (1 Cor.15.41). Though resurrection is seen as a gift for all mankind, no exception (1 Cor. 15.22), eternal life is conditional: ‘And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God (Doctrine & Covenants 14:7). Once again, salvation is a gift, however, the quality of that gift or the degree of glory one attains to in the afterlife is determined by each individual here and now by the way he or she lives (Doctrine & Covenants 176.111). Of this earth—and subsequently all who eventually live on it—modern revelation declared: ‘Wherefore, it shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power [light, eternal law] by which it is quickened, and the righteous [that is, those made righteous or justified] shall inherit it’ (Doctrine and Covenants 88:11, 21-24, 26-28, 49).
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- Works of Mercy
- Charity (practice)
- Christian humanism
- Christian soteriology
- Divine grace
- Prevenient grace
- Live by the sword, die by the sword
- Lordship salvation
- Altruism (ethics)
- Protestant work ethic
- New Perspective on Paul
- Paul the Apostle and Judaism
- Biblical law in Christianity
- New Jerusalem Bible, Standard Edition published 1985, introductions and notes are a translation of those that appear in La Bible de Jerusalem—revised edition 1973, Bombay 2002; footnote to James 2:14-26
- Zondervan NIV (New International Version) Study Bible, 2002, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA; footnote to James 2:14-26.