This book investigates the role of works in salvation in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus was all too aware of people who claimed to believe in Him and yet proved to be not truly born again (e.g., John 2:23-25; 8:31-46). A profession of faith made at some point during one's life is no guarantee that heaven awaits that person. Such professions or conversion experiences must be followed by changed lives if faith is to be shown to be genuine saving faith. Hence Jesus teaches that regardless of one's profession, if one does not demonstrate a changed life produced by God, one will not enter into heaven. Such a judgment will be made when Jesus returns and judges every person according to his or her "works". While this may seem contradictory to some more well-known passages ruling out the role of works in salvation (e.g., Rom 3:21-4:25; Gal 2:16-21; Eph 2:8-9), there is every good reason to understand that Jesus' teachings complement such passages. The works that admit one into heaven are not works produced by the flesh before conversion but works produced by God after conversion. They will fundamentally be characterized by a life of discipleship, love for others, and endurance in faith and obedience, and will therefore serve to confirm that one indeed did have a relationship with God during one's life. Hence Jesus did teach salvation by works. However God is the one who produces the works and they occur after conversion. Thus salvation is not one's initial conversion but one's final entrance into heaven.
Endorsements & Reviews-
"A New Testament study that is worth pondering...Stanley's study shows how...God's grace is even greater than we have imagined, covering not only our justification, but our sanctification as well. Any work that shows the depth of God's great grace is worth commending. This is such a book." --Darrell L. Bock, from the foreword
"This study is notable first for its nuance. It does not shy away from apparent biblical contradictions but arrives at carefully balanced explanations that make sense of the writers' various voices. A second virtue of the book is its scope: it pretty much covers the waterfront, both of biblical teachings and of modern understanding of them. Of course no book can cover all the evidence and discussion surrounding such a foundational Christian doctrine. But Stanley has omitted little of substance and importance. (I admit that he goes a little too light on the Old Testament for my taste.) A third strong point of the book is its timeliness. The 'salvation by works' issue is of course perennial and therefore always before us. But this is particularly true at present, where doctrinal fuzziness and even erosion abound and where boundary lines between Protestant understanding of the gospel, on the one hand, is being conflated with the teaching of ancient Judaism as well as contemporary Catholicism, on the other. Stanley's study commends itself to us, therefore, not only because it is sound and wise, but also because its conclusions are currently urgent." --Robert W. Yarbrough Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Alan P. Stanley David Baker
Alan P. Stanley teaches at Mueller College of Ministries in Queensland, Australia.