Salvation in the Bible
Plagued by the doctrines of false teachers, many Christians today are quite confused concerning the true nature of salvation. The most common confusion concerning a confusion between Ephesians 2:8 salvtion by grace apart from works and Romans 13:11 salvation which occurs as a result of judgment by works. Another confusion stems from a misconception of Christian faith.
Before our conversion events, we were "dead in sins." This is because we are humans who are flesh by nature. All our own works are sinful works, sins, trangressions. They are as filthy rags. We cannot claim responsibility for any good work we might do since any good work we might do came from the spirit in us and we are flesh. The spirit in us is not us but the life of God given to us. Since we are flesh, our own works are nothing but sinful works. When we die the spirit returns to God who gave it and we turn inot the dust from where we came. In this way, we die in our sins and all the good we did goes back with the spirit that was in us. We need to be saved from our own dead works.
The Ephesians 2:8 salvation event is a matter of a change in FUNCTION not a change in being. It is a repentance from an old way of living to a new way of living our lives. Those who are led by the Spirit in what they do are children of God. We are only children of God insofar as we are doing the will of God, that is, following the Spirit of God. This is why Paul says we need to test ourselves to see if we are truly "in" the faith. And as John says, he who does what is righteous is righteous just as He is righteous.
Before we were saved in the Ephesians 2:8 salvation event we were in the negative because of the sins we committed. Our conversion events do not make us righteous in any sense. This event only brings us to "0." Christ made himself nothing by dying for us; he emptied himself. The same is true when we die with him. When we die with Christ and share in his cross our sins are washed away and as Peter says our past sins are forgiven. From that point onward we may live in the Spirit and do the good works of God. These are works of the Spirit worked by God in us. But because we are the ones DOING these works they are attributed to us because we died to the flesh in our conversion and were raised up on the Spirit. If we do the good works of God we do righteousness and this puts us in the positive. If we sin we turn back to the negative. The Ephesians 2:8 event is only a matter of function and purpose. It is a change from an old way of DOING to a new way of DOING.
This new way is the "faith of Jesus Christ." When you believe an idea, you are obeying that idea in your mind. Hopefully the knowledge you believe is true knowledge. If so, you would be believing truth, that is, obeying truth. However, in Christianity, our truth is not simply an idea. Our truth is the person God himself. God communicates truth to us just like we do - by a word. Words mediate ideas to us. But God's word is not simply a sound of syllables or words on a page. God's Word is his Son Jesus Christ who mediates God to us, our truth. This is why Jesus said he was the Truth. He is the Truth of God being the Word of God. Because believing is obeying truth, Christian faith is then obeying God through being conformed to the image of God's Son. We do this by putting off the flesh and putting on the Spirit because Jesus is that new kind of humanity raised "life-giving Spirit." Thsi is what it means to suffer with him that we might be raised with him. To put off the flesh is to suffer just as Jesus put off the flesh when he died on the cross.
When Paul talks about "works" he means anything that we would would otherwise do that would cause God to respond to us favorably. But faith for Paul is when we respond to God instead. God sent his Son and our faith response is to be conformed to the death and resurrection of His Son. God acted first and when we respond to this act of God in any sense this is "faith." Faith is not simply beliving ideas about Jesus in our minds and hearts but our whole response to God in everything we do. Christian faith is not simply an inner disposition or attitude apart from doing outer works of God. This is what James means when he says a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. He means that true Christian faith is described as obeying God in all the works we do not simply by an inner disposition. Paul calls this the obedience of faith. Doing the good works of God are not something in addition to faith but are themselves our response of faith itself.
IF we do indeed live according to the Spirit, God will raise our bodies up into glory. Our bodies are dead in themselves due to sin. But when we are raised from the dead our flesh will become living flesh and mortality will be swallowed up in immortality, death swallowed up by life, flesh consumed by Spirit. We are consumed by God because we gave up our bodies to him as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God.
For this reason, judgment is by works without favoritism. On judgment day, our salvation is dependent on works. By his grace, God had saved us from our old way of life in sin to live a new life of righteousness. If indeed we lived according to the Spirit in righteousness, we will be raised into immortal life. This salvation is a matter of BEING and substance of our body, not a matter of function. However, it is based on how we function in the body which is why Paul says we are judged for the works we did in the body.