Vol. 2 - No. 6
Grace and Works
An Article and a Review by Arnold Hardin and Hoyt Houchen
(Editor's note: The following review by Arnold Hardin and the reply by Hoyt Houchen is in regard to the article, "Grace and Works -- Romans 11:6" by brother Houchen in the April issue of THE EXPOSITORY REVIEW. I suggest you go back and reread that article in regard to this review. With these two articles, the discussion on this particular matter is closed.)
Grace and Works - Romans 11:6
Grace and Works - Romans 11:6
The April issue of The Expository Review contained an article by Hoyt Houchen. Some good things were stated; yet he stated some things our brethren continue to misunderstand and about which the scriptures are misconstrued. He began by saying, "We are amazed that Calvinism is even having its influence upon some brethren. Although the system has not been adopted IN TOTO some tenets of it are having their effect upon these brethren, especially the matter of grace and works. Neo-Calvinism, as we know it in the church, is not a temporary and isolated fantasy among a few; it is more than a threat or a danger. It is an issue with which we must deal. Ecumenical efforts toward unity in the denominational world have penetrated the church of our Lord in the teaching and practice of so-called Grace-fellowship, or open fellowship."
He remarked, "This text, along with others, is used by the Calvinists to prove that salvation is wholly by the grace of God without any work upon the part of man, making man wholly a passive recipient." During discussions of these matters, I have found that the basic confusion among us is over "works" and "obedience." WHEN PAUL RULED OUT WORKS HE WAS NOT RULING OUT OBEDIENCE! He was ruling out man's dependence upon his obedience to God's laws as the basis or grounds of salvation. My brethren the Holy Spirit directed Paul to say, NOT OF WORKS, and He meant just that! How the Holy Spirit must resent our seeking to 'doctor' it up to fit our theology --and well He should.
Hoyt wrote: "The meaning of Romans 11:6 is more clearly understood when we consider that we are living under a system of grace in contradistinction to the works of law, a system which required man's work to merit salvation." Had he stayed within the scope of that statement he would not misunderstand Paul and falsely accuse some of being Neo-Calvinists. But he ruined the beginning of a study of truth by then remarking, "The problem is that some do not make a distinction between works by which a man merits justification, and commands of God which must be obeyed." If he is intimating, and I get that drift from his statement, that some among us so fail to make such a distinction, then I ask for the documentation.
He said, "Many are confused about works. They suppose that when a passage, such as our text under study, says that salvation is not of works, that all works must necessarily be excluded." Thus he begins to build his false conception and understanding of the text and it is typical of most brethren. Paul says, "IT IS NO MORE OF WORKS." Brethren say, "IT IS OF SOME KIND OF WORKS." Later he will say, "We are saved by some kind of works." The truth of the matter is that aliens are not saved by some kind of works; nor are Christians saved by some kinds of works. We have been saved "unto good works" but good works we do as required by the Savior do not save us; they are but our loving response by faith to Him who has saved us. Our brethren have taught so long that salvation is a matter of mixing what God has done with what we are to do until it is little wonder they see RED when salvation "by grace through faith -- not of works" is preached.
Put aside our brother's prejudicial remarks and really truthfully, and prayerfully think this matter through. When Paul ruled out works was he ruling out obedience? Brethren be careful! You are coming close to an indictment of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Our religious friends doctor that until they feel assured they have gotten baptism out of it as far as having any relationship to salvation is concerned. We jump on them like a hen on a June bug! And yet, when discussing salvation by grace we manipulate such statements of Paul thus destroying the force of NOT BY WORKS; and then when others point this out to us we become irate claiming they do not believe in obedience. HUMANS SEE JUST WHAT THEY WANT TO SEE!
The author says, "We are not saved by meritorious works -- works which we have devised and depend upon for salvation. We are saved by grace, not debt. How does one annul God's grace? He does so by meritorious works or a system of works such as the law of Moses. Works of man's own righteousness would be meritorious works (Romans 10:3; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:9)." For but one exception that is a fine statement. It is good to see more and more of our brethren pointing out that no law system has within it the power to make sinners righteous. But take note of an inherent weakness in his argument, and it can be fatal. He said, "He does so by meritorious works or by a system of works such as the law of Moses." What is the difference between the two things he connects with an OR? He says, "We are not saved by meritorious works -- works which we have devised and depend upon for salvation." This remark is heard time and time again. We are told that we are saved by some kind of works but just not the kind that we might devise, invent and depend upon for salvation. The subtlety of this error makes it dangerous in the extreme.
What are the works such as those we might invent? The Gospel Advocate of April 7, 1983 contains brother Hardeman's first affirmative concerning baptism in his debate with Bogard. Quoting Ephesians 2:8,9 he remarked, "Now Paul of what kind of works is it not? It is not of boastful works; it is not of man's devise. If I could scale the heights, and pierce the vaulted canopy of heaven, and walk in upon the throne of Jehovah, independently of God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, I could ignore them and say: 'This is what I have done'; and hence I could boast of the salvation that might be mine. Paul said there it is not of that type of works. So that is the class excluded."
SUCH IS NOT THE WORKS ABOUT WHICH PAUL SPOKE! What are the works of Romans 11:6? "Not of works," (Ephesians 2:8,9)? "Not by works done in righteousness which we have done ourselves" (Titus 3:4,5)? Paul says the Jews "sought to establish their own righteousness" (Romans 10:3). How was such done? The answer is found in Romans 10:5, "For Moses writeth that the man that doeth the righteousness which is of the law shall live thereby." My brethren -- such a righteousness was not one which the Jews devised and upon their own invention depended! THE WORKS WERE THEIR COMPLIANCE WITH THAT LAW! Theirs was a righteousness of law/works. The law came from God but as their works were imperfectly rendered they erred in depending upon such for salvation. Why is it so hard for so many to learn that there are but two ways in which righteousness can be obtained -- BY WORKS OR BY FAITH? Obedience to law must be perfect if it is to procure justification! Any legal system requires perfect obedience. Therefore, in Romans 10:4 Paul set forth the facts that FAITH is the condition of salvation in the gospel. He speaks of the "righteousness of faith" in verses six and seven. It is a righteousness obtained by faith! It is a righteousness given to believers in Christ because of His righteousness, His deeds and death, having been constituted eternally as the sole grounds or basis of saving righteousness. An alien sinner learns of the Savior and by faith is led to repent and be baptized and in doing so is constituted righteous in God's sight; not by that one's obedience to law, but rather, solely upon the fact of reaching out as a condemned sinner and accepting the saving righteousness found only in Christ. Our brother does as others -- he says faith and baptism are works! Assuredly they are conditions of salvation but -- THEY ARE NOT WORKS IN THE CONTEXT OF PAUL'S TEACHING RELATIVE TO LAW AND WORKS AND JUSTIFICATION. And if we would quit misusing scripture concerning WORKS then just maybe we could help our friends to understand the necessity of baptism.
Paul had a righteousness of his own (Philippians 3:9). Obtained by the devising of works of human origin? OF COURSE NOT! It was a "righteousness of the law" which the fingers of God had written. If he had kept the law perfectly he would not have needed a Savior. Works could not save him --and if not him then whom? There is a righteousness OF LAW; but not BY LAW! Works of law provide a righteousness of law. But since man can't keep law perfectly there is therefore no righteousness (saving) by law. We as Christians keep whatever stipulations are imposed upon us only imperfectly; thus our works (performance) cannot save! Saving righteousness is not within us; it is found ONLY IN OUR SAVIOR. These wonderful truths we sing all the time; but our singing is much better than our preaching.
A Reply To Arnold Hardin
Arnold Hardin expresses his disagreement to some things in my article, "Grace and Works --Romans 11:6," which appeared in the April issue of The Expository Review. His displeasure comes as no surprise to those of us who know what he believes and teaches. What is new?
He begins by saying that, "the basic confusion among us is over 'works' and 'obedience'." The following statement from him should make it clear that he is the one confused. "WHEN PAUL RULED OUT WORKS HE WAS NOT RULING OUT OBEDIENCE!" How can one render obedience without some kind of work? As to confusion, he is the epitome of it. He assumes the Calvinistic position when he denies that we are saved by ANY kind of work. Hear him. "Brethren say, 'it is some kind of works' The truth of the matter is that aliens are not saved by some kind of works; nor are Christians saved by some kind of works." What scripture does he offer to prove this? None. It is Arnold's assertion without one iota of proof. It is Arnold vs the Holy Spirit. Peter told the Jews on Pentecost to save themselves (Acts 2:40). This required some kind of work. He also stated that acceptable obedience is dependent upon fearing God and working righteousness (Acts 10:34). Paul wrote to the Galatian brethren about "faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6), and he admonished the Philippian brethren to "work out your own salvation" (Philippians 2:12). James wrote: "ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith" (James 2:24), and "as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead" (vs. 26). (See also Romans 2:6). These are some scriptures that teach some type of work is involved in salvation. We quote these verses to Baptists, but to have to do so to a man who is supposed to be a gospel preacher, is almost unbelievable. But he continues: "…good works we do as required by the Saviour do not save us. Our brethren have taught so long that salvation is a matter of mixing what God has done with what we are to do until it is little wonder they see RED when salvation 'by grace through faith -- not of works' is preached." This is more Calvinistic doctrine to the core. This old doctrine is that if one does any work, then salvation is not by grace -- it becomes a matter of debt. Arnold has swallowed it "hook, line and sinker." Why did he not fairly quote the rest of Ephesians 2:9 which qualifies the works that do not save -- "not of works, that no man should glory." In spite of the fact that Arnold does not like "kinds of works," the Bible names them nevertheless. And, we do not know of any brethren who see RED when Ephesians 2:8, 9 is preached exactly as it is stated. If Arnold knows of a brother among us who does, let him name him. Who is he? One of Arnold's problems is that he turns WHITE whenever the word "work" is even mentioned, and regardless of the sense in which it is used. Many in our society (young and old) are afraid of the word "work," and when it is mentioned you would think they had seen a ghost. When ANY kind of work in connection with salvation is mentioned, Arnold acts as if he had seen one. This is actually the crux of his article -- no one is sved by ANY work.
Much of his essay is nothing but a striving about words. As an example of this, he quotes the following from my April article: "We are not saved by meritorious works -- works which we have devised and depend upon for salvation. We are saved by grace, not debt. How does one annul God's grace? He does so by meritorious works or by a system of works such as the law of Moses. Works of man's own righteousness would be meritorious works (Romans 10:3; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:9)." He wants to know the difference between the two things I connect with "or" in my statement -- "meritorious works OR (emphasis mine, H.H.) by a system of works such as the law of Moses." We would have assumed that he knew the difference but I shall explain it to him. "Meritorious works" are such works as men would devise --the effort to establish their own righteousness apart from the righteousness of God (Romans 10:3); whereas, "a system of works such as the law of Moses" would be a system whereby salvation could only be obtained by perfect obedience of law. In either case, this would be works of merit, and therefore debt instead of grace. Concerning a man who was teaching a different doctrine, Paul wrote: "He is…doting about questions and disputes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife" (1 Timothy 6:4). (See also 2 Timothy 2:14). I have neither the time nor the disposition to become embroiled in such nonsense.
He quotes N. B. Hardeman"s statement on Ephesians 2:8, which appeared in his first affirmative on the necessity of baptism in the Hardeman-Bogard debate. Arnold did not quote all of the statement, but only a part of it. Here is Hardeman's statement in full. "I'd like to have another matter clearly understood. While it is not of the works of the law, I want in this preliminary speech to suggest that, in the New Testament, there are two classes or kinds of works mentioned. There is a class of works excluded, found in Ephesians 2. Hear it. Verses 8, 9: 'By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.' Now Paul, of what kind of works is it not? It is not of boastful works; it is not of man's device. If I could scale the heights, and pierce the vaulted canopy of heaven, and walk in upon the throne of Jehovah, independently of God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, I could ignore them and say: 'This is what I have done;' and hence I could boast of the salvation that might be mine. Paul said there it is not of that type of works. So, that's the class excluded. Then in Acts 10:34, 35, Peter, at the house of Cornelius, said: 'Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him.' So there you have a class of works that is included. Now getting to the point. Two classes are mentioned in the New Testament. Class one: boastful works, works done by man, originated by man, and of which he is the inventor. It is not of this type lest a man should boast."
"On the other hand, it is a class of works, designated by Peter as works of righteousness. Whatever comes under the head of righteousness is included in the gospel plan of salvation. David said, Psalm 119:172: For all thy commandments are righteous.' Hence, the works that are obligatory upon mankind are works of God, to which man but submits" (Hardeman-Bogard Debate, pp. 83, 84). Certainly! And, to use an expression of N. B. Hardeman, that is not about it, that is it!" Why did Arnold not quote this entire statement? It gives him no comfort, because this is not what he preaches. Why did he even refer to the statement? Rather than proving his contention, it disproves it.
Arnold asks, "Why is it so hard for so many to learn that there are but two ways in which righteousness can be obtained -- BY WORKS OR BY FAITH?" He then adds, "Any legal system requires perfect obedience." In answer to his first question, we obtain righteousness by faith, but it is a faith that WORKS. A humble submission to the will of God which results in acts of faith is doing the work of God. Arnold refuses to accept the idea that faith is a work because he denies that we are saved by ANY work, but at the same time he says we are justified by faith. Yet Jesus said that faith is a work (John 6:28, 29). Faith is the work of God -- God provided it as a necessary condition of salvation. Therefore when man submits to God with an obedient trusting faith, being baptized for the remission of his sins he is doing the work of God. He is working righteousness (Acts 10:35); he is justified by a faith that works (James 2:24). As to Arnold's statement that "any legal system requires perfect obedience," he evidently did not read my statement on Romans 11:6 carefully. "The meaning of Romans 11:6 is more clearly understood when we consider that we are now living under a system of grace in contradistinction to the works of law, a system which required man's works to merit salvation."
While dealing with his Calvinism, Arnold also believes that the perfect life that Jesus lived on earth is imputed to the sinner. In an issue of The Persuader he wrote: "For we repeat again --Imputed Righteousness (perfect life and death of Christ) is the only kind there is! What is imputed righteousness once again? It is the righteousness that Christ possesses by his perfect life as lived under God's laws. Every sinner coming to him by faith has credited to his account that precious righteousness. Will someone take his pen in hand and say otherwise?" (The Persuader, Vol. XIII, No. 1). Paul has already penned otherwise. He wrote that a man's FAITH is reckoned (counted) for righteousness (Romans 4:5). The word "impute" means "to credit to a person or a cause: to credit by transferral" (Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 321). Arnold, where is the scripture which says that the personal life of Jesus is transferred to the sinner? Find it for us and we shall examine it.
That we are saved by grace, no one denies, but to presume that ANY and ALL works are eliminated in order to obtain that grace, is absurd. In the examples of grace through faith, as illustrated in the Bible, it was always necessary that the person or persons comply with certain conditions. Noah built an ark (Genesis 6:14), Abraham obeyed (Hebrews 11:8), the Israelites compassed the city of Jericho thirteen times (Joshua 6:3, 4) and Naaman dipped seven times in the river Jordan to be cleansed of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:14). These were not man's works -- these devised by man; they were not works that any should glory (Ephesians 2:9), but were the works of God (John 6:28, 29), therefore good works (Ephesians 2:10). Faith manifested itself by bodily acts. Arnold refuses to see this, but as he says: "HUMANS SEE WHAT THEY WANT TO SEE!"
Arnold Hardin has apparently read too much Calvinism and it has rubbed off on him. It is a shame that such men as he, who once stood for the truth, have defected to Neo-Calvinism and the Grace-Fellowship movement. I have not tried to deal with every one of his quibbles, but rather to examine the crux of his confusion -- works. I assure him and our readers that I have no personal animosity toward him, or any others, who espouse his position. I believe that he is pitifully confused. He can scream "legalism" at us until his throat is sore, but the truth still stands. We plead with him and we pray for him that he will return to the truth.
Again, this conclusion: God's grace and His law unite. We must not confuse the meritorious works of man which would ANNUL grace (Romans 11:6) with the works of God which APPROPRIATE grace (Ephesians 2:8). Humble obedience to the commands of God nullifies neither grace nor faith, but unites them. Arnold, this should not be all that hard to understand.