Grace v Obedience: Mutually Exclusive?

I have never understood why someone would think that if I did something that God said do (obedience) I was somehow earning my salvation or practicing a legalistic religion, thus, in their minds, nullifying salvation by God’s grace.

Here is how to have a legalistic, merit-based religion.  The one who knows all of God’s commands and never violates a single one of them has earned their salvation.  When they knock on heaven’s door, God is obligated to let them in.  They did all that God said, all of the time.  They deserve heaven for they have earned it.

Or, here’s another way to earn heaven.  When a person recalls that they have committed, say, twenty sins last week, they immediately hop in the DeLorean and go back to the beginning of last week, relive those sinful times, and get it right using their second chance.  They do that for every week of their life till they have redone all their sins, correcting them the second time around.  Now, with no sin blemish on their record, they have God in their debt.  He is obliged to save them.

One would needs be the most naive person in the world to think they could live an entire life without sinning a single time.  Only Jesus did that.  So, self-perfection is taken off the table.

As we all know, “Back to the Future” doesn’t work in real life.  So, reliving the moment, literally, falls to the floor also.

Those are the only two options I see for earning salvation.  Only Jesus lived the perfect life.  I can’t go back in time.  So, I can’t earn my salvation.

Here is salvation in the Bible.  When my faith in Christ leads me to obey His commandments, He forgives me.

…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, (Hebrews 5:8-9 NKJV)

If obedience to the commandments means legalism, well then, I guess Jesus was a legalist.  But, Jesus nowhere indicates that He believed we could justify ourselves.  The whole purpose of the cross was that we could be forgiven because we weren’t going to make it by perfectly keeping a code of laws such as the Law of Moses.

It is impossible in actual practice for me to have merit on my part.  All the merit to justify me in spite of my past sins, comes from Jesus.  I would call that salvation by grace.

So, when God says something like:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)

He must be talking about His love, His grace, and the blood of Jesus being the power that saves me, but, in no way implying that I can omit obedience to His will in my life and hope to receive His favor.

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