Righteousness is as Filthy Rags

Text: Isaiah 64:6

This verse is often used by those who believe salvation is by faith only. This lesson examines the verse in question, as well as what the Bible has to say on the subject of faith and works.

“…all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment…”

What the “Faith Only” Proponents Want This Phrase to Mean:

  • Works of righteousness will not save us
  • To try to be saved by righteous works is to try to earn one’s salvation
  • Seeking to be saved by righteous works actually makes us unclean
  • Salvation is wholly the work of God
  • We must trust Him to save us, rather than trying to save ourselves

Remember the Context

  • Prayer to God for mercy & help — recognized God’s greatness (v. 1-4), acknowledged their sin (v. 5-7), sought God’s help & favor (v. 8-12)
  • Important point — God shows favor to those who work righteousness (v. 5)
  • Another important point — these people had sinned (v. 5), were taken away by iniquities (v. 6), and would not call on the Lord (v. 7)

What the Bible Teaches about Righteousness & Works

  • Works of righteousness will not save us” — man’s works of righteousness will not save (Titus 3:5), but God’s works of righteousness as revealed in the gospel (Romans 1:17) must be practiced (1 John 3:7)
  • To try to be saved by righteous works is to try to earn one’s salvation” — we cannot earn salvation (Romans 3:23; 6:23); it is by grace (Ephesians 2:8), but it is not unconditional
  • Seeking to be saved by righteous works actually makes us unclean” — example of the Pharisees often cited (Matthew 23:23); they were unclean, not for righteous deeds, but for lawless deeds (Matthew 23:27-28)
  • Salvation is wholly the work of God” — God has given us conditions we must meet to be saved (John 8:24; 2 Peter 3:9; Romans 10:9-10; 1 Peter 3:21)
  • We must trust Him to save us, rather than trying to save ourselves” — salvation is impossible without God/Christ (Acts 4:12), but we must work to save ourselves (Acts 2:40; Philippians 2:12)

Conclusion

  • The demons believe, but do not obey (James 2:19)
  • We cannot be saved by faith alone (James 2:24)
  • Faith and works must go together (James 2:20-22,26)

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