Yes & No


When two people engage in a debate, one trick that a debater likes to pull is to ask his opponent to answer a question yes or no. Sometimes questions can be answered with a simple yes or no such as, “Do you believe in the God of the Bible?”


Some questions can be worded in such away that you will get yourself in trouble no matter how you answer the question for example, If I said answer the following question yes or no, “Have you stopped drinking whiskey all the time?” Or “Have you stopped abusing your children?” I would not matter, which answer you gave either would make you look bad.


Finally, there are some questions that can be answered both yes and no. For example, I could ask, “do drugs kill?” The answer could be no because when drugs are taken as prescribed they rarely cause death. The answer could also be yes because when the wrong kind of drugs are used or when someone overdoses on prescribed drugs they can cause death.


With this third example in mind, I want to share with you two questions that can be answered both no and yes.


Our first question is “Can man save himself?”


Well the Bible answers this question no and yes. For example, after Jesus had talked to the rich young ruler who was faithful to God’s law, but was not willing to give up his riches to follow Jesus, Jesus told His disciples how hard it was for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. His disciples’ response was:


Matthew 19:25 … "Who then can be saved?"  26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."


Man by himself cannot save himself. As Jesus said, it is impossible. We also know that Jesus is the only way to the Father as


John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. 


Without Jesus, none of us can be saved, but the Bible also gives us the idea that yes man can save himself. For example, on the day of Pentecost when the gospel was first preached, Acts 2:40 says:


Acts 2:40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation."


Since Peter said that they can be saved from this perverse generation it tells us that yes man can save himself. Also:

1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.


Again, we have the idea that there is something we can do to save ourselves. So, we have a classic example of a question that can be answered no or yes and be correct either way. As with any question like this, it is important to search the Scriptures deeper to see why both answer are correct.


First, let’s take a closer look at why man cannot save himself.


As we have already observed, man cannot save himself by himself because there is no plan of salvation that man can create that will save us because only God has the ability and power to save us. We can see this starting in:


Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,  6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.  7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace  8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,  9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,  10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth -- in Him.  11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,  12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.  13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,  14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.


This confirms that we cannot save ourselves, but God can and does save us through His Son. When it come to our salvation, we also learn that we cannot buy our salvation no matter how much money we give to God or to those associated with God because Peter says:


1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,  19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.  20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you  21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.   


Not only can we not buy our salvation, there is nothing we can ever do to merit or earn our salvation as Paul said:

Romans 4:1What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?  2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.  3 For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."  4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.  5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,  6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:  7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 


Also he wrote:


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


Since salvation is the gift of God, this means we cannot earn our merit our salvation. Now that we have dug a little deeper, we have a better understand of why man cannot save himself. But now lets take a closer look at how we could say yes man can save himself.


Back in Acts 2, Peter told the Jews to save themselves, which means that we can save ourselves, we just cannot do it by ourselves by paying for it or by earning it, but we can accept and embrace it. The way that we save ourselves is by obeying the truth. As Peter says:


1 Peter 1:22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,  23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,


Peter makes it clear, if we want to save ourselves and be born again, we must obey the Word of God. Paul gives us an example of this in:


Romans 6:16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?  17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.


Paul was commending these Christians for obeying the gospel and being set free from their sin. God offers all of us the gift of grace, which is His part in our salvation, but we have to choose to accept it by obeying God’s plan of salvation and by abiding in His Word.


We need to go back to Acts 2 when Peter told the Jews to save themselves from a perverse generation, we need to look at the verses before and after so we can see what the Jews did in order to save themselves.


Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"  38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  39 "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."  40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation."  41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.  42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.


These Jews believed that Jesus was the Son of God and they wanted to know what they must do, and Peter made it clear that they needed to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of their sins. After he taught them some more, he made that final plea that they save themselves and we learn that around 3000 did their part in saving themselves by obeying the gospel because our text says that those that gladly received the Word were baptized. They did not stop their because they continued to obey the doctrine of the apostle steadfastly.


From all this, we can clearly see that man cannot save himself by himself without God, but he can save himself by accepting salvation from God by having an obedient faith.


Our second question this morning, is similar to our first one because it has to do with salvation. The question is, “Can man be saved by works?” Again, the Bible answers this question no and yes. For example,


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


We have already looked at this passage, but it clearly states that we are not saved by works. Yet, notice what James says:


James 2:24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.


Now James is telling us that we are justified by works. So, either we a have Bible contradiction or we have another classic example of a question that can be answered no and yes. Since we know the Bible does contradict itself, we will have to dig a little deeper to find how a man cannot be saved by works, yet be saved by works.


First, lets look as some ways man cannot be saved by works.

We cannot be saved by the works of the law.


Galatians 2:15 "We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,  16 "knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.


In the next chapter Paul writes:


Galatians 3:2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?  4 Have you suffered so many things in vain -- if indeed it was in vain?  5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? --  6 just as Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."  7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.  8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed."  9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.  10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them."


We could look at more passages that teach this same message that we are not saved by the works of the law. But the question is what law is Paul talking about? Verse 10 answers our question because this law Paul is talking about is the Law of Moses because he is quoting from the book of Deuteronomy. One of the main themes in the book of Galatians is that the law of Moses and it works will not save you, and that the Law of Moses is no longer binding to the Christian, which is why he keep stressing the idea that we are saved by faith in Jesus, which is talking about an obedient faith. So, we cannot work our way into heaven by using the law of Moses.


Along this same line as I mentioned in our first question, we cannot merit or earn our salvation by our works. It would not matter if we worked for the Lord from sun up to sun down for 50 years, we could never earn or merit our way into heaven through our works.


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


Again, this verse teaches that we cannot merit or earn our way into heaven because our salvation is the gift of God.


Titus 3:4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,  5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,  6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.


So, we cannot work our way into heaven by doing the works of the law of Moses or earn or merit our salvation through our works because salvation is the gift of God, but we can also say yes, man can be saved by works as Paul right said:


Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;


How do we work out our own salvation? Well, we do it by having an obedient faith.


James 2:17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe -- and tremble!  20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?  21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?  22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?  23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God.  24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.


Here is where some get confused because they don’t understand that the Bible talks about different kinds of works. As we have observed, works of merit, or works of law of Moses will not save you, but James and Paul says that work do save you because they are talking about works of obedience or we could say works that we do because of our faith in God. These kind of works will not earn us salvation in that God owes something, but these kinds of works are how we accept God’s salvation, and how we show our love for Him as Jesus:


John 14:15 " If you love Me, keep My commandments.


Also Paul said:


Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.


We also learn from Scripture that we will be judged based on the obedient works we did in the body as:


Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.  13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.


2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.


Matthew 16:27 "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.


So, clearly the answer to our question “can man be saved by his works?” is yes. One last time, let’s visit our passage in Eph. 2


Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.  10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.


This time I added one more verse and it makes all the difference in the world because verses 8-9 teaches us that while we cannot earn our salvation through our works because it is a gift of God, verse 10 says we are created by God for good works and we are to walk in them. So, while our works cannot merit us into heaven, our works of obedience are necessary to accept God’s grace. If we refuse to have an obedient faith, we are telling God that we do not want His gift of grace and we will not get into heaven because Jesus is that author of salvation to those who obey (Heb. 5:8-9).


So, we are saved by works of obedience, but we are not saved by works of merit or works of the law of Moses. As Paul taught the Jews:


Acts 26:20  they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.


Since some are confused about what the Bible teaches on works, some think that baptism is a work of man, so some conclude that it cannot save you, which doesn’t make a lot since considering that Bible specifically says that it does:


1 Peter 3:21 There is also an antitype which now saves us – baptism


I want to take it step further, and if you have never written this down before I encourage you to do so. Baptism is not a work of man, it is a work of God. The only part of baptism that could be considered a work of man is when we submit ourself to it by entering the water and being allowed to be dipped, but what happens in baptism is the work of God, and we know this work is being done by our faith in God. This can clearly be seen in:


Colossians 2:11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,  12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.  13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,


When you are baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins you can know that you are being buried with Christ, united with, and that your sins are washed away by the power of His blood by your faith in the working of God. This means two things, first you must know what you are doing when you are getting baptized because if you do not have faith in God or understand what is going on then your are just going to get wet. The second thing is what happens in baptism is a work of God and not a work of man. So no one can rightly say that baptism does not save because it a work of man because it is a work of God.


In fact, if we are going to claim that baptism cannot save us because it is a work, then we are also going to have to claim that faith is work that cannot save us because notice:


John 6:28 Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"  29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."


Jesus tells us that believing in God is work of God just like baptism is a work of God. So, if we want to treat the Scripture fairly, then we either need to accept that faith and baptism are necessary works to be saved or we need to say that neither faith nor baptism saves. I do not know of anyone claiming to be a Christians who will deny faith in Jesus in necessary, but as I have proven, if you accept faith, you must also accept baptism as a work that is necessary for salvation.


Can a man save himself? No and yes.

Can a man be saved by works? No and yes.


I hope this lesson has made these two questions easier to understand, and has given you the ability to answer these questions more effectively. If you have not obeyed the gospel, I hope you will make today the day of your salvation by saving yourself from a corrupt world by accepting God’s grace through an obedient faith by obeying God’s plan of salvation.