Are We Saved By Faith Alone?

Introduction

In Romans 4:11, we read that Abraham was justified by faith before circumcision. Paul refers to Abraham’s justification while still in uncircumcision to prove, as the context of the passage shows, that the justification had nothing whatsoever to do with the works of the law of Moses since the Mosaic law had not then been given, Romans 4:13.

We have to keep in mind the imagined conflict between what Paul says about Abraham and what James says about Abraham in James 2:21-24.

Paul is writing to the Romans to off-set the influence of Judaizing teachers who were telling the Gentile Christians that unless they were circumcised and observed the law of Moses they could not be saved, Acts 15:1.

Paul is arguing that Abraham was justified before and without circumcision because of the faith he had manifested, and so today, Paul says, God will justify all those who walk in the steps of the faith that Abraham had while still in uncircumcision, Romans 4:12.

Notice that Abraham was not saved by FAITH ALONE because Paul says he walked IN THE STEPS OF FAITH, Romans 4:12. The faith of Abraham took certain steps.

This was faith going in a certain direction, it was faith that was active. It was faith doing something and this is precisely what James sets out to prove, when he says, “Was not our father Abraham justified by works,” James 2:19. What does he mean?

He is not talking about works of merit, we cannot be saved by any works of merit of our own, but he’s speaking of the kind of faith that manifests itself in obedience to the will of God. James says if our faith is faith alone, it is a dead faith, James 2:17. Faith alone is a barren faith.

He says that faith that is without works is incomplete faith, James 2:22. He says that by the works is the faith made perfect or complete.

Now some argue in favour of salvation by faith alone, while James says emphatically it is not by faith alone. There’s no conflict between the apostle Paul and James when they discuss Abraham as you understand when you grasp this fact.

Paul’s argument is directed against the works of the law of Moses while he declares that Abraham’s faith was an active faith. James is arguing against salvation by faith alone and saying that faith can never truly be alone if it is the right kind of faith but will show itself in what it does.

Abraham’s Seed

How do we become Abraham’s seed? I think we will find the answer to that question in Galatians beginning at Galatians 3:26 “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith”. That is the case of location. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ,” Galatians 3:27.

Notice Galatians 3:29, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”. How do you become the children of Abraham? By becoming a child of God by faith and that is when we are in Christ Jesus.

Paul does say in Acts 10:43 “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Notice however, the expression is that it is “through his name every one that believeth on him.” ASV. That is why in Acts 10:48 of that same passage Peter commanded them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.

Notice the expression, “in the name of Jesus Christ”, Acts 10:48. Peter has used that once before back in Acts 2:38, and there, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is said to be FOR the forgiveness of sins. Here is the same preacher, with the same message, with the same command expressing the same purpose.

Is A Believer Justified The Moment They Believe?

There are some people who suggest that because they are a believer, then they are justified. A few people often quote Jesus’ words in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life”, to justify that people are saved at the point of belief.

However, we need to finish the sentence, because Jesus goes on to say, “but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

The word reject is the Greek word ‘apeitheo’ and it is found 16 times in the Greek New Testament. In the King James Version it was rendered, ‘Believe not’ but in all 16 instances the revision has it ‘obeyeth not’.

That’s why in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 we read, that Christ will come “in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and DO NOT OBEY the gospel of our Lord Jesus”.

Look at the believers in John 12:42, “Many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue”.

Some suggest that because these men believed on Jesus, they were therefore justified and saved. Presumably since repentance comes before faith they had already repented.

They had repented, they had believed on Jesus but nevertheless the Lord Jesus Christ will not confess them before the Father in heaven for the simple reason that in Matthew 10:33 Jesus says, “But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

Or again Romans 10:10 says, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

So, in John 12:42, we have repentant believers, believers in Christ who are apparently are saved according by faith alone, yet the Lord Jesus Christ will not confess them on the day when He stands before the Father in heaven, Matthew 10:33.

In John 8:30-31, we have certain people who believed on Jesus in that passage. Notice in John 8:33 Jesus is talking about them and in John 8:39, we read the same believing Jews are told “If God were your father”. John 8:42.

He says later “You belong to your father, the devil”, John 8:44, and according to John 8:30-31 these were believing Jews, Jews who believed on Him.

Question

What kind of faith do the demons have according to James 2:19? What is the distinction between faith?

How do we decide when one faith is saving faith, and the other faith is inadequate to save us?

Is it possible that there is a kind of faith that saves and a faith that doesn’t save?

Notice what James here says, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17. “Faith without deeds is useless”. James 2:20. He says in James 2:26, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

Now faith that is alone, without works, is dead. And James very appropriately asks the question, “Can that faith save him”? James 2:14.

Faith Is Seen

Faith that saves is never alone, the faith that saves is seen, Luke 5:20. Is faith a tangible thing, a visible thing, a material thing that we can see? Of course not.

We see faith in the things that we do. You can’t see my thoughts, pr other people’s thought but you see their faith expressed in action.

Faith Is Obedient

Again, faith that saves is the faith that obeys. In Romans 1:5, the apostle Paul speaks about his apostleship, “To the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.”

His job was to lead people to render the obedience of faith and it was certainly with a view to salvation.

Again, we are told that Abraham’s faith TOOK STEPS, and we are told that God saves all those who walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, Romans 4:12. And as Galatians 5:6 tells us that, “Faith expressing itself through love.” It is NOT faith alone.

The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:2, “If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” If we are nothing, then we are certainly not saved.

He even says it is possible for man to have the gift of tongues and still be nothing if he doesn’t have love, 1 Corinthians 13:1. So something much more than faith is necessary. It has to be faith that works through love, and we know this kind of faith is never really alone.

Works Of The Law

There are three kinds of works referred to in the New Testament. There are the works of the law that Paul is speaking about in Romans 3:4.

In Romans 3:28, Paul writes, “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”

In this section of his letter, 13 times the law is spoken of and in the Roman letter the term ‘law’ is used in 7 or 8 different ways. It’s true in the Galatian letter Paul says, “A person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” Galatians 2:16.

Now why is that? Because through the law comes the knowledge of sin, Romans 3:20. The law convicted the Jew of sin, but the law could not save them, Romans 8:3-4 / Hebrews 10:1-4. The law simply could not save, Acts 15:10.

Thus, it is not by works done in righteousness which we did ourselves, but according to His mercy he saved us, Titus 3:4-5. This simply means that we do not earn salvation by our own good deeds, Ephesians 2:8-9.

We are simply not good enough. We cannot work our way into heaven. We cannot merit forgiveness, because Isaiah says, “All our righteousness’s are as filthy rags in the sight of the Lord”. Isaiah 64:6.

Works Of Human Righteousness

Then there is a second kind of works referred to in Titus 3:4, where the apostle Paul has the works of human righteousness, the works of human goodness in view.

He says, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Again, it means we simply cannot work our way to heaven, Ephesians 2:8-9.

Works Of Faith

Then there is a third kind of works which are necessary, and these are the works of faith, Romans 1:5. Obedient faith are not the works of the law, not the works of human goodness, but works of faith. That is faith working through love as Paul says again writing in Galatians 5:6.

In 2 Thessalonians 1:11 Paul speaks of every work of faith. Now the Lord Jesus points out that faith itself is indeed a work. In John 6 we have the Lord saying, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:27-29.

Why is believing a work of God? It is simply because it is that which God has commanded. If I am employed by somebody, whose work do I do? Do I do his work, or do I do the work that he tells me to do?

Repentance

Is repentance necessary to salvation? Can one be saved who refuses to repent? Certainly not! In Acts 17:30, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” But where does repentance come? Before or after faith?

It’s really immaterial whether it’s repentance then faith or faith and repentance. It doesn’t really matter. It’s not repentance without faith and it’s not faith without repentance. It’s repentance plus faith so, even there our faith is not alone.

2 Corinthians 7:10 teaches us that repentance comes BEFORE salvation. Surely no one would suggest that repentance wasn’t necessary for salvation.

Repentance is joined with baptism with the same purpose in view, which is salvation, and we cannot separate the two. If people say that faith alone saves us but argue that a person needs to repent to be saved, they have just nullified the first statement. We cannot be forgiven simply by believing, we cannot be saved without also repentance and baptism.

Confession

Paul says in Romans 10:9, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”. Is confession of Christ necessary to salvation? If we say that confession of Christ is necessary to salvation, then this is not faith alone.

Remember this confession comes after faith because we do not confess Christ first and then have faith, it is impossible. We can only confess that which we believe that which we have.

So, the order evidently is, faith first and then the expression of that faith in confession. But according to Paul’s argument in Romans 10:10 your salvation is not until after confession, “with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Conclusion

Faith is necessary for salvation, but it is the faith that works through love, Galatians 5:6. Faith becomes God’s condition of salvation and in Romans 1:16 Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes”.

It is not unconditional, faith itself is a condition of salvation. The gospel is the power of God, but it does not save everybody. It only saves those who believe.

We can work the work of God, and believe on His Son, and be saved by faith, but have you earned your salvation? Certainly not! There is no merit in faith. There is nothing in faith that makes God have to save us, nothing at all. There is no merit at all.

But faith saves because faith and baptism have both been commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 28:19 / Mark 16:16.

MENU