Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 9, 1950

Faith Only Texts In Context - No. 3

Franklin T. Puckett, Atlanta, Georgia

James speaks emphatically on the matter of faith, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe, and tremble." (Jas. 2:19.) Hence, if a person "merely believes" he does no more than the devils do. He cannot be saved. But since the Bible teaches that some believers (a) are saved; (b) have eternal life; and (c) will not come into condemnation, and since the same Bible teaches that there are some believers who are unsaved, we must recognize that there is a faith which saves and at the same time a faith which does not save.

James Explanation

This problem is solved for us in the plainest and clearest kinds of terms in James 2. He says, "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." (Jas. 2:14-17.) This is truly an apt illustration. Those who claim to be saved by "faith only" and teach the doctrine of salvation by "faith only" could just as easily feed the hungry and clothe the naked without giving them the things needful as they could be saved without doing the things required.

When some denominational preacher insists on teaching the doctrine of salvation by faith only, he should be required to read the exact wording of James statement on "faith only." "But wilt thou know, 0 vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (Jas. 2:20-26.) What a clear contrast here between the words of scripture and the false teaching of the Methodist Discipline (Article IX) the Baptist Manual (Section 5), and all other creeds of men which teach salvation by "faith only."

The Obedient Faith

Paul is in perfect agreement with this statement of James when he says, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh through love." (Gal 5:6.) The only kind of faith which will avail anything at all is a "faith which worketh by love." John describes for us precisely what that "love" is when he says, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." (1 John 5:3.) It was Christ himself who said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15.) All of which simply adds up to the fact that no man can claim that he truly loves the Lord until he obeys the commandments of the Lord. The "faith only" advocate may shout and sing till he is blue in the face, "0, how I love Jesus," but, as a matter of absolute fact, he does not love him at all unless he is willing to do what Jesus said! No person who is disobedient can lay claim to loving the Lord. Only the believer (the obedient believer) has the promise of salvation.

What About Ephesians 2:8?

A favorite passage of the "faith only" advocates is Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." The argument usually runs like this: (1) The believer is saved through faith, (2) but he has that faith before baptism; therefore, (3) he is saved before baptism. This makes baptism non-essential to a man's salvation. But consider those Ephesians! They were not unbaptized people; the Bible expressly states the contrary. Some of them had even been baptized twice. It is certainly clear that the Ephesians to whom Paul wrote had (1) heard the word of truth (Eph. 1:13), had (2) believed (Eph. 1:13), had (3) repented (Acts 20:21), and had (4) been baptized. (Acts 19:5). Thus, the people who had been "saved by grace through faith" were people who had obeyed the gospel We have already seen that Paul included himself in the remarks directed toward the Ephesians, He, too, had heard, believed, repented, and been baptized, He was justified by faith just like they were; it was a faith that "worked" through love.

1 John 5:1

"Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God," are the words John uses here. Faith only advocates make this argument on John's statement: (1) We believe before we are baptized; but (2) the believer is born of God; therefore, (3) we are born of God before we are baptized. But this same epistle of John mentions some other things of which we are "born", For example, "Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." (1 John 4:7.) Again, "He that doeth righteousness is born of God." Now, are there three births? Or four? Or a dozen? Is it not evident that all of these refer to the same birth, that birth of "water and the spirit" by which we are brought into the kingdom of God. One must believe, he must love God, he must do righteousness; all of these are a part of that being "born of God" of which John speaks. But the "righteousness" of God is revealed through the gospel (Rom. 1:16, 17); hence the man "born of God" is one who has obeyed the gospel of God.

Sometimes men in denying the essentiality of obedience to the command to be baptized will say that such a requirement would make God dishonest. God has promised salvation, they say, to the believer; if now he goes up on the price, and adds another requirement, then he has not been fair with the believer! But consider the Philippian jailer. When he inquired concerning the requirements for salvation, he was told, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." (Acts 16:31.) But it was required of this jailor that he also hear the word of the Lord. Now was God being unfair to the jailor in requiring him to "hear" when Paul had told him simply to believe until he did hear. So Paul and Silas "spake the word of the Lord" to him and all his house. The jailor showed his penitence by taking them that same hour and washing their stripes, Then immediately he and all his household were baptized. Their faith now expressed itself in obedience This is the only faith that will ever save anybody. Advocates of the "faith only theory have failed to understand the nature either of faith, or of obedience, or of salvation. The theory, given world-wide prominence by Martin Luther at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation will not stand the test of Bible truth. It is one of the doctrines of men, and must be rejected.