Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 9, 1960

Will Faith Only Save -(III.)

Tommy McClure, Franklin, Tennessee

In the two previous articles on this subject, the following has been pointed out: (1) The question is not: Is faith essential to salvation? Such passages as Mk. 16:15, 16; Jno. 3:16; Jno. 8:24; Acts 10:43; Acts 16:30, 31 and many others plainly teach the necessity of faith. Without faith man will be damned, according to the word of God. The question is: Is faith the only necessary requirement for salvation? Please keep in mind the difference between "salvation by faith" and "salvation by faith only." (2) What "faith only" will not do proves conclusively that "faith only" will not save. (3) The doctrine of salvation by faith only is clearly refuted in James 2. For a more complete review of these points, the reader should read the first two articles before reading this one.

Bible Examples Which Show That The Faith That Avails Is Always Manifested In Obedience

A careful study of the Bible examples of availing faith should be enough to convince all honest students of the word of God that faith only (faith without works of obedience to God) will not save. Let's look at a few such examples:

(1) The healing of the Israelites. (Num. 21:4-9.) The record says "And they (the children of Israel) journeyed from Mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they hit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived."

Question: Were these people healed by faith? Certainly they were! God made the promise, "... it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live." Every Israelite who was healed, was healed by faith in God and faith in his promise. Yet, not one Israelite was healed by faith only. They were healed by faith when that faith caused them to look on the brazen serpent, when it caused them to obey God's command!

Suppose an Israelite had said, "I am so sick! Getting out of my tent and going to the place where I can see the brazen serpent will be so inconvenient! Besides, I can't see any sense in looking on a brazen serpent, anyway. I will just lie right here in my tent and trust in God, as my personal healer, to heal me from the snake bite!" Would he have been healed? Not according to God's promise. God's promise of healing was conditional — "everyone that is bitten, WHEN HE LOOKETH UPON IT, shall live." Faith in God — without obedience, without looking on the brazen serpent — was not an availing faith. "Faith which worketh by love" was the faith that availed in the time of the Israelites, and it is the faith that avails today, Gal. 5:6.

(2) The case of Noah. By faith, Noah was saved from the flood. But was he saved by faith only? Who believes that he was? ? ? Suppose Noah had said, "I believe that salvation is by faith and that it is not of works lest any man should boast. If I build an ark, that will be salvation by works. So, I am going to sit right here and trust in God, as my personal saviour, to save me from the flood." Would he have been saved ? Certainly not! He would have drowned, just as all others did who were not in the ark.

As was true of the Israelites' faith mentioned above, Noah's faith availed when it lead him to obey God's commands. The Hebrew writer said, "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." (Heb. 11:7). This passage affirms that "by faith Noah" did something. What was it? "By faith Noah... prepared an ark... "His faith led him to do what God commanded, and that command is recorded in Gen. 6. Beginning at verse 14, God said, "Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shall pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it." That was quite a task wasn't it? Bible scholars agree that a "cubit" was equal to one and one-half feet. Thus, the ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. The building of such a large structure required much labor, and all the toil that was required in constructing the ark is included in the expression "by faith." After the giving of the command in Gen. 6, we are told in verse 22, "Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he." And, Paul says that he built it "by faith." Thus, "by faith" he did "all that God commanded" him to do. Noah's faith was an active faith; therefore, it was an availing faith. The blessing which it brought was "the saving of his house" from the destruction wrought by the flood. Notice the order in Heb. 11:7. (1) "By faith; (2) "prepared and ark"; (3) "to the saving of his house." The same order — faith, obedience, then salvation — obtains today.