Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 9, 1961
NUMBER 39, PAGE 6,14a

Will Faith Only Save?

Tommy McClure, Franklin, Tennessee

In previous articles we have studied some arguments made b y the advocates of salvation by faith only. Their arguments based upon a perversion of Eph. 2:8, 9 were refuted, and the reader will do well to read those articles again before reading this one. In the present article we are continuing our study of erroneous arguments advanced by these false teachers.

Believer Has Eternal Life

This is one of the arguments they bank on most. First, they call our attention to several passages which teach that the believer has eternal life. Among such passages which they often quote is Jno. 3:36. Jesus said, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." They also quote Jno. 5:24 where Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." Another oft quoted passage is Jno. 6:40 where Jesus said, "And this is the will of him that sent me, that everyone that seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day." After quoting such passages, faith-only advocates usually say something like this: "These passages teach that the believer has eternal life. But one becomes a believer before he is baptized. Therefore, one is saved at the point of faith, before and without water baptism." Sounds quite convincing, doesn't it?

But, let us look at this reasoning in the light of some other passages and draw some parallels.

In Jno. 8 is recorded a conversation between Christ and the Jews. Verse 30 says, "As he spake these words, many believed on him." All right, according to the faith-only argument stated above, these people must have had eternal life. But, notice what Jesus says to these same Jews in verse 42. "Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me." This verse establishes the fact that, though they had believed on Christ, God was not their Father, and they did net love Christ. Thus, if the faith-only argument with which we are presently dealing be true, a person can have eternal life before and without loving Christ and becoming a child of God. Please consider this parallel:

Faith Only Argument

1. The believer has eternal life. (Jno. 3:36; 5:24; 6:40)

2. But, people believe before they are baptized.

3. Therefore, man is saved by faith before and without water baptism,

Parallel Argument

1. The believer has eternal life. (Jno. 3:36; 5:24; 6:40)

2. But, certain Jews believed on Christ before God was their Father (or before they were children of God) and before they loved Christ.

3. Therefore, man is saved by faith before and without becoming a child of God and loving Christ.

Who, we ask, will accept such a conclusion? Any argument, the logic of which proves too much, proves absolutely nothing. That is exactly what the logic (?) of the faith-only advocates in the above argument does. It proves too much, therefore it proves nothing! The same logic (?) which proves (?) that man can be saved by faith before and without becoming a child of God, and before and without loving Jesus Christ. Some "logic," isn't it? But, keep in mind the fact that that is the "logic" of those who teach the doctrine of salvation by faith only! Does anyone now wonder why we referred to them as "false teachers?" If you have wondered about that, surely you don't have to wonder now. We did not do it to be unkind, nor to hurt anyone's feelings. We did it simply because that is what they are — false teachers of the deepest dye!

But, someone asks, "Do you believe the Lord told the truth in the passages referred to above?" We most certainly do! We believe what the Lord said — that the believer of which he spoke has eternal life. But the question is: What kind of believer is the Lord referring to in these and other such passages? What kind of believer has eternal life? Is it the obedient or the disobedient believer? Let the faith-only advocates answer! If they say that the obedient believer is the one who has eternal life, they wholly surrender their ground. On the other hand, if they say that the disobedient believer is the one who has eternal life, they contradict every passage in the word of God relative to obedience, and there are many such passages. For example, Jesus said in Matt. 7:21, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." Again, in Heb. 5:8, 9 the writer said, "Though he (Christ) were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." And, in 2 Thess. 1:7, 8 Paul tells us, "....the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and the OBEY NOT THE GOSPEL of our Lord Jesus Christ." Thus, there is no hope for the disobedient. It matters not whether a person be a disobedient believer or a disobedient unbeliever, there is simply no hope for the disobedient!

So, when the Lord referred to the believer having everlasting life, he must have been speaking of the obedient believer. Therefore, the faith-only advocates will have to seek comfort and refuge elsewhere, for these passages in John do their doctrine no good whatsoever.

Another question is: In what sense does the believer (the obedient believer) have eternal life at the present time? Does he have it in the full, complete, ultimate, absolute sense? Or, does he have it in the sense of promise and hope? Many faith-only advocates (especially Baptist preachers) say that the former is true. According to them, ii a person gets it, he cannot lose it; if he loses it, he never had it. And, according to the Primitives, if a person never had it he cannot get it, for they teach that he is unconditionally predestinated to either eternal salvation or eternal damnation, and that there is nothing he can do about it. The Bible, however, teaches no such thing. It teaches that eternal life (in the ultimate, absolute sense) is to be received in the world to come, and that we have said life now in the sense of promise and hope.

Years after his conversion the apostle Paul said that he was "in hope" of eternal life. Look at Titus 2:1, 2. "Paul a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ....In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began." If Paul already had eternal life in the full, ultimate absolute sense, why was he hoping for it? As the apostle himself said, ".... hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." (Rom. 8:24, 25) According to Dan. 12:2 eternal life is to be received after the resurrection. The passage says, "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and sonic to shame and everlasting contempt." In Rom. 6:22, Paul said, "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, an the end everlasting life." He also said in Rom. 2:6, "Who (God) will (at the judgment, verse 5) render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life." To Timothy Paul said, "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses." Could language be plainer? But, Mark 10:28-30 clinches it forever. "Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life." Furthermore, John said, "And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life."

Thus, another erroneous argument has been exploded. The believer has eternal life. Certainly so! But, it is the obedient believer who has it, and he has it in the sense of promise and hope. When by faith a man is lead to repent of his sins (Acts 17:30), confess his faith in Christ (Matt. 10:32, 33; Rom. 10:9, 10), and be baptized for the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38, Mk. 16:16), he is an obedient believer. By faith he has obeyed the Lord's plan of salvation. He is then in hope of eternal life, and if he continues faithful to the Lord to the end of his earthly pilgrimage, he will receive that which the Lord has promised. "And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life." (1 John 2:25)