Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 11, 1963

The Saved Believer

N. Z. Crass

Modern theology has set forth many theories regarding the theme of salvation by faith. Perhaps the best known is the doctrine of justification by "faith only." This doctrine speaks of two kinds of faith — "saving faith" and "historical faith." The former, we are told, comes in answer to prayer and is instantaneous. It permits no time at all for any act of obedience to Christ between the moment of faith and the moment of salvation. The latter, "historical faith," is that which comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17), and we are told it does not save, and can never justify.

Yet Paul declares that there is "one faith!" (Eph. 4:5)

We have here a clear and easily seen difference between the declaration of Paul and the teaching of the theologians. The New Testament teaches that men are "saved by faith" in their obedience to the gospel. Most denominations teach that remission of sins (salvation) takes place the very instant one believes in Christ, and has nothing at all to do with any obedience. Under such contradictory teachings, the course of the honest inquirer is simple: "To the law and the testimony! if they speak not according to this word, surely there is no mourning for them." (Isa. 8:29)

Before studying the arguments that our denominational friends use to support the doctrine of "salvation by faith only," let me present this simple rule of interpretation: Every passage of scripture when correctly understood, is in complete harmony with every other passage correctly understood. Salvation may indeed depend on faith; but it must also depend on any and every other condition which is stipulated. The "faith" by which a man is saved must be in harmony with all other passages which attribute salvation to things in addition to, or other than, faith.

Proof Texts

Let us consider the proof texts that are offered to support the idea of "salvation by faith only."

1. John 3:16, 36 — the believer "hath eternal life."

2. John 3:18 — the believer "is not judged."

3. John 5:24 — the believer "hath passed out of death into life."

4. Acts 13:39 — the believer "is justified from all things."

5. Acts 10:43 — the believer "shall receive remission of sins."

6. Acts 16:31 — "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved."

7. Rom. 5:1 — the believer is "justified by faith."

8. Gal. 3:26-27 -- the believer is a "son of God through faith."

After presenting these passages, it is customary for our friends to sum up their argument by saying, "The believer hath eternal life, is not condemned, hath passed out of death into life, is justified, has the remission of his sins is saved, has peace with God, is a child of God. The proposition is proved; our task is done." And to the unthinking and careless student it would indeed seem that a strong case has been made for the proposition.

But is this the complete story? Is this all the Bible teaches on the subject of salvation by faith? Let us submit another simple rule of Bible study, so obviously true that one has only to see it to realize its force: Any construction or interpretation put on a passage of scripture which forces a contradiction between this passage and other clearly understood passages is erroneous. Truth is always harmonious with itself. (John 17:7)

The Full Teaching

For our friends to get the "full story" of Bible teaching on the subject of salvation, let us call attention to some of these other passages which the doctrine of "salvation by faith only" would ignore. Repentance is certainly essential to salvation. For Jesus said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish." (Luke 13:3) And again, that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name." (Luke 24:47) And Paul states that God "now commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent." (Acts 17:30)

Confession is needed. "Because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead thou shalt be saved; for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Rom. 10:9, 10)

Baptism is essential. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16)

Now, the proof texts offered in support of "faith only" contradict every one of these passages (and numerous others) when the faith only interpretation is given them. Obviously, then, there is something wrong with the interpretation.

What is the trouble? Wherein lies the error? Is it not clear that the basic fallacy made by our friends is in their application of these passages to the unbaptized believers, whereas, in fact these passages should be applied to the obedient believer — one who from the heart has received the word of God, and is baptized into Christ, and faithfully follows him through life. The difference between these two positions is exactly the difference between truth and error. One doctrine applies the passages to the unbaptized believer; the other teaching applies them to the obedient believer.

"Take heed lest there be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."

— 6248 Oram, Dallas, Texas