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Faith Alone and Jesus
Did Jesus teach salvation and justification by faith alone? This is an important, fundamental question with far reaching implications. Plain Talk holds that salvation is by grace through faith, that obeys in love. We are asking you to compare two models to the words of Jesus.
Salvation is by grace through faith alone.
Salvation is by grace through faith that obeys in love.
Faith- For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. In this verse we see not only the grace of God but Jesus recognizes that faith is the principle of life. Nowhere, however, does he suggest that this faith is alone. On the contrary, He holds up several factors that are essential to salvation. These factors include denial of self, obedience, repentance, confession, baptism, being born of water and the Spirit, eating his flesh and drinking His blood, being converted, etc. (John 3: 16; 8: 24)
Obedience- Not everyone who says, to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Jesus is saying that not all who believe (who would call Him Lord unless they believed?) and claim to have received Me as their Master will enter the kingdom of heaven. Doing the will of the Father, obedience, is essential to entering the kingdom and therefore is essential to being saved, but obedience is not faith, therefore salvation is not by faith alone. (Matthew 7: 21)
New Birth- Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” One cannot enter the kingdom of God unless he has been born again. The new birth is a birth (coming forth) from water and the Spirit. The birth of water and Spirit, presupposes baptism in water and the Spirit. The new birth is essential to salvation, but it is not faith; therefore salvation is not by faith alone. (John 3: 3, 5)
Confession- Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men; I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Confession of the name of Christ results in salvation. Jesus said He would deny before the Father those who do not confess His name. Confession is essential to salvation but it is not faith; therefore, salvation is not by faith alone. (Matthew 10: 32, 33; Romans 10: 9, 10; John 12: 42)
Repentance- I tell you, no, but, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. We will perish if we do not repent; repentance is motivated by the goodness and the kindness of God and is essential to the forgiveness of sins. Repentance is essential to salvation (unless one can be saved without the forgiveness of sin), but it is not faith; therefore, salvation is not by faith alone. (Luke 13: 3; 2 Corinthians 7: 10; Acts 3: 19; Romans 2: 4)
Belief and baptism- “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” The New Testament is not written as a systematic theology. Seldom do we find factors conjoined, but here they are. Faith conjoined with baptism results in salvation; disbelief, of course, excludes baptism, and results in condemnation. Contrast this statement with the view of faith alone adherents who hold that “he who believes is saved and shall be baptized as a sign of salvation”. (Mark 16: 16)
Denial of self- then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall loose it; but whoever loses His life for my sake shall find it.” One cannot be saved unless he comes to Jesus, but he cannot come to Jesus unless he denies himself. To save his life he must loose his life. Such is the paradox of Christianity. The denial of self prepares one to receive the grace of faith. (Matthew 16: 24, 25)
Eat flesh and drink blood- Jesus therefore said to them, “Truly , truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.” Many of His disciples left Him upon hearing this statement. But of course Jesus was not advocating cannibalism but rather, only those that metaphorically partake of Him can have life. If you do not have life, of course, you cannot be saved. Salvation is not by faith alone. (John 6: 53)
Converted- And said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become like little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” We must be converted and become like children if we desire to enter the kingdom of heaven. Conversion is essential to salvation, but it is not just faith; therefore salvation is not by faith alone. Conversion is that change that faith works in our lives. (Matthew 18: 3)
Love- “This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” We must love one another. If we do not, we do not know God, for God is love, since eternal punishment awaits those who do not know God, love is essential to salvation. When faith is alone, nothing is produced; but when faith is combined with love the result is the obedience of faith resulting in salvation. (John 15: 12; 1 John 4: 8; 2 Thessalonians 1: 8; 1 Corinthians 13: 3, 13).
Drawn by God The gospel is the power of God to salvation to those that both believe and, perhaps strangely, obey the gospel. We know the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. How do you obey the gospel? We obey the gospel when we through faith are baptized into Christ, His death, burial and resurrection. When we first come to faith the gospel is received merely as a truth, but as the as the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (because God first loved us), it becomes a thing of great value which draws us to Christ. We learn to love Christ and the gospel because He first loved us. We are drawn to Christ by love. (John 6: 44; 12: 32; Romans 1: 16; 6: 1-7; 1 Thessalonians 1: 8;1 Peter 4: 17)
Faith and obedience- “He who believes in the Son has eternal life but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3: 36) This verse points out the relationship between faith and obedience, He who believes has life. Why? Because faith indicates obedience also, who can claim to believe God and not obey His commandments? On the other hand obedience indicates the person has believed. This is the obedience of faith. The faith that gives life is never alone. Faith, which produces obedience, results in life. (John 3: 36)
Repentance and belief in the gospel- And saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. The Jews to who Jesus was speaking believed in God but they did not believe in the good news of the kingdom of God. Jesus conjoins repentance and believing in the good news of the kingdom. (Mark 1: 15)
John the Baptist
On the other hand John the Baptist, a prophet of God, did relate factors. Baptism conjoined with repentance results in the forgiveness of sins, which is essential to salvation. This precludes faith alone.
Not so strangely Peter made exactly the same connection on Pentecost plus he made the additional connection with the promise of the Spirit. Repentance conjoined with baptism in water and the Holy Spirit, which Christ pours out, results in forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. This precludes faith alone.
Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
(Acts 2: 38)
I see nothing in the words of Christ that even hints of the faith alone model. He recognizes the essentiality of faith, love and a number of life or death factors. Jesus seldom gives the relationship of these factors one to another. That is left for the Apostles after they received the Holy Spirit. When Jesus brings in these several factors, faith alone is precluded.
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Last Update 09/26/12