Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 14, 1963

Saved By Faith - Judged By Works


J. David Tant

One of the cardinal doctrines of many denominations is that of "faith only," or that man is saved by faith apart from any other consideration on the part of man.

To illustrate, let us notice the very words contained in the creed books of some of the popular sects. (1) The Standard Manual For Baptist Churches, by Edward T. Hiscox, page 62: "We believe the scriptures teach that the great gospel blessing which Christ secures to such as believe in Him is justification; that justification includes the pardon of sin, and the gift of eternal life on principles of righteousness; that it is bestowed, not in consideration of any works we have done, but solely through faith in Christ...." (Emphasis mine, J.D.T)

(2) Discipline of the Methodist Church, 1912 Edition, page 8: "Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort." (Emph. mine, JDT)

(3) What Lutherans Believe, By Dr. Schramm: "The Lutheran Church has always, quite properly, given a great deal of prominence to this doctrine, viz., justification by faith only." From the Government Report of Denominations, Vol. 2., p. 853, we also obtain this statement concerning Lutheran beliefs: "Justification by faith alone in Jesus Christ is held to be the central doctrine of the word of God according to which all other doctrines are determined and developed." (Emph. mine, JDT)

Many other sects also hold this belief, but these statements will suffice to show that it is a widely held creed. Now, let us concern ourselves with the question, is it true? Is this doctrine "from heaven, or from men"?

Let me quickly point out that the Bible does teach that we are saved by faith. But I believe the Bible nowhere teaches that we are saved "solely through faith," or "by faith only." John 3:16 states that "whosoever believeth on him (Christ) should not perish, but have eternal life." Romans 5:1 says that we are "....justified by faith...." There are many passages which bear the same message, but we notice one vital thing missing from them all: not a single one of them states or implies "faith only."

Funk & Wagnalls defines "only" in these words: "1) alone in its class; having no fellow or mate; sole; single; solitary. 2.) Standing alone by reason of superior excellence." If we then would accept the logical conclusion of "faith only," we would have to exclude repentance (Luke 13:3), confession (Romans 10:10), baptism (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16). In short, we would have to exclude obedience. This exclusion of obedience is, in effect, done in the Baptist church. We read in their Standard Manual on pages 20 and 21: "Note 8. — Baptism is not essential to salvation, for our churches utterly repudiate the dogma of 'baptismal regeneration:' but it is essential to obedience, since Christ commanded it." Please note the inescapable syllogism that must follow:

Major Premise: Baptism is not essential to salvation Minor Premise: Baptism is essential to obedience

Conclusion: Obedience is not essential to salvation Consider the case of the man drowning in a lake. A man on shore obtains a boat, rows out to the drowning man, throws out a life line. The man in the water has seen the aid coming, believes he will save him, and grabs the life-line when it is thrown to him. What has saved the man? The life-line? The boat? the oars? The rescuer?

His own act in taking the line? We must answer "yes" to all of them. But how incorrect to take one item and say that he was saved by his faith alone, or by the boat alone, or solely through his works. They all worked together to save him.

So it is with our salvation. On the part of God we have his love, grace and mercy. Without these, manifested in the sending of his Son, there would be no salvation. But God does not force salvation upon a man. He has given conditions to be met — faith, repentance, baptism, etc. These are not the "works of righteousness" mentioned by Paul in Titus 3:5 and Romans 4:2, but works of obedience.

Yes, we are saved by faith. But what kind of faith? A "faith only" or a "working faith"? The "faith only" would save the demons (James 2:19), and this cannot be. Abraham was saved by faith (Rom. 4:3), and we see what kind of faith, i.e., "working faith," by reading James 2:21-23. According to James 2:14-26, the syllogism noted earlier in the article could not in any way be true. In talking with a Baptist preacher one time, he kept stressing "faith only," and I turned to the second chapter of James and read to him verse 24. Here is the only place where the two words "faith" and "only" appear together in the Bible, and it says we are not saved by faith only. Well, the Baptist preacher could not believe it. He said, "That's not the kind of God I serve." He then confessed he had never read the book of James, and had never heard of this verse.

Yes, we are saved by faith, but we are judged by our works. (Matt. 16:27, 2 Cor. 5:10, Heb. 11, James 2:14-26)

Denominations say: "Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort." God says: "Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith." It is just that simple — God vs. man. Which will you choose?

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