Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 10, 1955

Salvation By Faith

Thomas Allen Robertson, San Bernardino, California

A popular doctrine of our day is that all a person has to do to be saved is to have faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. This doctrine is often stated as the doctrine of "salvation by faith only." Many who are confused upon this subject are honest in their beliefs. There are indeed passages in the scripture which attribute salvation to faith; but there is not one single passage which attributes it to "faith only."

What all men need to realize is that no Bible subject is ever settled in one verse — else there would be only one verse of scripture on each given subject mentioned in the Bible. It is necessary to study every verse in the Bible on a subject before we can be sure we have all the truth there is. In studying the salvation of man, people too often read a single verse declaring that man is saved by faith, then contend that the Bible teaches man is saved by faith only. But the same book that contains the verse on faith also declares it to be God's will that men repent (Acts 17:30), make the good confession (Rom. 10:9, 10), and be baptized for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38.) We must regard each one of these verses as being just as true as the verse which teaches salvation by faith.

What Is Faith?

The Bible tells us what faith is. The record states, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1.) Faith is the "assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen." Faith is not just a vague sort of feeling which comes in some opportune hour; it is concrete, based on evidence; it is a conviction which is definite and positive. And it is followed always by action.

How Faith Comes

Paul says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. 10:17.) The things for which we hope are a resurrection from the dead and eternal life. The things which we did not see, and upon which our convictions are based, are Christ, his earthly teachings, miracles, his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. It is concerning these things the New Testament gives evidence or testimony. One must hear or know of these things before he can believe. That is why we are told it is impossible for him who has not heard to believe. (Rom. 10:14.)

The Necessity Of Faith

Little needs to be said concerning the necessity of faith. All religious people agree that the Bible teaches it. Christ himself said, "For if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." (John 8:24.) And the writer of Hebrews states, "But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Heb. 11:6.) John predicates our ability to become Sons of God on our belief in Christ. (John 1:11, 12.)

What Faith Does

There are three things attributed to faith in connection with the salvation of man:

1. Justification. Man is freed from the penalty of sin through faith. Paul wrote, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

(Rom. 5:1.) Again, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." (Gal. 2:16.)

2. Purification. Man is freed from the stain of sin through faith. Concerning the conversion of Cornelius and the Gentiles, Peter said, "And he put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." (Acts 15:9.)

3. Sanctification. Men are sanctified, set apart, separated from the world through faith. As Paul made his defense before Agrippa, he told the king that God had sent him to the Gentiles that they might "receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me (Christ).)Acts 26:18.)

Not By "Faith Alone"

The Bible plainly teaches that men are justified, purified, and sanctified by faith. It does not teach that this is done by faith alone, as the creeds both old and new affirm. The fact is, the Bible teaches quite the contrary of that creedal dogma. James bluntly gives the lie to this denominational doctrine when he asks, "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?" He answers this question once and for all in the ringing words of eternal truth, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." (James 2:24.) Between Paul and James there is absolute agreement. By the deeds of Moses' law, according to Paul no flesh shall be justified; but by faith apart from the works of the gospel, according to James, salvation is equally impossible.

How Men Are Saved

There is no merit in the simple ACT of believing. It is what one does because of faith that brings him into the sphere of God's pardoning grace. Obedience to the gospel does not save of itself; it merely puts one into the position where God is willing to save or forgive. Consider this simple comparison: There is no virtue in the mere ACT of eating; it is WHAT ONE EATS (not the mere eating) that sustains life. If eating alone were sufficient, then a man might eat sawdust and receive strength and health from it. No; it is not eating, but the thing eaten. And it is not merely believing but what happens as a result of the belief that saves. Our faith causes us to obey the commandments of God, and thus we are brought to salvation.