Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 12, 1953

Refuting The "Faith Only" Arguments

Franklin T. Puckett, Calico Rock, Arkansas

Those people who contend for the idea of "salvation by faith only" are in the habit of going to the Gospel of John, collecting certain passages from that book, collating them with other passages that teach salvation by faith, and then coming forth with the declaration that since salvation is "by faith," it is by faith alone. And because faith comes before baptism, they conclude that one is saved before baptism; hence, baptism is non essential and unnecessary to salvation.

Commonly used passages are John 3:36; and 6:40, all of which teach that the believer has eternal life. Since one is a believer before he is baptized, they conclude that one has eternal life before he is baptized. Therefore, baptism is non-essential. But let us take this logic (?) and apply it to other passages. In the teaching Christ gave the Jews, he produced faith in the hearts of many, "As he spake these things, many believed on him." (John 8:30) Yet, just a few verses further on in that chapter Jesus said, "If God were your father, ye would love me." (Verse 42) Here were believers, who did not love Christ. Thus by the logic of these teachers, one is saved before he loves the Lord. If we accept their premise that the believer (faith only) has eternal life, then we are forced to accept the conclusion that this believer has eternal life before he loves God.

We emphasize that the believer contemplated in such passages is the obedient believer, not merely the man who believes and stops with that. The "faith only" advocates use many other passages (or rather misuse them) in their efforts to bolster their doctrine. A common one is John 3:18, which says, "He that believeth on him is not condemned." But, says the false teacher, we believe before we are baptized; therefore, we come out of condemnation before we are baptized. Thus, the believer is saved, freed from condemnation, before baptism. They connect with this Romans 8:1,2, "There is therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus," and seek to prove that the believer is in Christ before he is baptized. But let us again apply our comment on the believer having eternal life. If we make the believer mean what the false teachers advocate (faith only), then we have a man securing eternal life before he loves God. Which no one would claim. But the scriptures teach clearly that the believer who is not condemned is the obedient believer; the believer who is not condemned is the one who has been baptized into Christ.

Is God Dishonest?

Another argument of the advocates of error is this: God has promised salvation to the believer. If then He adds another condition (baptism) to that, He has gone up on the price; He does not give salvation at the figure He had first promised it (belief). They say this would make God dishonest and a cheat ... promising salvation on the condition of faith, and then adding another condition to that.

But strangely enough the very people who teach this will themselves declare that repentance is essential; that confession is essential; that love for God is essential; and even that prayer is essential. When Paul replied to the inquiry of the Philippian jailor and said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved," he mentioned neither repentance, nor confession, nor love, nor prayer, nor any other of the items that "faith only" advocates themselves declare to be essential to salvation. Now according to their logic, if God requires repentance, that makes God dishonest. If He requires confession, that makes Him dishonest. If He requires love, then He has gone up on His price, and is dishonest. Too these people are themselves guilty of the very thing they charge against others. The truth of the matter is that there may be more conditions than are stated in any one passage. There can never be less; and we must bring the body of God's truth together, and get all the conditions stated, and then comply with every condition in order to secure salvation. There are passages, for instance, which mention repentance as a condition of salvation, but say nothing at all of faith. Are we to suppose then that faith is non-essential? How absurd! There are passages that mention baptism but say nothing of repentance. Are we to suppose that repentance is non-essential? If God "goes up on the price" of salvation when he mentions baptism, by the same argument He "goes up on the price" when He makes repentance a condition of salvation.

Sent "Not To Baptize"

Another favorite passage used by the "faith only" advocates to show that baptism is non-essential is Paul's statement to the Corinthians, "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel." They usually stop with the statement. "I thank God that I baptized none of you." (v. 14) They fail to read the context which shows why Paul was grateful he had not baptized others. There was division in Corinth; the members there were beginning to follow human leaders, some saying, "I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ." Lest anyone should seize upon his name, saying he had been baptized into the name of Paul, Paul said he thanked God that he had baptized none of them save Crispus and Gaius. But all the Corinthians had been baptized, whether by Paul or by others. We read, "And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed, and were baptized." (Acts 18:8) And Paul said that "in one spirit were we all baptized into one body." (1 Cor. 12:13)

The fact is that Paul did baptize people at Corinth. Did he do that which he was unauthorized to do? Did he do that which he was not sent to do? Of course not. Christ sent him to preach. That was his first and primary responsibility. There were others, like Timothy and Silas, who could, and doubtless did, attend to the physical act of baptizing. As an apostle of the Lord, Paul was preaching by divine authority. It was by the same authority that he personally baptized Crispus, Gaius and the household of Stephanas, and perhaps some others. He did not act without authority. He was under the same commission as the other apostles to whom Christ had said, "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." They were authorized and commissioned and commanded to baptize. So also was Paul. He was not a whit behind the chiefest of them.