Consequences of Salvation by Faith Only
Most denominations claim a sinner is saved by faith only. Yet James 2:17-26 claims that one is saved by works and not by faith alone. This appears to contradict Paul’s teaching that salivation is not of works. However, as explained in last week’s article, the works of God, faith or righteousness are conditions of salvation. As opposed to works of the Law or works of man. Martin Luther handled this apparent contradiction by simply disregarding the book of James by calling it, “a right strawy epistle.”
However, if one strives to be saved by faith or grace only there are some inevitable consequences he will have to face.
If Saved by Faith Only or Grace Only Then…
Saved With a Dead Faith
If one is saved by “faith only,” then one is saved with a dead faith. James said, “faith apart from works is dead” (2:17). Just as the human body may exist in either the living state or in the dead state, so faith may also be either alive or dead. Living faith, like the living body, is manifest by action. Dead faith is like a dead body when it is inactivate. James thus stated that just as a dead body is useless without the spirit, so dead faith is useless without the works of obedience to Christ’s divine law.
Saved With an Imperfect Faith
James went on to argue, “do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (James 2:22). Faith alone is incomplete. One must not only claim to believe in Christ as the Son of God, he must respond to or act in accord with the belief. This requires obedience to God.
Saved Without Being Justified
The phrase “faith only” appears only once in the Bible. In this passage the Word of God claims one is not saved or justified by “faith only.” “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). “Faith only” will not justify; faith plus works will justify. James used the same word “only” (monos) once more in his letter. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). It is not a question of whether faith justifies or is essential to salvation or not. The issue is whether faith alone will save. Not all works will justify or save the sinner. James does not affirm such. He does ask two rhetorical questions concerning to great examples of faith. First, he speaks of the faith of Abraham who offered up Isaac. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?” (James 2:21). Second, James mentions the faith of Rahab. “Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” (James 2:25).
Saved Without a New Birth
One night a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus came to Jesus to ask the way into the kingdom. “Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’” (John 3:5). If one is saved by faith only, he must be saved without the new birth. This new birth involves being “born of water” which is baptism.
Saved Without Baptism
Denominationalists say, “If you say that one must be baptized in order to be saved, then you would have us saved by men’s works.” And, “obviously salvation cannot be by grace through faith and still by partly by baptism. Salvation cannot be both by grace and by works.” Yet Jesus said, “he who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Faith plus baptism equals salvation. Anything that is commanded of God, is not a work of man, but it is a work of God. “There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21)
Saved Without Obedience
Although Jesus “was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrew 5:8,9). Are the actions of obedience considered works? The eleventh chapter of Hebrews tells of the active faith of men and women in the Bible. In every single case their faith was coupled with obedience. Abel who by faith offered a more excellent sacrifice (11:4). Noah who by faith built an ark as God directed (11:7). Noah did not earn salvation by building an ark. The Israelites did not earn the promised land. Every case of Bible conversion in the book of Acts shows that people were saved only when their faith was coupled with the works of obedience to God’s law. Many think that John 3:16 teaches salvation at the point of faith. But the word “believes” according to Thayer’s Lexicon means, “Faith conjoined with obedience.” Paul in writing the book of Romans began and ended the letter by mentioning “obedience to the faith” (Rom. 1:5), and “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:26). So Paul and James do not contradict each other, both teach that faith only will not save.
Saved Without Love
Faith must exist before it can work and it must work through love before it can avail anything. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). True working or active faith must involve love. Salvation by faith only would omit the necessity of love.
Saved Without Repentance
“Faith only” doctrine would leave out not only baptism but would exclude the necessity of repentance. When on the day of Pentecost Peter condemned the Jews for killing the Son of God, they ask them what could be done. “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins’” (Acts 2:38). Jesus warned, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
Saved Without Confession
What good is belief in Christ without confessing with one’s mouth before others that He is the Son of God. “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42).
Saved Without Faith
Believe it or not Jesus said that faith is a work. The multitude asked Jesus “‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent’” (John 6:28,29). Faith is a work, a work of God. God has commanded us to believe; therefore, believing is a work of God. It is not a work God must do, or will do for us, it is a work we must accomplish.
Saved Without Good Works
If salvation is by faith or grace only, then good works are completely excluded. Doing “good works” are required by the Lord. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11,12). The grace of God teaches us how “we should live.” We are created in Christ to produce good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). “Good Works” are those things taught in the Word. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
A man asked a denominational preacher what needed to be done to be saved. He answered, “Nothing! Jesus did it all two thousand years ago.” When the Jailor asked the same question. Paul did not say “you are too late to do anything, Jesus did it all” (see Acts 16:31-34). When Paul asked the Lord what He was to do, Jesus sent him to Damascus and sent a preacher named Ananias. Paul was not told to do nothing because everything had already been done by Jesus two thousand years ago. Instead Paul was commanded to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16).
Salvation is by the grace of God and by the works of God which include: hearing, believing, repenting, confessing, and being baptized.
– Daniel R. Vess