“Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). By supplying the word “only” or “alone” this verse, and similar verses, have been made to negate the individual’s responsibility to obey the Gospel which he or she believes. The Bible teaches salvation by faith, but the Bible nowhere teaches salvation by faith alone. Christians are not saved by faith to the exclusion of all other things involved in God’s plan.
The Bible lists several things by which one is saved. Romans 5:9 says Christians are “justified by his blood.” Romans 3:24 says that Christians are “being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 6:11 says that Christians are “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Peter 3:21 says, “Baptism now saves you.” Christians are saved by Jesus’ blood, faith, grace, the authority of God, baptism, and other tools which God has used in his service. If one chooses to focus on any one of these concepts and exclude any other a distorted view of God’s plan will be the outcome.
THE WORD “ALONE” IS NOT USED BY GOD TO DISCUSS SALVATION BY FAITH
If God told us that salvation was by faith alone, then Hebrews 11:4 would say, By faith alone Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice.” Hebrews 11:7 would say, “By faith alone Abraham, when he was called to go out to a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed.” Surely, these comments would be nonsensical. The faith that these men of old had was accompanied by works which then can be described as faithfulness. They carried out their faith and perfected it by obedience to the Lord. James said, “By works was faith made perfect” (2:22). Again James wrote, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). In James 2:26 he said, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Will anyone be justified by dead faith?
Romans 5:1 says, “therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God.” James 2:24 says, “by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” These Scriptures do not contradict each other. These Scriptures complement each other. No one is saved by faith only and no one is saved by works only. Rather, individuals become and remain Christians when their faith is coupled with obedience.
THE USAGE OF THE WORD “FAITH” IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
The word “faith” is used to describe the following: belief; the system of New Testament doctrine (Jude 3); the life of a believer in totality (such as in Habakkuk 2:4); and trustworthiness (i.e. “faithful”). As over against the OT, where the accent is on the faithfulness of God, in the NT the emphasis is placed on the active, responding faith of the hearer to the promised, final revelation in the Messiah, Jesus. Both verb and noun regularly describe the adequate response of people to Jesus’ word and to the gospel.
“Faith” refers to that which is believed (Jude 3).
“Faith” refers to the Christian system as opposed to the Old Law (Romans 3:27-28).
“Faith” refers to the God’s means of justification (Romans 5:1).
“Faith” refers to that which is taught (Acts 20:21).
“Faith” refers to that which is practiced (Romans 1:5).
It is easy to see how widely used the word “faith” is in the New Testament. We may summarize the word’s usage as inseparable belief and behavior.
THE HEART OF FAITH
For ancient peoples and for modern man as well, the word “heart” is used to describe the intellectual side of man, the devotion of man, and the zeal of mankind in fulfilling a purpose. When considering how the heart of man may be saved by faith, it seems appropriate to examine Romans 6:17. The verse tells us, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed (“standard of teaching to which you were committed” ESV), and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (NASBU).
Notice that the verse teaches that individuals were slaves of sin at one time, but that condition ceased. That condition ceased when they “obeyed from the heart”. Their heart led them to sincerely obey. No longer were they the servants of sin, but now they had become the servants of righteousness. Furthermore, notice that they did not make that transition at the time that they believed but at the time they obeyed the form of doctrine to which they were committed. The decisive moment was when they obeyed the form of doctrine. The hearing and believing led up to the obeying which resulted in the transition from sin to righteousness. The remaining question is what is the “form of doctrine” or the pattern of teaching? It is found in Romans 6:1-5.
SCRIPTURES THAT TEACH SALVATION BY FAITH, BUT NOT FAITH ALONE
We have already seen that the word “faith” and its equivalent term “belief” (both are from the same Greek word) are used to refer to much more than just acknowledgment of a truth. Faith or “belief” demands appropriate responses be made if it is to be Biblical faith or belief. When Scriptures are put forward which appear to teach salvation at the moment one has acknowledged Christ as Savior, we must remember that Biblical faith requires action. Let us examine John 3 for an example.
John 3 is perhaps one of the most well known chapters in the entire Bible. It begins with Jesus’ affirmation that one must be born again by water and of Spirit (Jn. 3:3, 5). Then, we find the Golden text of the Bible—John 3:16. There we are told that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Then in John 3:18 the Bible tells us that “He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God.” These verses are often put forth to prove that salvation occurs when one accepts Jesus as the Christ of God.
However, there is much more to the chapter and to the doctrine of salvation. The chapter continues and tells us that “he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his works may be manifest, that they have been wrought in God” (Jn. 3:21). There we are told that obedience or rebellion will be part of judgment. Continuing on in John 3:36 the Bible says, “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him”. The words “believeth” and “obeyeth” are used interchangeably. Proving that the two concepts are inseparable.
Furthermore, when we examine the previous verses of John 3 we see an implicit command to obey God for salvation. John 3:14 says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life.” In that narrative of Numbers 21 which is alluded to, the children of Israel were being punished by God who sent fiery serpents into their midst to bite them and many of them died. In order to save those who had been bitten, God graciously commanded Moses to build a serpent which was placed upon a banner pole so that those who had been bitten could look at the serpent and be saved. They were saved by God’s grace through faith, but would they have been saved if they had not been obedient and looked at the bronze serpent? Their faith was completed by works (James 2:19-20).