"Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?"
Over the past few centuries a doctrine has gained much popularity which says a person can be saved by faith alone. It has been said that we do not have to do anything; we to do not have to obey any commandments; all we have to do is acknowledge in our hearts that Jesus is the Son of God.
Is this true? Can we truly be saved simply by believing in Jesus? That would be quite easy wouldn't it? But there are still those passages in the Bible that seem to be in conflict with this idea. One such passage is James 2:26 which says, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." On one hand we hear men teaching that we can be saved by faith without works and on the other hand we have the Bible teaching that "faith without works is dead." Who should we believe? Can we know what is true and what is not? If we read the Bible with a sincere desire to know the will of God then yes, we can know what God wants us to do.
First of all, where did the idea of "faith only" come from? Is this what Jesus taught to His disciples? Did the apostles teach this in the New Testament Scriptures? Or was this a doctrine that was invented by men some time after the death of the apostles? To answer these questions we must search the Scriptures. If there is no mention of salvaiton by faith only in the New Testament, then we know that it is a doctrine of man.
Those who teach faith only will say that it is taught in the Bible. They say that Jesus taught it in John 3:16 when He said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." They will point out that Jesus said, "whoever believes in Him." Since Jesus did not give any other requirements for everlasting life, all we need to do is believe. Was this what Jesus was teaching? In order to know what Jesus was talking about in this passage, we must look at the whole chapter. When we do, we will find that John 3:16 is only one verse in a whole discussion on salvation; a discussion that mentiones more than just faith. Look at what Jesus said in John 3:19-20. He shows the difference between people who are condemned and people who are saved. What is the difference that He points out? Those who are condemned, "practice evil" while the one who is saved, "does the truth" and "his deeds are clearly seen." If Jesus was teaching faith only, then why would he say that the one who is saved "does the truth?" That would require obedience to the truth.
Those who teach the faith only doctrine also say that Paul taught salvation by faith only in the book of Romans. It is written in Rom. 3:28, "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." They say that Abraham was justified by faith, even though he did no works. "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness" (Rom. 4:3). Was Paul teaching salvation by faith alone or was he teaching something else? In order to know we must look at what he says in the beginning of his discussion. In Rom. 3:21 it says, "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed." What law was he talking about? Rom. 3:28-29, "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only?" What law applied to the Jews? The Law of Moses. What was Paul saying? That no man can be justified by the works of the Law of Moses. That was the issue. There were a lot of people teaching that men have to be circumcised to be saved. Paul had dealt with them on several occasions, one being in Acts 15:1-2. Their doctrine of salvation by the works of the Law of Moses was what he was refuting in the book of Romans. Notice his comments in Romans 4:9, "Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also?" Again, circumcision was a part of the Law of Moses. Paul was saying that since "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), the works of the Law of Moses had no power to save. Rather, the only way one could be saved is through the gospel by faith in the Jesus Christ who died for our sins.
Since we cannot be saved through the works of the Law of Moses, does that mean that we do not even have to obey the commands of Jesus Christ? No, Paul was not saying that either! Paul also wrote the book of 2 Thessalonians where he said in 1:8 that God would take vengeance on those who "do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." So you see, Paul was not teaching salvation by faith only in Romans 3-5. Rather, he taught the necessity faith, which requires obedience.
Let us understand clearly. It is true that we cannot earn our salvation. All have sinned. We do not have the power in and of ourselves to change that. We do not have the power to cleanse our souls so that we can be accepted by God. No amount of good deeds can fix that. However, the blood of Jesus Christ can fix that. His blood has the power to make us whiter than snow; to make us pure, holy, and acceptable in the sight of God. Therefore Jesus died on the cross in order to give us that salvation. Though Jesus died for the whole world, He did not say that He would give it to just anyone. Notice what it says in Hebrews 5:8-9, "Though He 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." To whom does Jesus offer salvation? "To all who obey Him." When we obey Jesus we are not earning our salvation. Even if we did everything He told us to, He would not owe us salvation as if it were a paycheck. Rather, since we cannot live perfect lives, God says He will help make us perfect through Christ. But we have to meet Him halfway. God sent His Son, now we have to come to Him and receive the gift that He offers us. How do we do that? Obedience. Through our obedience we are telling God that we are sorry for sinning against Him and that from this point on we will spend all of our efforts serving Him in this life (Rom. 6:17-22).
So you see. We are saved by faith. In order to come to God to receive the gift of salvation we have to truly believe that there is salvation in Christ. To show our faith we walk toward God in obedience. Paul describes this in Acts 26:20 as "repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance."
Even Abraham obeyed God in this way. Notice what James says, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (James 2:21-24). Notice again what he said, "faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect." Our faith can be made perfect when we obey the gospel.
It should be pointed out that even though men teach the doctrine of salvation by faith only, the term "faith only" is found in only one passage in the entire Bible. In James 2:24, which we just read. But rather than saying we are saved by faith only, it said, "NOT by faith only." That alone should answer our question.
A person may truly have faith in Jesus, but even Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven."
Have you been under the impression that you were saved by faith only? If so, think very seriously about what the Scriptures say. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus command the apostles to "disciple all nations" by "baptizing them." Did you become a disciple by being baptized into Jesus Christ? He also said that the apostles were to teach those disciples to "observe all that I have commanded you." Have you been doing this? In Mark 16:15-16 Jesus said the apostles were to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but He who does not believe shall be condemned." In Acts 2:38 Peter was fulfilling this command when the people asked him what they must do and he said, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Have you done this? To learn more about what we must do to be saved, you can read our article titled, "What Must I Do To Be Saved?"
If you have specific questions on this subjects then you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not delay, "now is the day of salvation."