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Section 7. Living The Faith...
The Myth That We Are Saved By Faith Alone

 

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Myth of Faith Alone

Carol Brooks (Edited By Vicki Narlee)

I dread to think what would happen if someone in a modern church were to preach that you have to attain a certain level of righteousness to be saved. The hue and cry would be deafening, with the preacher soundly denounced, from one end of the Christian world to the other, as a false teacher who is teaching salvation by works. But, consider for a moment Jesus' words in the sermon on the mount.... ""For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven". [Matthew 5:20 NASB.

A world of confusion and disappointment results from trying to believe without obeying. This puts us in the position of a bird trying to fly with one wing folded. We merely flap in a circle and seek to cheer our hearts with the hope that the whirling ball of feathers is proof that a revival is under way. A. W. Tozer

ON THIS PAGE

Introduction

Faith... The Only Requirement For Salvation
The Bible never ever teaches, or even implies, that faith is the only requirement for salvation

Obedience
The Meaning of The Phrase "Knowing God"
Hosea 4:6 ... one of the most misquoted and misunderstood passages in the Scriptures

Good Works
The Command to Good Works In Both Testaments
The Criteria By Which We Will Be Judged
Reconciling Salvation By Faith With Being Judged According To Our Deeds

James, Paul... and Abraham

The Book of Hebrews and An Imagined Exercise

In Summary...Jesus Vs. Modern Preachers

Conclusion


Introduction
Perhaps one of the all time greatest delusions in the Christian world, is the innumerable number of people who continue to think they are saved Christians. They are under the impression that, in order to be forgiven their sins, and thus inherit eternal life, all they have to do is believe Jesus died for their sins on the cross. In other words they believe that salvation is absolutely free; it costs nothing.

At the very outset, let me be very, very clear about one thing. Salvation can never be achieved by anything, other than simply trusting Christ to have paid the penalty for our sins. It is God's grace... a gift from Him that we cannot earn. However, the thrust of this article is that once saved, good works, obedience, and holiness will become a part of a Christian's life... not to earn salvation, but because of it. They are joined at the hip... one cannot happen without the other.


Faith... The Only Requirement For Salvation?
I strongly suspect that, if one were to ask the vast majority of Christians what one has to do to be saved, you would get a variety of answers such as "accept Jesus as your personal savior", "ask Jesus into your heart" etc. However, while the terminology may vary, the answers would almost always boil down to all you have to do is believe... all you have to do is have faith. In other words, at the very moment the sinner puts his/her, faith in Jesus Christ and accepts Him as his/her savior, that person has received God's forgiveness of their sins and the gift of eternal life.

What one never, or very rarely, hears is that anything other than faith is required to be saved. In fact the suggestion that anything other than faith is required for salvation, is not only militantly opposed by most of Christendom, but denounced as an unbiblical, works based, false teaching.

But is this true?

Unless a person is willing to put aside all that he, or she, has heard, read, or been taught, and rely strictly on what the Bible says, they will never be able to arrive at the truth. The final, and only, answer to any facet of our spiritual lives can only be answered by the question "What saith the Scriptures?

However, sound doctrine cannot be based on isolated proof texts, but can only be developed from the total teaching of Scripture. Why? Simply because it would be impossible for the Bible to cram all it's teachings on a particular subject into a single verse, or even paragraph. The Bible is an integrated whole and, from cover to cover, represents the 'whole counsel of God'. Therefore all passages that speak of, or have any bearing on, the subject in question have to be carefully considered.

It is certainly a fact that the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith, and that faith is an essential ingredient, without which it is impossible to please God...

    for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory" [Ephesians 2:8-9]

    And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house. [Acts 16:31] 

    "...without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him. [Hebrews 11:6]

... but, it never ever teaches, or even implies, that faith is the only requirement for salvation. On the contrary, the Scriptures point to a number of things by which a person is saved. For example...

    Hope: For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopeth for that which he seeth? But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. [Romans 8:24-25]

    Repentance, defined as a radical change in one's attitude toward sin and God, is presented as an absolute requirement for forgiveness in the Old Testament as well as the New. Jesus, not mincing words said, unless ye repent, ye shall perish. (Luke 13:3,5). And repentance was continually emphasized in the book of Acts. Repentance and faith are NOT the same thing, but the Bible presents them as connected... literally two sides of the same coin. Repentance does not earn you salvation, but there is no salvation without it.  Yet, it is rarely put forward as essential to salvation. [See Repentance]

    Godly Sorrow and Repentance: For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, a repentance which bringeth no regret: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. [2 Corinthians 7:10]

    Belief and Baptism: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned. [Mark 16:16] [See Baptism]

    Confessing Jesus as Lord: because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: [Romans 10:9]

    Holiness: Although the Bible says without holiness no one will see God [Hebrews 11:6], holiness is rarely taught as an essential to eternal life.
    I dread to think what would happen if someone in a modern church were to preach that you have to attain a certain level of righteousness to be saved. The hue and cry would be deafening, with the preacher soundly denounced, from one end of the Christian world to the other, as a false teacher who is teaching salvation by works. But, consider for a moment Jesus' words in the sermon on the mount.... ""For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven". [Matthew 5:20 NASB. Emphasis Added] [See Holiness]

    Calling on the Lord: And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. [Acts 2:21]

    Obedience: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. [Matthew 7:21 NASB]

    Good Works: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. [2 Corinthians 5:10 NASB]

    Endurance: But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. [Matthew 24:13] Also See Mark 13:13. [See Eternal Security]

    by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. [1 Corinthians 15:2]

Since several of the above topics like Repentance, Holiness, Endurance, and Baptism have been covered in detail in separate articles, this one is devoted to the topics of obedience and good works, which is the natural result, or fruit of faith.


Obedience


Obedience Is Evidence Of Love
Proverbs 8:17 says God loves those who love Him, and Exodus 20:6 has God saying he shows "loving kindness" to those who love Him and keep His commandments. However, one has to ask what it means to love God? The New International Study Bible footnote to Exodus 20:6 says that "in the treaty language of the ancient Near East the "love" owed to the great king was a conventional term for total allegiance and implicit trust expressing itself in obedient service." This definition is supported by the Savior Himself, who said obedience is the evidence of our love for Him, and was to be taught to new disciples

    "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. [John 14:15 NASB]

    "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." [John 14:21 NASB]

    Jesus answered and said to him, "If any one loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. [John 14:23 NASB]

    "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." [Matthew 28:19-20 NASB]

The apostles, following in the path of their Lord, often reiterated that loving God means keeping His commandments.

    For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. [1 John 5:3 NASB]

    And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. [2 John 1:6 NASB]

Paul talked about the "obedience of faith"

    through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake, [Romans 1:5 NASB]

    but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; [Romans 16:26 NASB]


Salvation Impossible Without Obedience And Righteousness
Obedience
Unless the author of the book of Hebrews had no qualms about completely contradicting Himself (in which case we can dismiss him, and everything he wrote, as completely unreliable), we have to pay attention to the fact that, on the one hand, he said

    "without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him" [Hebrews 11:6],

but, on the other, also said eternal salvation was only available to those who obeyed

    and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation; [Hebrews 5:9]

If Jesus is the author of salvation for those that obey Him, obedience becomes an indispensable ingredient of salvation. This was confirmed by Jesus Himself, who said...

    "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? "Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: [Luke 6:46-47 NASB]

    "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." .... Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me. [John 14:21, 23-24 NASB]

The implication of the above verses in John 14 is that those who do not show his love for Jesus by obeying his commands are not loved by God the Father or Jesus, and they will not come and make their home with them. John 14:15-17 takes it a step further, saying that only those who keep Jesus' commandments are given the Holy Spirit and are "born again".

    "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. [John 14:15-17 NASB]

However, it is very important to note that we cannot attain salvation without being indwelt by the Holy Spirit and being born again.

    Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." [John 3:3 NASB]

    However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. [Romans 8:9 NASB]

In summary, Jesus only gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him. Thus they are born again and thereby, saved.


The Parable Of The Two Sons
In order to understand the meaning of the parable of the two sons, we have to note the context. In Matthew 21, Jesus makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, greeted joyfully by a crowd crying "Hosanna", and waving branches. The first thing Jesus does is to cleanse the temple (Vs. 2-17) of the money changers and merchants. In verses 23-27, we are told that the chief priests and elders question Jesus' authority, thus setting the stage for a showdown. It is in this context that Jesus tells three parables (the Two Sons, the Tenants, and the Wedding Feast) by which he rebukes the religious authorities, basically telling them that all they had was the outward trapping of spirituality, without any substance.

In the parable of the two sons, Jesus said

    "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go work today in the vineyard.' "And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he regretted it and went. "The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, 'I will, sir'; but he did not go. "Which of the two did the will of his father?" They *said, "The first." Jesus *said to them, "Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. [Matthew 21:28-31 NASB]

The religious leaders were epitomized by the second son who verbally assented to his father wishes, but did not actually do what his father wished. The second son initially refused to do what his father asked, but later repented, and did what he was told to do. While it is obvious that the ideal situation would be a son who cheerfully assented and did what he was told, the second son, who 'came around', was far better than the first who never did.


The Example of Saul

The 15th chapter of 1 Samuel relates how God told king Saul that He would punish the Amalekites for how they treated the nation of Israel as they were on their way out of Egypt [Vs.2]. He told Saul to strike Amalek and utterly destroy man and beast [Vs.3]. However, Saul did not obey and "spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good" [Vs 9].

Saul's actions caused the Lord to tell Samuel that he regretted making Saul king since he did not carry out His commands [Vs. 11]... a message that Samuel conveyed to Saul [Vs. 12-21]. Saul's excuse was that the people had taken "some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal". To which Samuel replied

    "Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king." [1 Samuel 15:22-23 NASB]

Note that the people supposedly took the best of the sheep and oxen to offer in sacrifice to the Lord, which they obviously considered the right thing to do. However, the bottom line is that they, with the tacit approval of their king, disobeyed the Lord... something He did not take lightly. He did not overlook their disobedience because they intended to sacrifice the sheep to Him but, since they were a nation under a king, held the king (Saul) responsible.

This is a lesson that all Christians need to take to heart. Simply professing Christ as Lord, attending church, reading the latest "Christian" book, or attending the never ending "Christian" conferences (whatever those are), or drinking your coffee from a mug marked with a Bible verse, will do nothing for you.

To obey is all important, and takes precedence over everything else. If we do not do so, we will hear the same words that Saul did..."The Lord has rejected you". [Vs. 23 and 26]

And nothing has changed since the days of Moses and the prophets. The very foundation of the Old Testament law was obedience, separation from the world, perfection, and doing good, all of which make up the Biblical word "holy". [See Holiness]

I'd like to, for a moment, examine the phrase "knowing God', which is commonly found from cover to cover in the Bible...


Knowing God

The phrase "knowing God" does not simply mean having head knowledge about Him. The term "know" in the Scriptures, especially when applied to God, often has a sense beyond the basic meaning of simply having intellectual knowledge of something or someone. As demonstrated by the following examples, to "know God", or to "be known by Him" means to be in a right relationship with Him.

    O continue Your loving kindness to those who know (yda) You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart. [Psalms 36:10 NASB]

    "For My people are foolish, They know (yda) Me not; They are stupid children and have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, But to do good they do not know." [Jeremiah 4:22]

    "They bend their tongue like their bow; Lies and not truth prevail in the land; For they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know (yda) Me," declares the Lord. "Let everyone be on guard against his neighbor, and do not trust any brother; Because every brother deals craftily, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer. "Everyone deceives his neighbor and does not speak the truth, They have taught their tongue to speak lies; They weary themselves committing iniquity. "Your dwelling is in the midst of deceit; Through deceit they refuse to know Me," declares the Lord. [Jeremiah 9:3-6]

    but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows (yda) Me, that I am the LORD who exercises loving kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things," declares the LORD. [Jeremiah 9:24 NASB]

    Their deeds will not allow them to return to their God. For a spirit of harlotry is within them, and they do not know (yda) the Lord. [Hosea 5:4]

    I am the good shepherd; and I know (Gr. ginosko) mine own, and mine own know (Gr. ginosko) me, [John 10:14]

    but if anyone loves God, he is known (Gr. ginosko) by Him. [1 Corinthians 8:3]

Perhaps the clearest description of "knowing God" comes from the book of Jeremiah.

    Do you become a king because you are competing in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. "He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; Then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?" Declares the Lord. [Jeremiah 22:15-16 NASB]

To be in a right relationship with God means keeping His commandments... There is nothing ambiguous about the connection the New Testament makes between the two..

    By this we know (Gr. ginosko) that we have come to know (Gr. ginosko) Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know (Gr. ginosko) Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know (Gr. ginosko) that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. [1 John 2:3-6 NASB emphasis added]

    They profess to know (Gr. eido) God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed. [Titus 1:16]

Those Who Do Not "Know" God
Walking in God's ways and in a right relationship with Him is the key to salvation and eternal life.

    "This is eternal life, that they may know (Gr. ginosko) You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. [John 17:3]

At the last judgment, Jesus tells all pretenders to piety who claim to have done many works in his name, that He never knew them

    Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew (ginosko)you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.' "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. [Matthew 7:21-24 NASB]

Obviously, Jesus will have factual data about these people, or He could not know that they were evil doers under their pious facade. Therefore, His not 'knowing' them, was in the sense of not having been in relationship with them. He never approved of their conduct and never regarded them as His friends.

In light of which Hosea 4:6 (My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge) is one of the most misquoted and misunderstood passages in the Scriptures. But first a little background


My People Are Destroyed For Lack Of Knowledge
Hosea was the only prophet from the northern kingdom of Israel who left a written record of his prophecies. His ministry extended through the reigns of seven different kings starting with Jeroboam II. Hosea prophesied just before the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, during a very dark period in the history of the nation, when as Albert Barnes wrote "Politically all was anarchy or misrule; kings made their way to the throne through the murder of their predecessors, and made way for their successors through their own". Four of the six kings (Zechariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, Pekah) were murdered by their successors while on the throne. In the ninth year of king Hoshea's rule, Samaria was captured by the Assyrians. [2 Kings 18:9-11 NASB]

The following verses should serve to show how bad the situation had become...

    The more they called them, The more they went from them; They kept sacrificing to the Baals And burning incense to idols. [Hosea 11:2]

    And now they sin more and more, And make for themselves molten images, idols skillfully made from their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen. They say of them, "Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!" [Hosea 13:2 NASB]

    My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner's wand informs them; For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, And they have played the harlot, departing from their God. They offer sacrifices on the tops of the mountains And burn incense on the hills, Under oak, poplar and terebinth, Because their shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters play the harlot And your brides commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they play the harlot Or your brides when they commit adultery, For the men themselves go apart with harlots And offer sacrifices with temple prostitutes; So the people without understanding are ruined. [Hosea 4:12-14 NASB]

This caused the prophet to verbally assail both the common man, and the kings and priests of the land for their idolatry and violence...

    [1] Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel, For the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land.  [2] There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed.  [3] Therefore the land mourns, And everyone who lives in it languishes Along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky, And also the fish of the sea disappear. [4]  Yet let no one find fault, and let none offer reproof; For your people are like those who contend with the priest.  [5] So you will stumble by day, And the prophet also will stumble with you by night; And I will destroy your mother.  [6] My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. [Hosea 4:1-6 NASB]

Verse 6 is commonly believed to say that the nation had NO knowledge of the truth which, considering that it was Israel that Hosea was addressing, is impossible. No Jew, alive at the time, could have been ignorant of their history and the fact that they had been entrusted with the oracles of God. Every adult Jew would have been aware of details such as the Sabbath based on their rescue from Egypt, the laws and commandments of Leviticus, the Ten Commandments given at Sinai, the warnings of Deuteronomy 30, and the sacrificial system that God had put in place etc. etc.

From the fact that the priests still performed the sacrifices, we know that they were aware of the truth, but going through the motions did not make the sacrifices pleasing to the Lord.

    Though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My law, They are regarded as a strange thing. As for My sacrificial gifts, They sacrifice the flesh and eat it, But the Lord has taken no delight in them. Now He will remember their iniquity, And punish them for their sins; They will return to Egypt. [Hosea 8:12-13 NASB]

As the second part of verse 4:6 says, they had "rejected" knowledge of God. They worshipped Baal and the calf image set up in Bethel by Jeroboam I mentioned in 2 Kings 10:29, sacrificed to wooden idols, and consorted with temple prostitutes. In other words, their behavior was no different from those who did not know anything about God. They knew God, but failed to acknowledge Him as God. They were aware of God's laws, but chose to ignore them.

Obviously, in order to know God one has to possess objective, factual data about Him. However, the Scriptures make it very clear that one can have intellectual knowledge of God's character and laws, yet still not "know" him. Remember God's words to the priests ... through the prophet Jeremiah

    "The priests did not say, 'Where is the LORD?' And those who handle the law did not know (yda) Me; The rulers also transgressed against Me, And the prophets prophesied by Baal And walked after things that did not profit. [Jeremiah 2:8]

Just like the priests of the Northern kingdom that Hosea confronted, the priests of Jeremiah's day in Judah had head knowledge of God. They recognized His existence, knew of His dealing with the nation, and were familiar with His laws which, it is more than likely, they publicly acknowledged. However they did not love, respect or honor the God they professed to serve, nor did they 'walk in His ways'.

In summary, when God said His people were destroyed for lack of knowledge, He meant that they were not walking in His ways. They were ignoring His commandments and doing every evil they could think of...


Good Works
It often seems that the only Scripture Christians can quote about good works is the one in Ephesians which states we are not saved by them....

    For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. [Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB]

...which has led many to believe that good works are unimportant, and that anyone teaching otherwise is a legalist, who is adding to the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Yet, over and over again, the Scriptures emphasize obedience, righteousness, justice and taking care of people who needed help, without which the rituals and sacrifices were not acceptable to the Lord.


The Command to Good Works In The Old Testament
Three examples from the Old Testament of how strongly the Lord feels about good works, are

    "At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. "The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do. [Deuteronomy 14:28-29 NASB]

    "Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one's head like a reed And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord? "Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? "Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? "Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. "Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; You will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' If you remove the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. "And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. [Isaiah 58:5-11 NASB]

    "I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. "Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. "Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. "But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. "Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel? [Amos 5:21-25 NASB]


The Command to Good Works In The New Testament
The Scriptures themselves thoroughly equip the man of God for every good work...

    All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB]

Over and over again the Scriptures emphasize the importance of good deeds, instructing Christians to not only do good works, but abound in them...

    For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. [Ephesians 2:10 NASB]

    And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; [2 Corinthians 9:8 NASB]

    so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; [Colossians 1:10 NASB]

    Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, [Titus 3:1 NASB]

....and consider how they can spur other Christians on towards love and good deeds:

    and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, [Hebrews 10:24 NASB]

Christians are instructed to be a reflection of God's light by their good deeds that even the unbeliever may be influenced.

    "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. [Matthew 5:16 NASB]

    Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. [1 Peter 2:12 NASB]

Wealthy Christians are commanded that their good works be as abundant as their riches

    Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,  [1 Timothy 6:17-18 NASB]

Evidence of doing good deeds was essential to be enrolled in the body of widows who were to receive church support

    A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. [1 Timothy 5:9-10 NASB]


The Criteria By Which We Will Be Judged

However, what is truly amazing is the number of times the Scriptures tell us that we will be judged, not by how much faith we have, but by what that faith produces. In other words every person will be judged by their actions/deeds, or the fruit they bear, as a result of their faith.

The Old Testament Says We Will Be Judged According To Our Deeds
Unless we are extremely foolish, we would do well to pay close attention to those verses in the Old Testament that tell us that God said that not only would He withdraw from people who practiced evil, and not love them anymore, but He would actually hate them, and would neither pity nor feel sorry for them. Note that in all cases, the reason given for the Lord's reaction is the evil deeds of the person, or people, involved. In other words, God will repay according to a person's deeds.

    Their deeds will not allow them To return to their God. For a spirit of harlotry is within them, And they do not know the LORD. Moreover, the pride of Israel testifies against him, And Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also has stumbled with them. They will go with their flocks and herds To seek the LORD, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn from them. [Hosea 5:4-6 NASB]

    All their evil is at Gilgal; Indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels. [Hosea 9:15 NASB]

    Then they will cry out to the LORD, But He will not answer them. Instead, He will hide His face from them at that time because they have practiced evil deeds. [Micah 3:4 NASB]

    "I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds. [Jeremiah 17:10 NASB]

    "I, the LORD, have spoken; it is coming and I will act. I will not relent, and I will not pity and I will not be sorry; according to your ways and according to your deeds I will judge you," declares the Lord GOD.'" [Ezekiel 24:14 NASB]


The New Testament Says We Will Be Judged According To Our Deeds
Most Christians claim to believe that God is unchanging, yet will foolishly deny that God can, and does, withdraw from people under the new covenant. The problem is that the New Testament says exactly the same thing the Old Testament did. For example, in the words of the Lord Himself

    "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. [Matthew 7:21 NASB]

    "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. [Matthew 16:27 NASB]

    "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. [Revelation 22:12 NASB]

Note that the last quote above was specifically written to believers, as were the following words, addressed to different churches. Those churches that kept His deeds to the very end would be rewarded, while the ones that did not were in danger of having their lamp stand removed from its place.

    To the church in Sardis: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 'Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. [Revelation 3:1-2 NASB]

    To the church in Ephesus: 'Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lamp stand out of its place--unless you repent. [Revelation 2:5 NASB]

    To the church in Thyatira: 'He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; [Revelation 2:26 NASB]

Paul was very clear about the importance of deeds

    Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. [Romans 2:1-11 NASB]

    Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. [1 Corinthians 3:8 NASB]

    For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. [2 Corinthians 5:10 NASB]

And also said...

    If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved yet so as through fire [1 Corinthians 3:11-15]. We will be saved by grace, but judged by works. [Also See The Judgment Seat of Christ and Rewards in Heaven, which is the seventh part of the article What and Where is Heaven?]

The Parable Of The Sower
In the parable of the sower (Luke 8) Jesus Himself said that the seed that fell on the side of the road was snatched away by satan "so that they will not believe and be saved." If one does not read the parable in it's entirety, these words can be construed to mean that belief alone is sufficient for salvation. However, Jesus goes on to make it very clear that there is more to salvation than mere belief. In the next few verses, He says

    "Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. [8:13]

Note that a person cannot give in to sin and "believe" at the same time. Their belief can only be considered authentic until temptation gets the better of them.

    "The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. [8:14]

Similarly, the worries and pleasures of this life chokes out what some people have heard... we know this because they bring "no fruit to maturity". Again, it is their effect that their faith has on their lives, character and deeds that counts.

    "But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. [8:15]

In the other hand, those that have the seed sown in good soil persevere in their faith and "bear fruit".

The Parable Of The Fig Tree
Note that the parable of the fig tree, told in Matthew 21, tells exactly the same story.... the fig tree had leaves but no fruit, for which it was cursed.

    Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He *said to it, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you." And at once the fig tree withered. [Matthew 21:18-19 NASB]


The Sheep and The Goats
In Matthew 24, Jesus is asked by His disciples what the what the signs of His coming would be. He gives them several signs, and then tells them three different parables (the faithful servant, the ten virgins, and the talents) each of which stress the importance of being always prepared since the Son of Man will come at an hour that no one will expect. [Vs.44] In Matthew 25:31, immediately after relating the parables, Jesus returns to the subject of His return as king and judge, clearly telling us the criteria by which people will be judged. While it is certainly true that people have to believe in Jesus to be saved, notice that there is not one word said about faith, but whether or not they acted on that faith. In His words

    [31] "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  [32] "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; [33] and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.  [34] "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  [35] 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;  [36] naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' [37] "Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? [38] 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? [39] 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'  [40] "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'  [41] "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;  [42] for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;  [43] I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' [44] "Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?'  [45] "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'  [46] "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." [Matthew 25:31-46 NASB]

Again it has to be noted, that if we base doctrine on isolated texts, then verses 34 and 35 of this parable clearly shows that people who feed and clothe the hungry, shelter the homeless, and visit prisoners, are also saved.


Reconciling Salvation By Faith With Being Judged According To Our Deeds
But how can a person be judged by his deeds when the Bible clearly tells us that we are saved by grace through faith. Is it possible to reconcile the two?

The answer is a resounding "yes". Not only can the two concepts be reconciled, but they are actually inseparable.

Sadly, the modern church has become so focused on the whole idea of just believing, that it has completely lost sight of the Biblical meaning of the word "faith". The Bible nowhere supports the idea that a mental assent to Jesus having lived, died, and been resurrected is enough to save a person. Nor do the Scriptures ever state, or even imply, that believing that Jesus died on the cross for our sins is sufficient to give us eternal life. It has to be possible for us to 'see' faith since James said.

     "... show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. [James 2:18]

Anything less than a visible faith is total self delusion

    But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves. [James 1:22]

The Bible states, in very unambiguous terms, that faith is not just a matter of believing, but of following through on that belief. Lets return for a moment to John 3:36, which says

    "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." [John 3:36 NASB]

We need to pay close attention to the fact that, in the statement above, the opposite of belief is disobedience. In other words, a person who believes... obeys the commands of our Lord. If they do not obey, they do not really believe, much as they might think they do. We will be judged according to what our deeds because what we do is clear evidence of what we really believe.

Our works do not get us saved, but come about as a natural result of being saved. We do not do God's will because we will earn salvation from it; we do God's will because we are followers of Jesus who, incidentally, also did God's will.

The Kind of People Jesus Seeks
And finally remember that the New Testament tells us that Jesus seeks a people for His own possession who are zealous for good deeds.

    For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. [Titus 2:11-14 NASB]

In Luke 6:46-49, Jesus asked a simple question of those who claimed to be His disciples, but were not obedient to His Will. He asked,

    "Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?"

This question was not only for those first century believers, but is a timeless one... applicable to all believers at all times, and in all places. So would you, for a moment, imagine Jesus looking you in the eye and asking why you insist on calling Him Lord, but yet disobey His commandments. What is your answer going to be?

And it has been this way from the beginning. When God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the altar, Abraham did not argue that God had promised that he (Abraham) would be the father of many nations, and that his seed would be as numerous as the stars, none of which would be possible if he killed his son. Pay very close to attention to God's words after the ram was found, and sacrificed. [All Emphasis Added]

    "... By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the seashore. And thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. Because thou hast obeyed my voice. [Genesis 22:16-18]

We need to pay attention to the fact that not once do the Scriptures record Abraham as saying that he believed, or trusted God, but only records his actions as evidence of his faith. Thousands of years later, we know how great his faith was because of what he did, not what he said, what he felt, what he thought, or even what he believed.

In short, if you do not obey and bear fruit... the Bible does not consider that you believe.

It doesn't matter how much you move your mouth, or how much emotion you stir up, it's what you do that counts.


James and Paul
But then, what are we to make of the words of the apostle James, which are often seen as contradicting Paul's teaching that salvation is by faith alone. Here are the verses in question ...

    James: What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; and yet ye give them not the things needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself. Yea, a man will say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith apart from thy works, and I by my works will show thee my faith. Thou believest that God is one; thou doest well: the demons also believe, and shudder. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren? [James 2:14-20]

    Paul: being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus...We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. [Romans 3:24, 28]

    for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory. [Ephesians 2:8-9]

This perceived contradiction between the words of these two apostles, has long been a theological battleground, leading to some serious error, and much misguided appeal to the book of James for support. For example, many people today believe that eternal life is based on some sort of Santa Claus theology, according to which a person's good deeds have to outweigh the bad, in order for the person to be saved. Cults often use the book of James as foundation for their teaching that works are necessary for salvation (in their case the "works" are usually donating time and money to the organization itself). Critics point to these verses as an example of the Bible contradicting itself.

In reality, the words of the apostle James have been especially misunderstood and misinterpreted. (Apparently even Martin Luther didn't follow what James was saying since he called the book "an epistle of straw". But why am I not surprised? Contrary to the deified position Martin Luther holds today, he held to numerous wrong beliefs. [See Martin Luther]

James and Paul came from very different backgrounds. Paul, although extremely courageous and resolute, was a urbane man of letters. He spoke classical Greek, employed Greek literary techniques, and even occasionally cited Greek authors. It fell to him to lay the spiritual foundation of the New Testament church. James, the brother of Christ, and the leader of the headquarters of the infant church in Jerusalem, was very unlikely to have been as well educated as Paul. However, he was what we would call a "straight-shooter"... honest and forthright. He did not mince words, and did not indulge in subtleties, a trait he shared with many of the Old Testament prophets. His style made it very difficult to miss his point.

However, reading the words of James and Paul out of context can lead to the mistaken opinion that they are contrary to one another. If read in the context of each apostle's overall message, it becomes clear that each of them was addressing different situations, and had different objectives.

    Paul was explaining how the Gospel works.. how someone becomes a Christian through faith, rather than the keeping of the law. He was teaching justification by faith to Jews, who were accustomed to keeping details of the law such as circumcision [Romans 3:1] and the Sabbath.

    James, on the other hand, was emphasizing the nature, or practical outworking, of true faith through moral behavior, not necessarily connected, or specific, to Jewish law. He makes absolutely no mention of any particulars of the law, but, in chapter 2, he speaks of treating the poor with dignity, and feeding and clothing the hungry.

In his book The Epistles of James and John, author Alexander Ross perfectly expresses the situation...

    "They are not antagonists facing each other with crossed swords; they stand back to back, confronting different foes of the Gospel" (p. 53).

In other words, Paul was concerned about people adding good works and/or observance of the law to faith, which they believed to be necessary for their salvation. James was concerned about people professing to have faith which is not really faith at all, but rather a lifeless, intellectual, assent to Christ. Paul was speaking of the faith necessary prior to conversion, and James was speaking of the works necessary after conversion. It also has to be noted that both James and Paul had exactly the same view of the law, which was, that the law demanded perfection.

    Yea, I testify again to every man that receiveth circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. [Galatians 5:3]

    For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all. [James 2:10]

Besides which...

James never denied that people are saved by faith. James was obviously perturbed at people who claimed to be Christians, but were not demonstrating any signs of their Christianity. His argument was simple.. people act according to their beliefs. He emphasized that there is more to faith than agreeing with a set of facts, or having the correct beliefs, since even demons have that. There is only one kind of saving faith... the one that obeys. Any other 'faith' is nothing more than paying lip service to the Gospel. It is also very likely that James was confronting some who were preaching that a person could have faith without demonstrating any outward signs of it, which would have been a distorted version of Paul's teaching on justification. And/or he was rebuking some who claimed to have faith, but were not demonstrating any corresponding changes in behavior. He was also pointing out the absurdity of telling someone to "be fed", then not feeding him.

Paul never denied that true faith is demonstrated by works. Perhaps more than any other New Testament author, Paul stressed that people are saved by the grace of God, but, it is without question, he taught that faith, obedience, and works, go hand in hand.

    through whom we received grace and apostleship, unto obedience of faith among all the nations, for his name's sake; [Romans 1:5]

    For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love. [Galatians 5:6]

As the following citations show, Paul also held equally firmly to the belief that unless people led holy lives, there was no evidence that they were the children of God, rather they were "abominable" and "reprobate".. or destined for damnation. In fact, Paul's statements were almost as strong as those of James, when he said God's wrath would fall on those who did not obey the truth. [Emphasis Added]

    They profess that they know God; but by their works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. [Titus 1:16]

    who will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life: but unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek; but glory and honor and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek: for there is no respect of persons with God. [Romans 2:6-11]

He opposed the idea of being able to sin one's way to Heaven.

    What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? [Romans 6:1]

    Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? [Romans 6:16]

and, more than once made the point that we were created for good works

    For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them. [Ephesians 2:10]

    Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed. [1 Timothy 6:17-19]

    And let our people also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. [Titus 3:14]

Incidentally, the apostle John was on exactly the same track as Paul and James. The "apostle of love" did not mince any words when speaking of people who claimed to know Jesus, but did not obey Him. He flat out called them "liars" which, by the way, is just one of many examples of New Testament's public warnings against the wolves, often issued in less than polite language. [See Judge Not]

    By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, I have come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. [1 John 2:3-6. Emphasis Added]

Who can deny that all three of the apostles were commanding readers to live their beliefs. As James said... Are you merely listening to the Word, or are you doing what it says (1:22).


James, Paul, and Abraham
Some are of the opinion that Paul and James come to different conclusions about Abraham. Again, this is not true.

Early in the book of Romans, Paul cites Abraham as the archetype of faith. Noting that the Greek word dikaioo means to show, or regard, as just or innocent, Paul says

    What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, hath found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified [Greek dikaioo] by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not toward God. For what saith the scripture? And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned as of grace, but as of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness. [Romans 4:1-5]

The two points Paul makes is that a) if Abraham, or anyone else, earns salvation, then it is not a free gift, but deserved wages, and he is entitled to brag about it. b) Abraham's faith was counted as righteousness.

However, James also quotes Genesis 15:6, which should make it obvious that he also believed Abraham's faith was counted as righteousness.

    and the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. [James 2:23]

So when James said...

    Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? [James 2:21]

He was either flatly contradicting himself, or using Abraham as an example of the point he was trying to make throughout his epistle. Abraham's faith was not a passive, intellectual exercise. He, as we commonly express it today, put his money where his mouth was. He proved his faith to God, which is obvious from God's words to him. [Emphasis Added]

    And he said, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him. For now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me. [Genesis 22:12] 

Which is why James concludes with the words... "And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.'"

Both apostles say that Abraham's faith was counted as righteousness, but James stresses that Abraham showed his faith by doing. When God told him to leave his country, he did not sit back and say, "God, I believe in you, but I do not know what dangers I will face by leaving the area I know so well. I cannot subject my wife to the unknown, so, I am sorry, but I think it is best that we stay here". The Bible tells us that Abraham went.

    Now Jehovah said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing; and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed. So Abram went, as Jehovah had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. [Genesis 12:1-4]

Similarly, when God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the altar, he did not argue that God had promised that he (Abraham) would be the father of many nations, and that his seed would be as numerous as the stars, and that none of this was possible if he killed his son. On the contrary, Abraham told the young men, who had accompanied him and Isaac to the mountain, to wait there with the donkey. He said that he and Isaac would go further, and "we will worship, and come again to you". [Genesis 22:5]. Abraham was obviously confident that both of them would return.

Pay very close to attention to God's words after the ram was found, and sacrificed. He said [All Emphasis Added]

    "... By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the seashore. And thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. Because thou hast obeyed my voice. [Genesis 22:16-18]

Has anyone ever noticed that not once do the Scriptures record Abraham as saying that he believed, or trusted God, but only records his actions as evidence of his faith. Thousands of years later, we know how great his faith was because of what he did, not what he said, or even what he felt.

It is exactly the same with Rahab, whom James mentions as an example of faith in chapter two, saying "In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?" [James 2:25]. It is readily apparent that Rahab's faith was evidenced by what she did. Had she just claimed to believe she, and the rest of her family, would have been just as dead as the other inhabitants of Jericho.


The Book of Hebrews
The eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews has not been called the 'Hall of Faith' for nothing. The people named here were put forth as challenges, inspiration, and motivation for the early church. After all, who did not want to be like them?

We have already talked of Abraham and Rahab, but there were many, many more.

    By faith, Joseph gave instructions that the Israelites should take his bones with them when they left Egypt. By faith, Moses "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; forsook Egypt and "kept the Passover" so that "the destroyer of the firstborn should not touch them"  [Vs. 24-27]. By faith, the nation of Israel walked through the Red Sea just as if it were dry land [V.29], and compassed the walls of Jericho [Vs. 30]. Others "subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, waxed mighty in war, turned to flight armies of aliens". [Vs. 32-33]

There is not one single case where the faith of any of these was determined by what they said, or how much faith they professed to have.

And, one day, we are going to meet all of them...

Let us, for a moment, imagine what that is going to be like. The following is an extended excerpt from Coach Dave Daubenmire's article, Dead Faith.


An Imagined Exercise
Imagine you're in Heaven sitting around a campfire (probably where the works are being burned) and you notice a familiar face reflecting the light of the dancing flames.

    "Hey! Aren't you Moses? you ask the majestic looking man, as he nods his head. "Man, tell me your story. What was it like to see God part the Red Sea? Weren't you scared of the chariots? What about all of the people grumbling in the desert? How did you put up it? And the frogs...and locusts... What did the death angel sound like as it passed over? Wow, Moses. I got to hear your story.

    "And You. Aren't you David? What was it like to kill Goliath? Where did you learn to use a slingshot? How did it feel to cut off that dude's head? Did you really kill a lion and a bear with your bare hands?

    Samson? Oh my goodness! What was it like to pull those pillars down? Was Delilah really that beautiful? How could you let her trick you like that?

    Daniel... Oh Daniel. Man you had guts. What made you open the window and defy the authorities? How did it feel to walk down the runway to the lions den? Were you scared? Did you really sleep like a baby? Tell me at least that you kept one eye open!

We will hear the stories of God's heroes. Saints known, admired, and made famous by their works.

For centuries we will sit around and listen to the tales, the stories of the great men of faith, testified to by the crowd of witnesses that are present. Your heart will leap out of your chest as the stories of courage, conviction, and self-sacrifice are relived.

And then all eyes will turn to you. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, will be there. Stephen, the nameless saints of Hebrews 11, and those martyred for their stand for Christ will all look your way.

    So, tell us your story. What did you do when you were on earth? If we remember right you were there at one of the most cataclysmic times in history. Mothers were killing their unborn children, homosexuals were demanding to be married, they were teaching God's children lies in school, and they were even attempting to remove the mention of the name of God from the nation? What did your faith cost you? What works did you perform for Christ?

    Me? You'll embarrassingly respond, as the eyes of the martyrs burn in on you. Well, let me see. I gave to missions, paid my title, served as an usher, and gave to the building fund. You see, when I was on earth, we were all waiting to be rescued by the rapture, and we weren't much interested in fighting. We were taught that the end was near and that there wasn't anything we could do about it. Plus, we had a government that didn't allow us to mix religion with work (that will surely cause Daniel to perk-up). Much of our time was spent reading books about living a better life, our pastor suggested them, and we were learning to be more accepting and diverse. Besides, we had so much more to lose than you all did... we had houses, and cars, and IRA's, and vacations, and our reputations... and our children...

Allow me to be frank. Someday they are going to dig a hole, put you in a box, and cover you with dirt. Your big house, nice cars, reputation and worldly riches will be left behind. All that will endure is what you did for Christ.

Hebrews 11 is the Faith Hall of Fame. It is a litany of men and women remembered not for what they said or believed, but what they did.

Isn't it interesting that in our churches today we are encouraged to "share our faith.

Both Jesus and James said to "SHOW" it. A picture is worth a thousand words.

    Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Want to glorify God? Show me your works.

    John 9:4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

Its getting darker and darker. It's time to get to work. [1]


In Summary... Jesus vs. Modern Preachers
Obedience
It does not matter how many denominational preachers teach that all you have to do is "believe" to be saved. It doesn't make any difference how popular this doctrine may be. It does not matter how many people believe it. There is no honest way to skirt Jesus' words in the closing verses of Matthew 7, and the fourteenth chapter of John.

    "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.' [Matthew 7:21-23 NASB]

    "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21).

Are we going to accuse Jesus of being a false teacher, or are we going to pay attention to the fact that He never once said that all we had to do was believe, but repeatedly stressed the fact that obedience was indispensable in salvation. We have to do the will of the Father. Similarly

Holiness
Too many modern day preachers say "just believe". The Bible says

    Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification (holiness) without which no one will see the Lord. [Hebrews 12:14 NASB]

    that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. [Romans 10:9-10 NASB]

Who are you going to believe?

All too often Holiness is viewed as a mere suggestion that can be disregarded in the face of grace, which is seen as a license to irresponsible, sinful behavior, with no consequences. This is completely unbiblical and, if not forsaken, will damn one's soul for all eternity. Holiness, or separation from the world and it's standards, is NOT a virtue, it is the commandment of God, repeated from one end of the Bible to the other. Anyone who professes Christianity without holiness is as phony as the proverbial three dollar bill.

In the 21st century, the word "Holy" often coveys some very negative connotations. It is often used to describe someone who is self-righteous, smug, sanctimonious, goody-goody, priggish etc. Even to most Christians, the word "holy" implies moral goodness. However, this is only part of the meaning. While holiness certainly implies goodness, the core meaning of holiness, it is not just "good", but rather, "set apart", and therefore, good. How do we, as 21st century believers, apply the principles of separation to our often very complicated lives in the modern world. See Holiness


Conclusion
If we going to base our doctrine on isolated 'proof texts', then why not make it really easy on ourselves, and claim that, based on Acts 2:21, 'calling on the Lord' is sufficient for salvation. After all, the verse very clearly states that "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved". However, if we take all of God's Word into consideration, then Jesus' words to people who were not only calling on the name of the Lord, but were doing signs and wonders in His name, are not very encouraging.

    "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" [Matthew 7:21-23]

Apparently "calling on the Lord", or even casting out devils in Jesus' name are not sufficient in themselves, but have to be accompanied by obedience to His word, as the parable in Matthew 7:24-27 shows.

    Every one therefore that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, who built his house upon the rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and if fell not: for it was founded upon the rock. And every one that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and smote upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall thereof. [Matthew 7:24-27]

I am not sure how it could get any plainer. The fact is that the Bible shows that we are not saved by any one thing, but each condition is intrinsically entwined with all the others. For example, it is not possible to confess Christ, or be baptized without having faith, baptism probably being the first act of obedience to the word of God. [See Baptism]

Condensing the entire New Testament into a single doctrinal belief, means we have to throw a number of other New Testament passages out of the proverbial window, thus trivializing the word of God. Yet, the most common dirge heard from the pulpit today is... all a person has to do to be guaranteed a place in heaven, is believe. (I call this false message a dirge, because it is exactly that... a funeral song for those that hear and believe this fake gospel). This is not what the Word of God teaches, but is taught to make the Gospel more palatable to the masses, with a terrible result... our churches have been lulled into a false sense of security. They...

    "profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work" (Titus 1:16).


Our Options
As always, we have a couple of options open to us at this point..

    A) We can ignore, to our eternal detriment, all the Bible verses that contradict the modern, and very popular, salvation by faith alone myth.

    B) We can treat the Bible as an integrated whole, and choose to believe the 'whole counsel of God'. "Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word the proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4)

And, if we choose the latter, we are faced with the fact that we are not saved by any one thing, but by a combination of faith and hope, repentance, calling on the Lord, obedience, and endurance to the end etc.. And then, and only then can we go about working out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Also See Acknowledging Jesus Merely as Savior is Insufficient


Endnotes

[1] Coach Dave Daubenmire. Dead Faith. June 8, 2006. NewsWithViews.com. http://www.newswithviews.com/Daubenmire/dave26.ht

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    Holiness and Overcoming Sin

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