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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

Perhaps one of the all time greatest delusions in the Christian world, is the innumerable number of people who are under the impression that, in order to be forgiven their sins and inherit eternal life, all they have to do is believe Jesus died for their sins on the cross.

"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

Also See
Why The Fire Hasn't Fallen

Christianity is not alive and well in spite of loud declarations to the contrary. We don't seek God because we are quite convinced that we have already arrived.
 

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ON THIS PAGE

Introduction

Faith Is Not The Only Requirement For Salvation

Obedience
According to Scripture two of the prerequisites to salvation are 'loving God' and 'knowing God'. But what does that mean?

Good Works - The Criteria By Which We Will Be Judged

Reconciling Salvation By Faith With Being Judged According To Our Deeds

James, Paul and Abraham
James is often seen as contradicting Paul's teaching that salvation is by faith alone -
an easy conclusion to come to until you examine the context of their writings.

Conclusion


Introduction
Perhaps one of the all time greatest delusions in the Christian world is the belief held by an innumerable number of believers that in order to be forgiven their sins and inherit eternal life, all they have to do is believe Jesus died for their sins on the cross. In fact, I strongly suspect that in the vast majority of cases the answer to the question of what one has to do to be saved, would be variations of "accept Jesus as your personal savior" or, as many misleadingly put it, "accept Jesus into your heart" See Why NOT To 'Ask Jesus Into Your Heart' Although 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, much of the modern Christian world believes salvation is a free gift with no price tag attached and nothing to do except believe. This idea probably stems from how various English Bibles (the KJV, NASB, ESV NLT, Amplified Bible etc.) have translated certain verses. For example, the NASB says,

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift (Gk. charisma) of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NASB)

However, and this is VERY important - the word free does not exist in the original Greek. Let me reiterate. None of the NT verses that speak about God's gift to us use the word free. Charisma (gift) is used some 21 times in the New Testament - but was translated 'free gift'' ONLY in the three instances that it occurs in connection with salvation. In all other verses charisma is rendered as gift.

The word was inserted on the assumption that a 'gift' has to be free - a completely erroneous conclusion. Just because a gift is unearned - bestowed voluntarily and without compensation, it does not necessarily mean that there are no conditions attached. See Salvation - Part III

In stark contrast to the idea that a very minimal commitment is required to be saved, Jesus laid down some very stringent prerequisites to salvation.

     If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:25-27 NASB) Also see Matthew 10:37-38.

When was the last time you heard a message from the pulpit that even vaguely resembled Jesus' words?

But that wasn't all.

Jesus then told them two parables - the first about a man who began to build a tower but ran out of money and the other was to do with a king who weighed his odds before going into battle.

In other words, He was urging them to count the cost before making a commitment.

Why?

Simply because ....


Faith Is Not The Only Requirement For Salvation
At the very outset, let me be very, very clear about one thing. Salvation is a gift from God that we do not deserve and cannot do anything to earn. But at the same time faith is an essential ingredient without which it is impossible to please God. We are saved by God's grace but we have to trust that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. 

    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)

    And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)

However, what one never (or very rarely) hears is that anything other than faith is required to be saved. In fact any suggestion that this is the case is not only militantly opposed by most of Christendom, but denounced as an unbiblical, works based, false teaching.

But is it?

Arriving at the truth depends on two factors.

    1.) People have to be willing to strictly rely on what the Bible says even if they have to put aside all that they have heard, read, or been taught.

    2.) They have to remember that sound doctrine cannot be based on isolated proof texts, but only on the total teaching of Scripture. The Bible is an integrated whole that, 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.

So let us examine what the Bible actually teaches.

The Scriptures point to a number of things that are essential prerequisites to salvation. Five in particular stand out - Repentance, Holiness, Obedience, Good Works, and Endurance. If these are missing the person concerned would do well to question their salvation.

The first three - Repentance, Holiness, and Endurance have been covered in detail in separate articles.

    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, "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish". (Luke 13:3 NASB) Repentance, continually emphasized in the book of Acts is NOT the same thing as faith, 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]

    Holiness: Hebrews 11:6 says without holiness no one will see God yet holiness is rarely taught as an essential to eternal life.  In fact, the hue and cry would be deafening if someone in a modern church were to preach that you have to attain a certain level of righteousness to be saved. The preacher soundly denounced (from one end of the Christian world to the other) as a false teacher who is teaching salvation by works. However, holiness is NOT a virtue and it is NOT a suggestion - it is the commandment of God, repeated from one end of the Bible to the other eg. "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). Anyone who professes Christianity without holiness is as phony as the proverbial three dollar bill. While holiness certainly implies goodness, the core meaning of holiness, it is not just "good", but rather, "set apart", and therefore, good. [See Holiness]

    Endurance:
    Here are a few examples of the numerous verses that clearly state that a person is only saved if they endure to the end. See detailed article HERE

      Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. "Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. "But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. (Matthew 24:11-13 NASB).

      Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 NASB)

      For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, (Hebrews 3:14 NASB) 

The thrust of this one is that once a person has made a decision to follow Christ and has been born again Obedience and Good Works will become a part of their life... not to earn salvation, but because of it.


Obedience
According to Scripture two of the prerequisites to salvation are 'loving God' and 'knowing God'. One would therefore be wise to investigate what exactly the Bible means by these two phrases.

"Loving" God
A lawyer once asked Jesus how to obtain eternal life. In response to the question, Jesus asked him what was written in the law to which the lawyer replied "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself... ". Upon which Jesus told the lawyer that he had answered correctly and if he did what the law said he would live. (Luke 10: 26-28)

This brings up the question of what it means to love God.

When we speak of 'loving' we usually mean a feeling we have for someone or something that we can see, feel, or experience. For example, we can love our family, children, pets, country, etc. We can also love food, travel, books, a job and so on. However, it might seem impossible that we would have the same intensity of feeling for a Being that we cannot experience in the same way.

The New International Study Bible footnote to Exodus 20:6 sheds much light on the matter. It 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 in the closing verses of Matthew 7,

    "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)

In other words, obedience is the evidence of our love for Jesus.

    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)

 The apostles, following in the path of our 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)


"Knowing" God
In John 17, Jesus' prayer to His Father included the words... 

    "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)

If eternal life is "knowing" God it is necessary to ensure we thoroughly understand what knowing means in the Scriptures.

Although ginosko in the above verse has been translated into the English recognize (Luke 19:44), understand (Matthew 21:45) be sure (Matthew 24:43), perceive (John 6:15) etc. all of them boil down to the English 'know'. 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.  The book of Hosea (especially verses 4:6 - My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge) provides a perfect example of this See Footnote I

Thankfully, the Bible tells us that exactly how we can be confident that we 'know' God..

    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)

And this is exceedingly important because 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)

What is interesting about these verses is that Jesus doesn't dispute the claims being made, the reason for which is that miracles can occur through pretended believers. God can, if he chooses, allow a wicked man to raise the dead and can give the ability to instantly heal to one who is a believer in name only.

The power to do these things has no necessary connection with righteousness and proves nothing.

Therefore because the Lord does not form relationships with people whose piety is only skin deep, it is barely surprising that He commanded the miracle workers to depart saying that He didn't know them.

One outstanding example of the consequences of disobedience  from the Old Testament comes to mind.

Saul
The 15th chapter of 1 Samuel relates how God told king Saul that He would punish the Amalekites for their treatment of the Israelites 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) which caused the Lord to tell Samuel that he regretted making Saul king because he did not carry out His commands (Vs. 11). When Samuel confronted Saul his 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 (KJV Stubbornness) 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)

This is a lesson that all Christians need to take to heart. Simply professing Christ as Lord, attending church, reading the latest "Christian" book, 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)


Jesus' Parable on Obedience
The Parable Of The Two Sons
In Matthew 21, Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem greeted by a crowd waving palm branches and crying "Hosanna". In Jerusalem He cleared the temple of the money changers and merchants, then healed the blind and lame causing the crowd to shout "Hosanna to the Son of David". This provoked the ire of the chief priests and elders who questioned His authority.

It is in this context that Jesus told three parables (the Two Sons, the Tenants, and the Wedding Feast) designed to rebuke the religious authorities. The first of the three was as follows

    "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. "For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32 NASB)

The religious leaders were epitomized by the second son who verbally assented to his father wishes, but did not follow through on his fathers wishes. Similarly, the hypocritical and self-righteous scribes and Pharisees professed to obey God by observing the external rites of religion. However, they not only ignored the spirit of the law but would not receive the Gospel  message. Worse - they were planning to put God's Son to death.

Obedience Means Commitment
What a person is committed to clearly shows where their heart lies.  For example, the Pharisees loved "the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places" (Luke 11:43 NASB). And the rulers who believed Jesus did not confess Him...

     for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. (John 12:42-43 NASB)

Neither group put God first.


Salvation Is Impossible Without Obedience
The author of the book of Hebrews said "without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him" (Hebrews 11:6) however, he also stated that 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)

Since the Biblical authors did not contradict themselves, the obvious conclusion is that both faith and obedience are indispensable requirements for salvation. In fact, Jesus Himself 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. 

    "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 14:23-24 NASB)

The verse above says, those who show their love for Jesus by obeying his commands are loved by the Father. Which means the inverse is also true -  those who do not show their love for Jesus by obeying his commands are not loved by the Father.

When our Savior asked those first century believers why they called Him  'Lord, Lord,' but did not do the things He said, the question was a timeless one applicable to all believers everywhere throughout history. So imagine for a moment Jesus looking you in the eye and asking why you insist on calling Him Lord,  yet disobey His commandments. Then imagine how you are going to answer His question.


Good Works
It often seems that the only Scripture Christians can quote about good works is the one in Ephesians that 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)

Unfortunately this has led many to conclude that good works are unimportant and that anyone teaching otherwise is a legalist adding to the finished work of Christ on the cross. Yet, anyone who reads the Scriptures carefully and without bias cannot but be struck by how strongly the Lord feels about the less fortunate and those in need, and the strong emphasis He places on doing good to others.

The Command to Good Works In The Old Testament
Examples from the Old Testament include

    "Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you. "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 14:27-29 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. (Isaiah 58:5-8 NASB)

The Command to Good Works In The New Testament
Apart from teaching, correcting etc. the Scriptures are said to 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 it instructs believers to not only do good works, but to consider how they can encourage other Christians to do the same (Example 5) below. Believers are instructed to be such a reflection of God's light by their good deeds so that even the unbeliever may be influenced (Example 6 and 7)

    1. 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)

    2. 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)

    3. 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)

    4. Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, (Titus 3:1 NASB)

    5. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, (Hebrews 10:23-24 NASB)

    6. 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)

    7. 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)

Evidence of doing good deeds was essential before widows received 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)

And let us never forget the words of the extremely outspoken James.

    Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (James 2:17-20 NASB)

Finally we need to pay attention to the Savior's parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37),

 
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 the fruit they bear - their actions/deeds that came about 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, 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
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)

The last quote above was specifically written to believers.


In the parable of the fig tree
Jesus causes the fig tree to wither because it had leaves but no fruit.

    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)


In the parable of the sheep and the goats
Jesus clearly told us the criteria by which people will be judged. There was not one word said about faith, but whether or not they acted on that faith. See Matthew 25:31-46

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. However, they seem to have overlooked that fact that the Lord specifically threatened to remove two church's (Sardis and Ephesus) lamp stand from their place, and implied as much to the church in Thyatira. 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

    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) See Rewards in Heaven - Part VII of What And Where is Heaven?


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.

Much to the contrary, the Bible unambiguously state 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 also did God's will.


James and Paul
But then, what are we to make what James said in the 2nd chapter of his book that is often seen as contradicting Paul's salvation by faith alone teaching? Here are the verses in question ...

James:

    What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (James 2:14-20 NASB)

Paul: 

    For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.  (Romans 3:28 NASB)

    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)

The 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, James' statement has been both 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 numerous wrong beliefs. (See Martin Luther)

But to return to James and Paul who came from vastly disparate 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, Christ's brother and the leader of the headquarters of the infant church in Jerusalem, was doubtless nowhere near 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.


Context, Context and More Context
The problem is most people seem to forget that the Bible is an integrated whole with but a single purpose. It does not contradict nor reverse itself. Since each verse is an integral part of a particular point the author was trying to make, no one should read, much less base their beliefs on stand alone verses - one has to read the immediate surrounding verses, the entire chapter, or even several chapters.

In other words - in context.

Reading James and Paul's words out of context can lead a person to conclude that they are contrary to one another. However, reading them in the context of each apostle's overall message, makes it 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, speaks of treating the poor with dignity and feeding and clothing the hungry (chapter 2). 

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 who professed faith but showed no signs of following through on their professed belief that are a natural result of being saved. He was concerned that they did not have saving faith at all, but 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. 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).

It also has to be noted that both James and Paul had exactly the same view of the law, i.e. it demanded perfection.

    And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. (Galatians 5:3 NASB)

    For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.  (James 2:10 NASB)


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.

    1. 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)

    2. 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)

    3. 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)

4. Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, (Titus 3:1 NASB)

As the following citations show, Paul also held equally firmly to the belief that unless people led holy lives 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 to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.  (Titus 1:16 NASB)

    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 2:6-11 NASB)

Incidentally, the the "apostle of love" John was on exactly the same track as Paul and James, not mincing 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).

Who can deny that all three of the apostles were commanding readers to live their beliefs. 


James, Paul, and Abraham
 Abraham is often cited as the most outstanding example of faith. However, the Scriptures only record 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.

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. His' faith was counted as righteousness.

    For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." (Romans 4:2-3 NASB)

However, James is often quoted as saying... Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?  (James 2:21 NASB). Perhaps we need to read all of what James said...

    Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness," and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:21-24 NASB)

In other words, Abraham put his money where his mouth was. 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.

Similarly, The strength of his faith was is evident from the fact that he 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.

He proved his faith to God, which is obvious from God's words to him. (Emphasis Added)

    He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."  (Genesis 22:12 NASB)

Both apostles say that Abraham's faith was counted as righteousness, but James stresses that Abraham showed his faith by doing.

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.


Conclusion

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. 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). Belief alone is not what the Word of God teaches, but makes the Gospel more palatable to the masses, with a terrible result - believers have been lulled into a false sense of security.

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, obedience, and endurance, etc.. And then, and only then can we go about working out our salvation with fear and trembling.

In summary, it doesn't matter how much you move your mouth, or how much emotion you stir up, it's your actions that count -  if you do not obey and bear fruit the Bible does not consider that you believe.


Footnote I - Hosea 4:6
Hosea was a prophet from the northern kingdom of Israel whose ministry extended through the reigns of seven different kings starting with Jeroboam II. He 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". (Verses 4:1-6, 12-14 and 13:2 show how bad the situation was)

    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 4:6 NASB)

Hosea 4:6 is commonly believed to say that the nation had NO knowledge of the truth which was impossible. Every adult Jew of the time knew their history backwards including (and especially) their rescue from Egypt in memory of which event they kept the Sabbath. They were fully aware that they were commanded to keep all of God laws and, based on the warnings of Deuteronomy 30, they had to have known what the consequences of breaking those laws were.

The very fact that the priests still performed the sacrifices, tell us that they were aware of the truth. However, 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.

The priests of the Northern kingdom that Hosea confronted had head knowledge of God. They recognized His existence, knew of His dealing with the nation, and were familiar with His laws which in all likelihood 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 other words one can have intellectual knowledge of God's character and laws, yet still not "know" him. {PLACE IN TEXT}
 

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