Not Biblical 

We are not justified (saved) by faith alone; this is a direct Bible quote. Salvation requires faith having works and we express our faith via works. if we don't have good works, we don't really have faith. If we sin, we haven't truly repented; and salvation requires faith and repentance.

We are not saved by works only; faith is required.

Much of the Christian world follows the teaching of "saved by faith only", Sola Fide (faith alone). Yet it's not Biblical, nor was it taught by the apostles, nor believed by Christians or the Church until the Protestant Reformation.

The key ingredients of Sola Fide...

By way of overview, here are the things the New Testament says you must do to be saved...

  • Call on God (calling is a work)
  • Repent. Salvation requires repentance which means turning from sin (which involves action). Repentance is more than merely faith.
  • Confess your faith (speaking is an action which is a work)
  • Be holy. A life of holiness requires action which is a work.
  • Live a devotional, prayerful life (which requires work)
  • Perform good deeds (which are works). Good deeds are equated with righteousness and holiness.
  • Be obedient. Salvation requires obedience to...
    1. Christ's commandments
    2. Church leaders (The church is to be obeyed and church leaders are to have authority)
    3. The law
  • Get baptized (which is a work)

There are many passages in the Bible referring to salvation by faith or belief, these, ignored in this article because my purpose is to point out the errors. In this sense, this article is lopsided, and I don't apologize for it.

Several questions come to mind...

  1. What is the nature of saving faith?
  2. Does saving faith require the presence of fruit (good deeds)?
  3. Are there ingredients to justification other than faith?
  4. How could the people under the Old Covenant be saved, since all they had was the law?

It is certainly true that works performed without faith do not save us.

What is Saving Faith?

All Christians agree on these important key points...

  1. Saving faith results from our positive response to hearing God's word preached (or from reading it). This "Word of God" is the gospel message, the "good news" of salvation and redemption.

    The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach. (Romans 10:8)

  2. Saving faith originates from God's grace and is not "earned" by our works.

    And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. (Romans 11:6)

  3. Saving faith can only come from Christ's work on our behalf.

    Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. (Romans 3:25)

Meanings of the word "faith"

The word "faith" is used in several ways to mean various things...

From these examples we see that saving faith is not such a simple thing as merely (1) believing the gospel message, or (2) in having faith alone (Sola Fide).

Works matter / a life of virtue

There are a few obvious side effects with the doctrine of Sola Fide...

Good deeds / works of faith

The Protestant reformers declared that good deeds do not have a role in our salvation but are merely the evidence of our true conversion. The book of Romans says otherwise...

God judges our deeds using the law as a guide for what pleases or displeases him.

But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds. (Romans 2:5,6)

And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet [suitable]. (Romans 1:27)

God looks to our obedience of his commandments as a measure of faith in him.

For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. (Romans 2:25)

Believers are judged

The Bible teaches that even believers are judged; either at death and/or at Christ's second coming (parousia). Most fundamentalist evangelical Protestants claim believers are not judged because their sins were already forgiven when they became Christians.

So why is this such a big deal? In sermon after sermon they insist that once someone is saved in an instant of time, they are not judged after that; this, because their sins are forgiven and covered by the blood of Christ. But if believers are judged, this doctrine collapses.

Many biblical passages clearly state believers are judged, and not just as a "Bema seat" judgment to determine their rewards in heaven.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. (Philippians 2:16)

Seems to refer to judgment based on how well we ran and labored.

To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:13)

This verse implies that God judges us based on our holiness and that, therefore, more than faith is necessary for salvation — we must also be holy.

Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4)

God judges based on our works. Note that it is the works of the person that determines God's judgment and not their faith.

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (James 1:12)

God judges us based on our works.

Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick [living] and the dead. For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. (1 Peter 4:5,6)

God judges Christians (the living). They must give an account. This passage is speaking about salvation.

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Peter 4:17,18)

Judgment of believers. The same kind of judgment on believers as on unbelievers — a salvation judgment.

Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. (1 John 4:17)

Believers are judged. The need to have confidence because they are judged. If they were not judged once saved it is a moot point: why do we need confidence on the day of judgment if we won't even be there?

Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:8)

Other passages:

Saved in an instant of time

There are many passages in the New Testament clearly saying that...

Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (James 1:3,12)

Saving faith is not merely a decision of a moment, but involves a life of testing.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (NIV) (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Salvation is not a moment in time but a lifelong faith journey.

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Hebrews 9:28)

Salvation only finally occurs at Christ's parousia, not when believers receive Christ. The emphasis on being saved at an instant in time is a bit misguided and might cause people to de-emphasize their responsibility to grow in faith.

Can you lose your salvation?

Two views of a Christian without good works...

  1. They were never saved to begin with, or
  2. They lost their salvation

Which view is Biblical?

For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26,27)

Those who sin after salvation lose their salvation. Thus, works are necessary for salvation.

Degrees of Faith

Are there two kinds of faith?

  1. Saving faith (once you have "enough" faith)
  2. After salvation faith can increase?

There are Bible passages indicating that faith is a continuum and that people can have more or less of it. In Protestant theology if you have faith you are saved and if you don't have faith you are not saved. The Bible passages concerning degrees of faith don't match that model of faith.

Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly. (2 Corinthians 10:15)

The emphasis on faith only (Sola Fide) raises a side effect rarely considered. Since we are saved by faith we must have at least a minimum level of saving faith. But how much faith is enough? What kind of guidance can be provided so that their faith-filled converts will really be saved? And since works play no role in salvation, how are we to know how much faith we even have?

From the Bible we see that there are degrees of faith and that believers can be weak in faith yet still be saved.

Abraham had a strong faith.

And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. (Romans 4:19,20)

There are different amounts of faith even among believers.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)

The weak in faith are not necessarily unsaved and a person can be saved but yet be weak in faith. There can be a tendency within Churches to be too harsh, judgmental, and unloving to those having weak faith.

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. (Romans 14:1)

Weak in faith but still saved. How can salvation be by faith alone if people with weak faith can be saved?

The health-wealth word-faith teaching is the natural conclusion of this view of faith, that faith is a power we exercise to get saved.

Old Testament Salvation

Faith only (Sola Fide) raises a side effect when we consider how the people of Old Testament times got saved. Typically, Old Testament salvation is attributed to a works-based system by claiming they had to follow the law in order to be saved.

For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. (Romans 2:11-13)

Since they really couldn't do this perfectly there is the implicit assumption that no one in the Old Testament was really saved after all — that's why we needed the New Testament, so people could start getting saved. Most Protestants don't really consider this disturbing side effect of their views.

Verses such as the following are used to support this sequence of ideas...

  1. Those living in Old Testament times needed to live perfectly under the law (but they couldn't and were damned as a result)
  2. God was grieved by this, but he required that someone had to be perfect, and so...
  3. As a result Christ came and lived the perfect life to do away with the need for perfection (now we only need to have faith to be saved)

And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation. . . . (Hebrews 5:9)

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3)

It is hard to understand why God would have such a different plan of redemption for people living in different eras. But a natural result of Sola Fide was the development of dispensationalism in which God does just that.

In understanding this issue we should consider Abraham's salvation since he is the father of faith for Christians.

The faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all. (Romans 4:16)

If Abraham could have saving faith before Christ, then certainly the Old Testament Israelites could also have saving faith since they were given a much greater revelation than Abraham. This was as a result of (1) God's choosing the nation of Israel, and (2) God's revealing the law through Moses and the prophets.

The Old Testament believers lived in a religious society with ample opportunity to exercise their faith (1) in God's mercy, and (2) in God's justice. God choose them as his people and gave them his revelation through the law and the prophets. God was actively involved in the lives of Old Testament believers.

They expressed their faith by their obedience to God's law and to his commands. They had to confess their sins, and they celebrated their religious history several times a year during their feast days.

Abraham expressed his faith by his belief in God's word. In like manner, the Old Testament Israelites expressed their faith by their belief in God's word written in the Old Testament. (But we should note that this word was first spoken and was written down only later; their religion was initially based on an oral tradition.)

Abraham's Faith

Abraham's faith consisted of several important aspects and it is useful to study this topic since he is the father of the faith.

Walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham. (Romans 4:12)

Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. (Romans 4:18)

These passages show that Abraham believed the following...

Abraham's faith resulted in his living a lifestyle based on his belief that God's promises are true; it was not a mere intellectual assent.

Abraham was not saved because he looked in faith to a future day in which the Messiah would die on his behalf, for his sins.

Assurance of Salvation

The Protestant reformers taught that in order to be saved you must be certain that you are saved. But in the following passage about Abraham's faith, we see that his assurance was in God's promises and power, and not in his individual salvation.

And being fully persuaded that, what he [God] had promised, he [God] was able also to perform. (Romans 4:21)

There must be a certainty; not in our personal salvation but, rather, in (1) God's ability to redeem us, and (2) in his promise that he will. In coming to a life of faith we will each have an internal dialog in which we assess the pros and cons of the gospel. To come to saving faith, we must exercise our free will and choose to believe that it is true.

Saving faith is a lifelong process of discovering truth and of deciding which truth-claims are true and which are false. A person of faith will have a willingness to follow the truth no matter where it leads. In fact, that is the essence of what saving faith is.

Saving faith and good deeds go hand in hand. They cannot be separated.

Salvation at Christ's coming

We are only finally saved at Christ's coming.

And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (1 Peter 5:4)

Receive salvation when Christ comes; either when we die, or at the second coming.

Salvation via Baptism

The New Testament clearly teaches sins are remitted during baptism. This raises a question about whether we can be saved in faith before baptism: how is it possible to be saved if our mortal sins are not yet forgiven?

The early church taught that once baptized, mortal sins committed after that could not be forgiven. Many Christians would wait until near death to get baptized. Clearly this seems wrongheaded.

It must be that upon first accepting Jesus in faith as savior and repenting of sin, that all previous mortal sins are forgiven. Probably everyone who submits to baptism has already confessed their faith to others (a work) and this faith event would, therefore, result in their redemption. But the New Testament clearly teaches sins are remitted during baptism. How do we reconcile these?

Faith requires action with the proper belief and attitude. Certainly baptism is (can be) a faith work, but it is not the first one. Are faith works previous to baptism ignored by God? This seems unlikely.

Baptism unites us with the Church. We join in mystical unity with Christ. This makes it easier to avoid committing mortal sin.

Probably part of the answer is the apostles were unaware of the subtleties I've just discussed. Their goal was to bring everyone in to the Church and they knew this occurred via baptism. Probably they noticed that the falling of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost resulted in salvation followed immediately by their being baptized, so the apostles connected these events.

Another question ignored by the apostles is how mortal sins are forgiven: the first time and subsequent times. The New Testament mentions or assumes forgiveness of sins often but mentions the procedure only once which the Catholic Church slowly built upon over the centuries with conclusions I believe to be false.

Other Bible Verses

The Protestant reformers insisted we are saved by faith only (Sola Fide). But in excluding the role of works in our salvation they ignored certain key passages. Some I've mentioned already; here are others:

Martin Luther (that great man of God) developed his view of salvation through "faith only" (Sola Fide) from John Wycliffe's teachings of 200 years earlier and from the book of Romans and Galatians. These certainly teach we are justified by faith...

A man is  justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Therefore being  justified by faith. . . . (Romans 3:28,5:1)

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. . . . (Galatians 2:16)

...but he ignored the many passages mentioning the role of works in salvation.

As I've noted, there are so many Bible verses mentioning the role of works in salvation. Protestants typically "explain" these passages by...

I prefer to accept these passages as they are; and they teach that works of faith are required for salvation. It is obvious these passages teach this. No wonder Protestant theologians and preachers spend so much time spinning their wheels proving they say the opposite.