The 2021 theme for this second page of TRUTH, “Dealing with Deadly Doctrines,” continues this month with a look at the dangerous, false teaching of salvation by faith only. The concept of any human’s salvation coming from mere faith in God is wholly unbiblical in any dispensation of time, and such will be shown to be the case in this article.
Salvation was never by faith alone in the Patriarchal Dispensation. For the sake of space, just one example will be considered: Noah. Though recorded as an example of faith (Hebrews 11:7), Noah was not saved by faith only. God told Noah, “Make yourself an ark” (Genesis 6:14). Did Noah believe God? Every Bible student knows he did. How do we know he believed? We know he believed because his faith was manifested in obedience to God’s command. Noah built the ark, and he did so just as God told him. God’s inspired statement via Moses says it all: “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did” (Genesis 6:22). Could anyone logically say Noah had faith in God if he had failed to obey Him? Of all the faithful Bible characters from the Patriarchal Dispensation, not one was saved simply by faith alone; all actively obeyed God.
Salvation was never by faith alone in the Mosaic Dispensation. Again, one example will be examined to illustrate this point. The Gentile woman Rahab is also mentioned in Hebrews 11 as an example of faith (Hebrews 11:31). Rahab received the two spies sent to Jericho by Joshua, as recorded in Joshua 2. (Note that Rahab is not praised for the lie she told, but for her active faith in receiving and hiding the spies.) Why would Rahab receive these men who had come to spy out her city prior to an attack? The Bible records the answer from Rahab herself, as she told the spies, “I know that the LORD has given you the land . . . For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt . . . for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:9-11).
Rahab believed in the one true God of heaven, that He alone is God in heaven and on earth. But, Rahab’s faith did not stop with mere mental acknowledgement of Jehovah as the one God. Rahab’s faith was displayed through her actions, and she was “justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way” (James 2:25). Could anyone logically say Rahab had faith in God if she had failed to act upon that belief? The Bible speaks of a host of other faithful men and women from the Mosaic Dispensation, all of whom had active, obedient faith.
Salvation is not by faith alone in the Christian dispensation. On the first Day of Pentecost after Jesus’ died, the apostle Peter preached the first gospel sermon in the name of the risen Lord. Peter’s sermon proved conclusively that Jesus is the prophesied Messiah, as seen by the miracles He performed, His fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, and His resurrection from the dead (Acts 2:14-36). Peter powerfully concluded that sermon with the statement, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Many in the audience were convicted by this truth and cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).
Peter did not tell them, “Do nothing; as long as you believe, you will be saved.” What he did say, however, was, “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Could anyone logically conclude that those individuals had any hope of salvation apart from obedience to the Lord’s command through Peter? Throughout the rest of the New Testament, those who were saved or praised for their faith were not men and women of faith only, but of faith that manifested itself in obedience and good works toward God and others.
True faith is active, obedient faith.
Throughout the Bible, the faith that pleases God is seen to be both active and obedient. In fact, activity is inherent in the word “faith.” Imagine a person with a terminal illness finding out there is a doctor who has saved others with the same illness. If that person truly believes the doctor can save him, would he just sit idly in “faith?” Surely not! He would go to that doctor and strictly follow whatever instructions given to him to be cured. Likewise, all humans have sinned (Romans 3:23), and sin is spiritually terminal (Romans 6:23).
If one truly believes the Great Physician— Jesus—can save, will he trust in that mere belief, or will he follow the Great Physician’s instructions to obtain salvation? Scripture attests, “Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19). Interestingly, the only time the phrase “faith only” appears in Scripture is in James 2:24 – “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (emphasis added, cd). No, faith only will not save, and it cannot save because, in reality, faith “only,” apart from active obedience, is not faith at all. James 2:26 is difficult to misunderstand – “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).
— Chad Dollahite