Justified By Works
July 7, 2015
“Faith Alone” teachers are misleading their listeners. They do so by teaching that in order to achieve salvation from sin and Hell we need only have faith in Jesus, who He is, and what He taught. Doing any work to achieve this salvation, they say, is to trust in a false works-based gospel.
But who are the ones trusting in and promoting a false gospel?
Let’s look to God’s Word to see who is in the Truth:
James 2:24 should certainly be looked at, for it is the only verse in the Bible that mentions “faith alone”. Yet when we read it, we see that it says the exact opposite of what the “Faith Alone” adherents are saying. The “Faith Alone” preachers are telling us, “We are justified by faith [in Christ] alone.” They usually even come right out and say, “Faith does not consist of works.” But are these statements of theirs true? Is this what the Scriptures teach? It is not. James 2:24 says instead, “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” An even more literal translation says, “You see that by works a man is justified and not by faith only.” How can the doctrine of God’s Word on this issue be stated any clearer? Sadly those indoctrinated with the “Faith Alone” gospel cannot accept this plain language.
James 2:20 calls people “foolish” who refuse to accept “that faith apart from works is barren.” Then verse 21 asks, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?” The declaration is not vague, but stated plainly: Abraham’s act of obedience justified him. This act is again spoken of in the Hebrews 11 faith chapter –in verses 17-19. In verse 8 Abraham’s (good and obedient-to-God) works are referred to again when it says, “By faith Abraham… obeyed and went”, while in verse 9 we are told, “By faith he made his home in the promised land…” These verses are referring to actions prompted by faith in God and trust in His orders. Truly, throughout the Word of God we see that faith is not complete without works –those works (deeds / actions / words / convictions / attitudes / thoughts / decisions) that are done in obedience to God. James 2:22 confirms this, and while still discussing how Abraham was justified before God, it says, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did [was made complete by his actions / was made complete by his works].”
It is not just the book of James that teaches this doctrine about actions (works, deeds, etc.) of obedience to God being a necessary ingredient of faith. Jesus says, “If you want to enter Life, obey the commandments.” (Mt. 19:17) He says, “Those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:29) Doing good or doing evil –these have to do with actions / deeds / works. Thus we see that Jesus teaches that what we do is what makes a difference of where we spend eternity. John the Baptist taught this (Mt. 3:7-10) and so did John, the apostle, such as when he writes, “Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” (3 John 1:11)
We see Jesus teaching that if a man calls Him “Lord”, but does not put His words into practice, that man is like a house built without a foundation and which will, in a time of flood, collapse in destruction. (Luke 6:46-49) Without question, Jesus teaches that obedience to His words is necessary for salvation. (John 8:31,32,51 & 12:47,48 & 15:10) Moreover, He lets us know that this obedience to Him means a complete, loyal commitment (Luke 9:62 & 14:25-35), a daily denial of self (9:23,24), and an intimate union of spirit to Spirit. (John 3:6 & 10:27,28 & 14:15-23 & 15:6,10,14)
“Faith Alone” teachers take certain verses from the Bible, and while avoiding other verses, teach a false way of salvation. They refuse to teach that faith consists of daily actions that are in line with the commands given to us by God through His Spirit and His Word (Mt. 7:21-23 // 1 John 2:3-6 & 3:24 & 5:3), and while desperately trying to uphold their man-invented doctrinal system, they disregard the fact that, to most people, the word “faith” means “belief”, rather than “trust and obey”. Thereby they lead many away from the Truth and instead along the path to Hell.
Interestingly, these same teachers know, and usually teach, that besides faith, confession of sins and repentance of sins is necessary for salvation. They also know that being born of the Spirit is necessary. Even so, they insist that it is “faith [in Christ] alone” that saves, and that deeds have nothing to do with it. Truly they contradict themselves.
John 8:24, John 12:42,43, Rom. 10:9, 1 John 1:9, and 1 John 2:22,23 (as well as other verses) teach that, in order to be saved, we must believe in Christ’s resurrection, that we must confess our sins, and that we must confess unashamedly that Jesus is Lord, God, and Messiah. Is this not about the actions involved in humbling oneself and in making a declaration regarding the Truth? Of course. Furthermore, Jesus teaches in Luke 13:1-9 that unless a person repents and produces fruit, that person will be cut down and will perish. In Mark 1:15 we read of Jesus proclaiming, “Repent and believe the good news!” and in Acts 17:30 we read of Paul proclaiming that God “commands all people everywhere to repent.” When someone teaches salvation by “Faith Alone”, they are leaving out the necessity of repentance, obedience, following, abiding, fruit-production, loving, and more.
So let’s ask: Does repentance involve deeds –those God-pleasing works that result from a heart change? Absolutely. (Acts 26:20 // 1 Peter 4:1-3) And is fruit-production about works? Yes, it certainly is, for we cannot carry out Christ’s teachings and God’s will by sitting at home doing nothing. Rom. 8:9 says that we must be controlled by the Spirit and not by the sinful nature, and that if this is not the case, we do not possess the Spirit nor do we belong to Christ. Is being controlled by the Spirit about doing what the Spirit commands? Of course. Are following commands about action, and is action about works? Yes, and yes.
So, does confession of sins, repentance of sins, and being born of the Spirit involve works? Yes. Consequently, does a (genuine) “deathbed conversion” involve works? It certainly does. –Few works, to be sure, but, God-pleasing works, all the same. For even five minutes of true faith will produce that repentant, trusting act that looks in obedience to Him who was lifted up on the cross in mankind’s behalf. (John 3:14,15) This is the work which God requires (6:28,29), but it is not the only work He requires, as numerous other passages reveal. Indeed, after entering through the Gate (10:9), the Shepherd must also be continually followed, obeyed, revered, clung to, listened to, loved, worshiped, lived in, and known intimately –every day, and ever more fully, adequately, and deeply. (v. 27,28 // Eph. 4:13 // Col. 1:9-12 & 2:6,7 // Heb. 6:1) “Faith Alone” teachers deny the necessity of all this and ignore the very real possibility of desertion. (Mt. 24:12,13,45-51 // Luke 8:13 // John 13:37,38 // 1 Tim. 1:19 & 5:15)
Let’s look at just a few more verses in God’s Word. Rom. 6:17 says, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.” Rom. 1:5 speaks of the obedience that comes from faith and 1 Peter 1:22 reveals that we purify ourselves by obeying the Truth. 1 Cor. 15:1,2 lets us know that we must hold firmly to the True Gospel, and that if we do not, we have “believed in vain.” 2 Cor. 11:3,4,13-15, Gal. 1:6-9, 1 Tim. 4:1,16, 1 John 2:24,25, and 2 John 1:9 are also passages that make it clear that it is only by adhering to correct doctrine that salvation is guaranteed.
God’s Word makes it abundantly clear that the Truth (the True Doctrine) must be obeyed, and obeyed faithfully. This faithful obedience to Christ’s teachings is what the New Covenant is about (John 8:31,32 // Heb. 8:6-13), for Jesus, the Mediator between God and man, “became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” (Heb. 5:9) Whoever does not heed everything He says (teaches / commands) will perish. (Acts 3:19-23 // 2 Thes. 1:8-10)
No one can say, with honesty, that obedience to Christ (which is necessary for salvation) is not about actions / works / deeds. Consequently, those who teach the “Faith Alone” doctrine, when Jesus and the writers of Scripture taught no such thing, is to teach people to walk in an inadequate faith and to take refuge in a deceptive gospel, neither of which will save.