Are we saved by faith alone?

(Charles G. Pewee) #1

Hi everyone, Apostle Paul in Romans 3:28 (KJV) says “therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” He goes on to say in Romans 4:5 “but to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” However, according to James in James 2:24 “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”

What can we say then? Are we saved by faith alone as Paul says? Or do we need both faith and work for our salvation as James tells us? Or are these examples of Paul’s writings that Peter was referring to in 2 Peter 3:15-16 (KJV) “15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction”?

(Sara Isaac) #2

Hi Charles. Such an important question! And the reason for its significance lies in the signaling to one of the most central themes in our Christian doctrine: Grace. When you read the epistle of James, you will find that James is biased to the poor. He is kind of a social activist of his own times.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
James 1:27
“Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”
James 2:5
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food…”
James 2:15
James believes that true Christians should have a role in alleviating the suffering in the communities they live in and that they shouldn’t be walking around covering their eyes and ears from the screams of need surrounding them. And he is so infuenced by this idea in his writing. In fact he is capturing a real aspect of God’s expectation of his people. In Isaiah 1, God says:
“The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord . “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow."
The verse you have mentioned in 2:24, just before it in 21 says:
“Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?”. But in 23 he declares:
“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”. So, at last you are seen as righteous in the eyes of God only by faith.
Paul says in Philippians 2: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”.
So does that mean that what Jesus did was not enough?
Absolutely not! We do not ‘work’ to earn salvation, we can only do anything of worth because we ARE saved. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
John 15:5
We now ‘work’ not to gain God’s satisfaction and approval, we work because we have already gained them in Jesus Christ. Our works are a reflection of God’s work in us. Paul continues and says: for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Yes “the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Grace and truth are quite a complex. They are both presented in Jesus. Jesus didn’t spend his time on earth praying in gardens or meditating in deserts. He taught, he fought, he healed, he WORKED: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”
That what James himself calls, in 1:25, the perfect law, the law of freedom.
I tried to offer a scriptural response as much as possible, so that we can all discuss these verses and include others to help us be better equipped tor eply to this question in the future for those who asks us.
Thank you Charles for raising the question.

(Steven Morse) #3

Charles, I wish to make two points to your statements. First, in Romans, Paul is trying to justify why the gentiles were as deserving of salvation as the Jews. The Jews knew the law, but even Abraham needed faith, so it was not by Abraham’s deeds that he was saved. The gentiles had not lineage, therefore no connection to the Law. Paul’s writings state that both gentiles and Jews alike are saved by faith. It was Jesus’s death that took away the need for the Law. Point #2 is your word “alone”. I think we often focus too much on one particular aspect of the Bible. It is meant to be read in entirety and then we see the relationships. Love God with heart, soul and mind are not just random adjectives but the many ways we need to fulfill our love. How can you have faith in the soul and yet do and think sinfully? As Sara states, faith should lead to acts. James is such a good place to read. So often we hear the word Love as if it were the only way to salvation. There are many secularists who are full of love and have no faith. There are many faithful who’s love is scarce. steve

(SeanO) #4

@Charmawee @saraisaac and @stwmrs have already shared some wonderful thoughts on how we need to have a balanced perspective.

I would just like to help you think a little more about the apostle Paul - you just need to keep reading Romans a little further. For Paul, grace always always always leads to righteousness. Just check out Romans 6-8 or Galatians 5 - shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid! We are dead to that old man - we live by the new man in the Spirit - clothed in Christ Jesus!

Paul describes 3 parts of us that are involved in these passages:

  • our flesh / passions - which we cannot control by our own strength
  • our mind, which wants to obey God, but cannot because it is a slave to the flesh
  • the Spirit of Jesus - who we receive by grace and enables us to live a righteous life - we are no longer slaves to sin! Hallelujah! Praise Jesus!

Romans 6:1-4 - What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Romans 8:12-14 - Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live .

Galatians 5:16 - So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

So, in fact, Paul is not in disagreement with James. They both believe that true faith always leads to righteousness because God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit.

(Charles G. Pewee) #5

Hi @saraisaac, @stwmrs and @SeanO, thanks for your helpful responses.