Note: In this material, the term “pastor” is used in its common usage; a leader of a denominational church. It is not used in the biblical sense as outlined and illustrated in the New Testament (Acts 20:17-32; 1 Pet. 5:1-4; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).
4. Faith Alone Will Not Save You.
There are certain standard passages a typical denominational pastor will employ to prove that salvation is by faith alone. They include, but are not limited to:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph. 2:8-9).
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household (Acts 16:31).
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
At first glance many people are persuaded that these passages do, indeed, teach salvation by faith alone. However, when they are examined in light of other passages and in context, it is readily apparent that salvation by faith alone is a pernicious lie.
Whenever studying any subject, all scriptures relevant to the issue must be considered. For instance, if we were to take Galatians 6:10 by itself, we would think it mandatory to help every single person who asked for or needed help. However, when we also consider 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat,” we know the command to help others is limited. It is limited to those who cannot help themselves or are in temporary need. The one who can work but does not, is not to be helped at any time.
On the matter of salvation, we need to consider all that the New Testament teaches. Yes, faith is required. Without faith it is impossible to please God and any subsequent service is vain (Heb. 11:6). Yet, faith alone does not save.
James makes the point that faith must be coupled to action, or works. “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas. 2:17). “Faith by itself” is faith alone. Hence, the inspired writer says that faith alone is a dead faith, not a living faith.
He continued to drive the point home in 2:24, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” The only thing the Bible says about “faith only” salvation is that it is “NOT by faith only.”
There are some examples of those who had faith in the Lord, but were not saved. First, the example James gives is the demons (Jas. 2:19). They believed in God, but were not saved. They even confessed Jesus as the Christ (Mk. 1:23, 24). They were not saved because their belief did not lead them to obedience. Rather, they lived in rebellion.
Another example is found in John 12:42, 43.
Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
That these men believed cannot be denied; the Spirit says they believed. That they were lost cannot be denied either. No man can place the praise of men above the praise of God and be saved. When this happens, a man is not the servant of Christ (Gal. 1:10). Who will argue that one can be a servant of Christ while seeking to please men above Him?
Salvation, then, requires more than belief in Jesus.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter established Jesus as the Christ (Acts 2:16-36). Many in the audience were convicted and asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter’s response was, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). If all humanity were standing before Peter that day, would he have given a different command? No. We know, therefore, that all believers are to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins; for salvation.
We also know from the New Testament that we must confess Jesus as the Christ.
That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9-13).
Jesus will not confess us before the Father if we do not confess Him before men (Lk. 12:8, 9). Yes, there is a certain aspect of this confession that involves daily living. However, as in Romans 10 there is a verbal confession that is made with the mouth. An example of this being done is in the conversion of the Ethiopian. After Philip preached Jesus to him, they came to some water (Acts 8:35, 36). The Eunuch asked Philip what hindered him from being baptized. Philip told him he had to believe in Jesus. At this, the Eunuch confessed Jesus as the Christ and was promptly baptized (Acts 8:37, 38). This is a biblical example of belief, confession, and baptism.
The Bible also records the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. He was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians and drag them back to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1, 2). The Lord appeared to him on the road (Acts 9:3-9). In the conversation it is apparent that Saul believed Jesus is the Christ. He said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6). Will anyone deny Saul believed in Jesus at this point?
When Saul went into Damascus, he was penitent and praying (Acts 9:9, 11). No doubt, he was deeply grieved over the knowledge he had been fighting the Lord and persecuting the true children of God. We have no record of his prayers in this period, but it does not seem a far stretch to imagine his humility and petitioning of mercy before God’s throne. Nevertheless, at this point he was a believing, penitent, praying man.
Later in his life Paul recalls the events of the day when Ananias came to him. When Ananias arrived, he said to Paul, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). A believing, penitent, praying man was told to get up and be baptized to have his sins washed away. This does not fit the mold of denominational preaching. Pastors will not tell a man to do this. The typical pastor of today would have told Paul that he was saved on the road when he believed and could rejoice because his sins were already forgiven. The Lord’s chosen messenger, however, told him to get up and have his sins washed away in baptism.
We see, then, that salvation is not by faith only. The average pastor will claim it is. He would never tell you salvation is NOT by faith only. Yet, that is exactly what the Holy Spirit revealed in many passages and specifically so stated in James 2:24. To whom shall we listen?