Gary L. Grizzell
One of the most deceiving, damnable doctrines in all of “Christendom” is the doctrine of Faith Only! Jesus warned in his sermon on the mount, “Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matt. 7:15). Paul exhorted Christians to be not tossed to and from by every wind of doctrine taught by men who in cunning craftiness lie in wait to deceive. (Eph. 4:14).
Some say, “Oh, but you can prove anything by the Bible, therefore, everyone may have his own interpretation.” It is any insult to any author (Especially to God) to say that any theological or philosophical position may be taught from his book. All men may understand the will of God alike on things necessary to salvation! Paul taught by inspiration that we are not to remain unwise but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5:17). A true student of the Bible is required by God to “prove all things” and hold fast to the truth. (1 Thess. 5:21). We are to be set for a verbal defense of the gospel against all perversions of the same (Philp. 1:17). We are to “try the spirits” to see who is truly of God and who is of the Devil. (1 John 4:1). We are to contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. (Jude 3). Dear reader, have you ever truly examined the popular doctrine of “Faith Only” in light of the New Testament of Christ?
It Violates Two Areas of New Testament Teaching
The Plan of Salvation is the first area adversely affected by the false doctrine of Faith Only. The Bible teaches that men are saved by sincerely obeying five steps: 1) Hear the gospel (Rom. 10:17), 2) Believe in Christ (John 8:24), 3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:3), 4) Confess Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9-10), and 5) Be buried in baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Col. 2:12). However, the proponents of the doctrine of Faith Only say a person is saved after having obeyed the first four steps, and verses on water baptism are rejected as unnecessary to salvation. The disunity among those who believe in Faith Only is seen in that some believe that one is saved after step two while other believe one is saved after step number four. Either way, their doctrine of Faith Only is a misnomer since all agree that one must at least “hear” in order to believe. (Rom. 10:17). Man is not saved by anything alone and certainly not by belief alone. Basically, the doctrine of Faith Only, believed by so many today, says that one is saved at the point of intellectual assent to the deity of Christ.
A second area of the teaching of Christ which is violated by the doctrine of Faith Only is the teaching concerning the Christian Life. The Bible teaches the necessity of faithfulness to Christ, but the doctrine Faith Only teaches that a Christian may obtain eternal life with a dead faith. But the Christian must be willing to be faithful unto death if necessary. (Rev. 2:10).
It Violates Plain Scriptural Teaching
One of the golden texts on the subject of Faith and Works is the second chapter of the Epistle of James. James originally wrote to Jewish congregations of Christians in the first century. (Jas. 1:1). Their problem was that some were practicing the doctrine of Faith Only. He began by stating that God’s blessing of the crown of life was upon those who endured temptation. (Jas. 1:12). He pointed out the need to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. (Jas. 1:22-25). The faith-only “Christian” who boasted he was a true child of God was instructed to have an alive faith by practicing true religion. (Jas. 1:25-27). Then, in chapter two James showed the ugly result of the doctrine of faith only. He rebuked the Christians who were guilty of the respect of person by their mistreating the poor in the assembly. They sought to flatter the rich who came into the worship assembly (Jas. 2:1-6). Also, the attitude of their dead faith resulted in saying to the naked and hungry person, “Be ye warmed and filled,” but they neglected to help that naked and hungry individual (Jas. 2:15-16). James’ response was: “Faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone” (Jas. 2:17). Friend, did you hear what the Bible says? You know enough right now to know that an obedient faith saves, as opposed to faith-only!
James 2:24 also proves conclusively that faith-only is a doctrine straight out of the chambers of Satan. Consider: “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” This is the only time the expression “faith only” (in that word order) is found in the New Testament and it is condemned! Works only will not save. Faith only will not save. However, faith plus works equals an alive faith which God accepts. This is the proper response to the grace of God. (Eph. 2:8-9). To be “justified” is to be counted righteous in the sight of God. James 2:26 reveals there are two kinds of faith which God recognizes: 1) An Alive Faith. 2) A Dead Faith. A Christian with dead faith is compared by divine analogy to a corpse without its spirit. A dead faith, like that which James addressed, is the kind of faith that Satan has. He believes Christ is God’s only begotten Son and his chief enemy. A dead faith is the kind of faith the demons have (Jas. 2:19). They even tremble in the presence of Christ because of their strong belief in his true identity. (Mark 5:7). This is more than some today do when they consider the presence of Christ coming in judgment. However, as in the case of Satan, the demons refused to add works of obedience to their belief. There can be no doubt about it, the doctrine of Faith Only violates the plain scriptural teaching of the second chapter of James!
The Single Message of Hebrews 11 Should be Appreciated
The single message of Hebrews 11 is that the faith that saves is the faith that obeys. The great heroes of the faith are listed in this chapter and the nature of their great faith is seen. Each of these individuals received the blessings and promises of God because of his obedient faith.
Abel not only believed God, but he added works to his faith and offered a sacrifice as God had commanded (Heb. 11:4). Enoch not only believed God’s words, but he “walked” with God and therefore received the blessing of translation, i.e., he was taken into eternity without suffering natural physical death (Heb. 11:5; Gen. 5:22). Noah “moved with fear” (reverence) and built the ark. He not only believed God would save him (along with his seven-member family) if he built the huge ship, but he added works to his faith by building it. Would not Noah have drowned along with the rest of the population if he had refused to do what God gave him 120 years to do? (Heb. 11:7; Gen. 6:5-8:22). Without this kind of faith, “it is impossible to please him” because one must “diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6).
Abraham believed God’s Word to him, and he performed what God commanded of him. The Bible says that “By faith Abraham…obeyed.” (Heb. 11:8-10). He not only believed God would make of his seed a great nation (and that the Messiah would come into the world through his seed) but he packed up his tents, took his family, drove his herds and traveled to the land flowing with milk and honey as God had commanded (Gen. 12:1-3; Gal. 3:16). Can any rational thinker seriously suggest that Abraham received the promise by Faith Only?! And yet, this is the conclusion implied by the false doctrine of Faith Only. However, the truth is that God never saved anyone in any age who possessed a dead faith.
The Doctrine of Faith Only Did Not Originate With Christ
Jesus’ conclusion to his great sermon on the mount was concerning who is wise in the sight of God and who is foolish in the sight of God. The wise man is the man who builds his house on the rock and is therefore saved during the time of flooding. The spiritually wise man is the individual who builds his life on the Word of God! This is the opposite of the foolish man who builds his life on the sandy foundation of false philosophy (Matt. 7:24-27; Col. 2:8). You’ll note that the person Jesus will commend on the day of judgment is the one who not only believes in the need to build a life on God’s Word but the one who actually does it. In this text, it was not merely preferable to build one’s house on the rock, but it was absolutely necessary in order to avoid destruction. Jesus said that to simply call Him “Lord” was not enough. One must do something, i.e., “the will of my Father” (Matt. 7:21). For one’s works to be works of obedience (which are acceptable to God) as opposed to works of merit (which are rejected by God), one must do the specified Will of The Father (the doctrine of Christ, 2 John 9-11). This is because we are under the New Testament today as the binding law of God (Gal. 6:2).
Many religious people are pictured before the judgment seat of Christ pleading for eternal life. These people seek to remind the Lord of all the wonderful works they supposedly did in his name. Yet, his response to them is, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:22-23). Jesus asks of those who have faith only, “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Commandment keeping proves love for Christ, and one is a friend of Christ when he does whatever Christ commands (John 14:15; 15:13-14). The apostle Paul’s words serve as an indictment of the doctrine of faith only.
Paul summed up the Christian life when he wrote it is “faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6). Faith is the substance of the Christian life. Works is the response of faith. Love is the motive for a working faith. In view of this above passage, who can rationally and honestly deny that God requires a faith which works as opposed to a faith which is alone? Paul spoke of “obedience to the faith” and the need to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Rom. 1:5; Philp. 2:12-13). Every Christian is to “prove his own work” before God (Gal. 6:4-5). These statements are descriptive of a true Bible Faith and not that of the humanly devised doctrine of Faith Only.
“Baptism is a work and to say that one must be baptized to be saved is to try to earn one’s salvation.” Yes, baptism is a work but so is belief (John 6:28-29). There is a difference between works of obedience and works of merit. God accepts only the former.
“The thief on the cross was saved by faith only.” No, he added works to his faith when he defended the Lord (Luke 23:40-41).
Any Doctrine Which Implies a False Doctrine is False Itself
If the doctrine of Faith Only is true, then Satan and his Demons are saved (Jas. 2:19). If the doctrine of Faith Only is true, the Chief Rulers who believed on Christ, but who would not confess him lest they be put out of the Synagogue, were saved (John 12:42-43). If the doctrine of Faith Only is true, then the doctrine of universalism is true, i.e., all will be saved on the Day of Judgment. This is the case since the Bible declares that all will confess Jesus as Lord on the last day (Philp. 2:10-11; Rom. 14:11). So, if the doctrine of Faith Only is true, then no one will be in Hell. If the doctrine of Faith Only is true, then the wicked will be admitted into heaven since there will be no other place for them to exist in eternity (Rev. 20:14). So, if the doctrine of Faith Only is true, then the righteous will be forced to spend eternity with the wicked. Who is willing to accept these clear implications of the doctrine of Faith Only?
What Will Your Choice Be?
Friend, will you be warned of wolves in sheep’s clothing who devour modern man with false doctrine? Will you be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine by men who in cunning craftiness lie in wait to deceive? The doctrine of Faith Only is a sinfully convenient, false, watered-down gospel. Will you respectfully, courageously, and sincerely exercise an obedient faith so as to obtain the salvation in Christ? Then with anticipation we may look for that blessed God and our Savior Jesus Christ to return and carry us to heaven at the last day. May we prayerfully study and rightly divide God’s Word of Truth (2 Tim. 2:15). “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (Jas. 2:20).