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Salvation By Faith Alone is Not Assured

One  of the doctrines by Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, was that salvation could be achieved by faith alone. While of course faith is necessary, it is what you do with that faith that counts. If you believe is it also not true that you follow and obey. To not act in a way dictated by the faith is a clear sign of hypocritical and false faith. Yes, we are saved by faith. But it is not by faith alone.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. James 1:22-25

It seems pretty clear here that we must do something. It is not just enough to believe, we must act. How can we say we have faith and not live that faith. Remember, even Satan believed that Jesus was the Son of God. We must live out our faith through actions, not just words.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.James 2:14-19

How can it be made more clear that we do not achieve eternal life by faith alone? Faith without works IS dead. Luther eventually admitted adding the word “alone” to his essay, but by then the damage was done. Now many millions are following the false teachings, the hollow teachings, the incomplete truth of a man who lived hundreds of years ago. And he admitted the error on his essay. Why do these people continue to attached themselves to churches founded on this man’s teachings?

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous 16 will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.Matthew 25:31-46

In this scripture, Jesus is explaining the judgment of nations and what is required for salvation. Our very salvation depends upon what we do. Christ did not say it was just enough to believe that the poor should be fed, we must feed them. Christ did not say it was just enough to pray for those that are ill, we must care for them. From this passage it is easy to understand that if we do not act we are in fact neglecting Christ.

Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation. John 5:28-29

Those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life? One of my favorite parts of confession is as asking for the forgiveness of the sin of failing to take action. So many times we do not do as we should, we do nothing, a sin of omission. Those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life? I suspect just “thinking” or “believing” is not enough.

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘What is written in the law? How do you read it?’ He said in reply, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ He replied to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.’”  Luke 10:25-28

The questions was what must I “do”, not what must I “believe”. And Jesus answered you must “do”, not you must “believe”.

For it is not those who hear the law who are just in the sight of God; rather, those who observe the law will be justified. Romans 2:13

Once again, it is not enough to “hear” the law, one must “observe”. In other words, live the law, not just “believe” it.

By your stubbornness and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God, who will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works, but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness. Yes, affliction and distress will come upon every human being who does evil, Jew first and then Greek. But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, Jew first and then Greek. There is no partiality with God. Romans 2:5-11

Paul is clear on this point. Our salvation comes through our own deeds and merits, as well as how we “live” our faith. This is not the same as saying that we receive salvation through works alone because we all know there is no salvation without Christ. Yes, you must have faith, but it is a “living” faith.

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