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Is the doctrine of ‘salvation by faith only’ hurting Christianity? October 3, 2005

Posted by roopster in Bible, Christianity, faith, God, Religion, spirituality, Theology.
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I believe the concept of works being irrelevant in a Christian’s “salvation” has had a negative impact on Christianity. This belief many times results in Christian passivity or even an unsympathetic attitude towards how our actions may negatively impact others. After all, it is our “faith in Christ” that is important, so why should we worry about our deeds?

Many other religions focus on “good works” and, as a result, their followers demonstrate acts of kindness. A Christian will be quick to denounce those “good works” as irrelevant and damn them to hell anyway. In the typical Christian view, a person like Bob Tilton ,who has stood on television and milked the masses out of their money BUT trusts in Christ for salvation, is bound for heaven. However, Ghandi, who gave his life in service of his people, is bound for hell. Does this make sense?

Here’s what James says on the subject:

James 2: 14-25
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

I firmly believe that we need to start a campaign for Christians to engage in good works, to show kindness, love, mercy, compassion, and tolerance. What a difference we could make in this world.

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Comments»

1. Monk-in-Training - April 30, 2005

Roopster,
I think what you are talking about here is cheap grace. Say a quick prayer at a “revival”, vote Republican, and u can act like a jerk and complain about being prosecuted!

Long ago, in the early days of the Church, it took three years of teaching for a convert to be considered mature enough to be admitted to Baptism and thus become a full Christian. No cheap grace in those days.

2. Zacchaeus - April 30, 2005

Roop,

I posted on this very same subject recently.

I suppose the pure exclusivity of evangelical fundamentalism makes it so attractive. Certainly, to young impresionable seekers, as I was 15 years ago. Scary, I know, but when an old man started to “unpack” the bible’s eschatology for me, I suddenly felt that the Catholicism in which I had been nurtured was, somehow, bringing me up short of the ultimate prize – heaven.

Now, my sight has been restored and I no longer wear the rose-tinted glasses that I wore for so long.

Thanks for posting this.

Zac

3. Roopster - April 30, 2005

Zac,

Great post. I added a link to this on the post itself.

MIT,

I also added a link to your thoughts on the post from a few days ago to the original post.

Paul

4. Scotti - April 3, 2007

Hi There,

I always enjoy coming to your site to ponder your insightful questions and view responses.

Yes, Christians are absolutely called to good works; however, we cannot earn our salvation (eternal life with God) based on our good works. Salvation is a gift by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. When we put our faith in Christ alone, we are given a new heart, the Holy Spirit dwells within us and we begin to see the world the way God sees the world. Compassion, mercy, helping those in need becomes a joy of loving service for our Lord. In the passage you reference, James is arguing that if one has true faith, there will be an evident change in their lives. Faith that has no works is dead. A person is made right with God (inwardly, in the heart) by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. God looks at the heart. A person is shown to be righteous (outwardly) by His works. This also becomes a witness to men that there has been an obvious change in ones heart. Eternal life is freely offered to anyone who receives God’s gift by faith in Jesus alone. There is nothing we can do to earn a right standing with God. He is far too Holy and we are far to depraved to make up the gap on our own. Praise Jesus for His amazing sacrifice, to lay down His life willingly, to take God’s wrath for our sins upon Himself. He is our Redeemer, our Mediator, our High Priest and our Coming King! Thank God for the Holy Spirit that prompts us to good works that may not necessarily be our natural inclination.

Keep asking those tough questions and creating such rich dialogue. I visit here often even though I usually don’t have time to comment.

May the Peace and Grace of the Lord Jesus be with you,
Scotti

5. Ashwini - April 7, 2007

Of course your deeds are important. Jesus didn’t only talk – He walked his talk!! But salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. The Bible is clear on that. But again, love covers a multitude of sins. And the whole law is summed up in two
1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart………….
2. Love your neighbour as yourself.
A lot of Christians are unable to adhere to these two especially the second one. But if you stick to one and ignore the other it doesn’t work!! Both are important.
God Bless

6. Javed - January 12, 2008

I think you do not uniderstand the passage what you just quoted James 2: 14-25. In this passage James does not say that only Faith in Christ will not save you. Dear read passage again and than see what it says… it says show faith …after being saved one must show his faith by good works… Remeber salvation is only by faith in Christ.

7. Rick - August 24, 2008

I think why many Christians don’t experience the peace of God is that they don’t know how to live by faith. We’re not really taught how. We’re told that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. We understand this to mean that we should read our Bibles. The problem is that the need to exercise faith comes moment by moment, and we can’t always stop and read our Bibles at any given moment.

God tells us to take every thought captive. Now this is a moment by moment exercise. The problem is what many of us do, if we even try to capture the thought, is decide what to do. A is the right thing to do B is the wrong thing to do. Either way we are trying to do something and soon we get weary. What we are doing is trying to work out our salvation in the flesh.

Here is an example. You’re driving and someone cuts you off. What many of us do is decide whether we should get mad (wrong thing to do) or not get mad (right thing to do) Not getting mad is our effort, us trying to work it out. But here is an interesting fact. The anger in this case is a secondary emotion. The underlying emotion is helplessness. Recognizing that being cutoff has caused us to feel helpless is the moment when we can exercise faith. At this point we have the thought captive. Now we can chose to get angry, or we can chose the thought that we are not helpless, Our Helper, as Jesus called Him, is with us. This is an expression of faith. Now the Holy Spirit is free to work in us and through us.

As we exercise this faith, moment by moment. We begin to feel God’s peace and in time other fruits of the Spirit. We can actually put aside this kind of anger (secondary) and really live by faith. Our entire part in this whole process is faith, God does everything else. We are being sanctified by faith.


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