By Gary Marmillion
“Perhaps the most frequent, subtle and devastating attack that Satan makes upon a believer is to cause that Christian to doubt or disbelieve his salvation.”
This is a quote from a Minister who preaches that we are saved by our faith alone. He says also that this is one of the main issues that have divided Christians and their beliefs.
One of his assertions is that those who are “truly saved” will do good works because God will give them the grace to do so. However he also says that some will be saved that have no good works and that some will not be saved who have many good works. He says that works have nothing to do with salvation. But if all good works are from the Lord (Eph. 2:10 & James 1:17) in whose name are we to do good works if not God?
This doctrine invites a question: Who is “truly saved” since, according to this doctrine, works are no proof of our salvation? Is our salvation merely a matter of personal interpretation or do we have hard and fast rules to determine how and when we are saved? Do we need a lot of faith or just a little to have salvation?
“But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith that we preach), for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. For the scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’� Rom. 10:8-11
The preceding verse is used by many to confirm their doctrine. It says that if we state that Jesus is the risen Savior and believe it then we will be saved. But is it that simple? What we do afterward doesn’t matter? It must be if good works of the Lord have absolutely nothing to do with our salvation. Martin Luther asserted this and many Protestant Ministers preach it now.
“We are saved by faith alone.” (Sola Fide) This is the iron-clad doctrine of Jesus Christ according to the leaders of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther was one of the main leaders of the Reformation and the author of this doctrine. When he proposed it he was condemned by the Catholic Church for doing so. If this doctrine is correct, why would the Church oppose it so vigorously?
Also, in line with this same tenet, other ministers state that our sins after Baptism are “covered” or ignored by God and that we will be judged only by our faith in Him. Next we have some ministers who say that if someone is a “backslider,” — if they accept Christ and then later turn away from Him they will not be saved. They say if you lose this faith you are saved no longer. The question is: was he ever “truly saved” in the first place? Only God knows. Because the New Testament indicates clearly that salvation (faith) is something you can lose. (2 Pet. 2:20f & 1 Tim. 1:18f)
Whose doctrine is correct? Either we are saved by faith alone or we are not. Either the Martin Luther’s doctrine is correct or it is wrong. If it is wrong then the consequences are devestating for those who have depended on it.
Finally we have the teaching of the Catholic Church which states: That our faith in Jesus Christ and our good works of love assures our salvation; that since we are in the flesh we are sinners; that we must constantly be repentant for the sins we commit; that we must confess in “good faith” with a contrite heart because God knows whether we are truly repentant or not; our faith demands that we not be unrepentant and offend Him. We must always remain fit to meet our maker, because if we die in an unrepentant state we may not inherit eternal life, “Since we know neither the day nor the hour our Lord will come.” (Matt. 24:42) Since, “He will come like a thief in the night.” (1 Thess. 5:2) We are not saved because we are “good.” We are saved because we have faith and strive to do good, which is the will of the Lord. We are saved by grace alone, by a living faith working in love.
Whose doctrine will we believe? If our belief alone will save us then it matters little what we do after we “proclaim our faith and are baptized” If we sin, no matter how great a sin or how many times we sin, then we are still saved because our sins are covered or ignored by God since He will not “put us to shame.” This seems to be the core of the “Faith Alone” doctrine when all is said and done.
“We know that no one begotten by God sins; but the one begotten by God he protects, and the evil one cannot touch him.” (1 John 5:18) Does this verse mean that all who are saved sin no more? Or does it mean that if you commit sin you are not saved? Perhaps it means that if you fail to act in righteousness you cannot be begotten by God. (1 John 3:10)
Sin is the demon lurking at the door. (Gen 4:7) Buy sinning we become slaves of sin. (John 8:34) Our sins link us to Satan! (1 John 3:8) If anyone who sins is a slave of sin and therefore belongs to the devil, then anyone who commits sin is not saved. Doesn’t this seem a true statement?
If the preceding is true then “Faith Alone” cannot be true. “Sola fide”, in effect, gives us a virtual license to sin. It says that what we do does not matter; it is only what we believe that matters. Does God cover, or forget about that which He hates? (Psalms 45:7) “What then shall we say? Shall we persist in sin that grace may abound? Of course not! How can we who died to sin yet live in it?” (Rom. 6:1f)
How can anyone really believe that eternal salvation is that simple or Christianity is that easy? Did Jesus come down to earth and die a horrible death for us so that we could have a convenient and simple path to heaven? Did Christ really change the salvation process that radically? Faith in God was always necessary for anyone to gain eternal life. He didn’t change that and He didn’t abolish the laws of God, He came to fulfill them! (Matt. 5:17) He says repeatedly that we must obey the Commandments to be saved, (Matt. 19:17, John 14:15 & 1 Cor. 7:19) and that we should follow in His footsteps. (1 Pet. 2:21) Are the footsteps of Christ that easy to follow? How about Satan and his demons, are they now saved since they believe? (James 2:19) No! Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” (Matt. 7:13-14)
When a rich man asked Jesus how he could be saved Jesus told him to sell his belongings and give them to the poor and follow Him. The man went away sad because he did not want to part with his possessions. Jesus then said, “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt. 19:24) Does this sound like a simple and easy-to-follow doctrine? Of course not! If God wanted those inclined to sin in Heaven, why did He throw Satan out? (Rev. 12:9) Only the spiritual things will save us, the earthly things of the flesh will condemn us. (Rom. 8:5,6) “And if the righteous one is barely saved, where will the godless and the sinner appear?” (1 Pet. 4:18)
The Apostle Paul says that adulterers, fornicators, practicing homosexuals, the greedy will not inherit the kingdom of God. (1Cor. 6:9) (Rev. 21:8 adds murderers, the unfaithful, etc.) Our consciences should be our guides, but if we do not educate our consciences we may not know if we have offended our Lord and jeopardized our inheritance of eternal life. (1 Tim. 1:18f) We should make it our business to discover what is pleasing to God and what is not because it is possible that ignorance of His laws may condemn us. If we say to Jesus on Judgment Day, “I’m sorry Lord, I didn’t know that offended you, they told me all I needed to do was believe you were up here,” what will He say to us? Perhaps He will repeat what He has already said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matt. 15:8) Do we really want to take that chance with our salvation in the balance? Perhaps Paul should have added ignorance, stupidity, and gulibility to his list of sins considering of what James said. (James 2:20) Jesus is very specific about one thing He will say to the ignorant and why we should be certain we know what is required of us. (Matt. 25:31-46)
But we still have a problem, since we are all sinners (1 John 1:8) no one will be saved since we are all slaves to sin, how can we be sinners and yet still have the chance to be begotten by God?
If we believe that God will forgive us–if we are truly repentant and confess our sins to Him then, and only then, will God forgive us our sins. (1 John 1:9) “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20) If we did not need to be reconciled to God why would St. Paul ask us to do so? If our faith alone will save us why does St. Paul say that he is a minister of reconciliation? (2 Cor. 5:18) Evidently faith does not end with the simple belief that Jesus is the Redeemer. Much more is required of us. Repentance is also very important. (Acts 2:38)
It is by our faith in Him and in His grace that He gives us freely we can do this. Salvation without faith is all but impossible, but faith is not all that is necessary. “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17) Not works of the law but works that are born of Christian love, made possible by His freely given grace. The Apostle James says a man without works 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 1:22-24)
Do we sometimes “forget” our faith just as we sometimes forget what we look like? Jesus knows that we can never have enough faith. His words ring down through the centuries upon us, “O, you of little faith.” (Matt. 6:30, Matt. 8:26, Matt. 14:31, Matt. 16:8, & Luke 12:28)
He said to them, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20)
But even the paltry bit of faith we can muster will insure our eternal salvation if we recognize that God demands more of us than “lip service” (Matt. 7:21 & 1 John 3:18) and simple belief in Him. He does not demand that we move mountains to please Him. He only demands that we move our heart closer to His. It is our faith which is bolstered by our love which will save us. Love one another…. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34f) “Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom. 13:10)
What does a father of the church say? “For when the heathen hear from our mouth the oracles of God, they wonder at their beauty and greatness; afterwards, when they find out that our deeds are unworthy of the words which we speak, they turn from their wonder to blasphemy, saying that it is a myth and delusion. For when they (the godless) hear from us that God says: ‘It is no credit to you, if you love them that love you, but it is a credit to you, if you love your enemies, and those that hate you’; — when they hear this they wonder at this extraordinary goodness; but when they see that we not only do not love those that hate us, but not even those who love us, they laugh us to scorn, and the name is (of God) blasphemed.” (Clement of Alexandria about ad190)
St. Paul says that God wants everyone to be saved. (1 Tim 2:3f) This is why Jesus ordered that the Good News be preached to all nations. We do not receive grace only once. We are saved and justified by grace from God which He gives to us freely whenever we act upon our faith. However we must cooperate with the grace God bestows upon us. Grace will strengthen our faith and enable us to avoid the occasions of sin. Grace doesn’t simply “cover” our sins, it actually transforms us into God’s adopted sons. When we cooperate with God’s grace we will love others as we love ourselves, we will forgive others as we ask to be forgiven, and we will do unto others as we would have them do to us. We may feel we are saved only when God’s grace has made His good works habitual with us. Our faith demands that we put complete trust in God and strive always to put Him above all else. Therefore, faith is not merely intellectual assent but an act of the whole person, involving the mind, the will, and the affections, resulting in a changed life
Even though we cannot work our way into Heaven Jesus places high value on the concept of alms. (Matt 6:1-18, Matt. 6:2-4, Luke 11:41 & Luke 12:32,34) If we help our fellow man unselfishly or if we forgive a wrong someone has done us, aren’t these works considered alms? Why would He want us to give alms if faith was all that was necessary? “St. Paul also instructs us to devote ourselves to good works. (Titus 3:8)
Another Church father says this. “Life must be changed for the better, and good works should be offered as propitiation to God for our past sins. But He is not somehow to be bought off, as if we always had a license to commit crimes with impunity. For He has given no man a license to sin. Although, in His mercy, He does blot out sins already committed, if due satisfaction for them is not neglected. “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:14f) He who is not awakened by such great thundering is not asleep, but dead! And yet such words have power to awaken even the dead.!” (St. Augustine, Enchiridion 423 A.D.)
The opening quote from the Minister says that Satan causes a believer to doubt his salvation. The sad truth is that no one should be so certain of his salvation that it makes him think he can do no wrong or that if he commits sins they will be “covered” just because he believes in God. Rather, Satan, the deceiver has convinced many to believe that they are saved when they may not be and not to repent of their sins when they should have. He has also deceived many otherwise upright ministers to falsely claim that God’s laws have no meaning for Christians any longer. Scripture says differently. (Matt. 5:18-20 & Luke 16:17) Satan is attempting to steal Hope and Love from us. It is only when we have both Faith and Love can we have Hope. If our faith alone saves us then why do we bother to hope for salvation (Rom. 8:24f) and why would we bother to love?
It is extremely probable that this insidious doctrine of sola fide has been responsible for the loss of many souls to eternal damnation. This doctrine of Martin Luther’s should be condemned just as vigorously now as it was 500 years ago.
In this age of moral relativism when many Christians do not educate their consciences properly and when some rationalize that God’s law no longer applies to them, they should be told the truth about what it is that God requires of us. If people are offended and reject this preaching then they will have rejected sound doctrine. A good indicator of our faith is whether we will listen to sound moral teaching or not. The “little flock” (Luke 12:32) of Jesus must know the truth. If we remain in Jesus’ word the truth will set us free! (John 8:31f)
Remember, we do not judge ourselves, Jesus will. (Rom. 2:6) We only “hope” for eternal life, God does not grant eternal life with Him because of what we believe or disbelieve. What living person has seen God’s book of life? (Rev 20:12&14) We also will not be the ones who will decide if we are saved or not, Jesus will. He says, “The victor will thus be dressed in white, and I will never erase his name from the book of life…” (Rev. 3:5) The intimation here is that it is possible for our names to be erased! God has appointed Jesus Christ to be our judge. (Acts 10:42)”–on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge people’s hidden works through Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 2:16) “We know the one who said: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ and again: ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebr. 10:30f) But, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” (Rev. 14:13)
What does this mean? It means that even for those who have faith, it is very possible to die estranged from the grace of the Lord. Love is key here because it is much easier to do His will out of love than fear of the loss of heaven. Divine love working in us gives us life eternal with God. When grace is present in us we are truly God’s children who are destined for salvation. However if we knowingly reject grace by sinning mortally our share of eternal salvation is in jeopardy. (1 John 3:14)
The instructions St. Paul gave to Timothy are just as valid today as they always were. After saying that the scriptures were useful for training in righteousness, he said this about religious doctrine. “I charge you … proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.” (2 Tim. 4:1-4)
We must have faith in Jesus to be saved and we must preform the works of love which comfirm our faith. God requires more of us than our simple belief in him. St. Paul says that our faith should be examined and tested. (2 Cor.13:5) And we should realize that it is possible to fail the test of faith (2 Cor. 13:5) and that we can lose our salvation and be cut off from God. (Rom. 11:22) We are not saved by faith alone. Rather, we are saved by grace alone which imparts the divine virtues of faith, hope and love. (1 Cor. 13:13) And if we do not have love we are lost! (1 Cor 13:2)
The mere notion of a Christian “taking his chances on Judgment Day” frankly makes me tremble. When after death a soul is called to judgment (Heb. 9:27), the soul is not being invited to negotiate. There will be no “explaining” to God why one has preferred one sin over another. We are called to repentance, not to dickering. We are called to holiness (Rom. 1:7), not to shopping among sins. “Your holiness forbids this” Eph. 5:13).
(Father Mateo, CIN)
Quotes from New American Bible
On Grace and Love
1John 3:14f We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love remains in death.
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.
1 Cor 13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have and deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child I spoke like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Eph. 2:10 For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.
James 1:17 all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
2 Pet. 2:20,21 For if they, having escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of [our] Lord and savior Jesus Christ, again become entangled and overcome by them, their last condition is worse than their first. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment handed down to them.
James 2:19 You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.
Ps. 45:7 You love justice and hate wrongdoing
Matt. 7:21 & 23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Then I will declare to them solemnly, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.”
1 Cor. 15:50 This I declare, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption.
1 Tim. 1:18,19 Through them may you fight a good fight by having faith and a good conscience. Some, by rejecting conscience, have made a shipwreck of their faith,
James 2:20 Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?
Matt. 25:31-46 “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 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.”
1 John 1:8,9 If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.
Matt. 5:18-20 Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Luke 16:17 It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the smallest part of a letter of the law to become invalid.
Luke 12:32 Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
John 8:31,32 Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Acts 10:42 He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.
2 Cor. 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? “unless, of course, you fail the test.
1 Pet. 1:16 for it is written, “Be holy because I [am] holy.”
1 Cor. 15:33 “Do not be led astray: Bad company corrupts good morals.”
1 Cor. 15:34 Become sober as you ought and stop sinning. For some have no knowledge of God; I say this to your shame.
1 John 3:18-23 Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. [Now] this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him in whatever our hearts condemn, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. Beloved, if [our] hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.
Rom. 2:5-8 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.
2Cor. 5:18-6:1 And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.