Just raise your hand? Only believe? Only trust Him? Say the “sinner’s prayer”? Is it possible for a person to be saved by “faith only”? One verse should be enough to answer this question, but I am a preacher and tend to have longer answers!
Here is the one verse: James 2:24. Go ahead—look it up in the version in front of you. Here is what the NASB says, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Can the Scriptures be any clearer? So you are not a NASB fan.
KJV—”not by faith only”
NIV—”not by faith alone”
Amplified—”not alone through faith—through works of obedience as well as by what he believes”
RSV—”not by faith alone”
If those don’t work for you—simply go back and check the original Greek. It reads like the versions above “not by faith only.”
Hopefully you still have your Bible open to James 2. Just go up a few verses. James asks a rhetorical question in verse 14: “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” The anticipated answer by James is a resounding “NO”.
Still have it opened to James 2? Look at verse 17: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” Seems pretty clear to me!
Even the demons themselves practice “faith only”. Look at verse 19: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”
So why is it that the Church of Christ has often bought into this “faith only” teaching? Maybe we watch too many “faith only” shows or movies? Maybe we read too many “faith only” books? Maybe we walk into any restaurant in Danville and there is a tract rack with “faith only” tracts in them? Maybe we heard too many of our own preachers and teachers be weak on the subject of the rest of the plan leaving “faith only” as an viable option unto salvation?
Here is where I lay out a principle I learned from Clearance Greenleaf at Hillsboro Family Camp: “There are more terms of pardon that are found in anyone verse—but there can never be less.”
So, when the “faith only” teachers go to Acts 16:31, and other verses like it—”Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” – remember the principle! Besides, as Ed Bousman points out, if you close the book there, you leave the jailor’s home too quickly. Verse 33 says, “And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was immersed, he and all his household.” There are MORE terms of pardon than are found in Acts 16:31—in other words, you must do more than believe—but you MUST believe! You can use this great principle with any verse that talks about a term of salvation.
But before I run out of room on the page, if a “faith only” preacher or teacher tries to take you to Revelation 3:20 and says that Jesus stands at the door of the sinner’s heart asking to come in, suggest they look at the CONTEXT of the passage. Who is Jesus writing to: a lost sinner? NO! He is writing to a church! Jesus stands at the door of His church and wants back in!
As you can probably tell, “faith only” teaching gets me a little worked up! But I will stick with the New Testament teaching—a complete teaching of what a person needs to do to be saved—Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess, Be immersed and walk the faithful life! Anything else is simply man’s doctrine and not God’s teaching.