Saved by "Faith Only"?

By Royce Frederick

It is common to hear men teach that salvation is by faith only. The doctrine of “faith only” is taught in many creed books, magazines, and pamphlets — but not in the Bible. The only time “faith” and “only” are found together in the King James Version of the Bible is in James 2:24. That verse says, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” The word “works” in that verse refers to actions of faith. Abraham acted on faith when he offered his son Isaac (James 2:21). Rahab acted on faith when she helped the two spies (James 2:25).

In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther was so determined to promote the doctrine of “faith only” that he rejected the book of James (in the New Testament portion of the Bible). He realized that a person cannot believe the doctrine of “faith only” and believe the book of James. Also, when he translated Romans 1:17, he was not satisfied with the statement: “the righteous shall live by faith.” He added the word “alone” after the word “faith.”

The New Testament certainly teaches that sinners are saved by faith and live by faith, but not by “faith only.” The apostle Paul explains that the kind of faith we must have is “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). A faith which “believes,” but fails to obey, is “barren” (James 2:20) and “dead” (James 2:17, 26).

The faith which saves is active, obedient faith. A sinner is saved by faith when he surrenders to the Lord in baptism for the forgiveness of his sins. Paul reminded the Colossian Christians of the time when they obeyed the gospel: “buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12).