“Faith Only Salvation”–a Devil’s Lie

Jesus said to those who rejected him and his word and instead held to their own prejudice and what they had always believed, You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

One of the devil’s most persistent lies is that justification comes through faith only. This false doctrine has been believed and taught by Martin Luther and by most evangelicals since his day. Luther felt so strongly about it that he added the word “only” after the word “faith” in his “translation” of Romans 3:28. As you can imagine, the book of James caused Luther much consternation, so to deal with it he declared it to be “a right strawy epistle” and wrote, “I will not have it in my Bible in the number of the proper chief books, but do not intend thereby to forbid anyone to place and exalt it as he pleases, for there is many a good saying in it.” When I read that the voice of Dana Carvey as the church lady rang in my ears, “Well, isn’t that special?!” He won’t have it in his Bible but he won’t forbid you having it in yours! This would be comical were it not so deadly. Who knows how many people have been lulled into believing that the only thing they have to do is believe?! They go to eternity with a false sense of security that, as long as they believe, nothing else matters! That nonsense ought to frighten us and anger us.

There are people who really do believe that the Bible teaches that you’re saved by faith alone. Yet here is the one place in God’s Holy Word where those two words are side by side:

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

One might be tempted to think that if the devil were going to try to pull the wool over peoples’ eyes in the arena of false doctrine, he would at least word that false doctrine in a way where it is not clearly and diametrically opposed by a statement of Scripture. Yet people have bought it lock, stock and barrel.

Does the Bible teach elsewhere that there is something more than faith that is necessary to be saved? You tell me.

Mark 16:16 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

 Luke 6:46 46“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

 James 1:22 22But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

 Romans 8:12–13 12So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

 Acts 10:34–35 34So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

 Revelation 20:12 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.

Brad

Published in: on December 16, 2015 at 3:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Neglected House

When Shirley and I lived in South Carolina we came home to visit family during the holidays. One morning I got up early and drove into Tolar to get a cup of coffee and a newspaper, and drive around the little town I grew up in. It was special to see the sun rise on that special place we had left over 23 years earlier. Whenever we came to Tolar I usually made a point to go by the house that was my childhood home. Since my parents sold it in 1978 it had become badly neglected and run down. The last time I had seen the house it had been vacant for years and open to the weather. It suffered from the breakdown that all houses do when they are not tended to and cared for. It had never been a fancy house but it had been a good house, a happy house. But this chilly, winter morning, it was gone. What had been left of the house had been torn down to make way for something else or nothing else. All that was left were tall weeds growing in an empty lot.

The Bible says that Christians “like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). Is it possible for us to neglect the spiritual house the way some people neglect their material houses? Absolutely. If we do not tend to and care for our spiritual house it will break down and fall in. Why does this happen?

1. It happens because of ignorance. You cannot build your spiritual house any way you please and expect it to stand. There are many people in this world that are building “spiritual houses” that are built, not according to God’s blueprint or upon God’s foundation but one of their own making. They believe what they choose and behave as they choose. They have built their houses. The Lord has not. The Bible says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). The one whose house will stand is the one who has built upon the sure foundation of the words of Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:24-27). Anything else is built on shifting sand.

2. It happens because of apathy. Is your spiritual house crumbling because you simply don’t care? As Ezekiel prophesied the doom of Judah he wrote, “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house’” (Ezekiel 12:1-2). But many people who are apathetic would never describe themselves as rebellious. “It’s not that I don’t care”, they would say, “It’s just that there are so many other things in life that demand my attention”. Jesus said that with such people, “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).

3. It happens because of laziness. Solomon wrote, “I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” (Proverbs 24:30-34). Some say, “I know I need to come to church or study my Bible but I’m just too tired. I need my rest.” Read the above passage again. Rest is fine and needed. But if you’re getting so much that you’re neglecting your spiritual privileges and responsibilities, you’re getting too much. The Bible says, “Some people are too lazy to fix a leaky roof— then the house falls in” (Ecclesiastes 10:18, CEV). Have you noticed that water is leaking through the ceiling in your spiritual house?

Brad Fry

Published in: on March 7, 2012 at 9:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Flat-Lined Faith

Have you ever tried to rebuild your faith? Has there ever been a time when your faith has felt worn out, barely able to draw a breath? Maybe in such a time some well-intended soul directed you to James 2 and showed you that “faith without works is dead”. So you were told or told yourself that you needed to get to work. You worked on praying more. You worked on going to church more. You worked on reading your Bible more. You worked on being a better neighbor and a better Christian. You worked and you worked and you worked, all in an effort to bring your faith back from the dead. But sooner or later you found out that working harder doesn’t work. So finally you acknowledge that not only is your faith dead, but it’s time to bury it and walk away.

There are times in our lives when the answer to our problem is not to try harder but to listen more. And not just listen to anyone and anything but listen to God in his word. The Bible says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Look again at James 2. “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (v.26). Are works the life-giving elixir to a dead faith? Or are works proof that one’s faith is not dead? James says it’s the latter (v.18). Some Christians in Galatia had convinced themselves that the keys to being right with God were being better and working harder. So the apostle Paul responded, “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”(Galatians 3:2–3).

If your faith feels old and worn out, stop trying to whip it into shape by working harder. It won’t work. Works are like the monitors hooked up to a patient. They indicate life and health, they don’t produce them. When there are no works it is equivalent to a patient who has flat-lined. No works show that faith has died. The CPR to a dead faith is that which produces faith in the first place. Then, as that faith revives and becomes reinvigorated, it will work.

You can’t do for yourself what only God can do for you. Open your Bible, listen to his word, and before long you’ll hear again the heartbeat of your faith.

Brad Fry

Published in: on November 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm  Comments (2)  
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Getting Out of the Pit

G. Campbell Morgan was once approached by a miner who said he would give anything to believe that God would forgive sins, “but I cannot believe he will forgive me if I just turn to him. It is too cheap.” Dr. Morgan said to him: “You were working in the mine today. How did you get out of the pit?” He answered, “The way I usually do; I got into the cage and was pulled to the top.” “How much did you pay to come out of the pit?” “I didn’t pay anything.” “Weren’t you afraid to trust yourself to that cage? Was it not too cheap?” The man replied, “Oh, no! It was cheap for me, but it cost the company a lot of money to sink that shaft.” Jesus pays the price for our salvation. You and I contribute nothing to the cost. We simply have a required response.

         There are many people today who are not saved because they refuse to believe God can forgive them so easily. But as the above story illustrates, God doesn’t forgive easily. But he does forgive willingly. Salvation comes cheaply to no one. The sinless Son of God essentially offers a trade of his sinlessness for your sinfulness (2 Corinthians 5:21) because of what he did on the cross. Cheap? I don’t think so.

         But the story also illustrates another important point. If the miner doesn’t get into the cage, he stays in the pit. Just today miners in Chile are being rescued from a pit that has been their would-be tomb for 69 days. Rescuers are pulling them up in a cage which has been lowered into the pit. If they don’t get into that cage, they stay put in the pit. The point is simple—if you don’t step into the place of deliverance, you perish. All the faith in the world that the miner has in the crew above will not save him until he gets into the cage. To get out of the pit of sin Jesus declares that we must believe and be baptized and that when we do so we will be saved (Mark 16:16).

         That biblical truth about baptism should be able to be presented with no further need for persuasion. Unfortunately there is much misinformation and misunderstanding about the subject. Look at it this way. We will hear nothing about any debate among the miners as to whether it’s necessary to get into the cage. They just do it. Baptism is “stepping into the cage” so to speak. No one would think that those miners saved themselves by stepping into the cage. It was clearly the work of “those above” who saved them. The same thing is true when one submits to God in baptism. It is the work of God that effects salvation (Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21; Galatians 3:26,27; Romans 6:3-7). But he requires that we respond.

         God wants you out of the pit. He has made your rescue possible. Whether you respond is up to you.

Brad Fry

Published in: on October 13, 2010 at 11:08 am  Comments (5)  
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