No, “faith alone” is not sufficient for salvation.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..” – Romans 5:2 (NASB)

“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” – James 2:24-26 (NASB)

I asked a friend that knows Greek to look at those verses in the original Greek texts, and he said that Paul and James both use the same word for “faith” (Greek: “pistei”). Because Scripture can not contradict itself on matters of faith and morals (and because of the additional evidence presented below), Paul and James must both be correct and must both be advocating the same thing. Paul never advocated sola fide (faith alone). Both Paul and James recognized the importance of works.

But how can that be? Paul talks about faith a lot, while simultaneously denouncing the Law.

“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” – Romans 3:28 (NASB)

Here is an explanation of the context of that verse from Catholic Answers:

So what about the fact that Paul also said we are “justified by faith apart from works of law?” He was writing to a church in Rome struggling with a very prominent first-century heretical sect known today as the “Judaizers.” These heretics taught that belief in Christ and obedience to the New Covenant was not enough to be saved. A man also had to keep the Mosaic Law (which, according to Hebrews 7:11-12, has been superseded in Christ) and be circumcised in order to be saved (cf. Acts 15:1-2). Paul gave us one clue—among many—that he had this sect in mind when he wrote in Romans 2:28-29, “For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal . . . ” Paul told us in Colossians 2:11-12 that this true “circumcision of Christ” is baptism.

It is in this context that Paul says we are “justified by faith apart from works of law.” He did not in any sense say that works are unnecessary. He specified works of law because these were the works without which the Judaizers were claiming one “cannot be saved.”

My problem with the belief that faith alone is sufficient for salvation is that it frequently encourages people to, to quote Martin Luther, “sin boldly.” That is hardly in keeping with the teachings of Christ and His Apostles.

There is plenty of evidence in the Bible that works are important. Here are some verses from Paul’s writings:

“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.” – Romans 2:5-8 (NASB)

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” – Galatians 6:7-9 (NASB)

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:12-13 (NASB)

“Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” – 1 Corinthians 7:19 (NASB)

Faith AND good works are necessary for salvation, but always remember that it is because of God’s grace that we are able to have both.

Relief of allegory of Faith on the Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc in Olomouc (Czech Republic).Photo by Michal Maňas.

Relief of allegory of Faith on the Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc (Czech Republic).
Photo by Michal Maňas.

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About Matthew Olson

Matthew Olson is a student in the Diocese of Little Rock.

7 responses to “No, “faith alone” is not sufficient for salvation.”

  1. Brad Jones says :

    After much reflection before our Lord, I believe our reply to faith alone is as Paul told the Corinthians; The greatest is love. We are saved or lost by what we love. And love that does not act is sterile. We can not just tell God we love Him. If we truly love it will spill into actions and over to others, just as the love of the Trinity spills over to become creation. Jesus said If you love me you will jeep my commandments. As Paul reminded every one if you have faith to move mountains but do not love you are nothing. Thus by Paul do we defeat Luther’s misinterpretation of Paul.

  2. russ says :

    Matt, nice post. I maintain that Luther truly knew that we are not saved by faith alone but it did not square with his theology. His act of attempting to remove the epistle of James from the canon of the New Testament further proves that he knew that James meant what he said and he insisted on changing the bible to make it consistent with his novel man-made theology. http://crossed-the-tiber.blogspot.com/2012/06/luther-actually-disproved-sola-fide.html

  3. Faith says :

    So, this post really helped me out, and I am glad I found your blog. That being said, I have nominated you for a Leibster. Thanks!
    http://confessionsofasometimesalmostmaybebeliever.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/the-necessitated-liebster-post/

  4. Joan says :

    To me, the proof that works are part of our salvation is in the “final quiz” that Jesus speaks in Matthew 25: Come, you that 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 something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. These are all works, and they are works we are called to perform. Christ did not say we will inherit his Father’s kingdom because we had faith, but because we did these “works.”

  5. David says :

    Forget Paul and James. What about what Jesus says? It is to do God’s will. He listed two commandments of equal importance in Matthew. Case closed.

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