Are we justified by faith alone, works alone or a combination of the two? What do the Holy Scriptures alone have to say about the subject? This idea that all truths of Christian right-living is found in Scripture through a plain reading of the text, a Protestant Christian doctrine of Sola Scriptura, will be used in this endeavor. Plain texts of Scriptures will be used to support the idea of justification(salvation) by faith or by works.
Let’s look at a few verses supporting the idea of salvation by faith alone…
Gal 3:11 “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”
Gal 3:24 “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”
Rom 3:28 “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”
Acts 16:30-31 “He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Eph 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
There are quite a few more verses I could bring to your attention but these are a good sampling of verses pointing to faith for salvation. And yet, did you notice anything curious? Not one verse mentions salvation or justification by faith alone. In fact there is not one verse in all of Scripture that states that salvation is found in faith alone. Faith is definitely required but nowhere can we find a verse of Scripture stating that faith ALONE is required for salvation. In fact whenever we find the criteria of salvation when we are judged we find that we will be judged by our WORKS, not on whether or not we had faith. Here are some examples of this…
Rom 2:6-8 “God "will give to each person according to what he has done."To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.”
James 2:12-13 “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!”
Rev 20:13 “The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.
1 Tim 5:8 “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
And of course Matthew 25 where faith is only assumed and ones final destiny is determined by what we did or failed to do.
“‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 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, 36 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.’ […] ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Mat 25:34-41)
Knowing that all of Scripture is inerrant we must find a way to merge the two ideas together. From the first set of Scriptures we know that faith is required for salvation. We also know from the second set of Scriptures that we will be judged to be worth salvation or damnation by what we do or have failed to do (works). Therefore we can rightly assume that salvation is NOT found through faith alone but through faith AND works. In fact there is only one place in all of Scripture where we find the words ‘faith’ and ‘alone’ together and it is to negate it (James 2:24) and just a few verses later we find that faith, if it is alone (ie without works) it is dead. Does a dead faith save? Defining or explaining how this relationship between faith and works mesh together goes beyond the scope of this paper. What we have found is that salvation is dependent on BOTH our faith and our willingness to carry our cross daily (works) because of that faith. And so we find that Scripture clearly teaches that salvation through faith alone is most definitly unscriptural.