Faith Alone Does Not Save . . . No Matter How Many Times Protestants Say It Does

“We are saved by faith alone.”

The Bible doesn’t say it. In fact, the Bible rejects it.

It was not part of Christian belief for the first 1,500 years of Christianity.

Even today, only about one-fifth of Christians belong to churches that teach it.

And yet, the minority of Christians who do believe in it think it’s the most important, essential teaching of Christianity.

Justification by faith alone” is the Protestant doctrine that the one and only thing that saves us is believing that Jesus Christ died for us on the cross. Our “works,” meaning what we do and how we live, do not contribute anything to our salvation. If we believe that Jesus died for us, we will go to heaven. If we do not believe that Jesus died for us, we will go to hell.

I have been told that I am going to hell because I am unwilling to say and believe that faith alone saves.

Now that could be a problem!

The numbers don’t look good

Let’s do a little math.

Approximately 20% of Christians belong to churches that teach that faith alone saves. Approximately 32% of the world’s population identifies as Christian. This means that approximately 6.4% of the world’s population belongs to churches that teach that faith alone saves.

The current world population is 7.3 billion.

This means that by the most optimistic estimates (if all of the people who belong to churches that teach faith alone actually believe the way they are supposed to), of all the people alive today:

  • 467 million people are saved and will go to heaven.
  • 6.8 billion people will be damned and go to hell.

Or put another way, over 93% of the world’s population is going to hell.

Is God incompetent?

So I have a question for you:

Is God incompetent?

If you worked in an automobile design studio, and one day you rushed into your boss’s office and said, “Look! I’ve designed a car that works 6.4% of the time!” how would your boss react? I’ll tell you how: “Back to the drawing board!”

Supposedly God loves all of the people whom God has created. And yet, if the only thing that saves us is faith in Jesus Christ, and the belief that we are saved by that faith alone, then over 93% of the people God supposedly loves are going to hell.

I would call that an epic fail.

Even if we broaden the definition, and say that everyone who believes in Jesus can be saved, you’re still talking a success rate of only 32% at best—and that assumes that everyone who self-identifies as a Christian truly believes in Jesus Christ.

Even a 32% success rate would still be a major fail on God’s part.

Yet according to the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, that is the best success rate God could possibly have in the population of the world today.

Is God really such a bad designer that somewhere between 67% and 93% of the human beings on earth end out in the scrap heap with “REJECT” stamped on them in big, red letters?

Yes, but what about the Bible?

The churches and preachers who teach salvation by faith alone know about these numbers. Their general response is, “Yes, it sounds harsh. But we must believe it because that’s what the Bible teaches.”

So here’s a little quiz:

Question: How many times does “faith alone” appear in the Bible?

Answer: Once.

Here it is:

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

That’s right. In the one and only place in the entire Bible that “faith alone” appears, it is specifically rejected as saving!

Christians who believe in faith alone think that Paul teaches it.

But Paul never even says “faith alone” in any of his letters. (He also doesn’t say “grace alone.”) And Paul was articulate enough that if he had wanted to say that faith alone saves, he certainly had the vocabulary and the ability to do so.

But he never did.

What Paul did say is that we are saved by faith apart from the works of the Law (Romans 3:28). And that is one of the most misunderstood verses in the entire Bible.

Paul was not saying that we don’t have to do good deeds in order to be saved. Just one chapter earlier, he had said:

God will repay each person according to what they have 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. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:6–11)

So it’s crystal clear that Paul, like every other writer in the Bible, taught that we must do good works in order to be saved, and that if we don’t, we will be condemned.

“Faith apart from the works of the Law”

When Paul said that we are saved by faith apart from the works of the Law, he was talking about the Law of Moses.

He was arguing, against the main group of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, that it was not necessary for Christians to obey the ritual laws of sacrifice, diet, circumcision, and so on prescribed in the ancient Jewish ritual code found in the Torah, or Law, which is the first five books of the Bible. Paul, an “apostle to the Gentiles” (see Romans 11:13), did not want to saddle pagan converts with the ritual laws of Judaism. Further, he believed that faith in Jesus made it unnecessary to follow those ritual laws.

For observant Jews, strictly following these laws was a matter of great pride. See, for example, the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9–14:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

That’s why Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” Here “works” like the “circumcision” that he talks about in the next few verses, is shorthand for “the works of the Law”—meaning the ritual laws given by Moses in the Torah.

Paul even says in the very next verse, “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Ephesians 2:10, italics added).

Yes, Paul was big on faith. He’s always talking about faith. But he never taught faith alone. Just like the other Bible writers, he insisted that we must do good works as commanded by the Lord if we wish to be saved and go to heaven.

Where did faith alone come from?

If the Bible never says that faith alone saves, how did it become the distinguishing doctrine of Protestantism?

Martin Luther, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Martin Luther

The answer is simple. The doctrine of salvation by faith alone did not come from the Bible. It came from Martin Luther (1483–1546).

Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic priest in Germany who, in time, rejected Catholicism and became the leading founder of Protestantism.

As part of his doctrinal break from Rome, he promulgated the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. This doctrine became the primary doctrine distinguishing Protestantism from Roman Catholicism, and the key doctrine of Protestantism as a whole.

John Calvin, by Hans Holbein the Younger

John Calvin

John Calvin (1509–1564), a French theologian who became another primary figure in the Protestant Reformation, founding the Reformed or Calvinist branch of Protestantism, adopted the doctrine of salvation by faith alone from Luther.

Philipp Melanchthon, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Philip Melanchthon

These two theologians, along with Philip Melanchthon (1497–1560), who systematized Lutheran theology, established salvation by faith alone as the fundamental doctrine of Protestantism. This is the doctrine that distinguishes it from Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and all other Christian churches. It is only Protestants who say, over and over again, that we are saved by faith alone.

Protestants—especially the Evangelical and Fundamentalist variety—believe and claim that the doctrine of salvation by faith alone comes from the Bible. But the reality is that it comes from Luther, Calvin, and Melanchthon.

The Bible itself never says that faith alone saves. Instead, as I pointed out earlier, the Bible specifically denies that we are saved by faith alone. Martin Luther actually wanted to remove the book of James from the Bible because it contradicted his distinctive doctrine of salvation by faith alone.

So what?

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

So what?

What does it matter whether the doctrine of salvation by faith alone is true or false? Isn’t it just another one of those endless and useless doctrinal debates that those old Christian theologians are always having with each other?

Well . . . first of all, if we were truly saved by faith alone, it would mean that somewhere between two-thirds and nineteen-twentieths of the world’s population will spend eternity being tortured in hell mostly because they just happened to be born into the wrong culture and religion.

I don’t know about you, but the idea that a loving God would design the world so that most people end out in hell really bothers me.

What is our life for, anyway?

But let me ask you a more practical question.

What do you spend more of your time at: believing things or doing things?

Don’t get me wrong, faith is very important. If we don’t believe in God, or at least in some higher power and morality than ourselves, about all that’s left is for us to live for the pleasure of today, and hope for more pleasure tomorrow. And that’s not much of a life.

However, for most of us, believing things takes up only a small part of our time and energy. The reality is that we’ve got work to do.

Most of us spend most of our days, and most of our lives, getting up in the morning and going about our daily tasks, going to our day job, taking care of our families and other people that we’re responsible for, and getting things done around the house and around the community.

The main problem with faith alone is not that it isn’t taught by the Bible—as bad as that is. The main problem with faith alone is that if it were true, it would mean that almost everything we do during our lifetime here on earth is irrelevant to our eternal life.

Our daily work matters

Why would God put us on this earth and give us bodies, and work to do with them, if all that matters is what we believe? If all that matters is faith, why didn’t God just give us a brain, and a thinking mind, and leave it at that?

The reality is that everything we do all day—all of our work, all of our struggle, all of our blood, sweat, and tears—does matter in eternity. God did not put us on earth merely to believe and have faith. God put us here on earth to act on our faith, and live by our beliefs. That’s why the Apostle James said:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14–17)

The Bible everywhere, and in many different ways, tells us that faith by itself is useless. Everywhere, the Bible tells us that if we wish to be saved, we must love our neighbor, care for our neighbor, and engage in active service to our neighbor. Jesus himself tells us that only those who tend to the needs of others will go to heaven (see Matthew 25:31–46).

Our daily labor, our daily job, our daily service to our fellow human beings is the crucible in which our eternal life is forged.

God gave us the Ten Commandments, and all the other laws of life in the Bible, for a reason. Only by following God’s commandments, only by living with integrity toward our fellow human beings, only by serving other people day in and day out with love and humility, can God build in us the depth of spiritual character required to spend eternity as angels in heaven.

God did not make a mistake putting us here on earth and making it a requirement that we spend much of our life, and much of our day, engaged in useful services of one sort or another. Quite the contrary. God knew that it is only through active service to others that we can develop as spiritual and heavenly beings.

The doctrine of salvation by faith alone fails miserably not only because it is contrary to the teachings of the Bible, but also because it would make most of our life, most of our labor, most of what we spend our days doing totally irrelevant.

But I’m here to tell you that what you do all day does matter. What you do with your life does matter. Because little by little, with each task done and with each service rendered to your fellow human beings, you are building the spiritual character you need for God to bless you with eternal life and joy in the vast community of service that is heaven.

For further reading:

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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203 comments on “Faith Alone Does Not Save . . . No Matter How Many Times Protestants Say It Does
  1. Hrfs says:

    John 3:16… no mention of good deeds. The thief on the cross didn’t lead a life of good deeds yet he was saved. Faith saves.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Hrfs,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

      In response, while faith is certainly a key part of salvation, nowhere in the Bible does it say that faith alone saves. In fact, as covered in this and related articles, the Bible specifically denies this. So yes, faith saves. But only when it is together with love, good works, and the other things the Bible says are required for salvation.

      John 3:16 says:

      For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

      It does not say everyone who merely or only believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life. That belief must be accompanied by action to even qualify as “belief” or “faith,” biblically speaking. See the article, “Faith Alone Is Not Faith.”

      The thief on the cross, also, is not an example of faith alone saving someone. That thief repented and did a good work (testifying to his fellow thief) as well as having faith in Jesus. His faith was not alone, but was accompanied by repentance and good works. That’s why his faith saved him: because he acted on his faith. For more on this, see my article: “Are We Saved in an Instant? How was the Thief on the Cross Saved?

      Nowhere in the Bible does it ever say that faith alone saves nor is there a single example in the Bible of faith alone saving someone. This is a pure human fiction, invented by Martin Luther 1,500 years after the Bible was written. Faith alone accomplishes absolutely nothing.

  2. ZauAwn says:

    It’s a very good article but you didn’t mention the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation.
    Rom. 8:9,11,14,16,26-27
    Titus 3:5
    John 3:5
    Matt. 3:11
    Mark 3:28-29
    2 Cor. 1:22
    Eph. 4:30
    Gal. 5:22-23
    John 14:16-17, 26
    Rom. 5:5

  3. M Chawang says:

    Wow! great work. Thanks for figuring out the number and I agree with the statement

    “Or put another way, over 93% of the world’s population is going to hell”.

    Because you can see flood in the old testament save only one family so as our time 99.9% of your figure 7% can be in heaven of less because you see the Christian life today yourself and the Bible?

    Sorry, no hurt feeling. This just my view seeing the World of Christians today but not according to Biblical or doctrine. God bless you all. Thank you.

    • Lee says:

      Hi M Chawang,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Unfortunately, due to the language barrier, I’m not entirely sure what you’re saying. Do you believe that most of the world’s population is going to hell? Do you believe that all non-Christians are going to hell?

      About the Flood, I do not think that story was ever meant to be taken literally. See: “Noah’s Ark: A Sea Change in the Human Mind.”

  4. James says:

    You’re right that faith alone does not save. Faith without works is dead.

    Just keep in mind however that only Jesus can save. If you lived a perfect life – no one has – but even if you did, without Christ, there is no salvation. But, even if you accept Christ, but live an ungodly life, then you cannot get to heaven.

    But you are wrong that God is somehow “incompetent” because almost the entire world is going to hell. God made it our choice, and most people choose to reject God and His ways. The Bible says that even many Christians will be rejected on that day of judgement, where God will say, “I never knew you, depart from me, evildoers.”

    Is it terrible and tragic that tens of billions of people over generations are all going to hell? Yes. It is God’s fault? No. If God made us with no freedom of choice and created us to go to hell from birth, then it would be God’s fault. But God did not do that. God gave us the ability to choose Him and to choose whether to live godly or ungodly lives. Therefore the burden of responsibility to whether someone goes to heaven or hell is on each individual. If someone goes to hell, it is the person’s fault, not God’s.

    The Bible says “the way is narrow” and “only a few will find it” Matthew 7:13-14. Only a few suggests that most won’t find it – most people will go to hell.

    The only thing we can do is to teach truth and try to help people live holy lives and accept Jesus as savior; but don’t try to teach that many people will go to heaven, that just isn’t true. Most people, probably, will go to hell. And it’s the people’s fault, not God’s.

    • Lee says:

      Hi James,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

      Of course, I agree with you that faith alone does not save, and that we must do good works as well. That’s what the article is all about.

      However, the rest of your statement seems to contain an error that is common among traditional Christians: that people who don’t happen to be, or become, Christians by believing in Jesus are therefore “rejecting God and his ways.”

      There are many good people in other religions who do not reject God and his ways at all. In fact, they faithfully believe in God and live according to God’s ways as their religion teaches them to do. Many of them live far better lives of devotion to God and of love and service to their neighbor than your average Christian does.

      Will God reject these people who believe in God and live according to God’s commandments as their religion teaches them to do?

      In a word: No.

      Both Paul (in Romans 2:1–16) and Jesus Christ himself (in Matthew 25:31–46) teach us that people of all nations, including Jews, “Greeks” (pagan polytheists) and Gentiles in general, will be given eternal life if they do good deeds according to their conscience and live a good life of love and service to their fellow human beings in need.

      And about Jesus’ words on the narrow way, consider that in his day spiritual truth was almost gone from human life. Few people could find that way because their teachers were not teaching them about it. Now that Jesus has taught us about that narrow way, more people are able to find it because the truth has been released into the world once again. And I believe the truth that Jesus taught has had a powerful effect upon the entire world, not just upon Christians.

      As for exactly how many people go to heaven, we don’t know that for sure. But I believe that God is far more powerful than we give him credit for, and that his power in this world increased exponentially when he came to earth as Jesus Christ. So I believe that since that time, God is able to bring many more people into heaven from all around the world than was possible at the low ebb of humanity 2,000 years ago, when things had become so bad here spiritually that God had to come personally to show us the way out of hell and into heaven.

  5. Ron says:

    You asked for verses that declare faith plus nothing?

    Acts 15:8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

    Acts 26:17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

    Romans 3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

    Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

    Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

    Hebrews 11

    Lee, let me encourage you to take time to study what the scriptures actually say. Faith alone is embedded in the scriptures everywhere. This is only a very small sampling of what is available.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ron,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and the Bible verses you have quoted.

      First, let me point out the obvious: None of these passages actually says what you say they do.

      You said, “You asked for verses that declare faith plus nothing?” But none of the verses you quote actually says “faith plus nothing,” or anything of the sort.

      You said, “Faith alone is embedded in the scriptures everywhere.” But none of the verses you quote actually says “faith alone.” There is one, and only one, verse in the entire Bible that says “faith alone.” Here it is:

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

      Yes, that is correct. In the one and only verse in the entire Bible that speaks of faith alone, it is specifically rejected as justifying, or saving a person.

      So right off the bat, you are simply mistaken. Not a single verse in the Bible says that we are saved or justified by “faith plus nothing.” Not a single verse in the Bible says that we are saved or justified by “faith alone.” The phrase “faith plus nothing” appears nowhere in the Bible. It is a Protestant invention. And the phrase “faith alone” appears once in the Bible, and is specifically rejected in that one place.

      So you are very badly mistaken, because you are substituting Protestant slogans for the words and teachings of the Bible.

      But let’s look more carefully at the verses that you quote.

      It is highly ironic that you start your list of verses with a quote from Acts 15.

      Why?

      Because Acts 15 is the key chapter in the entire New Testament that shows how utterly mistaken and wrong Protestants are in their reading of Paul.

      Acts 15 recounts “The Council at Jerusalem” in which the key debate that Paul, Peter, and other apostles who were evangelizing in Gentile lands were having with the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. The issue was whether Gentile converts to the way of Jesus Christ were required to be circumcised and follow the ritual and sacrificial Law of Moses that Jews were required to observe. In other words, the issue was whether Gentile converts to Christianity were required to become observant Jews.

      As reported in Acts 15:5 speaking of Gentile converts:

      But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”

      Then Peter, Barnabas, and Paul stood up and gave their testimonies about the conversion of Gentiles to Christianity (though the word “Christian” was not yet in common use.)

      After hearing this testimony, James, a leader of the Christians in Jerusalem, gave his judgment that Gentiles are not to be required to keep the Law of Moses that is binding upon Jews, though they were still to be forbidden from eating food offered to idols, from engaging in sexual immorality, and from eating the meat of strangled animals as well as eating blood.

      By this decision, which was then written in a letter and circulated to the believers in Gentile areas, it was established that for those who are believers, meaning those who have faith in Jesus Christ, it is not necessary to be circumcised and be an observant Jew.

      This is what Paul is talking about throughout his letters when he says that we are saved by faith without the works of the Law, or, in short form, without “works.” He does not mean we are saved by faith without good works. He means we are saved by faith without being circumcised and being observant Jews. The sacrificial and ritual requirements of the Law of Moses that are binding upon Jews are not binding upon Christians, because Jesus Christ has fulfilled that law.

      Protestants are very wrong when they read Paul as saying that we are saved by faith without good works. That is not what Paul is saying at all, as you will discover for yourself if you read Romans 2:1–16, where Paul says that we will be judged according to our deeds, and that Jews, “Greeks” (pagan polytheists) and Gentiles in general will be saved by Jesus Christ if they live good lives of good deeds for their fellow human beings according to their conscience, which is God’s law written on their heart.

      Acts 15, then, shows just how wrong Protestants are in thinking that Paul preached “faith alone” or “faith plus nothing.” That is a complete misreading and misunderstanding of Paul’s message.

      Next, you turn to Acts 26:17–18, in which Paul says, as part of his testimony to King Agrippa:

      I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

      First, once again, Paul does not say “by faith alone” or “by faith plus nothing.” He says “by faith in me” (meaning in Jesus Christ). And all you have to do to be assured that Paul absolutely does not mean “faith alone” or “faith plus nothing” is to keep reading his testimony to King Agrippa in the next few verses:

      After that, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout the countryside of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and do deeds consistent with repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. (Acts 26:19–21, italics added)

      If Paul had meant “faith alone” or “faith plus nothing,” then why did he preach to the Gentiles that they should repent and do deeds consistent with repentance?

      Paul did not preach “faith alone” or “faith plus nothing.” He preached faith together with repentance, turning to God, and doing good deeds.

      So Paul’s testimony in Acts 26, too, shows that you and your fellow Protestants are very wrong in saying and teaching that Paul preached “faith alone” and “faith plus nothing.”

      If Paul had wanted to preach “faith alone” or “faith plus nothing,” he had the words to do so. But he never did. He preached faith without the works of the Law, meaning without the need to be circumcised and be an observant Jew. And he preached faith together with repentance, turning to God, and doing good deeds consistent with repentance.

      That is the plain teaching of the Bible.

      You next turn to Romans 3:22–28, claiming that Paul here teaches faith alone.

      But he teaches no such thing. He teaches faith without needing to be an observant Jew.

      How do we know that?

      First, he had just finished saying in the previous chapter that God will judge everyone according to their deeds. And he had just finished saying that Jesus Christ will save or condemn all people, Jews, Greeks, and Gentiles alike, according to whether or not they live in accordance with their conscience. So Paul couldn’t possibly turn around in the next chapter and contradict everything he has just told us in the previous chapter.

      We also know this, once again, simply by reading the next few verses after the part you have quoted:

      Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:29–31, italics added)

      This makes it plain as day that when Paul speaks of being saved by faith without the works of the Law, he means that we are saved by faith in Jesus without having to be circumcised, and be observant Jews. God, Paul says, will justify both circumcised, observant Jews and uncircumcised Gentiles who do not do “the works of the Law” of Moses, by the same faith in Jesus Christ.

      But nowhere does Paul say that this faith in Jesus Christ is “alone” or is “plus nothing.” In fact, if you continue reading the rest of Romans, you will see that most of it is all about how Christians must live. It is therefore ridiculous to claim that Paul preached “faith alone” or “faith plus nothing.” Like James, Peter, Barnabas, and Jesus Christ himself, Paul preached faith together with repentance from sin and doing good deeds of love for our fellow human beings.

      That is the plain teaching of the Bible.

      In Ephesians 2, Paul is preaching and teaching the very same message: that faith together with good works is what saves us, but that we are not required to do the “works” of the Jewish ritual law. But I have written an entire article on this, which I will refer you to instead of repeating myself here:
      Doesn’t Ephesians 2:8-9 Teach Faith Alone?

      Paul’s message is the same in Phillipians, where he also spends considerable time telling his readers and listeners to live good and loving lives of repentance from sin and good deeds for the neighbor, just as Jesus taught.

      And Hebrews 11 is all about how people in the Old Testament through faith—or as it really should be translated, faithfulness—obeyed God and lived righteous lives. Not a single person in Hebrews 11 was engaged in faith alone, or faith plus nothing. The whole chapter is about faith in action. It is about “living by faith” (Hebrews 11:13).

      In short, Ron, every single one of the passages you quote not only does not say anything about “faith alone” or “faith plus nothing,” but actually teaches the very opposite of faith alone or faith plus nothing.

      Every single passage you have quoted is about not needing to be circumcised and be observant Jews, but about instead practicing a faithfulness to Jesus Christ by living according to Jesus Christ’s teachings and commandments.

      The first of those teachings, which John the Baptist, Jesus, and Jesus’ Apostles all preached to the people, was repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And then all of them, including Paul, preached that instead of our former sinful life we must live a good life of love and kindness to our fellow human beings, and that if we do not, we cannot be saved.

      Paul and everyone else in the Bible preached the exact opposite of “faith alone” and “faith plus nothing.” Every single one of them preached faith together with repentance and doing good works of love and kindness for the neighbor.

      This is the plain teaching of the entire Bible.

      I would ask and urge you then, Ron, to pay attention not only to what Paul teaches us in Romans 2:1–16, but to what Jesus Christ teaches us about who will go to eternal life and who will go to eternal punishment:

      “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

      “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

      “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

      “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

      “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

      “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

      “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

      “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31–46)

      This is the plain teaching of Jesus Christ himself.

  6. Dave Dion says:

    Hello Lee. So, in the spirit of simplicity; Can you tell me, specifically, where I can find a chart, listing, examples, directions, etc of exactly how and when I have done enough through my good deeds here on earth, in quantity or quality, to achieve the requirement of perfection, which is the requirement to enter Heaven? I can answer that for anyone: No, there is no possible way to know when I have done “enough”. The EXACT reason why Jesus did it ALL.
    Perfection is required to enter Heaven but no human is perfect and no human has the ability to achieve that perfection regardless of how “good” he tries to be, as “good” is not “perfect”.
    Upon human death of a born again Christian, God sees only the persons perfection because he is clothed in Christs perfection, not his own lack thereof.

    The above is only my human way of explaining what the Bible say over and over again.
    Should you think that you are participating in ANY way in the earning of your own Salvation, it’s simple: You must first believe that the shed blood at Calvary must have fallen short in some way, and you are here to save the day and finish the job. I notice that in much of your responses to those who write in, you are using your own personal logic system to make sense of this topic, a method that will produce the result of nothing more than what is logical to YOU. May God Bless you.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Dave,

      In fact, you are the one using the faulty human logic system of a false Protestant doctrine to support teachings that the Bible never states. It is a method that is bound to produce one falsity piled on top of another.

      • Nowhere does the Bible talk about needing to do a certain quantity or quality of good works to enter heaven, nor does it ever refute such an idea, because that whole line of thinking is utterly irrelevant.
      • Nowhere does the Bible say that perfection is a requirement to enter heaven.
      • Nowhere does the Bible say that upon the death of a born-again Christian, God sees only the person’s perfection because he is clothed in Christ’s perfection. God sees everything, including a person’s actual quality and character.
      • Nowhere does the Bible say that we do not participate in any way in our salvation.

      All of these ideas are pure human inventions, stated nowhere in the Bible. I invite you to search the Scriptures and see if you can find these things stated there. And if you do not find them there, then I challenge you to reject these teachings because they are not the teachings of God in the Bible.

      You have been greatly misled by your Protestant teachers, who are the blind leading the blind because they have ignored the Bible’s plain teachings and substituted the inventions of human theologians such as Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, and John Calvin.

      About good works, the Bible commands us to repent from our sins and do good works instead. John the Baptist, Jesus, and Jesus’ disciples all preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And the Bible everywhere says that if we wish to be saved, we must obey God’s commandments. Jesus tells us very plainly in Matthew 25:31–46 that those who do good works for their fellow human beings in need will go to eternal life, while those who do not will go to eternal punishment. Paul tells us in Romans 2:1–16 that God will repay each person according to that person’s deeds. James tells us plainly:

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

      Doing a certain quantity or quality of good works is irrelevant. Nowhere does the Bible specify exactly how many or how good the deeds must be. It simply tells us that we must cease doing evil works and do good works because that is what God commands us to do, because it is the right thing to do, and because that is how we love the Lord and the neighbor. The idea that God would require a certain quantity or quality of good deeds to get to heaven is a pure human invention that has no support whatsoever in the Bible.

      And the idea that perfection is required to enter heaven is directly refuted in the Bible:

      What are mortals, that they can be clean?
      Or those born of woman, that they can be righteous?
      God puts no trust even in his holy ones,
      and the heavens are not clean in his sight.
      (Job 14:14–15, italics added)

      How could perfection be a requirement to enter heaven if heaven itself is not clean in God’s sight?

      The whole idea that God requires perfection for entry into heaven is completely unscriptural, and flatly contradicts the plain words of Scripture. There is not a single passage anywhere in the Bible that says that God requires humans to be perfect before they can enter heaven. So your Protestant teachers are also very wrong about this, and have misled you badly.

      I could keep going, but unless you can show me passages from the Bible that actually state any of these things you have claimed, it is not even worth my while to refute them. They are contrary to everything taught in the Bible. They are pure human inventions, which Protestant theologians have substituted for the commandments of God. They are therefore not worthy of trust or belief.

      Once again, I would urge you to open your eyes, search the Scriptures, and notice that none of these things are taught in the Bible. You have been badly misled by your teachers.

      • Dave says:

        1. The book of James was written to believers only.

        2. The Bible contains hundreds upon hundreds of references to support my submission and i’ll bet that you are well aware of that.

        3. Heaven is free from all Sin.

        4. To this day I have found nowhere in my Bible that states that the Blood Substitute had fallen short and I must fill in because Christ fell short in his death and resurrection.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Dave,

          I notice that you didn’t quote any Bible verses. Why not? If there are hundreds upon hundreds of them, surely you can quote at least, say, half a dozen for me?

          For two decades now I’ve been asking Protestants to quote me the Bible passages that say these things. So far none has been able to do so. Can you?

          Further, nowhere does the Bible say that the book of James was written to believers only, any more than it says that Paul’s letters were written to believers only, or that the Gospels themselves were written to believers only. This is just a Protestant attempt to avoid the plain fact that “faith alone” is mentioned only once in the entire Bible (in James 2:24), and in that one passage it is specifically rejected as justifying a person.

          Your Protestant teachers have misled you about justification by faith alone. They have ignored the plain teaching of the Bible on this subject. They have substituted human traditions and doctrines for the commandments of God.

          And where does the Bible say that heaven is free from all sin? I just quoted you a passage (Job 15:15) saying that heaven is not clean in God’s sight. Does the Bible somewhere contradict this?

          And where does the Bible speak of a “blood substitute”?

          You claim that these things are in the Bible, but you have so far not shown me a single verse or passage where the Bible states any of them.

        • Dave says:

          You have still not told us specifically what exact standards we must meet and how to meet those standards.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Dave,

          According to the Bible, we must repent from our sins, and love the Lord and the neighbor by doing good deeds of love and service to the neighbor.

          I have already referred you to Matthew 25:31–46 and Romans 2:1–16. These say that those who do good deeds for the neighbor are doing them for the Lord, and will receive eternal life, and that those who do not will receive eternal punishment; and that God will repay us according to what we have done.

          John the Baptist, Jesus, and Jesus’ disciples all preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins. See, for example, Mark 1:4; Luke 17:1–4; 24:44–48; Acts 2:38; 5:29–32.

          The idea that there are exact standards we must meet is a human idea. It is not a biblical idea.

          The Bible tells us simply to repent from our sins and do good works of love and kindness for our neighbor. To those who do this, God will give eternal life; those who do not God will send to eternal punishment.

          This is the plain teaching of the Bible.

          Why are you stuck on exact standards when the Bible doesn’t talk about exact standards?

          And why have you still not quoted a single passage or verse from the Bible that says any of the things you are claiming the Bible teaches? Is it because you cannot do so? (I know that the answer to that second question is “yes.”)

  7. Bill says:

    Yes. I am in the middle of major change on this.. I was Catholic for many years but simply because my parents were. Nothing less and nothing more. I went to church out of obligation and all that but barely took in the Bible. I got sick and met an evangelical woman in the hospital. We became friends and she took me to my first church like that. I was blown away with the singing and the lack of uptight attitude and the actual teachings of the Bible the Catholic church seemed to purposely lack. I liked it and became “evangelical.”

    Fast forward years later. I left the Non Denominational Evangelical Church I went to after years. Why? I got bored and I found the pastor a bit controlling. There basically could be no debating about things like alcohol or very little about it. Certainly no debates about faith alone. I got bored of the routine and left but kept watching various churches on streaming video and reading any Christian material I could. Also in the back of my mind I found some major contradictions from Paul and JESUS and how the church would simply ignore it. The church would quote Paul right away on something they liked but said zippo about women wearing head coverings and basically being like a church mouse while there. I got the book ” JESUS Words Only” by Doug Del Tondo. A big read but it read like a breeze because it explained things so well. I told a now former good friend from that church about it but his reaction was basically one of not wanting to know it. Our friendship has died out. Evangelical types love to think they know it all and are fast to do away with you if you disagree on something. Rather sad and arrogant but I was like that too so I can relate.

    The way they explain things away is rather bizarre. A social media friend of mine said something long winded like not wanting to deal with the contradictions on some things with Paul and JESUS. He said the Bible does not seem contradictory at times? Seriously? These kinds of Christians hate to admit it but they put Paul on the same level as JESUS…. sometimes more. Perhaps as Mr. Del Tondo says, it simply has to do with where Paul is placed in Bible- right after the Gospels. So kind of like a book you remember the ending parts more. Also let us face it. It is far easier to accept just faith alone instead of having to do things. I find it so frustrating to read JESUS saying to do something and so many Christians just kind of blow it off. Yes, many do good things as a result of following CHRIST but they ignore the actual commands as being from another time. I never got a good vibe off that concept of “well JESUS said to do this, yes, but that was from another time and now we follow more what Paul said.” As you mention various parables CHRIST said and things like following the commandments and doing the will of the Father. I mean how can they say that is not works based?? LOL

    Also Paul at times comes totally in line with works but then floats away from it again. At times seeming totally in line with JESUS but then pulling away at other times. You tell these Evangelicals that and it is like you cursed out their mothers. lol.. I mean it says it right there in the Bible!!

    Sometimes I find the whole thing utterly exhausting but if CHRIST in the head coach shall we say. then why are people kind of blowing HIS words off? I have been hurt big time by Christians who are know it alls and then if you question or are not on auto pilot with religion all the time they dump you. Questioning Paul is considered a major no no. As I said a once very good friend of mine dumped me because of it..

    I am wondering what kind of churches are most similar to go to that focus mostly on CHRIST? Thanks!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for telling your story.

      It’s going to be tough to find an evangelical-style church that doesn’t focus more on Paul than on Jesus for their beliefs. They give lip service to Jesus, but as you say, in practice they give far more weight to Paul’s words than to Jesus’ words. I’ve encountered the same strange brushing off of Jesus’ teachings in my conversations with evangelicals. I’ll quote Jesus’ words to them, and it’s as if I’ve said nothing at all. It’s odd that they call themselves Christians, but then ignore Christ’s teachings. Some of them explicitly believe and say that Jesus’ teachings were for the Old Covenant, whereas Paul’s teachings are for the New Covenant. Others don’t come right out and say this, but their heavy focus on Paul and their general ignoring of Jesus tell the whole story about whom they consider to be the greater teacher.

      And the irony is that Paul doesn’t actually teach the things they believe. Paul never says that faith alone justifies or saves a person. Paul never says that only Christians are saved. Paul never says that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. None of the key teachings of Protestant evangelicalism are actually found in Paul—or anywhere else in the Bible, for that matter. That’s what I find so ironic about their Bible-thumping. The Bible they are loudly thumping doesn’t actually teach the things they believe. Not Paul, not Jesus, not anyone else in the Bible.

      I’ve been challenging Protestants for years to point to even one verse in the Bible that teaches any of these things. So far not a single one has been able to do so. Oh, they quote lots of verses from the Bible—mostly from Paul. But none of those verses actually say what these Protestants claim they say. I read the verses and say to them, “It doesn’t actually say that.” “But that’s what it means,” they reply. And yet, the Bible doesn’t actually say the things they claim it does. And I don’t think God is so incompetent as not to be able to tell us in plain words in God’s own book what we are supposed to believe and how we are supposed to live in order to be saved and go to heaven.

      For more on all of this, see “‘Christian Beliefs’ that the Bible Doesn’t Teach,” and the articles linked from it.

      As for finding a church that focuses mostly on Christ, I wish I could list some for you. But realistically, you’ll just have to try out the various churches in your area and see if any of them work for you. Meanwhile, I invite you to read some of the related articles on this blog. And of course, you’re very welcome to ask any questions you may have along the way.

      • Bill says:

        Thank you for answering.. It is a great thing you do that. I have been on Christian sites where the person you are writing to does not answer.. LOL. Talk about utterly defeating. The more folks engage the more interested in CHRIST they become. For me it does not have to be an Evangelical style church any longer. It had its purpose for a while and I met some good people while others throw you overboard if you dare to question too much. But yes, if you want to get some of these folks mad just question some things Paul said. I did not come to this reality easily.. I kind of always knew it but simply my continued love for reading all things Christian including Church history led me to it. One Evangelical guy said I am tinkering with hell because I mention works.. I am simply mentioning what CHRIST said!! I mean yeah of course it is easier to just say faith alone.. Of course. But there just seems to be glaring contradictions with the various parables and the speaking of doing the commandments and all.. I mean a 7 year old could see it.
        I also think we could be radically better Christians with JESUS words because it pushes us that much more instead of being lazy.. It pushes me to give that extra money to a certain cause where before I might not do it. Because sometimes the way I read the Bible to put in football terms is the Head coach( CHRIST) gets a bit overridden by the Assistant(Paul) and it causes some bizarre twisting and turning to correct it.

        As you say there is no doubt faith in CHRIST is very important and nothing we can do can earn Heaven without HIM but if GOD is wanting us to do certain things it seems rather simple to do them. Really the whole issue goes to Evangelicals saying CHRIST did things from a different time and then Paul comes in and says just believe in JESUS or have faith in HIM.. We all do but at the same time this following other things like the Commandments is mentioned but that is where the divide comes from. But as you say Paul in many passages mentions works but then to me at least and many others kind of backs off it..That is often where the issues come in.. Obviously the thief on the Cross as well..But there are just so many other passages where CHRIST speaks of works. Perhaps the thief on the Cross was simply showing how sorry he was for the life he led and was showing true repentance right there but obviously he did not exactly have a lot of time in life to do good works on the cross yet he went to Eternal Life. Then of course we get James mentioning many times about works going with faith which seems kind of logical if say, some guy was freezing his butt and a person kind of just says, hey man, be faithful in GOD but now I am going to my warm place while you freeze.. LOL.. Very bizarre.. Thank you again for answering.. It means much!

        • Lee says:

          Hi Bill,

          You’re welcome. I enjoy responding to comments and questions here. Even for readers who disagree with me, as long as they’re reasonably polite and aren’t just here to tell me I’m going straight to hell in a handbasket, I’ll approve their comments and respond. Sometimes I even learn something new. 😀

          About Paul, yes, he heavily leaned toward faith. But I think he had a Hebrew conception of faith. For Paul, faith was not something you do in your head, but something you do with your life. It was faithfulness to Jesus that he was talking about, not “belief” in Jesus as is commonly preached today. On the biblical meaning of faith, see the follow-up article:
          Faith Alone Is Not Faith

          When Paul speaks of being saved by faith without the works of the Law, or the shorthand “not from works,” which is a reference to the works of the Law, he is not talking about doing good works, but about not being an observant Jew. He makes it very clear in Romans 2:1–16 that we will be judged for salvation or damnation by our works, and that this applies to everyone, not just to Christians.

          Paul simply didn’t teach faith without good works. He taught faithfulness to Jesus without the need to be circumcised and be an observant Jew, following the ritual and ceremonial laws of Moses.

          Properly understood, Paul does not contradict James, nor does he contradict Jesus. It’s just that in Protestantism especially, and in Catholicism to a lesser extent, Paul is simply not understood properly. They attribute things to him that he never said, and didn’t mean. He was talking about something completely different. He was arguing that it was not necessary to be an observant Jew to be saved.

        • Lee says:

          And yes, believing in what Jesus (and James, and Paul) actually taught does lead us to a much more Christian life than believing in the false, non-biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. You might also be interested in the series that starts with this article:
          The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 1: God is a Trinity of Persons?

  8. Eliane says:

    I am not really willing to argue much about the things you wrote on this article, because in the end of the day, only the Holy Spirit can convict one of the truth of God revealed through Jesus Christ.

    If one believes that Jesus is God and that the Holy Spirit is the One that is in action on earth when Jesus went to the Father, one truly understands that one is justified by faith alone in the finished work of Christ. There is nothing one can add to the finished work on the cross to be saved. James always dealt with Jews, not Gentiles. The Jews that James were referring to were believers in Christ! James was challenging the Jewish believers. Those believers trusted in Christ, therefore they were saved. What James was saying was (my simple words): “Now that you have received salvation which is by grace, not works, what are you going to do with it?” If a person is in need, can my faith save that person? In other words, if I only have faith but do not do anything to help the one who is in need, how can my faith save that person? I have faith and I am saved already. I have to do something physically, psychologically, emotionally, etc in order to help the needy one in whatever he/she might need at a specific circumstance.

    You are justified by faith, therefore you are saved. Justification is NOT a process. It is done ONCE you put your trust in Christ. Same with Salvation – you are saved because you are justified. Sanctification is a process, not Salvation.

    James was not referring to the one who has got faith, but to the person in need!
    “Faith without works is dead”. In Greek, the word “dead” James was referring to is “useless”. He was not talking about eternal death!

    There will be a judgment day, when all of us are going to give account of what we did with the salvation He gave us by grace. However, the sentence of eternal life or eternal death is going to be given in the basis of trusting in His Only Son Jesus Christ. And, whatever we built on this foundation it is related to the rewards, “for those who do not believe in Jesus is already condemned”.

    If you really believe you are saved by works and Christ’s blood isn’t enough to save you. There are two questions for you:

    1) What works?
    2) How much work you think you need to accomplish to be saved?

    Do you understand my point?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Eliane,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for you comment. Though I agree with a few of the things you say, about most of it I have two problems:

      1. It is based primarily on human teachings that aren’t in the Bible.
      2. It flatly contradicts what the Bible does teach.

      The Holy Spirit does not contradict the Bible, even if Martin Luther felt free to do so when he invented the doctrine of justification by faith alone. “Faith alone” occurs only once in the Bible, and in that one place it is specifically rejected:

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

      That’s why Martin Luther tried (unsuccessfully) to remove James and three other books from the Bible. They didn’t support his newly invented doctrine of justification by faith alone. But it’s not the Bible’s job to support our human doctrines. It’s our job to make sure that we believe in and live by what the Bible says.

      And if anyone claims that the Holy Spirit has told them something that the Bible rejects as false, that person does not have the Holy Spirit, but a deceiving spirit within them.

      James was not speaking to Jews. He was speaking to his “brothers,” who were Christians, even if they were converted Jews. And the Christian message is the same whether it is addressed to Jews, Greeks, or Gentiles. See Romans 2:1–16. Protestants have a fine way of rejecting the Bible by explaining away anything that doesn’t square with their teachings by saying that it was “for the Jews.” What blasphemous nonsense!

      The Bible does not say that there is nothing left for us to do because of the “finished work of Christ on the Cross” (a human phrase that the Bible never uses). Nor does it say that salvation is an instantaneous process. What you’re thinking of is the moment of conversion. But that is only the beginning of the process of salvation. The Bible says to:

      Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)

      That would make no sense whatsoever if Jesus did it all for us on the Cross, and there’s nothing left for us to do except believe in him.

      I could continue on your other points, but I’ve already covered most of them in many articles here. In addition to the above article, which shows very clearly where the false doctrine of justification by faith alone came from, please see:

      About your final two questions:

      What works?

      The good deeds of love, kindness, and service that you do for your fellow human beings (“the neighbor,” in biblical terms) because the Lord commands you to do them, instead of the former sinful and selfish works that you used to do.

      How much work you think you need to accomplish to be saved?

      As much as the Lord puts in front of you to do each day. It’s not a matter of doing some magic quantity of good works to outweigh your evil works. It’s a matter of repenting from your sins each day, and doing the good works of love and service for your neighbor that the Lord gives you to do each day. Those who do this will be saved. Those who do not will be condemned. The Lord Jesus Christ himself teaches this in Matthew 25:31–46, which I commend to your reading.

      Your teachers and preachers have misled you by teaching you things that not only are never said in the Bible, but that flatly contradict and reject the plain teachings of the Bible. I hope you will throw away their false teachings and read the Bible’s own plain words, especially those of Jesus Christ our Lord, who has the words of eternal life.

  9. Usemeso says:

    Hi, I thank you for writing such an important article. I am not sure why this morning, it just wouldn’t leave me and
    I kept on thinking something about this. It was probably about an article I read somewhere. Anyway, I am in a better
    position to “keep on thinking” now knowing about the new knowledge I got from your piece. Yet, there is something
    that I want to say, probably just because I just can’t shake it off, “Faith by the grace of the Holy Spirit, is given to you or is gifted to you, and is a seed planted in you, and that faith produces fruits, which is good works, works approved by the Holy Spirit and as long as you pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you, you will keep on doing works which are good according to God’s “standard”, so “works” is the fruit of true,genuine,working faith from the Holy Spirit.” I can’t say anything else other than this as I do not yet fully understand. Thank you and God bless you.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Usemeso,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. I’m glad this article gave you some new food for thought!

      Though it is a common saying that good works are the fruits of faith, I have not been able to find any place in the Bible that actually says this. What it does say is:

      Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4–5)

      In other words, our good works are the fruits, not of faith, but of Jesus Christ living within us. Our faith guides us to Jesus and keeps our mind focused on Jesus Jesus and growing in spiritual knowledge and understanding, meaning that our faith also guides us to express our good works in ways that show true, constructive love and service to our fellow human beings.

      The good works themselves, though, are the fruits of the love of the Lord God Jesus Christ flowing into our heart and out through our hands.

      Thanks again for stopping by. Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

  10. John Hohl says:

    I have come around to a faith and obedience belief after years within the faith alone community. My conversion came about through intense Bible study associated with the writing of a book focused on prophecy. (I assume BJ is part of the same serial discussion group bloggers that could no longer answer my questions and after numerous personal attacks had me kicked out of a “PROPHECY” discussion group because I did not believe in faith alone – but that is another issue and I understand that you may remove this at your discretion). The unintended result of the book was me rejecting their/my false beliefs. You said in one the original posts that only a few churches believe and teach it, but I think the number is higher. Anyway, after being married several years and not going to church, I brought my wife out of the Catholic church. She grew up in it and having a baby put increased internal pressure to return to that environment. I went along with her at first, but could not stand attending the services (I was born into a Catholic family, then as a young child my mother was ‘born again’ and we were primarily Methodist/Presbyterian until I stopped attending church in my late teens). After attending a large “modern” church, I dragged my wife there the following week. The music captured her and she shocked me when she agreed to return again. I think the pastor I spoke with called themselves 7th wave or something like that? Anyway, lots of great amenities and my wife was no longer Catholic – so, happy days, right!? After a few years I became suddenly infatuated with prophecy. A few years of continuous study of everything I could get my hands on led to the eventual question to the church – “Why don’t they ever talk much about prophecy?” The greatest shock to me was when a senior pastor told me that 99% of the leadership holds to Amillennialism. After posting my own version of “99 theses” in their suggestion box, we left and ended up in a small country church with only about a dozen people. Personal relationships grew and strong bonds between the pastor’s wife and our kids would make leaving it extremely difficult. On top of that, we also dragged my wife’s cousin and her three kids in with us. Yes, they preach faith alone. You see my conundrum I’m sure. I brought all of them into this church and they have formed strong bonds, but now I am an outcast, the untouchable, the person that causes the pastor and elder to cringe and shutter whenever I approach them or begin to open my mouth. The book was published in late 2014, and only the pastor was given a copy. Of course, he never approved it, but has spent many a sermon since then regurgitating the numerous false teachings you are combating here as well as the false prophecy outlines taught in pre-mil churches everywhere. Almost four years, and I must keep my mouth shut on Sundays. Even my wife has yet to read my book. I can’t leave… where would I go? Everywhere I go, the theology or church doctrine seems to overrule any question or discussion about the Bible and interpreting it.

    Finding a few places like this on the web has encouraged me. Thanks

    • Lee says:

      Hi John,

      Thanks for stopping by and telling your story. I’m glad the articles here on faith alone have given you some help and encouragement.

      My statement at the beginning of this article that only about one-fifth of Christians belong to churches that teach faith alone is a rough estimate based on the number of Christians who are not Catholic, Orthodox, Methodist, or Anglican/Episcopalian. Those last two, though commonly associated with Protestantism, have distinct origins, and either don’t teach faith alone at all or put very little emphasis on it. However, the one-fifth of Christianity within Protestantism that does put faith alone front and center is very vocal, and has many, many churches split among many sects. So it looks bigger than it actually is.

      Further, even though their doctrine is flatly rejected in the Bible, the churches that teach faith alone are most likely to present themselves as “Bible-based” churches. This gives many people the mistaken impression that their teachings are real biblical and Christian teachings in comparison to the teachings of other, less Bible-thumping churches.

      Meanwhile, the clergy and doctrinally-oriented laypeople within those Protestant churches have the idea that faith alone is the core teaching of the Bible so firmly welded into their brain that they cannot even read and understand the plain words of the Bible. No matter what they read in the Bible, all they see is “faith alone.” Attempting to discuss with them what the Bible actually says is an exercise in futility. No amount of quoting plain statements in the Bible that reject their doctrine will put a dent in their Luther-derived belief. So it is probably just as well for you to “keep your mouth shut,” as you say, in your relations with the leaders of the church you attend.

      It is unfortunate that due to ties of friendship and family, you’re now stuck in that church. On the bright side, even faith-alone churches generally do teach their people to obey the Ten Commandments and so on. So it’s not a total loss.

      About prophecy, I should mention that I am also “amillenial” in that I don’t believe that the prophecies in the Gospels and the Book of Revelation will be fulfilled literally. Biblical literalism is, I believe, a result of physical-minded and materialistic thinking, leading to an inability to understand the spiritual message of the Bible. It is getting stuck on the letter that kills while missing the spirit that gives life. This article summarizes my views on the second coming:
      Is the World Coming to an End? What about the Second Coming?

      Even if you can’t accept my views on the end times, I’m glad the articles here on the non-biblical doctrine of faith alone have been helpful to you.

  11. Rami says:

    Hi Lee,

    It seems no matter how many times I read and go over this idea and the content on it as presented on your blog, I still can’t quite seem to get a grip on how Swedenborg’s idea of salvation is, philosophically, different from the notion of ‘faith alone,’ which necessitates that I remain open to the possibility that, ultimately, it’s not. So I want to try and tread this ground once more in careful but simple language so as to ensure I’m communicating my line of thinking properly.

    In everyday terms, you have a seed, and you have the fruits of that seed. This analogy works for virtually every decision we make. Everything comes from somewhere; everything is grounded in something. In spiritual terms, faith would be the seed, and works would be the fruit. Works *attest* to the types of seeds from where they come. Works have a certain DNA to them, and we can trace them back to their seeds. Again, in more spiritual terms, works attest to the presence (or absence) of faith. If I understand Swedenborg correctly, he might use the term ‘dominant love’ in place of faith, but the dynamic is the same. People who perform loving acts of charity bear the nourishing fruit of good seeds, and people who perform self-centered acts of hatefulness bear the rotted fruit of evil seeds. And if we’re (self)-judged by our seeds and not the fruits (if that’s correct?), then you’ve got a doctrine of salvation by faith alone, and the ‘alone’ part would seem to correctly affirm that, at the end of the day, there’s nothing but the seed (faith) from which your works flow. It’s where everything comes from, it’s what everything comes back to- the kernel that guides everything you do, and that kernel sits alone.

    That’s why I suggested a couple of years back that, upon reflecting on the difference between Swedenborg and Luther, Swedenborg is really just positing the same mechanisms of Sola Fide, only he’s using a different, and much more inclusive set of terms, a set of terms that opens the path of salvation for non-Christians and even atheists.

    Now I think it’s important to properly represent the viewpoint of adherents to Sola Fide. I don’t think there’s a (respected) theologian alive who uses the term to mean mere intellectual ascent, as in simply believing that certain things are true. It seems clear to me that they’re referring to a *living* faith, and I’m sure Swedenborg would agree.

    In any case, if it’s correct to say- from the Christian to the atheist- that all of our works flow from faith, then not only would Sola Fide seem to be correct, but it would seem to be an inescapable spiritual reality: the human heart simply does not function in any other way; our spiritual lives cannot be lived out in any other way.

    So that’s where I’m hung up on whether it’s possible to examine the relationship between what we do and what we most deeply believe and not arrive at Sola Fide, because it seems like you get the same thing even in secular psychological terms when looking at belief and action. Now, at one point in our discussion you introduced the idea of Grace, which I remember being the element of the equation that ultimately undermined for you the argument that Luther and Swedenborg are essentially describing the same spiritual reality in different ways. I’m sorry to ask you to do this again, but can you flesh that out for me here? I’ll see if I can find the blog post again. Looking forward to your answer.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rami,

      Let’s start with the analogy of the seed and the fruit.

      Biblically, the strongest meaning of seed is not faith, but the word of God, as taught by Jesus in his explanation of the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:11). Yes, Jesus does speak of faith the size of a mustard seed, but he does not say that the mustard seed is faith, as he says the seed is the word of God in the Parable of the Sower. Rather, he uses the tiny size of the mustard seed as an analogy for a tiny amount of faith. Still, for the sake of the analogy, we’ll think of the seed as faith, and the fruit as good works. After all, in reality faith is truth, and the word of God is truth, so although faith is a weaker word than truth, we can make the substitution without violating the letter and the spirit of the Word of God.

      And the first thing to understand is that the seed comes from the fruit just as much as the fruit comes from the seed. This is a classic chicken-and-egg issue. It is true that the plant grows from the seed, and the fruit grows from the plant. But the seed is formed within the fruit, and comes from the fruit. Without the fruit, there is no seed. So we could just as much say that faith comes from good works as we can say that good works come from faith. And in fact, only people who do good works have faith, because faith does come from good works just as much as good works come from faith. The two are part of a cycle of life in nature, and they are part of a cycle of rebirth and salvation in the human spirit. One simply cannot exist without the other. As I say in the follow-up article to this one, faith alone is not faith.

      Second, at no time is the seed ever alone. It is initiated and nourished by the plant, and forms as a fully viable seed within the womb of the fruit. When the fruit falls to the ground, both the fruit and the ground provide the seed with the moisture and nourishment it needs to germinate, sprout, and grow. And as soon as it starts growing, it is connected to the shoot of the new plant until it ceases to exist as a seed. In nature, there is no such thing as a seed that is “alone.” Or if there is, it is a dead seed. A bare seed sitting on a bare rock could in a sense be said to be “alone,” since it is without the other elements required for it to grow. And that seed will not grow, precisely because it is “alone.” If it remains alone, before long it will disintegrate and cease to be a seed. A seed alone is not a viable seed, but a dead seed, just as faith alone is not a viable faith, but a dead faith.

      Third, Jesus is very clear that we are judged by our fruits, not by our seeds:

      Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15–20)

      And:

      Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. (Matthew 12:33)

      And:

      No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43–45)

      And:

      I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:1–11)

      There are many more passages like these in the Gospels and elsewhere in the Bible.

      And as for salvation, both Jesus and Paul also say in explicit, not just metaphorical, language that we will be judged, not according to our faith, but according to what we do—which is the same as the above passages saying that a tree will live or die according to its fruit or lack thereof. I’ve quoted these passages so many times in the course of these discussions that I’ll simply provide you the references here: Matthew 25:31–46; Romans 2:1–16.

      In short, at every point the analogy of seeds and fruit negates and denies the doctrine of justification by faith alone, as well as the ideas that support and accompany it.

      I would also point out that though it’s a commonplace among Protestants, the Bible never says that good works are the fruits of faith. Search the Scriptures for yourself. You will not find it there. The entire doctrine of justification by faith alone is founded on ideas invented by human beings. There is not a single book, chapter, sentence, or word in the Word of God that supports it.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rami,

      You say:

      That’s why I suggested a couple of years back that, upon reflecting on the difference between Swedenborg and Luther, Swedenborg is really just positing the same mechanisms of Sola Fide, only he’s using a different, and much more inclusive set of terms, a set of terms that opens the path of salvation for non-Christians and even atheists.

      So let’s take up the mechanisms of Sola Fide.

      Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone does not exist in a vacuum. It is part of a larger theological system, and it has a specific function within that system.

      Though it is somewhat unclear whether penal substitution was a key part of Luther’s doctrine, it does appear that he was moving in that direction from the more general satisfaction theory that he inherited from his former life as a priest and monk in the Catholic Church. And post-Luther, the Protestant Church definitely adopted penal substitution as its primary, essential theory of atonement and salvation. And since faith alone is held to only within Protestantism, it will be easiest to take it up in its connection with penal substitution.

      Penal substitution posits that God the Father was angry and wrathful at the human race due to sin. However, humans, being fallen, have no ability to satisfy God’s wrath at human sin. Therefore humans were all condemned to eternal hell due to sin. In order to solve this untenable situation, God the Son came to earth and was crucified, thus taking the guilt and the punishment of human sin upon himself. All that is necessary for us to be saved, then, is for us to accept (“have faith”) that Jesus died instead of us, paying the penalty for our sin. When we have this faith, the merit of Christ is imputed to us, such that when God the Father looks at a human sinner, instead of seeing the blackness of sin and condemning it, God the Father sees the merit of Christ with which the sinner has been clothed through faith in Jesus.

      That is how faith alone saves people according to Protestant theology. Or to use your words, that is the mechanism of Sola Fide.

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is an utterly unbiblical and false doctrine. For a point-by-point demonstration of exactly why and how it is unbiblical and false, please see my eight-part article on “The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone” starting with:
      The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 1: God is a Trinity of Persons?

      This mechanism of faith alone is also diametrically opposed to everything Swedenborg teaches about God, faith, and salvation.

      Swedenborg teaches that God is pure love, and has nothing but love for the entire human race, including the worst sinners. The anger and wrath of God, Swedenborg says, are “appearances of truth,” and not the reality of how God feels toward us. For more on this, see:
      What is the Wrath of God? Why was the Old Testament God so Angry, yet Jesus was so Peaceful?
      So right off the bat, the whole reason we are in need of salvation, according to Sola Fide doctrine, is a falsehood. God is not wrathful with us due to sin. God continues to love us regardless.

      A corollary to this is that according to Swedenborg, God does not send anyone to hell. This, he says, is also an “appearance of truth,” and not the reality of the situation. The reality of the situation is that God is continually striving to pull everyone out of hell, and the only reason anyone at all is in hell is because the people there refuse to allow God to do so. See:
      Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?
      So the whole idea, held to under Sola Fide theology, that God sends people to hell because God is angry at them for their sins is completely and utterly wrong and false according to Swedenborg.

      This leads to the third point: Swedenborg completely rejects the entire satisfaction theory of atonement in all of its forms, both Catholic and Protestant as unbiblical and false. And in fact, the Bible never says that Christ made satisfaction for our sins, or any such language. But more than that, if God is not wrathful with us (in the Protestant version), and God’s justice doesn’t require that we all go to hell due to our sins (the Catholic version as developed by Aquinas), and if God’s honor is not wounded by human sin (the Anselmian version), then the entire theory of atonement on which faith alone depends is false. There is no requirement whatsoever for the mechanism of salvation that faith alone provides.

      Swedenborg also explicitly and emphatically rejects the idea that Christ’s merit is imputed to us through faith. This, he says, is entirely impossible, because as long as evil and sin are still the dominant part of our nature, the goodness and truth of Christ cannot enter into us. So the whole idea that God the Father will accept human sinners into heaven because they are clothed in the merit of Christ, thus blocking out their sinful nature, is completely false, according to Swedenborg.

      Swedenborg’s theory of atonement and salvation has an entirely different basis, and is at the polar opposite end of the spectrum from Sola Fide and penal substitution. I do plan to write an article at some point about the true meaning of salvation. Meanwhile, here is a short version:

      Christ saved us, not from God’s wrath, but from the power of “the Devil” (meaning hell) in our world and in our individual lives. Hell had become so strong in its influence that it was becoming impossible for even good-hearted people to resist it. And so, Christ fought and overcame the Devil and hell, rebalanced the scales of good and evil, and in this way restored our spiritual freedom. This means that anyone who wishes to choose good over evil is now able to do so, thanks to Christ’s power working in their lives. For more on this, start reading at the section titled “What is Redemption?” in the article:
      Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?

      And of course, in Swedenborg’s theology, Christ, the Son, is not a separate “person,” but is God himself coming to us as a human being. So one more aspect of Sola Fide theology that Swedenborg rejects is the entire concept of the Trinity of Persons on which Sola Fide theology rests.

      For our part, what is necessary for us to be saved is not merely to believe in Christ in the Protestant sense of believing that Christ died for us and paid the penalty for our sins, but to have true faith in Christ, which means living according to his commandments. And his first commandment to the people was to repent for the forgiveness of sins. He also taught that we must be reborn. Repentance is the beginning of that rebirth.

      True repentance is not just being sorry for our sins, but ceasing to commit them. If we are still sinning, we have not repented. So repentance means no longer lying, stealing, committing adultery, and so on—whatever our particular sins happen to be. And when we have repented from sin, we must begin living a new life according to the Lord’s teachings of faith and kindness. For more on the mechanism of salvation on our part in Swedenborg’s theology, please see:
      What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?

      I could go on. But the short version is that on every single point of Sola Fide theology, Swedenborg utterly rejects that theology, and teaches an entirely different, and polar opposite, theology.

      Really, there is no similarity whatsoever between the two. The only way anyone could possibly think they are similar is to have no real understanding of one or both of those theologies.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rami,

      You said:

      Now, at one point in our discussion you introduced the idea of Grace, which I remember being the element of the equation that ultimately undermined for you the argument that Luther and Swedenborg are essentially describing the same spiritual reality in different ways.

      I also take up the meaning and role of grace in this article:
      Doesn’t Ephesians 2:8-9 Teach Faith Alone?

  12. Lee, you missed a very key 2 verses

    Ephesians 2:8-9 King James Version (KJV)
    8
    For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
    9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

    Works are an outpouring of ones faith and faith is by Gods Grace as we are dead in our sins.

    Also, path to destruction is wide and most will go that way, narrow is path to salvation few will find it Matt. 7:13-14

    Ur % therefore reflect what God tells us

    • Lee says:

      Hi Jeffrey,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

      In fact, I quoted Ephesians 2:8–9 in the article, so I certainly didn’t miss those verses. And there is an entire article on this blog specifically about those verses, which I invite you to read:
      Doesn’t Ephesians 2:8-9 Teach Faith Alone?

      About the wide path to destruction and the narrow path to salvation, that was certainly the case when Jesus spoke those words. But the whole purpose of Jesus’ coming to us was to widen the path to salvation for all of humanity. And that is exactly what he did.

  13. CARRIE FUDGE says:

    This is sad to me. There are so many holes in your theory that even I, a new Christian, can clearly see. We do works out of our love for Christ because of what He did for us on the cross. What happens to the quadriplegic that couldn’t possibly do any good works because he has no arms or legs to do good works? if he is a Christian are you telling me he goes to hell just because he can’t do good works? Works come out of love and thankfulness which does nothing for our salvation. Please do yourself a favor and study your Bible better and I mean no offense when I say that, I just truly care for your salvation.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Carrie,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. I do appreciate your concern.

      But I also suggest that you read the Bible more carefully, without the “faith alone” blinders that your religious teachers have already put on you. Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, John, and every other teacher in the Bible all tell us very clearly that if we wish to be saved, we must repent from our sins and follow God’s commandments. “Faith alone” appears only once in the Bible (in James 2:24), and it is specifically rejected. It is a false doctrine, diametrically opposed to everything that the Bible teaches.

      Please read the whole Bible for yourself, and you will see that it is not just what we believe, but how we live that determines whether or not we are saved and where we will live to eternity. Start with Jesus’ own teaching in Matthew 25:31–46 about who will be saved and who will not. Then read Romans 2:1–16, where Paul tells us how non-Christians are saved through Jesus Christ if they do what is good and live according to their conscience. Then read the rest of the Bible. Don’t just read a few verses popular with Protestants that are quoted out of context and completely misunderstood. Don’t allow yourself to be misled by teachers who do not understand the Bible and who ignore the plain teachings of Jesus Christ about salvation and eternal life.

      I would also encourage you to broaden your horizons on all of the things handicapped people can do with their bodies and their minds. Especially in this technological age, many paraplegics and quadriplegics are living very good, useful, and satisfying lives. Here is just one of thousands of articles available online: “6 Surprising Things You Can Still Do After Paralysis.” God has some good for every one of us to do each day, even if it may only be giving a smile and a positive word to brighten someone else’s day.

      Though you are concerned about my salvation, I am not concerned about yours. Even though you have already been taught many unbiblical and false things about Christian faith and life, I believe you will live as Jesus Christ taught us to live, so that he can welcome you to his kingdom with open arms.

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

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