THE FAITH ONLY crowd will “prove” their belief by quoting Romans 4:5. “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” They may even go further and include Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Then, if you press them, they will quote Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Let me say here and now that I believe each of these passages, just not how THEY believe them. Their problem is that these passages are quoted out of context and interpreted without that context. They come to the conclusion that a person is justified (saved) by FAITH ALONE.
What do these passages mean?
When one studies the bible, one rule that is often overlooked but must always be applied is the rule of context. A passage needs to be interpreted in the light of its context. Another consideration is that the bible harmonizes with other similar texts.
When we teach about salvation from scripture, we need to deliver, “all the counsel of God.” [Acts 20:27]
In Romans chapter 4, Paul is making a case regarding salvation that includes gentiles (those folks who were not Jews). Abrahams justification is given PRIOR to his becoming circumcised which became part of the Law of Moses [Leviticus 12:3] . Paul asks then answers, “How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.” [Romans 4:10]
The faith only folks want you to believe that Abraham did NOTHING prior to his JUSTIFICATION. This simply is not true. When Paul said in Romans 4 that Abraham was justified, he is referring to Genesis 15:6. However, by that time, Abraham had already OBEYED God by leaving his homeland in Gen 11:31-12:3.
It is this OBEDIENT FAITH on the part of Abraham that the Hebrew writer acknowledges in the HALL OF FAITH in Hebrews 11:8. “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”
It is true that Abraham was justified without the deeds of the law, which according to the context refers to the Law of Moses. Nowhere does the Scripture teach that a person is justified (saved) without works.
What about Ephesians 2:8-9?
For this passage we need to apply the same rules, context & harmony. Let us read verse 10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Once again, the context teaches us something about works.
There are 2 kinds of works, works of man & works of God. Ephesian 2:10 teaches that there are works that God has prepared. Works that God commands. Please understand what I am saying, a person is never justified by works when he places his trust in JUST the works. We are justified when we put our trust in God WHILE DOING THE WORKS HE HAS COMMANDED.
This harmonizes with the rest of the scriptures. Look at James 2, another passage that quotes this same Justification of Abraham from Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” [James 2:20-24]
Let’s look again at that HALL OF FAITH in Hebrews 11…By faith…
- Abel OFFERED vs4
- Enoch WALKED vs5; Gen 5:24
- Noah PREPARED vs7
- Abraham OBEYED & SOJOURNED vs8-9
- Moses parents HID Moses vs23
- Moses REFUSED, CHOSE, FORSOOK vs24-27
- Israel PASSED through vs 29
- Rahab RECEIVED vs30
- Others SUBDUED kingdoms, WROUGHT righteousness, OBTAINED promises, STOPPED the mouths of lions, vs33
To follow their example, people today must obey the word of the Lord. He said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” [Mark 16:16] The faith alone people, “make an error, not knowing the scriptures.” [Matthew 22:29] When you weigh ALL the evidence, harmonize the scriptures and read the context then you will know the truth, and this truth shall set you free. [John 8:32]