The two common religious doctrines regarding how a believer achieves eternal salvation are:
The "faith only" doctrine
The "obedient faith" doctrine
The Faith Only doctrine can be stated as follows: We are justified by faith only. It is best said at Romans 1:17 "The just shall live by faith."
Faith, which is the complete trust in Jesus Christ, is the sole condition that is required in order to experience a new birth in Jesus Christ and achieve permanent eternal salvation.
The "faith only" doctrine believes that sin is forgiven and eternal salvation is attained, "the very moment the sinner trusts Christ as his Savior", and that faith in Jesus Christ is the only condition one must meet. Most believers of the faith only doctrine also believe that once you achieve eternal salvation, there is no possible way for you to lose this eternal salvation or give it up. Further more, obedience to the commands of God, baptism, leading a Godly life, doing good works, reading the Word of God, repentance, the confession of sins, or anything else, is not essential to salvation and has nothing to do with a person's justification and his eternal salvation. Once you become saved then even if you lead a horrible and ungodly life for the rest of your days, you will still be saved and wind up in heaven.
The "Obedient Faith" doctrine says that we not only need to have complete faith in Jesus Christ, but that a great many other things are also required of us if we are to have any hope at all of maintaining our faith in Jesus Christ. Many other things are required of us in order to lead a Godly lifestyle. A lifestyle that will be both pleasing and approving to Jesus. A lifestyle that will keep your faith in Jesus Christ at a very high level at all times. With out this constant high level of faith in Jesus Christ, then our faith in him will begin to wane and once a believers faith begins to weaken, then eternal salvation begins to slip away.
Is the doctrine of "faith only" true? Or is the "obedient faith" doctrine the true one. And even more importantly, what does the Bible say about these two doctrines?
A) --- Many Passages Teach Us That We Are Saved By Faith
John 3:16 -- This verse tells us that whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life.
"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
Acts 10:43 -- Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.
"To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins."
Romans 5:2 -- By faith we are justified and have access to grace.
"Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
Ephesians 2:8 -- By grace are you saved through faith.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."
Romans 3:22 -- The righteousness of God is given through faith in Jesus Christ, to all those who believe.
"Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference."
Acts 16:31 -- Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.
"They said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."
John 3:36 -- He who believes in the Son has eternal life.
"He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
Galatians 2:16 -- Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ.
"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified."
So we can conclude that faith in Jesus Christ is definitely essential to salvation, and without this faith no man can be saved. In fact, every single thing in the entire kingdom of God operates on faith. But is there more to salvation than just believing and having full and complete trust and faith in Jesus Christ?
B) --- No Verse Says We Are Saved By Faith Alone
Many believe that verses like those above prove that only faith is necessary to gain salvation, and not baptism or reading the Bible or asking for forgiveness or any of the other things that are mentioned in the Bible. But is there a verse that says we are saved by "faith only," or that faith is the one and only condition for salvation? Or is there a single verse in the Bible that says that we are saved without baptism or without obedience, or without repentance? Which verse says that the only thing we need for achieving salvation is faith, and faith alone? I challenge you to find a single verse that says that! Regardless of how hard you search, you will find not a single verse in the entire Bible that states that.
On the other hand, many verses mention repentance, confession, and obeying the Lord's commands as being essential to gaining salvation, and say nothing about faith. There are also verses that say that baptism and doing good works are essential for salvation. Should we not likewise recognize the necessity of baptism, obedience, and the others as also being essential to salvation?
Other verses show that, faith by itself will not save. Please look at the following verses.
James 2:17 - "Thus too, faith, if it does not have works, is dead."
Can the man who does not do good works be saved?
John 12:42,43 - "People believed in Jesus but would not confess Him, because they loved the praises of men more than the praises of God."
Are men saved if they put their importance on pleasing men instead of pleasing God?
James 2:19 - "Even devils believe".
Are the devils saved?
Before we take a look at a great many other things that the Bible says that we must do in order to achieve eternal salvation, lets first look at the importance of obedience - of actually obeying all the commands of God. And of course all these many, many commands of God can all be found in the book that he gave each and every one of us - The very Word of God - The Holy Bible.
A) --- Many Passages Say Obedience Is Necessary
Hebrews 5:9 -- Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
"And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him."
1 Peter 1:22 -- We purify our souls in obeying the truth.
"Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart."
Romans 6:17-18 -- Servants must obey from the heart in order to be made free from sin.
"But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness."
Matthew 7:21-23 -- To accept Jesus as Lord (ruler and master) and enter the kingdom of heaven, we must obey him and do what He says. We may believe and confess Him yet still be rejected because we did not obey him.
"Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness."
2 Thessalonians 1:8 -- Those who do not obey will be destroyed.
"In flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 John 5:3 -- God requires us to keep His commandments. If we do not obey him, we do not love Him.
"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome."
Romans 2:7 -- He will give eternal life to those who persist in doing what is good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers.
"Eternal life to those who by patient perseverance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality."
James 2:24 -- Man is justified by works, not by faith only.
"You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only."
Acts 10:34-35 -- Peter tells Cornelius that to be accepted by God, people must work righteousness, and that this is true for all people.
"Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him."
All of the above passages show the extreme importance of obeying the commands of God. However the doctrine of "faith only" denies the necessity of obeying any of these commands of God in order to attain eternal salvation. The "faith only" doctrine says that all you need is faith and trust in God to gain eternal salvation. So therefore you evidently don't have to obey God and do all the things mentioned above.
B) --- If Obedience Is Not Essential, Consider These Four Examples And Their Consequences
1) Acts 17:30 - "God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent."
Repentance here is a command, and Jesus is expecting everyone to obey. If keeping his commands is not necessary, then repentance is not necessary to salvation. Yet Luke 13:3 says, "I tell you unless you repent, you will likewise perish."
2) Romans 10:9-10 - "That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."
Confession with the mouth is a command. If obeying commands is not essential to salvation, then confession is not essential! Yet the Bible says in the above verse that confession is essential for salvation.
3) Romans 2:7 -- "Receiving eternal life requires us to do good works."
Doing good works is a command. If doing good works is not necessary then there is something terribly wrong in the Bible because our Lord is telling us to do good works. In fact in James 2:26 we are told that, "Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without good works is dead."
4) John 14:23-24 -- "Jesus answered and said to him, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me, does not keep My words."
The words spoken in this verse refer to the only words that we have from God. And these words are all the words found in the Bible; from cover to cover.
Clearly, obedience to all that the Lord has told us to do, as shown by just these four examples, is very essential to salvation. Now on to some of the many things that the Bible tells us to do in order that we may aquire eternal salvation.
A) --- Listed Below Are Some Of The Many Things That Are Necessary For Salvation
Please give to the following verses the same kind of literal and "common sense" interpretation that you would want your children or employees to give to your instructions.
Learning the word of God
Romans 1:16 "The gospel is God's power to save all who believe."
John 14:23 "Jesus replied: If anyone loves me he will cherish my word."
James 1:18 "Because he willed it He brought us forth, by the word of truth."
Corinthians 15:1 "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, and in which you understand."
James 1:21 "Therefore lay aside all filthiness and wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word of God, which is able to save your souls."
John 8:31-32 "So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
2 Peter3:18 "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
John 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that ye love one another, just as I have loved you."
1 Corinthians 16:22 "If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be cursed."
1 John 4:7-8 "Let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love."
Matthew 22:38 "Love is the greatest of all the commandments."
Acts 17:30 "God is declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent."
Acts 2:38 "Peter said to them, Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins."
Luke 13:3 "I tell you, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."
Acts 3:19 "Repent, so that your sins may be blotted out."
2 Corinthians 7:9-10 "Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation."
Acts 26:20 "Declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.
Hebrews 5:9 "And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him, the source of eternal salvation."
Romans 6:17 "But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed."
1 Peter 1:22 "In obedience to the truth, you have purified your souls."
Hebrews 5:9 "Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him."
Luke 6:46 "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"
Matthew 7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven."
Acts 5:32 "And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him."
Romans 10:9-10 "That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."
Matthew 10:32 "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven."
1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Mark 16:16 "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved."
1 Peter 3:21 "Baptism now saves you, not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
Acts 2:38 "Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Acts 22:16 "Ananias told Paul to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins."
1 Corinthians 15:58 "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord."
Matthew 28:20 "Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you."
Titus 2:12 "Deny ungodliness and worldly desires and live sensibly, righteously and Godly in the present age."
1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray constantly."
Acts 6:4 "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
1Corinthians 7:5 "Devote yourselves to prayer, and come together, so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."
Colossians 4:2 "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving;"
Acts 2:28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."
Ephesians 5:23 "For Christ is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body."
Keeping the commandments
Ecclesiastes 12:13 "Fear God and keep His commandments, and this applies to all people."
1John 2:3 "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments".
John 14:21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."
Matthew 19:17 And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments."
1John 2:4 "The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
John 15:10 "If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love."
1 John 5:3 "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments."
Romans 8:24 "For in hope we have been saved."
Romans 12:12 "Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer."
Ephesians 1:18 May the eyes of your heart be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints."
1Thessalonians 5:8 "Let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation."
Learning God's will
Acts 11:14 "He will speak words to you, by which you will be saved."
John 6:45 "It is written by the prophets, they shall all be taught of God. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me."
Romans 10:17 "Faith comes from hearing and knowing the word of Christ."
John 14:23 "In answer Jesus said to him, If anyone loves me, he will observe my word, and I and the Father will love him."
Doing Good Works
2 Corinthians 5:10 "For all of us must appear before Christ, to be judged by him. We will each receive what we deserve, according to everything we have done, good or bad, in our bodily life".
Revelation 22:12 "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work."
Ephesians 2:10 "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them".
Ecclesiastes 12:14 "For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, whether good or evil."
Having love for every other human being
John 15:12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you."
Mark 12:30-31 "And you must love Your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength. The second greatest commandment is this. That you love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."
John 15:17 "This I command you, that you love one another."
John 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another."
Matthew 22:37-39 "Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
God's grace and belief in that grace
Titus 2:11 "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men."
Acts 15:11 "But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Jesus' death and belief in all that his death means
Ephesians 1:7 "In Him we have redemption through His blood."
Romans 5:9 "Much more then having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God."
Jesus' resurrection and belief in the importance of his resurrrection
1 Corinthians 15:17 "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; for you are still in your sins."
Acts 4:33 "And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all."
1Peter 1:3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
Some of the things listed above, like the death and Resurrection of Jesus, are things that God has already done for us, but we still must believe the importance that they hold for us as believers. The others we must do ourselves if we want to put our complete faith and trust into Jesus Christ.
All are essential to our salvation. One thing to remember is that if we believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God then we must accept and obey all that the Bible requires of us. We cannot pick out parts of the Bible to follow and throw out other parts. Because accepting some while ignoring others just leads to error and contradiction, and therefore if one part of the Bible is incorrect then we cannot trust any of it.
There are hundreds of commands that Our Lord has given us, but unless you read the very Word of God you will never know what many of them are. All through the Bible we are told how to behave in every single situation. Everything from loving our neighbors, to not listening and believing in fortune tellers and spiritualists, to not making anything in our lives more important than God, to reading and studying the very word of God. All are commands from God, and we are expected to make a valiant effort to obey each and every one of them.
Salvation by "faith only" and excluding all other factors is as unreasonable and unscriptural as salvation by repentance only, or salvation by confession only, or by baptism only, or by keeping the commandments only. We are not saved by any one thing alone to the exclusion of other things that are required elsewhere in the Bible. Instead, we should accept everything the Bible requires. And this is why reading and understanding the Bible is so very important. The Bible is God's very own instruction manual to each and every one of us, and if we don't read and study it then how will we ever know what is to be expected of us.
Look at some of the verses that tell us to read and learn what is in the Bible.
Acts 3:22-23 - We must hear all Jesus says, or we will be destroyed.
Revelation 22:18-19 - If we take away part of God's word, He takes away our reward.
Matthew 4:4,7 - Live by every word God speaks, not just part of it.
James 1:18 - Because he willed it, He brought us forth, by the word of truth.
1 Corinthians 15:1 - Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, and in which you stand.
John 8:32 - If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
We must never isolate a passage from the overall teaching of the Bible If we follow only one part of a set of instructions, we will not achieve the desired result. Suppose, for example, a driver's manual says, "To drive a car, you must have the key." If we get a key, but ignore the rest of the instructions, will we automatically be driving the car? Of course not.
So faith is a "key" to salvation -- it gives us power to become children of God (John 1:12). But we are not automatically and immediately God's children just because we have the key or the power to become such. We must consider all the requirements that God's word teaches and the only way to do this is to find out what is in the Bible.
So it appears that salvation not only includes having complete faith, but salvation also includes repentance, the confession of sins, full obedience to the commands of God, Baptism, reading the word of God, prayer, as well as everything else that the Bible tells us to do. They are all essential for salvation. Look at the following verse and then ask yourself how important your obedience is to salvation.
John 3:36--- "He who believes in the Son has eternal life;and he that believeth not the son shall not see life: but the wrath of God abideth upon him".
Hebrews 11 gives us many examples of people who "by faith" obeyed God, and in turn received His blessings and his rewards. The next three examples from Hebrews Chapter 11 helps answer the question, was obedience to his commands necessary in order for God to reward these people?
Noah (Hebrews 11:7) -- "By faith Noah prepared an ark in obedience to the commands of God and became heir of righteousness according to faith."
Was he saved by faith before he obeyed, or did God save him from the flood only after he obeyed? Suppose Noah had decided that he didn't want to go through the effort of spending all those years building an ark. Sure he believed in God, but God would just have to think of another way. Do you think that he and his family would have survived the flood? Would he have been saved if he had not obeyed, or would he have ended up like all the others?
Abraham (Hebrews 11:8) -- "By faith he obeyed God and went to the place God told him to go to - to the land of Canaan."
Did God reward him before he obeyed, or only after he obeyed? Even though Abraham believed completely in God, suppose Abraham felt that at 75 years of age God had no right to expect him to pack up and move all the way to Canaan, and instead he was going to stay right in his home in Haran. Do you think that God would have still given the land of Canaan to Abraham and Abraham's descendents?
Israel at Jericho (Hebrews 11:30) -- "By faith the walls of Jericho fell."
Did the walls of Jericho fall before the people did what God said, or afterwards? Would the walls have fallen had the people not obeyed? God told the people to march around the walls seven times on the seventh day. Suppose the people said that they believed fully in God but that they were tired and were only going to march around the walls only once on the seventh day. Do you honestly think that those walls would have still come down?
In every case, God rewarded people for obedient faith. Noah was saved "by faith" when he obeyed God. When Abraham and Israel pleased God by faithful obedience, they were rewarded. They received blessings "by faith," not before they obeyed, but only after or as a result of their obedience. When faith led to obedience, that is when they received the reward and the blessing.
Saving faith is faith that obeys. If your faith says that obedience is not necessary, or that you don't need to be baptized, or you don't have to keep the commandments of God, or you don't have to pray, or confess and repent your sins, or that you don't have to do any of the things spelled out in the Bible, then you have a faith that will not save.
The truth is that saving faith leads people to obey Jesus fully, and to follow all that he said because they trust Him completely. If you are not eager to do all that the Bible instructs, then you have to begin to wonder about your salvation.
Jesus Christ dwells in the heart only by faith, and faith lives in the heart only by love, and love continues only by obedience: He who believes loves, and he who loves, obeys.
So in conclusion we can say that we are saved by grace, but that grace comes "through faith."
Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."
But as we saw above, we must also repent and confess our sins, and do a great many other things if we want to be saved.
Jesus died on the cross for our sins,(disobedience) again we are to have faith that the work upon us shall be completed.
Let faith by your works, show your belief in the word of God.
14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Praise God and Jesus for Grace and The plan of salvation for even our works are not good enough and we are often not obedient, Shall we continue as though we have no part to play in our salvation, all things matter, so I conclude that all these things together are to our benefit as all things are worked to our good through our God. If we could be perfectly obedient Jesus would not have gone to the cross, but we are flesh and weak, this is where God's strength show's through.
Let us all with the Holy Spirit hold on to that which we have and increase in faith and obedience until Jesus comes to take us HOME.
New International Version (NIV)
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.