Question: “Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?“
is perhaps the most important question in all of Christian theology.
This question is the cause of the Reformation, the split between the
Protestant churches and Catholic Church. This question is a key
difference between biblical Christianity and most of the “Christian” cults.
Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works? Am I saved just by
believing in Jesus, or do I have to believe in Jesus and do certain
The question of faith alone or faith plus works is made difficult by some hard-to-reconcile Bible passages. Compare Romans 3:28, 5:1 and Galatians 3:24 with James 2:24.
Some see a difference between Paul (salvation is by faith alone) and
James (salvation is by faith plus works). Paul dogmatically says that
justification is by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9),
while James appears to be saying that justification is by faith plus
works. This apparent problem is answered by examining what exactly James
is talking about. James is refuting the belief that a person can have faith without producing any good works (James 2:17-18). James is emphasizing the point that genuine faith in Christ will produce a changed life and good works (James 2:20-26).
James is not saying that justification is by faith plus works, but
rather that a person who is truly justified by faith will have good
works in his/her life. If a person claims to be a believer, but has no
good works in his/her life, then he/she likely does not have genuine
faith in Christ (James 2:14, 17, 20, 26).
Paul says the same thing in his writings. The
good fruit believers should have in their lives is listed in Galatians
5:22-23. Immediately after telling us that we are saved by faith, not
works (Ephesians 2:8-9), Paul informs us that we were created to do good
works (Ephesians 2:10). Paul expects just as much of a changed life as
James does: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). James
and Paul do not disagree in their teaching regarding salvation. They
approach the same subject from different perspectives. Paul simply
emphasized that justification is by faith alone while James put emphasis on the fact that genuine faith in Christ produces good works.
Recommended Resource: Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification by R.C. Sproul.
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Faith + Nothing = Salvation (christianitymatters.com)
What does ‘salvation’ mean to you? (johnmeunier.wordpress.com)
Ephesians 2:1 – 10 | Bible Resources (spiceofyourlife.wordpress.com)
HELP! I am not sure I am saved…I may just be another false convert. (atwistedcrownofthorns.com)
Purchasing Salvation? (ptl2010.com)
Galatians 1: Why Did Paul Write to the Galatians? (cutpaste.typepad.com)
Arminians who confuse and refuse: free will in coming to Christ (onedaringjew.wordpress.com)
Charles Stanley: God Will Save Unbelievers (arminiantheologyblog.wordpress.com)