RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE
SUBJECT OF FAITH
II TIM. 2:l5
Don Earl Boatman
Salvation, the most important problem in man's life, is clouded with confusion. Opinions on the question are numerous, such as "everyone will be saved," "just be sincere and do the best you can," etc. One of the most popular answers to the question "What must I do to be saved?" is "only believe." This doctrine is known as "faith only," and it's popularity is on a tremendous increase. It is a popular revival theme and with it thousands claim remission of sins having never seen a baptistry.
It is my conviction that God's relationship with man is so great that no verse of Scripture alone is able to express it. No man has the right in his enthusiasm for one doctrine to add the word "alone" or "only". An examination of the Scripture indicates that instead of "faith alone" or 'baptism alone" or "Christ only" saving us, there are at least sixteen things that save us. The word "only" does not appear with any one of them to say we are saved by it alone.
Study these verses of Scripture and you will agree that millions of good, earnest, sincere people are misled by enthusiasm for a doctrine with the word "alone" unscripturally attached.
I. GOD SAVES US.
First let us examine the Scriptures that tell us that God saves us. It is a little out of the ordinary to hear the doctrine preached, but it is in the Word and not in obscure language at all.
I Tim. 1:1 "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the comment of God our Saviour, and Christ Jesus our hope:"
I Tim. 2:3 "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;"
I Tim. 4:10 "For to this end we labor and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe."
Heb. 11:6 "and without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him."
God saves us. The word "only" does not appear, however so we may assume that there is more to salvation than these verses express.
II. CHRIST SAVES US.
A second series of verses indicates that Christ saves. Of course this doctrine is more familiarly known.
1. Matt. 1:21 "and she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins."
2. Luke 2:11 "for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord."
3. John 1:29 "On the morrow he seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world."
4. John 14:6 "Jesus said unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one cometh unto the Father, but by me."
Now it would have been most unfair had we inserted the word "only" after each expression "God saves us," for that would have eliminated the fact that Christ saves.
III. WE ARE SAVED BY CHRIST'S LIFE.
Read thoroughly the New Testament and the importance of Christ's life shines forth in relationship to Salvation.
1. Rom. 5:10 "For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life."
2. Heb. 7:25 "Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing that he ever liveth to make intercession for them."
3. I Cor. 15:17-18 "and if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished."
So we would make a sad mistake in saying "God alone saves." These verses plainly tell us that we are saved by Christ's life.
IV. SAVED BY CHRIST'S DEATH - BLOOD.
In the light of the above passages, we read with interest another doctrine; we are saved by Christ's blood.
1. Rom. 5:8-9 "But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him."
2. Eph. 1:7 "in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness or our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace."
3. Heb. 9:22 "and according to the law, I may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission."
Thus God saves, Christ saves, Christ's life saves, His blood saves. How deserving of the plagues of Revelation we would be to add the word "only" to any one of these doctrines of the New Testament. The word "only" excludes all others. However, we most study more of the Scriptures if we are to handle it aright.
V. SAVED BY GRACE.
A familiar expression in the Bible is "Saved by grace", so we must add this to our study.
1. Eph. 2:8 "for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is gift of God."
2. Rom. 3:23-24 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."
3. Titus 2:11 "for the grace of God hath appeared bringing salvation to all men."
This is wonderful teaching. Thank God that He is favourably disposed to sinful man, for we are all sinners. Let us not get enthusiastic however to the extent that we use the word "only" and say "we are saved by grace only," for there are other wonderful doctrines to be considered.
VI. SAVED BY THE GOSPEL.
Another series of verses may be shown to indicate that man is saved by the Gospel.
1. I Cor. 15:l-2 "Now I make known unto you brethren, the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain."
2. Rom. 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."
3. I Cor. 1:18, 21 "For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God."
"For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe."
The world needs to hear the good tidings of God. The Gospel must be preached in this atomic age or we shall be hopelessly lost in a frightful war, the like of which the world has never seen. We dare not say "the Gospel alone" saves, however.
VII. SAVED BY CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD.
In the midst of a great missionary text we learn that men may be saved by calling on the name of the Lord.
1. Rom. 10:13 "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
We are then justified in being a minister of Christ (much against the teaching of "Jehovah's Witnesses") in order to give men an opportunity to call upon the Lord, for in calling they will they be saved. Of course this is not all the picture, so we must not create a theology of "calling only".
VIII. SAVED BY WORDS.
An examination of the Word teaches us that words save us.
1. Acts 11:14 "Who shall speak unto thee words, whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house."
2. Heb. 4:12 "For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit of both joints and marrow ..."
3. James 1:21 "Wherefore putting away the filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls."
Words are powerful, for Heb. 11:3 tells us that the worlds were framed by the Word of God. Now "words" save us but not "words alone". When men insert the word "alone" they make a qualification and limitation that God never intended.
IX. SAVED BY HOPE.
A very important New Testament subject is hope and we find that it will save.
1. Rom. 3:24 "For in hope were we saved; but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopeth for that which he seeth?"
2. 1 Peter 1:3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
If we dared to add the word "alone" to make the Scripture read "hope alone" then the doors are thrown open for many to enter. The so-called "good moral man" would have the Scripture to give him consolation and so would others who do not desire to be obedient but who hope and trust in their own self-righteousness.
X. SAVED BY CONFESSION.
A person who believes will confess his faith and we have the assurance that confession saves us.
1. Rom. 10:9 Because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth . . . thou shalt be saved."
2. Matt 10:32 "Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven."
It is evident however that Christ did not teach "confession alone." Likewise the book of Romans gives no room for the insertion of the word "alone". We are not saved by God alone, Christ alone, words alone, or by any one phase of teaching alone.
XI. SAVED BY REPENTANCE.
One of the oldest sermons ever preached is on the subject of repentance. It is important to us in this study for we find that it saves.
1. Acts 8:22 "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee."
2. Acts 3:19 "Repent ye therefore, and turn again that your sins may he blotted out . . ."
Thus far in our study we have not been allowed to magnify one doctrine above all others and exclude all others by the word "alone" thus we see it would be anti-scriptural here.
XII. SAVED BY REMAINING FAlTHFUL.
A very unpopular subject with many people is the subject of faithfulness, but it is as much a doctrine of the Bible as others are. Faithfulness saves us and of course logically we may assume and prove by Scriptures that neglect will cause us to be lost.
1. I Cor. 15:2 "By which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain."
2. Rev. 2:10 ". . . be thou faithful unto death, and I shall give thee the crown of life."
3. Matt. 10:22 "... but he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved."
4. II Tim. 2:12-13 "If we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we shall deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself."
The Word does not teach that faithfulness alone will save. The Jew was faithful in his ritual, the Pharisee faithful in righteousness, but Jesus demanded a righteousness that exceeded that of the Pharisee.
XIII. SAVED BY FAITH.
We come now to a doctrine that delights the heart of men. It is a teaching that is handled lightly and is acceptable in city wide union evangelistic meetings. The Scriptures teach us that faith saves. Men change the word and say "faith alone" saves. Examine these Scriptures:
1. Acts 16:31 "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt he saved, thou and thy house."
2. Rom. 5:1 "Being therefore justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
3. Rom. 3:28 "We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law."
4. Gal. 3:24 "So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ that we might be justified by faith."
5. Gal. 3:26 "For ye are all sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus."
6. Heb 10:39 "But we are not of them that shrink back unto perdition but of them that have faith unto the saving of the soul."
Observe that the Scriptures speak of faith saving just as they speak of God saving, Christ saving, grace saving, confession saving, etc. Faith saves. This is not stated with one bit more emphasis than the other requirements of salvation are stated. There is absolutely no room for the word "only", yet denominational men are crying out "faith alone saves." The words "faith" and "alone" appear together only once in the New Testament. That one place teaches that we are NOT SAVED by FAITH ONLY. Read it: James 2:24 "Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith." The Scriptures teach the exact opposite to the doctrines of men.
XIV. SAVED BY WORKS.
Many great controversies have resulted over the doctrine of works. In this study of salvation let us give work its rightful place, for work saves us.
1. James 2:17 "Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself."
2. James 2:22 "Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect."
3. James 4:17 "To him therefore that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin."
4. James 2:26 "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead."
5. James 2:24 "Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith."
The latter verse gives a proper balance between faith and works. Men are not saved by faith only. The statement is clear and leaves no room for private interpretation. Neither does the Scripture say that a man is saved by works alone. Work does save when all other things are in their rightful place.
XV. SAVED BY BAPTISM.
A very popular radio preacher in a moment of intense fervour declared over a nation wide hook-up: "Baptism is not essential to salvation." The New Testament is just as emphatic that baptism saves. Examine carefully the Word, the Divine Word of God.
Acts 2:37-38 "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins . . ."
Why did Peter not say "only believe?" Because the congregation already believed. Belief caused them to ask what they had to do to be saved. Peter gave to them the next steps that they needed to take in order to be saved. The Philippian jailor was told to believe on the Lord because that was the first step for him. The apostles took men from where they were to the next step. The answer to the question "What must I do?" depends upon the "I", hence different answers are given to the same question. In none of the answers does the word "alone" appear. Let us make that point clear. In none of them does the word "alone" appear.
Baptism saves! Read I Peter 3:20-21:
". . . while the ark was a-preparing wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water; which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism . . ."
This verse refutes men. Men refute this doctrine. I choose to believe God. I choose to heed the warning of Rev. 22:18 "I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book." I do not want the plagues of God.
XVI. SAVE YOURSELF.
One other teaching should be considered for it is as plain as the others. The Word says "save yourselves."
Acts 2:40 "And with many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation."
It does not say you alone are your saviour. You cannot lift yourself by your own bootstraps but you can save yourself by your own decision to do so. You can float downstream like a dead fish or you can go upstream to the source of life. Hear Paul! Phil. 2:12:
". . . But now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."
Those many verses express the wonderful salvation provided by our Father. God, Christ, life, blood, grace, the Gospel, calling on the name of the Lord, words, hope, confession, repentance, faithfulness, faith, works, baptism, and yourself combine to enable you to possess God's glorious salvation. This is the whole counsel of God. You can not select one and one only and have the assurance of salvation. It is not faith only, baptism only, self only, etc. that saves, but all of these are essential to salvation. Not just one item saves but all sixteen.
Have you gone all the way with God's Word or have you had a doctrinal hobby?
Do not gamble with salvation for when you do "you bet your life."
These sixteen things are not all the subjects that could be introduced. Were we to take a concordance and check all references of related subjects and synonyms, such as redemption, reconciliation, justification, pardon and forgiveness the list could be greatly expanded.
For those who are interested, here are other verses that speak of things that save us. Study them:
Losing one's life for Jesus' sake (Matt. 16:25; Luke 9:25);
Saving one another (Rom. 11:14; I Cor. 9:22);
Building on the foundation of Christ (I Cor. 3:11-15);
Sorrow (II Cor. 7:10);
Childbearing (I Tim. 8:15);
Drawing nigh unto God (Heb. 7:25).
Don Earl Boatman
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