Question:

Isn't justification by faith alone?


Answer:

It is common for people to approach the Scriptures with blinders on, seeking to prove their point by selective use of passages from the Bible. I find it amazing that when I state that justification is not by faith alone that people turn this around and claim that I'm say we are not justified by faith. They can't be more wrong. Justification is by faith, but it is not by faith alone.

Look at the variety of things involved in justification:

"For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:37).

"And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:14).

"being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24).

"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith" (Romans 3:28-30). The law discussed here is not all law but the Old Testament law as can be seen from the context.

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," (Romans 5:1).

"Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Romans 5:9).

"And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification" (Romans 5:16).

"Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies" (Romans 8:33).

"And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (I Corinthians 6:11). This verse demonstrates that being washed, sanctified, and justified are synonyms. What is deliberately ignored is that being washed is an allusion to baptism (Acts 22:16).

"But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!" (Galatians 2:17).

"But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:7).

"Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:21-26).

This is not a complete list, but it shows that justification is accomplished by a set of things, of which faith plays a major role but not an exclusive role.

I find it odd that people seek to prove justification by faith alone by going to the words of Paul, typically from the book of Romans while ignoring all that Paul said on the matter.

"Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name" (Romans 1:5).

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."" (Romans 1:16-17).

"But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "will render to each one according to his deeds": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 2:2-9).

"in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel" (Romans 2:16).

"Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin" (Romans 6:3-7).

"But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:8-10).

"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).

Clearly from this one letter we know that Paul never taught faith alone brings salvation. People attempt to make it appear so by only quoting the verses which mention faith without discussing other things in the immediate context. But Paul said, like James, that faith must act with works, among other things, in order to bring about salvation. To take only a portion of what Paul said is to quote him out of context and twist what he stated. "... as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked" (II Peter 3:15-17).