the world today there are a multiplicity of doctrines being taught. It
is essential that we be able to draw a line of distinction between the
doctrine of God and the false doctrines of men. We must know the
doctrine of God in order to be made free from sin and to inherit eternal
bliss in the life to come. But we cannot recognize that doctrine of God,
and distinguish between it and the doctrines of men, without a most
diligent and careful study. That is why it is always appropriate and in
order that truth should be contrasted with error, the teaching of God
with the teachings of men.
The doctrine of
salvation by faith only is one that came to prominence and wide
acceptance through the influence of Martin Luther in the reformation of
the 16th century. Luther inserted the word "alone" into his translation
making it read, "We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith
ALONE apart from the works of the law." Realizing that the book of James
squarely contradicts this idea, Luther rejected James entirely,
declaring it not canonical, and describing it as "a book of straw." From
the days of Luther to the present, prominent denominational bodies have
included the doctrine of "salvation by faith only" in their creeds,
church manuals, and confessions of faith. Their preachers contend that
justification is secured the very split second one believes in Christ.
The Bible clearly
teaches, however, that man is saved by faith when faith obeys. Apart
from obedience there can be no salvation, no justification. The doctrine
of salvation by faith only is not taught in the Bible, is contrary to
the Bible, and gives the lie to the express statement of James, "Ye see
that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith."
The only kind of faith that will save a man is the kind which Paul
described as "faith working through love."
Faith without such "work," without such obedience is dead; it is
unprofitable; it does no good whatever. Paul makes the matter plain for
us when he says, "For ye are all sons of God, through faith in Christ
(Gal. 3:26) It
is here, in and through faith, that one becomes a child of God. But how
did Paul know that these Galatians, to whom he was writing, were
"children of God through faith"? He explains it in the very next verse,
"FOR as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on
Christ." Here is the cause or reason for the preceding statement.
In his letter to the
Romans, Paul explains exactly how justification had come about.
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our
Lord Jesus Christ."
(Rom. 5:1) Paul
includes himself in the number of those who had been thus justified. A
brief study of his justification will show what it means to be
"justified by faith." Paul as a persecutor of the church was on his way
to Damascus with letters of authority that he might arrest the saints
and bind them and bring them back to Jerusalem. The Lord appeared to him
in the way, and said, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" Was Saul
saved at this point? Certainly not, for he didn't even know who the Lord
was. He asked, "Who art thou, Lord?" Up to this point in the encounter
Saul was not a believer in Jesus Christ; he still regarded Christ as an
imposter and a fraud. He was still convinced that he "ought to do many
things contrary to" this same Jesus.
In response to Saul's
inquiry as to his identity, the Lord answered, "I am Jesus, whom thou
persecutest; it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." When Saul
heard this heavenly voice declare that the speaker was the one he had
been persecuting, he believed. For the first time he realized that he
had indeed and in truth been opposing the son of God. This leads Saul to
think of his own terrible plight. "And he trembling and astonished said,
"Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" The Lord did not respond by
telling him what to do to be saved, or how to be con-vetted. Rather he
said, "Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou
Was Saul a saved man
at this point? Well, hardly! He is not at peace with God. Far from it.
He recognizes the fact that something must be done; he is merely waiting
to be told what that "something" is. The Lord sends Ananias, a certain
disciple in Damascus, to him. When Ananias comes, he finds Saul praying.
Many preachers would have said that was the way to do it; they would
have encouraged Saul to pray on, and on, and on, and on. They might have
told him he would certainly "come through" if he would only persist in
prayer. But that was not what this New Testament preacher told Saul, the
penitent believer. Paul was already a believer; and he was penitent. So
Ananias said to him, "Why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and
wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
When Paul heard these
words from Ananias he "arose, and was baptized. And when he had received
meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples
which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the
synagogues that he is the Son of God." This is the conduct of a man at
peace with God. This is the behavior of one who has been justified. Gone
now are the three days of darkness and hunger and thirst; gone are the
fears, the trembling, the remorse and gnawing anxiety. Saul has been
justified .... justified by faith. But WHEN was he justified? When was
he pardoned? When did he "have peace"? Was it on the Damascus road when
he became a believer? Of course not.
Paul was justified and
"had peace" when he obeyed God, and not before. The whole story of his
conversion emphasizes that point. The doctrine of salvation "by faith
only" would have had him justified, pardoned, forgiven, and "at peace"
out on the Damascus road when he became a believer. But Paul knew better
than that; and so does every one know better who reads the story of
Paul's conversion with understanding. Paul was saved by faith, but not
by faith only.
by Franklin T. Puckett
Life in the Apostolic Church
Check Your Attitude