Faith is not Enough

Protestant doctrine says that salvation faith-and-reasoncomes by mere faith that Jesus is the son of God, who died on the cross for our sins. James disagreed when he wrote “people are justified by works, and not by faith alone”. Moreover, the claim of that faith alone is the key to salvation also directly contradicts the teachings of Jesus himself:

Not every one who calls me Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven; only those who do the will of heaven. Many will say to me on that day “Lord, have we not prophesied, cast out devils, and done many wonderful works in your name?” Then will I profess to them “I never knew you: depart from me, you who work iniquity.”

Whoever hears my teaching and follows it is like a wise man who builds his house upon rock. When the rain descends and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon that house, it will not fall: for it was founded upon rock. But those who hear my teaching and ignore it are like fools who build their houses on sand: When the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, their houses will fall.

Faith is not enough. Remember:

Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the devout and that of the rabbis, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven – Matthew 5:20

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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5 Responses to Faith is not Enough

  1. I disagree. Scripture says over and over that belief/faith alone is what saves. What James was after was distinguishing between mere belief (as the demons believe that Jesus is Lord and shudder) and salvific faith. If faith is not accompanied by good works, then that is not really faith at all; rather it is mere belief that Jesus is who He says He is. Salvific faith in contrast is belief in action-obeying God’s commandments. But scripture is also clear that no one can get to Heaven by works. Works righteousness was nailed to the Cross. The Reformed sola fide never meant that mere belief–as exemplified by demons–is sufficient. The best way to understand James is mere belief contrasted with faith (belief in action).

    • jimbelton says:

      I respect your beliefs, though they differ from my own. I’m actually more interested in what Jesus said that what James said. I may write a follow up post on this subject. Thanks for the comment!

      • Here is my understanding. If you look carefully at the scripture you quote above from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about the least and greatest in Heaven based upon the level of obedience to His commands. Note He doesn’t say you have to do X, Y and Z before you get into Heaven. Scripture clearly teaches rewards in Heaven based upon obedience on Earth–what those reward are, we have no idea. But even the least in Heaven is great reward.

        The second part of your quote is directed to the Pharisees and Jewish teachers, who were teaching that you had to comply with the Law AND follow Jesus as a prerequisite to salvation. Jesus’ statement about righteousness surpassing is a rebuke against the Pharisees and the Jewish teachers of the Law. His point is anyone following their lead must be even more righteous than the ones teaching obedience to the Law. In other words, Jesus was being sort of snarky noting that the only way the Law provides a pathway to salvation is by perfect obedience, and even the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were incapable of that perfect obedience.

        Paul discusses this very thing in his Epistle to the Galatians. He explains that no one is justified by works of the Law, rather they are justified by faith in Jesus. If we seek righteousness by works, then we are required to obey the Law perfectly. This is exactly what tripped up the OT Jews, who sought righteousness through works instead of by faith. Paul addresses this in Romans 9:

        “30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. 33 As it is written:

        ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble
        and a rock that makes them fall,
        and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.’”

        This is the very thing Jesus was addressing in your block quote, and why we see Jesus throughout scripture saying faith in Him is all that is required for salvation.

        If you believe salvation comes from works, you must ask yourself “By what works am I saved?” Jesus was asked this exact question in John 6: “28 Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ 29 Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'” Notice Jesus’ response? What works are required for salvation? He says the only work required is belief in Him. He then confirms this later in John 6 as follows: ” For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

        Jesus was a stumbling block to the Pharisees and the teaches of the Law because they missed Christ–that is, they missed that works righteousness (i.e., obedience to the Law) profited them nothing because they could not obey the Law perfectly as required by the Law. Instead, they were supposed to find salvation in faith in Christ (as demonstrated by Abraham). Their works righteousness mentality caused them to stumble in their salvation.

  2. jimbelton says:

    The sermon on the mount talks about the kinds of people who will live in the kingdom (i.e. not Heaven, but heaven on earth). I agree it’s not setting the precise entry criteria.

    The Pharisees weren’t as a rule followers of Jesus, AFAIK. I agree that Jesus implies that merely following the rules is not enough. He found their false righteousness very hypocritical.

    Paul is another story. He was a Pharisee (IIRC) who converted to Christianity. He never knew Jesus (other than through visions). It is not surprising that he has a Christian message, but Paul’s message isn’t what I’ve been exploring in these posts.

    Take a look at my next post for a survey of all the statements I could find that Jesus made about the kingdom of heaven. Very few of them talk about faith in Jesus being key, and those are all in the Gospel of John, whose author believed in a very high Christology. Note that your quote is from John. If you can find any sayings of Jesus on the kingdom that I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments on that post.

  3. Pingback: Keys to the Kingdom | Jim's Jumbler

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