Faith Only - Is Faith All We Need For Salvation?

Many people believe that faith is all we need to be saved and enter heaven when we leave this earth. They think faith alone will save us. This belief is typically labeled as "faith only" or "faith alone." It means that all we have to do is believe there is a God and that Jesus exists. There is nothing we have to obey, simply believe, and that is all we need to get into heaven.

The problem with this belief is that we cannot find any proof in the Bible that tells us that faith by itself can save us. If indeed "faith only" saves us, then God is a God of confusion since the only time we find the words "faith only" together in the Bible are in James chapter 2, which ironically contradicts the false doctrine of "faith only."

James 2:24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

We also know that God does not create confusion, such as the "faith only" doctrine would produce if it were true.

1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 

There is no doubt that faith is an integral part of God's plan of salvation. Without faith, we cannot please God.

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Faith is an essential element in our salvation; we cannot be saved without faith. However, if faith is all you have, you will not have salvation, and the Bible proves this truth.

Do you believe that there will be demons in heaven?

James 2:14-26 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 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. 

The Bible tells us that demons have faith; thus, there will be demons in heaven if faith alone saves us. Take a few minutes and search the Bible for the word "demons" (NKJV) or "devils" (KJV). Both words are translated from the Greek word "daimonion." If you search and read the passages with these words, we will learn that demons and devils will not be in heaven; instead, they will be in hell.

From the passage in James above, there are a few undeniable proof points.

  • There is no profit in faith without works.
  • Faith without works is dead.
  • Demons believe and tremble.
  • A foolish man believes there can be saving faith without works.
  • Faith is made perfect by works.
  • Man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

We hear from those who teach and preach "faith only" that we cannot work our way into heaven. However, they fail to explain that the works of faith are not works of our own merit; they are works of God. Paul explains in Ephesians that the works of God are not works for which we can boast.

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. 

If it were works of ourselves, then we could boast about it. God created these works we are to do beforehand. He created the plan of salvation before He created us. The above passage explains that salvation is the gift of God (also confirmed in Romans 6:23). Salvation is a gift of God's grace towards us. Paul is not saying that "faith" is not from ourselves because we have proof in Hebrews 11:6 above that we must have faith to please God. Thus, what is it that is "not of ourselves?" The works are not of ourselves because if they were, we might boast about our works. Who are the works from? God! Notice in verse 10 that Paul explains that God created the "good works" beforehand that we should walk in them. We must do the works of God; we must obey what God has commanded for salvation, and continue in the good works He prepared for us.

Therefore, Paul is not excluding all works when he writes in Ephesians chapter 2. Paul can't exclude every type of work because salvation in itself is a "work of God," and a work of faith. The works of faith are hearing, believing, repenting, confessing, being baptized for the remission of sins and then living faithfully by continuing in God's good works. Paul tells us that these are not works we can boast about because they are not from us. We do them, but God created them; they did not come from us; we obey God by doing these works.

Those who teach "faith only" say that baptism is a work of our own merit, but this is not what the Bible teaches. Baptism is commanded for salvation on multiple occasions in the Bible, beginning with Jesus's great commission to the apostles (Matthew 28:19,20; Mark 16:15,16; Luke 24:46,47). Every example of salvation after Jesus arose from the grave (the New Testament period under which we live) includes baptism.

Yes, baptism is indeed work, and so is faith. The Bible teaches us that both are works that we must do, but not of our own merit because they are works commanded by God.

John 6:27-29 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him." Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."

Titus 3:5-6 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, 

The NASB translates the first part of Titus 3:5 above, "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness,"

Consider the above passages, and take note that believing (faith) is a work we do, but it is a work God commanded, thus a work of God that we must do. Baptism is a work of God we also are commanded to do. Any Bible scholar will confirm that "washing of regeneration" is the same as baptism. As Paul explains to Titus, baptism is not a work of our own righteousness (not of the basis of deeds); it is a work of God, according to His mercy. This passage is in harmony with what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John chapter 3, being born again thru water and the spirit.

John 3:3-5 Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus *said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

We are born again thru baptism and a spiritual change in our lives. Faith, repentance, confessing Jesus is the Son of God, and baptism all are works of God that He created and commanded for salvation. The Bible does not teach that we cannot work our way into heaven, but it does teach that we cannot work our way into heaven by boastful works. We are not to boast about a work that God has commanded because we did not create the work; we simply obey God's command.

Let's compare a little further what Paul wrote, to what Jesus said. From Titus 3:5, the word "washing" is from the Greek word "baptizo," which is also translated as "baptism." The word "regeneration" is from the Greek word "paliggenesia," which is translated as "new birth" or "born again." Baptism causes us to be born again, and we are a new creature (Romans 6). From John 3:3-5, Jesus explains being "born again" is the same as being "born of water and the Spirit." Paul affirms what Jesus taught when he explains being "born again" as the "washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit."

Consider also what Paul wrote to the Philippians.

Philippians 3:8,9 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 

What Paul wrote to Titus and the Philippians is in harmony with one another. To Titus he writes, "not by works of righteousness we have done," and to the Philippians he writes, "not having my own righteousness,"... and then explains that what he did is based on faith thru Christ, "the righteousness which is from God by faith."

Paul affirms on two occasions that the works we do for salvation are not of ourselves, but they are thru faith in Christ and the righteousness from God based on that faith.

The point is to show that people claiming baptism is working our way into heaven, are indeed correct. We do work our way into heaven. What those people miss, though, is that the work of baptism is not a deed of our own. While we must do it, it is a work of God's righteousness, not of our own merit by which we can boast.

Do you think Noah boasted when we worked to build the ark? No, because it was a work of God, and it saved him and his family. Yes, he had to work to build the ark, but it was a work that God commanded him to do; therefore, it was a work of God. Consider the following passages.

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. 

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

2 Corinthians 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.

The facts from the above three passages are:

  • Noah heard God because he was "divinely warned."
  • Noah obeyed God because he "moved with godly fear" and "prepared an ark."
  • Noah obeyed because he heard God's words.
  • Noah walked by faith by "hearing the word of God."
  • Noah did not walk by sight because these were "things not yet seen."

In summary, Noah heard the word of God and walked by faith, and obeyed God.

God told Noah and his family what they must do to be saved. If Noah were like those teaching faith only today, he would have said, "I have faith that God will save us without having to obey Him; thus, I will not build the ark." Instead of having "faith only," Noah obeyed God and did God's works by building the ark. In the same way, if we do not do what God tells us we must do to be saved, our faith alone will be dead because we did not obey God.

If faith alone saves us, we do not need to repent, although Jesus says we must repent or perish.

Luke 13:3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

Are we going to believe a man telling us that we only need faith, or are we going to believe Jesus who says we not only need to believe, but we also need to repent? You can answer this question.

If faith alone saves us, we do not need to confess Jesus before other men, although Jesus says we must do so.

Matthew 10:32 "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven."

Are we going to believe a man telling us that we only need faith, or are we going to believe Jesus who says we not only need to believe, but we need to confess Him before other men? You can answer.

If faith alone saves us, we do not need to be baptized, although Jesus says we must be baptized to be saved.

Mark 16:16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned."

Are we going to believe a man telling us that we only need faith, or are we going to believe Jesus who says we need to believe and be baptized to be saved? You can answer.

Acts 5:29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men."

Perhaps you may consider "faith only" based on what Jesus said to the thief on the cross. Maybe you may feel like you can be saved in the same way the thief on the cross was saved. We must remember, the thief on the cross was living under the Old Testament Law... the Law of Moses. The thief on the cross was not under the covenant of the New Testament. Jesus had not died, been buried, and risen. I cannot imagine anyone wanting to be saved like the thief on the cross was saved anyway... he was crucified and hung on a cross and suffered much pain and agony. No sane individual would ever want to be saved like that.

There was no way to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins under the Old Testament Law. No one under the Law of Moses could have been buried and raised in the likeness of Christ.

Consider this story I once heard during a Gospel Meeting. Abraham Lincoln never paid one dime in income taxes. Let's suppose you write a letter to the IRS telling them that you will not pay any more income taxes because Abraham Lincoln never paid one dime in income taxes. You advise them that they have received your last check. No doubt you will receive a swift letter back from the IRS informing you that in view of the fact that Abraham Lincoln was never under an income tax law, and in view of the fact that he lived and died before there ever was an income tax law; he could not have paid income taxes had he wanted to pay income taxes. We will be expecting your check by return mail.

If we can understand this analogy then we ought not to have any problem understanding why the thief on the cross did not have to be baptized under the baptism of the great commission. The thief on the cross lived prior to the great commission while we live under the law of the great commission. The thief on the cross lived before the consummation of the gospel of Christ; there is no possible way he could have obeyed the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ even had he wanted to.

We live under the covenant of the New Testament, which is the new covenant God has made with us. In order for the New Testament to be in force, the testator must die. Jesus was the testator. Once He died, was buried, and raised on the third day, He gave the commandments for salvation that we must obey to be saved. This is the covenant by which we must live today.

Hebrews 9:11-17 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. 

The Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant upon the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave the commandment to be baptized after His resurrection. The thief on the cross was dead before Jesus was resurrected. There is no possible way we can be saved in any likeness of the thief on the cross. Jesus nailed that suggested theory to the cross, period.

Why did Jesus say the thief would be with Him in Paradise? Jesus had the power to forgive people of their sins while He was here on this earth. He did this on several occasions. We can read through the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and read of numerous times Jesus saved people before He was crucified.

Matthew 9:6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins"—then He said to the paralytic, "Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."

Jesus forgave many people of their sins and saved many people before He died. He had that authority, but Jesus is not "on earth" now; He is at the right hand of God. He gave instructions on how we can be saved before He ascended into heaven, and those instructions are recorded for us in the New Testament under which we live today.

Finally, consider the most evident proof of "faith only" not saving us. Remember what the thief on the cross said?

Luke 23:42,43 Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." 

Go back to the previous section above for the full explanation of the thief on the cross. In short, many people believe they can be saved simply by believing based on the thief calling Jesus "Lord." However, don't be fooled, as the thief on the cross lived under the Law of Moses, and Jesus forgave many people their sins before he was crucified, buried, and raised from the grave to start the New Testament in which we live. Jesus even said that not everyone who calls Him "Lord" will enter heaven. Thus, the fact that the thief believed and called Jesus "Lord" does not prove we can go to heaven simply by believing and calling Jesus "Lord."

Matthew 7:21-23 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"

We can answer a few questions that the above passage answers with undeniable truth.

  • Anyone calling Jesus "Lord" has faith because they believe that Jesus is Lord; otherwise, why are they calling Him Lord if they do not believe He is Lord? Yes, they are calling him Lord because they have faith.
  • Will this faith that a person has who is calling Jesus Lord save everyone? No.
  • Does Jesus prove in this passage that not everyone with faith will be saved? Yes.

You see... anyone calling Jesus "Lord" has to have faith because they believe that Jesus is Lord. You can have faith, but if you do not obey, faith is worthless, according to Jesus and the Bible.

Luke 6:46 "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?"

Maybe you have faith... maybe you believed and repented many years ago... now I ask, have you confessed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and have you been baptized for the forgiveness of sins? If you have not, please take a moment and read what the Bible says we must do to be saved: How To Become A Christian

Philippians 2:12,13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. 

God Bless You!
Sonnie Parker