Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works? Salvation is a fundamental concept in Christian theology, and the question of whether it is achieved by faith alone or by faith plus works has been a topic of debate for centuries. This question played a significant role in the Reformation, causing a split between Protestantism and Catholicism. It also distinguishes biblical Christianity from many cults.
Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works?
From a Biblical Perspective
The Works Debate
Different religious circles have varying beliefs about the works required for salvation. Some groups argue that water baptism is a necessary work to be added to faith. According to them, if one is not baptized, they are not saved. Others go even further, stating that baptism must be performed by the right minister, using the correct method and reciting the proper words. Similarly, different rites such as receiving Mass, going to confession, or tithing are prescribed as additional requirements for salvation.
Salvation through Faith Alone
Many passages in the Bible clearly teach that salvation is achieved through faith alone, without the need for works. Ephesians 2:8-9 unequivocally states, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” The word “grace” is of utmost importance here, as it signifies God’s blessings on the undeserving. The concept of grace negates any attempt to earn salvation.
Additional passages that support salvation through faith alone include Acts 16:31, Romans 3:28; 4:5; 5:1, Galatians 2:16; 3:24, Ephesians 1:13, and Philippians 3:9. These verses reinforce the idea that salvation is solely based on faith in Christ, and not on any human effort or merit.
The James 2 Dilemma
While the majority of biblical passages emphasize faith alone for salvation, there are a few verses that seem to suggest a combination of faith and works. One such verse is James 2:24, which states, “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” However, a deeper examination of James’ argument reveals that he is addressing the misconception that one can have saving faith without producing good works.
James argues that genuine faith in Christ will result in a changed life and the production of good works. These works are not a prerequisite for salvation but rather an outward expression of genuine faith. They serve as evidence to others that the believer’s faith is real. James 2:14, 17, 20, and 26 all highlight the connection between faith and works, emphasizing that true faith will naturally lead to good deeds.
Faith and Good Works
The relationship between faith and works can also be understood through the teachings of the apostle Paul. In Titus 2:14, Paul states that those who have true faith in Jesus Christ will be “eager to do what is good.” In Ephesians 2, immediately after emphasizing that salvation is by faith and not by works, Paul explains that believers were created “to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10). This indicates that good works are not the means of salvation but rather the result of genuine faith.
Good works are a manifestation of faith in action. They are the visible proof that an individual has truly accepted Christ as their Savior. While salvation is received by faith alone, the transformation that occurs within a believer’s life will naturally lead to a desire to do good and demonstrate love for others.
The Source of Salvation
When discussing salvation, it is crucial to clarify whose works are responsible for saving us. Our own works, no matter how meritorious they may seem in our eyes, cannot save us. Salvation is solely achieved through the work of Christ on our behalf. His death and resurrection are the works that provide salvation. We receive our Savior by placing our faith in Him (John 1:12).
The question of whether salvation is by faith alone or by faith plus works has been a significant point of contention within Christian theology. While there are passages that may initially seem to indicate a combination of faith and works, a closer examination reveals that salvation is ultimately by faith alone. Good works are the natural outpouring of genuine faith and serve as evidence of a transformed life. However, it is essential to recognize that salvation is not earned through our own efforts, but rather through the redemptive work of Christ.
Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works?
Galatians 2:16 Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Romans 3:28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
Group 1 – Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
James 2:24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Galatians 2:21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Romans 3:20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Romans 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
Galatians 3:24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
Group 2 – Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works
Romans 3:22 The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
Romans 4:1-25 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, …
James 2:23 And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.
Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
Genesis 15:6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
Group 3 – Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works
Acts 16:31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Romans 4:16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
James 2:20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?
Romans 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
James 2:1-26 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? …
Group 4 – Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works
John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Romans 4:11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,
Romans 9:30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith;
Galatians 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”
Romans 3:24 And are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Romans 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
Galatians 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Group 5 – Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works
Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
James 2:14-26 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So 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 apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. …
Galatians 3:22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Group 6 – Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works
Acts 10:43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
1 Timothy 1:16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
Galatians 3:6 Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Titus 3:5 He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Group 7 – Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works
Galatians 3:14 So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Romans 10:9 Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 3:30 Since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
John 6:40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Group 8 – Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works
James 2:17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.
Romans 3:27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.
Romans 5:18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
Romans 4:25 Who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Romans 5:2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
Romans 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
Group 9 – Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works
Acts 13:39 And by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
Romans 3:25 Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
John 6:28-29 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
Group 10 – Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works
Romans 10:10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 1:30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
Galatians 3:1-29 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— …
Group 11 – Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works
James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?
Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
Romans 3:10 As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 5:4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Mark 1:15 And saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Group 12 – Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works
John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”
Acts 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,
Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
Habakkuk 2:4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
Romans 10:9-10 Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Romans 10:3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.
Group 13 – Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works
1 Timothy 3:16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Romans 8:4 In order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
1 John 3:4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
Romans 1:5 Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,
Romans 3:24-25 And are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
Group 14 – Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works
Luke 7:50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Romans 4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
John 5:28-29 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
Romans 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. …
Group 15 – Is Salvation by Faith Alone or by Faith Plus Works
John 20:31 But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Romans 3:26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Matthew 25:31-46 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, …
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