“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

6.11 You Are Saved by “Faith Alone/Only” False Teaching

You are in Beware the Wolves -> List of False Teachings

This false teaching denies that obedience and works (action on the part of the believer) have any part whatsoever in the plan of salvation – and that a simple profession of faith alone saves one to eternal life. Those who proclaim this false teaching almost always also falsely teach that: 1) baptism is a “good work” of man and 2) that baptism is therefore not a requirement for salvation.

Because this false teaching is so widespread today, infecting the vast majority of so-called “Christian” churches (especially in America), it has already been addressed throughout the main chapters of this book (see The Path to Eternal Life, Be Baptized, Obedience and Bearing Fruit). However, further information is given here for those who are still deceived by this false teaching ­– in fact, writing this book has helped me understand just how pervasive this false teaching is today. This book is showing you that those who proclaim this “faith alone/only” false teaching are, therefore, triply wrong because:

  1. Baptism is not a “good work” of man,
  2. It is required for salvation (to be born again), and
  3. Scripture clearly teaches us that obedience, works and perseverance do play an important role in the biblical plan of salvation.

This false teaching comes primarily from those who call themselves “Reformed” Protestants and those who call themselves “Calvinists.” And as you will soon read, Calvinism is yet another false theology of man, which is chock full of false teachings from start to finish. But it doesn’t matter what fancy names they give to their own man-made interpretations of Scripture and rules (e.g., Arminianism, Calvinism, “Reformed” Protestantism, Whatever-ism, etc.). They are still man-made interpretations, and they are not in agreement with Scripture.

To support this false teaching, Paul’s writing in the letter to the Ephesians 2:8-10 is widely distorted and taken out of context. Furthermore, it’s as if the entire book of James was torn out of the Bibles of those who proclaim this errant theology. It is also a historical fact that Martin Luther added the word “only” into his rewrite of Romans 3:28! Yes, he actually rewrote Scripture to change it to match his own opinion! Luther also denied the inspiration of the book of James – simply because it didn’t fit his own theology. Those two facts are commonly ignored (and certainly not publicized much) by those who promote this false teaching.

Scripture is clear that the life of a true child of God is marked by continued obedience to Christ and bearing fruit for the Lord (the role of works) as a bondservant of Christ. True Christianity is as much about action and a life of service as it is about profession of faith. It is written: “faith without works is dead.” So, I ask you: Can a dead faith save you to eternal life? You cannot have one (faith) without the other (action/works) and obtain eternal life. Wayne Jackson writes that faith is not an idle concept, devoid of obedience and action on the part of the believer: [1]

A Perversion of Biblical Faith

One of the great tragedies of ecclesiastical history is the fact that so many have failed to find a balanced view of human redemption as this concept is set forth in the biblical record.

On the one hand there is Roman Catholicism, arrogantly contending that salvation is conferred upon the basis of meritorious acts. The Council of Trent declared that good works, done to the honor of God, have “truly merited the attainment of eternal life in due time” (session vi, chapter xvi.).

On the other hand, Protestant reformers, reacting against this unscriptural ideology, gravitated to an equally indefensible position, alleging that salvation is bestowed by means of “faith alone.” The French reformer Jacobus Faber (1455-1536) argued that salvation is upon the basis of faith without works. And Martin Luther’s obsession with this theme led him to alter the text of Romans 3:28 so that his translation read: “[A] man is justified by faith only.” It is rather well known that he rejected the divine character of the book of James due to the inspired writer’s affirmation that “faith apart from works is dead.”

It will be the burden of this study to demonstrate that “faith,” as that term is employed in contexts in which the subject is commended, is never a mere intellectual or emotional disposition divorced from devout obedience. Valid faith is never passive. It becomes a redemptive quality only when it responds in implementing the will of Jehovah.

“Faith”—A Word of Action

One of the most absurd statements that we ever read was from a denominationalist who declared: “Faith is the only thing that one can do without doing anything.” The affirmation is a textbook case of contradiction.

The following examples will clearly reveal that genuine faith is not a mere attitude; rather, it is a word of action.

(1) Jesus was teaching in the city of Capernaum. The crowds so pressed around him that some who sought his presence could not gain access to the Lord. Four enterprising men brought a lame friend, climbed to the rooftop of the house wherein Christ was teaching, and lowered their impotent companion through the ceiling. Significantly, the inspired writer comments: “And Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5).

What did Christ see? He literally saw the action of these men (including the sick man who obviously endorsed the activity). But the action is called faith. In a similar vein, James challenged: “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (James 2:18).

(2) John 3:16 is perhaps the best-known verse in the Bible; but it is one of the most misunderstood: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Does the “belief” of this passage include obedience, or exclude it? A comparison of this verse with Hebrews 5:9 reveals that the former is the case. In John 3:16, believing results in eternal life. In Hebrews 5:9, eternal salvation is said to issue from obedience to Christ. It thus should be quite clear that the belief that saves is one that manifests itself in obeying the Son of God. True faith is not just a mental process.

(3) Note this declaration from the Lord: “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36, ASV).

We have cited the American Standard Version here because it is more accurate in its rendition of the original language than is the King James Version. The term in the latter portion of the verse is apeitheo, which, according to Balz and Schneider, literally means “to disobey” (1990, 118). In this passage “believing” is set in vivid contrast to disobedience.

Is not Christ suggesting that the one who obeys the Son is promised life, but the person who disobeys will not receive such?

The Bible knows nothing of true faith that is divorced from obedience.

(4) When a jailor in the city of Philippi feared for his life during an earthquake that rocked the prison, he pled with Paul and Silas: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” God’s messengers proclaimed to him the gospel. Evincing repentance (for having beaten his prisoners), the jailor washed their stripes. Subsequently, he and his family were immersed (Acts 16:31-33).

Significantly, this entire process is summed up in this fashion: “And he . . . rejoiced greatly, with all his house, having believed in God” (v. 34). It is clear that the participle, “having believed,” includes the jailor’s repentance and his baptism.

(7) James shows the connection between faith and obedience when he writes: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works [obedience], in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? You see that faith operated with his works [obedience], and by works [his obedience] was [his] faith made complete; and the scripture was fulfilled which says, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God” (James 2:21-23).

It is this type of biblical evidence that has compelled leading New Testament language authorities to acknowledge that faith is more than a mere philosophy of belief. Genuine faith cannot be separated from submission to the Lord.


The doctrine of salvation by “faith alone” does not have the support of Scripture. It has resulted from a sincere but misguided reaction to Roman Catholicism. Those who have embraced this philosophy should carefully restudy the question of salvation.

And further: [2]

Justified by Faith

The text is thrilling beyond the human tongue to express:

    Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand; and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2).

The Exegesis

Bible passages brim with inspired information worthy of careful examination. Unfortunately all too often the holy words are treated superficially. It is a tragedy of no small magnitude that this lovely citation is so seriously misunderstood by a sizable segment of “Christendom.” Let us give it a focused investigation.

The Contextual Background

It should be noted first that the text is prefaced with the conjunction “therefore” (oun), the design of which is to draw a logical conclusion from previously stated premises. Though we cannot develop the entire preceding context in this brief article, we must note two important facts set forth in the final verse of chapter four. Christ “was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.”

These compound phrases set forth two great acts in the divine plan of human redemption. (a) Christ was “delivered up” to death (cf. Acts 2:23) for our “trespasses.” A trespass is an infraction of divine law—an action against either God or man. The human family has been ruined by sin (cf. Romans 5:12), and there is no remedy for such apart from Christ (Acts 4:12). (b) Jesus was “raised for our justification.” Both the death of Christ and his subsequent resurrection were key elements in the sacred program enacted for humanity’s salvation. From this foundation springs the important passage cited above.


The noun, “justification,” is found ninety-two times in the New Testament (fifty-eight times in Paul’s letters), while the verb “justify” occurs thirty-nine times (twenty-seven times in Paul’s writings). Justification is the legal standing that results from the process of “being justified.” To say that one is justified from sin is not to claim that he is innocent of the crime; far from it. Rather, the term suggests that the offender has been exempted from the penalty he justly deserves. The “death sentence” (cf. Romans 5:12; 6:23) has been set aside, consistent with the righteous Judge’s system of justice.

In the case of the sin-guilt of a rebellious people (which all accountable souls have been – Romans 3:10,23), both the problem and the solution are set forth in Romans chapter three. The issue is this: how may God be just, and yet justify sinners (cf. 3:26). The answer is found in the gift of Christ. God set forth his Son to be the “propitiation” for sin (hilasterion), i.e., an offering of atonement, a covering for sin (cf. Hebrews 9:5). The sinless “lamb of God” takes the penalty for the sinful individual who submits to the conditions imposed by the Judge, God (cf. Isaiah 53:4-6). Paul affirms that these “beloved of God . . . saints” in the city of Rome have been “justified” (a past tense act with an abiding result). Practically speaking, justification is the equivalent of forgiveness, as well as the “in Christ” relationship (cf. Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27).

By Faith

The battleground on this passage, and numerous others of similar import, is the meaning of “by faith” (ek pisteos). The preposition ek has been variously translated as “by” (KJV, ASV) or “through” (NIV). The term basically means “out of” and it reveals the human side of the salvation equation. Out of a genuine faith flows submission to God in response to sacred instruction (Romans 10:17). The sinner’s “faith” is essential to his justification. This affirmation, of course, negates the baseless theories of “universal salvation” and “unconditional election.”

The major controversy, however, is over the meaning of “faith.” Is this merely the willingness of the sinner to accept the historical facts about Christ, and the surrender of one’s soul to “trust” the Lord for his salvation? This is a common perception, but is it accurate? Though this view gained the strong support of the early Protestant Reformation in its opposition to the Roman Catholic dogma of justification upon the basis of meritorious works, the theory has no support in the larger context of the book of Romans, or, for that matter, elsewhere in the New Testament. In J.H. Thayer’s discussion of the verb pisteuo (”believe”), he supplements the idea of trust with that of “obedience to Christ” (1958, 511), and this is amply supported by the biblical text. Note the following facts:

  1. In his letter to the Romans (and elsewhere), Paul never divorces faith from obedience. Valid faith is that which yields obedience, and obedience derives its genesis from faith (1:5; 16:26). This is such an established biblical principle that gospel obedience in the book of Acts is characterized as being “obedient to the faith” (6:7). Faith, aloof from submission to God, is simply viewed as non-faith, redemptively speaking (cf. James 2:24).
  2. In chapter six, Paul aligns himself with the Christians in Rome and characterizes all as “we who died to sin” (v. 2). Later, the apostle complements the earlier affirmation by this supplementary phrase: “for he who has died is justified” (v. 7). If, therefore, one learns what transpired between verses two and seven, he will know precisely how justification was effected. Paul’s explanation is clear. He contends that dying to sin essentially is a resolution to no longer live the unrestrained life of sin (v. 2). The one who dies to the love and reckless practice of sin will submit to being buried in baptism, just as Christ was buried following his death. Moreover, as Jesus was “raised,” so it is the case that when one emerges from immersion, he enjoys “newness of life” (v. 4), i.e., justification from sin (v. 7). Later, in the same context, the apostle describes the process as being “obedient from the heart,” hence being “delivered” and “made free from sin” (vv. 17-18).
  3. Since Paul uses the plural “we” to join himself with the Romans, in terms of what each did in procuring justification, and inasmuch as we elsewhere learn that Saul’s sins were “washed away” at the point of baptism (Acts 22:16), one must conclude that justification occurs at the point of immersion. This is a part of the broader process of being “justified by faith.” One has not the liberty, therefore, to isolate the initial act of belief/trust from the full complement of conditions (e.g., “repentance” and “confession” of one’s faith – 2:4; 10:9-10) that lead to the point of actual justification.
  4. In chapter ten of this book, the apostle discusses the problem of Jewish disbelief. What was at the core of that problem? They sought to make themselves right with God by adopting a mode of “righteousness” on their own, rather than submitting themselves to the “righteousness of God,” i.e., God’s plan for constituting one as righteous (10:1-3). When one obeys the first principles of the gospel, he is accounted to be “righteous” (dikaios – see Matthew 25:37), which is the equivalent of “justified” (dikaioo). Subsequently in this chapter the apostle quotes scripture (Isaiah 28:16) to the effect that whosoever “believes on him” [Christ] “shall not be put to shame” (v. 11). This last phrase is the negative form of the positive terms “saved” or “justified.” He then references a parallel sentiment from Joel (2:32), “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (v. 13). From the book of Acts one learns that “calling upon the name of the Lord” in order to receive salvation, occurs when one repents of sins and is immersed in the name of Christ—at which point he receives “forgiveness of sins” (cf. Acts 2:21,38). But, by way of contrast, what was the plight of many of the Jews? Tragically, “they did not all obey the gospel” (10:16). Thus, “believing” (v. 11), and “calling upon the name” (v. 13), are the equivalents of obeying the gospel. Faith obeys!

Clearly, a full consideration of all the facts leads the careful and honest student only to the conclusion that while being justified is by faith, the initial act of believing does not represent the total plan of justification. Faith is the guiding principle of obedience; it is, however, only the beginning of the process that leads to further obedience. Faith does not justify without that submission.

Grace Accessed

Grace is a wonderful, though much misunderstood, theme. The term charis occurs about 155 times in the New Testament. The word is related to the Greek, chairo, meaning “to rejoice.” Grace conveys the ideas of favor, gratification, or gratitude, depending upon the context. There is significant stress upon the fact that salvation is the result of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), but there are several important aspects to this matter.

  1. Heaven’s grace is made available to “all men” (Titus 2:11), contrary to the claims of Calvinism, which alleges it is bestowed only upon certain “elect” ones.
  2. Divine grace is accessed by means of a system of intellectual instruction (Titus 2:12; cf. John 6:45); it is not arbitrarily bestowed.
  3. Grace is extended conditionally (cf. Genesis 6:8; Hebrews 11:7)—again, contra Calvinism. The Ephesian Christians had been saved “by grace” (Ephesians 2:8), but their salvation occurred at that point in time when they were “cleansed by the washing of water” (5:26). This is a reference to their baptism—a fact almost universally conceded by scholars.
  4. Grace excludes merit; salvation can never be earned (Romans 6:23; cf. Matthew 18:24-27). On the other hand, the offer of grace must be “received” (2 Corinthians 6:1; cf. John 1:11-12), and it is received by responding to certain divinely required conditions (Titus 3:4-7; cf. John 3:3-5).
  5. As noted already, within the sphere of grace one can be at peace with God, and in achieving that, he becomes an heir of “the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).

Truth be told, I used to believe this false teaching, because it was the only thing I had ever heard taught and preached in every single one of the churches I attended! Also realize that this false teaching is almost always accompanied by other false teachings (see the “sinner’s prayer,” “once saved always saved,” false teachings on baptism, etc.) which are all interwoven together into a giant intricate knot and tangled web of deception.

See the chapters on The Path to Eternal Life, Be Baptized, Obedience and Bearing Fruit (The Role of Works) for information on the truth of what Scripture actually teaches.

[1] Jackson, Wayne. “A Perversion of Biblical Faith.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: May 23, 2019. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/190-perversion-of-biblical-faith-a
[2] Jackson, Wayne. “Justified by Faith.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: May 23, 2019. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1374-justified-by-faith

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Cite this article

Anderson, R. John. "6.11 You Are Saved by “Faith Alone/Only” False Teaching." EachDay.org. Access date: June 4, 2023. https://eachday.org/part-vi-beware-the-wolves/6-11-you-are-saved-by-faith-only/