The Faith of Abraham Is Not Faith Alone

When people say that salvation is by faith alone, they define faith incorrectly, or they ascribe faith to the wrong person. They believe that faith is merely a mental process or that it comes only from God. They often use Ephesians 2:8–9 to confirm their belief:

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.

The problem, however, is that Paul does not express in this passage that we are saved by faith alone. Furthermore, there is no indication that faith is directly from God. If we truly want to understand these verses, the best way to do so would be to refer to the conversion account of those to whom Paul writes this letter, that is, to the Ephesian Christians (Read Acts 19), as he is simply recounting their moment of acceptance of Christ. However, instead of analyzing the Ephesians’ response, I want to focus on Abraham, a biblical character Paul discusses in his letter to the Romans. If there is anyone besides Jesus that we could look to as a model of faith, that person is Abraham. I believe he is the best scriptural example to analyze because he is considered the father of all those who have faith in Christ (Rom. 4:11,16). God chose him as the one through whom all nations would be blessed, and his choice was on the basis of faith.

Paul makes an important statement in Romans 1:17 that serves as a focal point of his entire letter. He says, “For in it (that is, in the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’”

This statement cited from Habakkuk 2:8, “the just shall live by faith,” can also be worded as follows: “the [just by faith] shall live.” Notice that I place brackets around “just by faith” to highlight the idea that one is made righteous by faith, and thus, receives eternal life. We therefore can all agree that faith has a significant role in justification and salvation.

After he establishes that all humankind is guilty of sin in the sight of God, Paul clarifies that neither Jew nor Gentile can use the Mosaic Law as a means of justification. He says in Romans 3:27–28, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Then he uses the example of Abraham to show how one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. He says that Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). That is, Abraham was justified by his faith, not by God’s faith. Notice that Paul says in Romans 4:16 that the promise is for those who are of the faith of Abraham. He does not say the faith of God. Therefore, we can conclude from this account that the faith spoken of in Ephesians 2:8 is not a faith that belongs to God, but rather a faith man has in Christ through God’s word (See Romans 10:17). Note also that the original statement in Habakkuk 2:8 is that the just shall live by his faith; that is, it is the faith of the righteous person.

We can also determine from the example of Abraham that faith is not simply a mental process, but rather, it involves taking action that is rooted in trust. James says that faith is dead without works (Jas. 2:14–17):

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.

He later uses Abraham as an example (Jas. 2:21–24):

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.

Here we see that Abraham did not just mentally believe God; he took action in obeying the Lord’s command to sacrifice his only son (Gen. 22:18). Abraham’s faith and obedience went hand in hand, showing that they were not separate things. Therefore, a correct definition of faith is that which includes trust and obedience to God’s word. One cannot be saved by faith alone or by works alone because one is incomplete without the other (Jas. 2:22).

Being justified by faith and obedience does not nullify the grace of God. Paul says in Romans 4:4–5, “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” Abraham clearly did not earn justification by his obedience, because if it were so, it would not have been a gift from God, but rather a debt owed to him. When we say that one must be baptized to be saved, we are simply stating that obedient faith in God is essential, not that it merits salvation as a work of righteousness. In Titus 3:5, Paul shows that baptism is not intended to be a work of righteousness:

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, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

The contrastive conjunction “but” distinguishes works of righteousness from the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, these two being the rebirth in baptism Jesus speaks of in John 3. Without them we cannot be justified, nor can we enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5). Therefore, if justification and entrance into the kingdom is obtained in baptism, as is stated in Titus 3:5 and John 3:5, it stands that baptism as a work of faith is essential for salvation, and not mental belief alone.

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[COMMENTARY] Romans 3:19–31

This post is part of a series of essays based on my study of Paul’s epistle to the Romans. They are simply drafts and not intended to be well-polished essays. I would appreciate any constructive feedback.


 

Romans 3:19–31

Click here to read the passage.

Paul establishes in verses 1–18 that both Jews and Gentiles are guilty of sin and, despite their excuses, will not escape the judgment. Starting in verse 19, he argues that anyone who seeks to be righteous according to the deeds of the law will not be justified (Gal. 2:16), because the law brings about the knowledge of sin. The law speaks to those who are subject to it, and since all have sinned, those who are subject to the law are guilty before God.

The righteousness of God through faith in Christ has been made known apart from the law. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ (Acts 15:11; Eph. 2:8–10), not by the Mosaic Law. However, the Mosaic Law and the Prophets bear witness to salvation through faith in Christ. When Jesus spoke to the Jews concerning his authority as the Son of God, he told them that Moses had written about him (John 5:46). Moses had told the children of Israel that God would raise up from among them a prophet like him. He had instructed them to do as the prophet said because God would put his word in the prophet’s mouth, and he would speak to them all that he commanded him (Deut. 18:15). Moses was referring to Christ (Acts 3:20–23).

God does not save individuals based on any other distinguishing factor but obedient faith in Christ. We cannot be righteous on our own because we all have sinned, and we fall short of the glory of God (Gal. 3:22). Christ redeemed us by paying a price for us so that we would be justified freely by the grace of God (Rom. 8:1; 12:5; 2 Cor. 5:12). God made Christ serve as a propitiation for our sins (1 John. 2:2; Matt. 20:28; 26:28; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; 1 Tim. 2:5–6). His blood was shed as an atonement to satisfy God’s wrath. The free gift of salvation demonstrates the righteousness of God, because he has forgiven even the sins of the faithful ones spoken about in the Old Testament. Forbearance refers to God’s passing over the sins that were previously committed until the death of Christ took place. His death would cover sins retroactively and prospectively. Therefore, God is just and is the justifier of those who have faith in Christ.

The Jews had no room to boast because justification was by faith, not by the law. God is not God of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles, and has justified the former by faith and the latter through faith. God does not have a special relationship with one race or nation above others since he saves all people who have faith in Jesus. The law, however, was not made void by this fact, but rather was established, because it served its purpose in showing the need for justification by faith. That is, it exposed that all were under sin and needed to trust God to save them—not their works of righteousness.

Baptism Now Saves You

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

-1 Peter 3:18–22

Those who oppose the idea of salvation occurring at the occasion of water baptism tend to define inaccurately the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. They claim that it is the false belief that one must be immersed in water to be saved1, 2, 3:

However, baptismal regeneration is accurately defined as the teaching that water baptism in and of itself saves a person. This doctrine—along with the false teaching of original sin—has led certain denominations to practice infant baptism. Along with affirming the essentiality of baptism, Cyprian of Carthage, a Catholic bishop, taught that infants should be baptized as soon as they were born because he believed that they were all born guilty of Adam’s sin4, 5:

Many people use 1 Peter 3:21 to negate baptismal regeneration. However, in their attempt to refute this false doctrine, they end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater (no pun intended).

When Peter mentions baptism in verse 21, he discusses it in relation to the events that occurred during the days of Noah (v. 20). Peter says, “because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” That is, baptism corresponds to the salvation of Noah and his family through water. When we want to better understand the Scriptures, we can use an interpretative tool called biblical typology, which involves the study of New Testament examples foreshadowed by significant events and characters in the Old Testament. For example, Paul in his letter to the Romans speaks of the fall of Adam being typical of, or pointing to, the redemptive work of Christ (Rom. 5:14–15)6:

14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

Notice in verse 14, Paul uses the word “type”, which is translated from the Greek word túpos. The type that appears in the Old Testament—in this case, Adam—corresponds to Christ, who is the “antitype”. Peter uses this same terminology in speaking of baptism. The word “correspond” in 1 Peter 3:21 is derived from antítupos (antitype), which is sometimes translated as “like figure”:

21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (NKJV).

21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (KJV).

Peter is revealing a correspondence between the flood and baptism, the former being the type, and the latter, the antitype. His discussion therefore teaches us that baptism saves us in the same way that the diluvial waters saved Noah and his family while they were in the ark (See Genesis 6).

Peter however makes a very important caveat, which appears to indicate a common thought that was probably held at the time of his writing his letter. Notice what he says in verse 21: “not as a removal of dirt from the body.” Many people use this phrase in particular to contest baptismal regeneration—and the phrase does indeed speak against it (when defined accurately). However, the phrase does not in any way refute the essentiality of baptism for salvation. What Peter expresses here is that baptism is not a simple bath—it does not save you in and of itself. It should not be taken as a simple ritual without any thought behind it, which is why infants have no need to be baptized, as they do not have the ability to reason about such matters. Baptism requires first that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, and additionally, that we repent of past sins. We have to recognize that we need a savior. Peter speaks to this idea in the rest of verse 21: “[it is] an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Baptism saves in that we are calling out to God to remove our sins and give us a clear conscience (cf. Acts 22:16). Submitting to baptism shows that we trust that God will perform his powerful work of salvation on us through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Col. 2:12; cf. Acts 2:38).

16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

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.

How can we make an appeal to God for a good conscience without baptism if the Scriptures teach us that the appeal is made in this way? How can we be saved without baptism if Peter clearly states that baptism saves? Many claim to have faith, but when they are called by the Scriptures to do something, they resist by claiming that we do not have to work for our salvation. Faith, however, comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17), and the word of God has told us to be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38); therefore, we must heed his word if forgiveness is what we truly want.

Footnotes

1. The ‘Baptismal Regeneration’ Heresy Refuted, by David J. Stewart
2. Baptism and 1 Pet. 3:21, by Matt Slick
3. Does Baptism Save You?, by Jeremiah Johnson
4. Epistle 58, by Cyprian of Carthage
5. The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform, by Roger E. Olson
6. Entry for ‘Type’. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1915. General Editor James Orr, M.A., D.D

Faith in the Working of God in Baptism

12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God
-Colossians 2:12

Baptism is the occasion in which God performs his divine work. Paul mentions this fact in his letter to the church in Colossae. In Chapter 2, he warns them of being deceived by those teaching philosophies that are found in man-made traditions and worldly requirements and that are not according to the doctrine of Christ (v. 8). Christians—being complete in Christ—have no need for worldly doctrines because Christ has power over all (vv. 9–10). Paul then goes on to talk about the circumcision that they experienced. He mentions three characteristics of this circumcision. First, it is made without hands (v. 11); it is not the physical circumcision, which was required by the Mosaic law, but rather the circumcision of Christ. Second, it puts off the body of the sins of the flesh (v. 11); that is, it washes away sins. Third, and very important, it involves a burial with Christ in baptism (v. 12; cf. Rom. 6:4). These characteristics highlight the agent of our salvation—God.

Notice in verses 12–14 that Paul lays out the operation that God performed on the Colossians when they were baptized. He says that God raised them from the dead, bringing them to life again just as he did with Christ (v. 12). He forgave them of their sins by wiping away all the requirements that were against them according to the law, and he took the law out of the way through Christ’s death on the cross (vv. 13–14). By doing this, he made peace among men, uniting them in one body, and he reconciled the body to himself (Eph. 2:15–16).

All those who want to have this operation must be baptized, as this act is the moment in which God will perform his work of forgiving all our past sins. Furthermore, we must have faith in this operation. We have to trust that God will indeed do what he promises to do when we submit to his command to be baptized. Submitting to baptism is not a reason to boast (Eph. 2:8–8) since we do not even deserve to have the operation. God, according to his everlasting grace and mercy, invites us so that he can circumcise the foreskin of our heart (Deut. 10:6, 30:6; Phil 3:3).

Baptized into the Body that Jesus Saves

13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body
-1 Corinthians 12:13

After giving his sermon on Mars Hill and converting some of the Athenians, Paul went to Corinth to continue preaching the gospel. According to Luke, many of the Corinthians heard the word, believed, and were baptized (Acts 18:8). Paul later referred to their baptism when he wrote to the Corinthians concerning several issues they were experiencing, which was causing divisions among them. He states the following in 1 Corinthians 12:12–13:

12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.

Three truths are presented in these verses: 1) Christ has one body, 2) the body is made up of many members, and 3) baptism puts you in that one body regardless of race, nationality, status, or any other distinguishing factor.

We obtain several benefits from being in the body, that is, the church for which Christ gave his life and of which he is the head (Eph. 1:22–23; Col. 1:18–24). We are nourished and cherished (Eph. 5:28), sanctified and cleansed by the washing of water by the word (Eph. 5:26), presented holy as a glorious church without spot, wrinkle, or blemish (Eph. 5:27), reconciled to God (Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20), and saved by Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:23). Therefore, anyone who wants to reap these benefits, one being salvation, must do what is necessary to get into the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:13 presents one of the necessary acts—baptism. If Christ is the Savior of the body, and one gets into the body by way of baptism, then we conclude that this act is an essential part of salvation. Christ said that those who believe and are baptized will be saved. If they do not believe, they are condemned already (Mark 16:16; John 3:18).

Death in Baptism is Freedom from Sin

For he who has died has been freed from sin.
-Romans 6:7

Paul writes in his letter to the Romans in chapter 6, verse 7 that the one who has died has been freed from sin. We understand from Luke 1:77 that being freed from sin—that is, the forgiveness of sin—is equivalent to receiving salvation from God through Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must understand and teach others the manner in which they must die in order to be freed from sin, as this act will bring about the salvation of their souls. The answer to the way in which we die to sin is given in Romans 6.

After explaining to these Christians that grace abounded much more through Christ where sin abounded (Rom. 5:20–21), Paul poses the following question: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1) He then responds in verses 2 and 3: “Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:2–3) What we observe in these verses is that the death we must experience is a death to sin, and once we die to sin, we must no longer live in it. Additionally, this death is realized in baptism and is related to the death of Christ. Paul is telling the Christians that their baptism into Christ, which was a baptism into his death, was the way in which they died to sin. Notice verses 4–6:

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

Baptism—an act of immersion into water—unites us with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection, and the purpose of it is so “that the body of sin might be done away with that we should no longer be slaves to sin,” but rather “should walk in newness of life.” This operation is only possible by the glory of the Father that raised Christ from the dead. Now, we arrive back at verse 7, where Paul says, “for”—that is, because—“he who has died has been freed from sin.” Clearly Paul has connected baptism with forgiveness of sin, which in turn, is the gift of salvation. In baptism and by the grace of God, we are saved from our sins, and we never die again. However, just as Christ, we must live to God, not giving ourselves over to sin once again, but rather allowing ourselves to be his instruments of righteousness (vv. 8–12). This lifestyle is accomplished only after we have submitted ourselves to Christ’s commandment of becoming his disciples through baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 28:18–20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).

Can Christians Lose Their Salvation? A Brief Discussion on 1 John 2:19

Calvinism teaches that we cannot fall from grace once we have been saved by God. The Westminster Confession of Faith states the following in chapter 17, section 1:

They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

This teaching is known as “perseverance of the saints” or “once saved, always saved.” Calvinists believe that losing your salvation is evidence that you were not truly saved in the first place (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 788), and they cite 1 John 2:19 to support this claim:

19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”

However, when we read this passage closely, we come to realize that it does not make reference to people who where seemingly saved and subsequently fell from grace, but rather it refers to antichrists who never believed and confessed Christ as the Son of the living God. Reading verses 18–23 reveals the true intent of John’s words:

18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

Notice that John says in verse 19 that the antichrists that were among the Christians were not of them. That is, they were deceiving the people by pretending they were Christians. However, eventually they would depart from the group, and thus, all would see that they truly were not followers of Christ. The antichrists were people who denied the Father and the Son (vv. 22–23). They did not believe in Jesus Christ and were infiltrating the church. John talks more about them in his second letter: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” John wrote to Christians to warn them of those who would bring a different doctrine than the one they had heard (2 Jn. 10).

Christians today can learn from John’s letters in regards to the beliefs of our present society. There are several groups that deny the deity of Christ or even his existence. We must guard ourselves against their claims and continue to spread the word that Jesus is the Son of the living God. Without his sacrifice, there can be no salvation. We must also beware of the false doctrines taught by Calvinists. The Scriptures are clear on matters of salvation and teach that if we practice sin, even as Christians, we can indeed fall from grace. In his letter to the church of Galatia, Paul explains that those who attempted to be justified by the Mosaic law had fallen from grace (Gal. 5:4). Additionally, the Hebrews writer exhorts Christians to be careful that they do not fall short of the grace of God by defiling themselves with bitterness (Heb. 12:15). Just with these two passages we learn that losing our salvation is possible and that we must be careful not to practice those things that would separate us from God.

 

An Analysis of Romans 5:12-21

In his letter to the Romans, Paul proclaims that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to those who believe. Therefore, if you believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are made righteous (or just) by your faith. It is within this context that Paul explains the typological association between Adam and Christ in Romans 5. Verses 12–21 are normally used to support the claim that human beings are born sinners and that our sin nature is due to Adam’s sin. This doctrine is called original sin. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, the guilt of Adam’s sin has been transferred to us throughout the generations (Chapter VI, Sections III and VI):

“They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.”

Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, does in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.”

Although the Reformers claim that we are now born sinful (See The Covenant of Works: Do This and Live written by Derrick Brite), Romans 5:12–21 does not teach that we today are guilty of Adam’s sin. What we learn from this passage is that, like Adam, we are all sinners (Rom. 3:9-12,23) and that we suffer the consequence of sin, which is death (Gen 2:17; Rom. 6:23; Jas. 1:15). Additionally, through the death of the one Man Christ, we are all made righteous when we believe (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:18).

Paul’s statement in verse 12 shows that sin exists in the world today because one man, who was in the world, sinned. That is, God created this man on the earth, and then this man sinned. Voila! Sin is in the world. Some take this further to say that his sin, or the guilt of his sin, was passed on to subsequent generations; however, that conclusion is false. The consequence of his sin was death (Gen. 2:17). Therefore, Paul explains that since we all sin, we also suffer death (Rom. 5:12): “…and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”

I believe one of the errors that teachers of original sin make with Romans 5:12–21 is that of equating sin with death or believing that both sin and death transferred to us. However, when we properly analyze these verses, we see that it is impossible to replace the word “death” with “sin.” Verse 15 says, “[b]ut the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.” Christ is being compared to Adam. Adam’s sin brought death to all in the same way Christ brings eternal life to all. Paul’s discussion is dealing with death versus life, not sin versus life. Notice that verse 16 says, “and the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned.” The phrase “that which” refers back to “death”, not “sin.” It would not make sense to say the following: “And the gift is not like [sin] which came through the one who sinned.” This sentence negates the dichotomy of death versus life that is presented in verse 15. It also conflicts with verse 17: “for if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” Once again we see that it is the consequence of sin –death– that reigns through Adam, and not sin itself.

Now, some will use verse 19 to further prove their doctrine of original sin: “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners….” Notice, however, that the verse ends saying “so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Proponents of original sin make the unnecessary conclusion that the guilt of Adam’s sin was passed on to all without any disobedience committed on our part. We would have to make the claim then that Christ’s righteousness was also transferred to us without any obedience on our part. Ezekiel 18:20ff proves that claim to be false. The father’s sin or righteousness is never transferred to the son. Individuals reap the consequences of their own actions (Ezek. 18:20,26-28).

20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

26 When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. 27 Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. 28 Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

The guilt of Adam’s sin is not transferred to us. We are guilty because we choose to sin. God determined that the consequence of sin would be physical death, but there is also a second death brought about by sin (Rev. 21:8) – a spiritual one. However, we have the opportunity to be righteous through Christ if we choose to turn away from our sins in order not to suffer that spiritual death.

By Grace (God’s Part) Through Faith (Man’s Part) – UPDATED

“who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” (2 Tim. 1:9-10)

God offered salvation to all mankind according to his grace and by the death of Jesus Christ even before the beginning of time. No work of man could have brought about salvation since mankind had not been created at the time God devised his plan. However, salvation is not by grace only; it is by grace through faith. Some say salvation depends solely on God. If this affirmation were true, we would have to conclude that God has grace and faith, which is impossible. He is omniscient – all knowing – and thus, does not have faith. According to Hebrews 11:1, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. God does not have hope because he sees and knows everything. Romans 8:24 says, “[n]ow hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for that he sees”? Man is who has faith, and therefore, we conclude that man must appropriate God’s grace through faith: “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Salvation is a gift of God that we obtain through our faith. We cannot be saved without faith because it is impossible to please God without it. We must believe that he exists, and that he rewards those who diligently seek him (Heb. 11:6). The word of God teaches that, although salvation is a gift of God, man has a part to play in order to be saved because faith is a requirement that must be fulfilled by man.

If man is saved through his faith in God who has offered his grace, then we need to know what faith is. As I mentioned earlier, according to Hebrews 11:1, it is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Faith is having confidence or assurance in our hope of salvation and being convicted about the things that we do not see, for example, the existence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When God commands us to do something, although we do not understand it completely or see the connection or how it is possible, we still have to do it in order to please him. Therefore, faith is not just the mental process of believing; it involves taking action according to the word of God. In Hebrews 11:6-30, we are given many examples of people who manifested their faith in the actions that they carried out: by faith, Noah prepared an ark; by faith, Abraham obeyed and offered up Isaac; by faith, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau; by faith, Jacob blessed each of his sons and worshipped; by faith, Joseph gave instructions; by faith, Moses suffered affliction with the people of God, forsook Egypt, kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of the blood; by faith, the people of God passed through the Red Sea by dry land; by faith, the walls of Jericho fell down after being encircled seven times; by faith, the harlot Rahab did not perish because she received the spies with peace. All of these people obeyed God and took action. They had obedient faith, not inactive belief (cf. Rom. 16:26). All of these people did not necessarily understand what they were doing or why they did it. There were even some that did not want to do the things that they were commanded to do or laughed about it. We can take Sarah as an example of this. In Genesis 18, Sarah laughed when she heard that she was going to have a son, and she was later confronted about it. However, moving to chapter 21, we see that she did indeed conceive and give birth to Isaac, which shows that she took action in carrying out God’s plan. Sarah had doubt in her heart, but she did what God commanded, thus showing her faith. This is a great lesson for us in that even when things don’t make sense to us, when we obey God’s commandments, we have the assurance that he will do what he has promised (Heb. 11:1). I also believe that not fully understanding is part of God’s plan in showing that his wisdom is much higher than ours, and therefore, we cannot boast in our knowledge or in anything that we do. 1 Corinthians 1:20-29 says:

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

This passage teaches, first, that God is much wiser than man. The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. It also teaches that God used the foolishness of this world (or what we think is foolish) to bring salvation to those who believed. What I understand from this is that our faith does not come from the fact that we see something and so we believe it. Our faith comes from the evidence, that is, what is produced by that something. The accounts of Naaman and of Jericho confirm this idea. What people believe is foolish is what actually saves us, and God did it that way so that we could be saved by our faith in him.

Now, some will say that God creates faith in us because Hebrews 12:2 says that Christ is the author and finisher of our faith: “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

We have to understand Hebrews 12:2 in its context. When you go to verse one, you’ll see that it begins with “therefore”, which is a word that mean “for that reason” or “in that case.” “Therefore” requires us to go back to Hebrews 11 in which, beginning at verse 4, there is a long line of people who showed their faith in obedience to God. They are the cloud of witnesses to which the author of Hebrews is referring in 12:1. Now, jumping down to Hebrews 12:2, it says that Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith.” The question is what exactly does “author” mean. It does indeed mean “creator” in certain contexts such as in Acts 3:15; however, in this verse, considering the whole context starting from Hebrews 11, it means “founder”, “pioneer”, or “line-leader.” This last meaning really gives us the true idea because he leads the line of all the faithful men and women mentioned in chapter 11. That is why the author exhorts Christians to look to Jesus because he is the leader of faith and he carried out faith to completion, thus he is the “perfecter” or “consummator.” “To consummate” means to complete or to carry out to completion”. Christ was the ultimate faithful one because he carried out the will of the Father, never wavering and never committing any sin. Notice that chapter 12 is focused on endurance and discipline in the faith. The idea is that we have to endure in putting aside all sin and not grow weary in the work of the Lord because Christ did exactly that. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death (Phil. 2:8) in order for us to have salvation. We can look to Jesus as the ultimate example of faithfulness to God.

But don’t the Scriptures teach that all we have to do is believe? In John 6:29-40 Jesus teaches that we must believe in order to have eternal life. However, in Matthew 7:21, he teaches that the one who does the will of his Father will enter the kingdom of heaven. In John 14:12, he teaches that whoever believes in him will also do the work he does, and even greater works (he’s talking to the disciples here, but we also learn from this). Later, in the same chapter he teaches that if you love him you will keep his commandments. Jesus commanded us to believe, and in believing, we keep his commandments. There are things that Christ has commanded us to do, along with believing, that pertain to our salvation. Now, if God creates faith in us or puts his faith in us, why does he need to command us to have faith or believe? He actually wouldn’t have to command us to do anything. Psalm 119 is a great chapter that describes the word of God. Verse 160 says the following: “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” That is to say, the totality of his word and every single thing he says and commands is truth, not part of it – all of it. If this is true, then we should strive daily to obey his word in all parts that pertain to us in this Christian era, not so we can boast, but because this is simply what he has commanded (cf. Luke 17:10) and we trust him. Jesus said, “be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). So, I know that if I have obedient faith, God will give me the crown of life, not because I deserve it, but because, by his grace, he has put a plan into place in which, if I choose (on my own free will), I can do the things required of me to be saved.

There is no doubt that God has already done the work necessary for us to be saved. However, he has given us the responsibility to accept it. God gave us free will to choose what is right or wrong. If God creates faith in us, that contradicts this basic principle. If God does not wish that any man perish (2 Peter 3:9), everyone would be saved because he would create faith in everyone. We understand from Acts 10 & 11 that he is not a respecter of person. Just because God wills for us to do something, doesn’t mean that we humans will follow along. He does not force us; we make the decision to be conformed to the image of Christ or not. We make the decision to harden our hearts or not. If God were forcing us to do these things, he wouldn’t be a just God because he would arbitrarily granting salvation to some and condemnation to others. Ezekiel 10 teaches that God is sovereign and just. Every good deed that we carry out is done in Christ because we choose to submit to his authority, not because he forces us to. There will come a day when he will make every knee bow to him (Rom. 14:11). Romans 14:12 says that each of us will give an account of himself to God. We won’t give an account of God. We are not going to tell God that he put faith in us. The sinner is not going to blame God for not putting faith in him. He is going to give an account of HIMSELF, not of God. If God is going to judge us (Rom. 14:10), and he expects us to give an account of ourselves, we can only conclude that we are going to be judged on our choices, which we have made on our own free will, according to our discernment.

Since faith is understood as obedience to the commandments of God, we must know what God’s commandments are concerning salvation. We learn about salvation by hearing the preaching and teaching of the gospel or by studying the Scriptures (Acts 17:10-11; Rom. 10:17). The message of the gospel is expressed in simple terms. God manifested himself in human form, and dwelt among us as Jesus Christ. Although he lived just like us, he fulfilled all righteousness and committed no sin (Matt. 3:15; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:22). The very people he came to save crucified him unjustly, and his blood was spilled in order for man to receive forgiveness of sin (Matt. 26:27-28; John 1:1, 14; 1 Tim. 3:16). This sacrifice was an act of grace, which is God’s part. Now, we must do our part and appropriate that grace through faith by being obedient to the commandments of God. We must confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Rom. 10:8-9), repent of our past sins (Acts 17:30-31), and be baptized or immersed in water (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, 22:16). As a result, we receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the Lord adds us to his church (Acts 2:38,41,47; cf. Matt. 16:18). When we rightly divide the word of God (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15), these are the commandments of God concerning salvation revealed in the Scriptures.

Many reject the plain and simple teachings of the Bible and manipulate God’s word in order to formulate their own false doctrines (2 Cor. 11:13-15). They deceive themselves (cf. 2 Tim. 3:13) by believing that they have no role in their own salvation. Logically, this kind of doctrine takes all the responsibility off of them. Whether they are saved or lost would not be their fault, but rather God’s. They state that man is saved by grace through faith without understanding what faith truly is. They also deny the essentiality of baptism, and repentance for that matter, in the plan of salvation. However, when one studies the Scriptures with an open and honest heart, it is difficult to deny that God has devised a plan based on his matchless grace and man’s obedient faith.

A Review of “Misread Text: Isaiah 41:10”

The five-point Calvinist doctrine has permeated several denominations. According to Jonathan Merritt’s article “The troubling trends in America’s ‘Calvinist revival’”, there appears to be a resurgence of Calvinism in America, and the adherents to this doctrine have been called “neo-Calvinists.” The five points of Calvinism are represented with the mnemonic device TULIP: T –Total Hereditary Depravity, U – Unconditional Election, L – Limited Atonement, I – Irresistible Grace, and P – Perseverance of the Saints. I have been working on a series of posts in which I refute the Calvinist approach to the concepts of predestination and election, showing that the doctrine conflicts with basic truths found in the Bible concerning God’s righteousness and man’s free will. Reformed Baptist James Smetanin, an author at The Reformed Alliance, recently published an article titled “Misread Text: Isaiah 41:10.” It is part of a series in which the author explains the true interpretation of particular texts that are often pulled out of context in order to accommodate a personal experience or theological belief. I believe it’s a great idea because, as the author rightly points out, all too often Christians are not aware of the implications of a verse when the surrounding context is considered. However, the problem is that the conclusion of the essay is meaningless within the framework of Calvinism.

The text discussed is Isaiah 41:10 (ESV): “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Smetanin argues that, although one may find comfort in this passage in times of fear, the context reveals that the intent of the verse is not to console, but rather to warn all people of the judgment of God. A fear concerning one’s soul is what is of concern, not the fears of this world. The author gives an interpretation of the passage beginning at verse one and ending at verse nine. My intention is not to comment on his exegesis of the text. What I take issue with is the exhortation that follows. He points out that the verses deal with sin, redemption, and judgment, and that there is urgency for people to repent and to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. A person that believes in the five points of Calvinism have the understanding that God has predestined certain individuals to be saved and others to be lost. There is nothing that one can do to change their condition, as it has been determined before the foundation of the world. The author affirms his belief in this doctrine in warning those who oppose God and his people: “They will have no chance of redemption, as God has already determined their fate.”

Smetanin (and any Calvinist for that matter) has no room to make an exhortation of repentance to any man, since they believe that their fate has been determined and sealed even before God created the earth. What is the sense, then, of calling people to repent if they have no chance of salvation? Aren’t they depraved to the point that God himself has to call them personally to turn from their wickedness? If an alien sinner studied the Bible from a Calvinist perspective and believed it, they would come to the conclusion that they have two options: repent or remain a sinner. However, the problem is that the decision really isn’t theirs, it’s God’s. If they realized this, then what exactly would they have to do? Nothing! They would just need to wait until God does the calling, and he may never call because it just probably wasn’t meant to be. Sorry.

That is not the plan of salvation that is taught in God’s word. Christ came to this earth as the Incarnate Word of God (John 1:14) to die for the sins of all mankind (John 3:16). His gift of eternal salvation is not limited to a select group of people; it is for all those who obey him (Heb. 5:8-10). You must hear the gospel of Christ (Rom. 10:17); that he was crucified, buried, and raised by God on the third day (Matt. 27:37 – 28:6). After you hear the gospel, you must believe it (Acts 16:30-31) and repent of your sins (Acts 2:38). Then you have to confess before men that Christ is the Son of the living God (Matt. 10:32; Matt. 16:16) and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). We are not the ones who work in baptism (Titus 3:5), but rather it is God who works to make us new creatures in Christ (Gal. 6:15; Col. 2:12). He forgives us of our sins, gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and adds us to the church of Christ (Acts 2:38,47). Once you have come into a covenant relationship with God, you must continue to live faithfully, and at the end, you receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:10). There is no one aspect of this plan that is more important than the others. The sum of his words is truth (Ps. 119:160), not faith alone, not grace alone, not baptism alone. Every single part of God’s plan to save mankind is essential.

God bless you.