Salvation by faith alone debate

Third affirmative essay
By Jason Peacock
Originally posted from http://lookinguntojesus.net/
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It is a pleasure to debate this issue of Christian salvation. I thank Mr. Stewart for his participation and I know his schedule is very demanding. I also thank the reader for his/her patience in reading these essays. I must admit, I began to debate William for the same reason I debate any Christian issue, I love to debate, plain and simple. This one issue however is of utmost importance, because if William is correct, and we are only justified in God's sight by accepting Christ's finished work (John 19:30) plus what we do, then I, as well as the majority of Christian thinkers are not truly saved, and as the Lord said in Matthew 7:13, we are not entering through the narrow gate, but the wide gate, and going to hell in a hand basket, just like those who reject Christ. However, if I'm correct, then William is depending on his own works to complete the Lord's finished work.

At the conclusion of my 2nd affirmative I said, "...it was a mistake on my part to defend the presupposition that faith alone saves us..." True enough, but what is not true is William's statement that the doctrine of salvation by faith alone is found nowhere in Scripture. True, the words "salvation by faith alone" are not found in the Bible, but this fact does not mean it is not a doctrine (teaching) of the Bible. The words "trinity, triunity of God, or God in three persons" are also found nowhere in the Bible. Does this then mean we can conclude that the doctrine of the trinity is not real? Of course not, the logical outcome of William's reasoning is a denial of the triunity of God. After all, since the word trinity is found nowhere in Scripture, it cannot be a doctrine. I also think William should ask himself a question, if salvation by faith alone is not a Biblical doctrine, then what were the 3,000 words affirming in my 2nd affirmative?


JOHN 3:16 AND CONTEXT

I see Mr. Stewart also has his own false assumptions of what I say. I specifically said, "Well, the water of verse 5 could mean baptism. Those who hold to the essentialness of baptism for salvation logically would believe this to be baptism. William said it cannot be physical birth, he's mistaken. I happen to think it is unlikely that Jesus is referring to physical birth, nonetheless he could mean this. Actually, physical birth and water baptism are only two possible interpretations of six." The fact is Jesus was talking with a Jewish Pharisee, who should have recognized that Jesus as God's Son brings this spiritual birth. William can deny this all he wants, but this is why Jesus continued with this Jewish teacher, and by the way William, John 3:15-16 tells us belief in Jesus as God's Son gives eternal life, not water.

I could say it's because of William's lack of theology that the water in verse 5 must mean water, which is used in baptism, but what did I say? Just that Jesus could have meant baptism, and also five other interpretations. I did not say the water is not water, please do not make me say things I have not William. I also offered good reasons why position 4 should be accepted. William has not refuted me here, just simply interpreted what I said concerning John 3:16 and its context through his subjective filter.


ROMANS 5 AND EPHESIANS 2

Actually, I did not find it all that funny that Mr. Stewart felt it necessary to count the number of times I used Romans 5:1, Ephesians 2:8-10, and now Philippians 2:13. To me it seems like reverting to name calling when your arguments do not succeed. And I wonder why William does not apply the same standard to himself, with his usage of his baptismal proof-texts? I'm not trying to pull a fast one when I say the word "alone" is not found, and then use fancy talk to cover up this admission. I grant that William, but this does not mean that it is not a doctrine of the Scripture. Many very real concepts are taught in Scripture, but never expressly mentioned, for example the doctrine of the trinity, the doctrine of the hypostatic union (two-natures of Christ), the teaching that all mankind was created in God's spiritual image, not His physical (yes, I know God is not physical). The point is simple, the Scriptures expressly says faith saves us, and not faith plus works. And as I said in my initial statement, true saving faith is not a mere historical accent (James 2:17). I affirmed that good works, deeds, actions, call it what you want, play a major role in our walk with the Lord and God prepares these works as Ephesians 2:10 says, and Philippians 2:13 tells us who works out these works. As said in my second affirmative, how in the world can the sovereignty of God be denied, especially when it comes to salvation?

And I do not for a moment, assert that grace and faith can be used interchangeably every single place in the New Testament, obviously how it is to be understood properly is dependant on its context.

It would seem that William believes Philippians 2:12 is best interpreted without its immediate context of verse 13. It's easy to see why, without verse 13, then William is correct, and we must work out our own salvation with our own works and our own effort. William said, "The responsibility to work out salvation is on the individual. God does not act for us, but compels us and supplies us with the wherewithal to act." It seems that Romans 9:16, contradicts Williams above statement "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy."


FAITH AND WORKS

I certainly do hold to my supposition that true saving faith is a gift from God. However Mr. Stewart falsely assumes that my supposition contradicts Paul, who said, "No one can have faith without hearing the message about Christ." (Romans 10:17). Of course I believe it with all my heart, the God inspired Apostle Paul wrote it. Perhaps William can answer my question, why is it that when I heard the message of Christ, I received Christ, but yet when an atheist hears the exact same message it is dismissed as myth? It's my view, God granted me the faith to believe, and why the message of the cross makes all the sense in the world to me, but to the atheist it is foolishness. I wonder if William excludes people who cannot hear the message from salvation? The logical outcomes of what Mr. Stewart believe frightens me.

William, you're misrepresenting what I said, I did not say that we must be a Christian to know what God wants of us. After all, as Mr. Stewart rightly said, even some Christians do not always do what God wants, but God's Spirit reveals to us what to do. After all 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 says this, "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual."


ABRAHAM ON FAITH AND WORKS

William would have us believe that obedience to the faith is how we become justified before God, two problems with that.

  • If we do not receive justification till after we do all the stuff required of us to be obedient to the faith, when Christ said, "It is finished", if William is correct, then Christ must of not meant what He said. William likes to throw doubt on what I say by asking the question, "who should we believe, Jason or the Lord / Paul / Peter / James / John". Well William apply the same standard to yourself, who should we believe William or Jesus Christ?
  • Likely the most important thing, Paul does not say we are justified by being obedient to the faith, he said, "By faith we have been justified". (Romans 5:1).

 

It would seem Mr. Stewart must add to what Paul says, for his view to be correct.

William you asked, "Was Abraham's faith accounted to him for righteousness before or after he had obeyed the Lord?" And Hebrew 11:8, "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going." (Cf. Genesis 12:1-5), so it was by faith that he was considered righteous, and by that faith he obeyed the Lord. Let me ask you a question Mr. Stewart, did God know if Abraham would obey his faith? If you believe in the sovereignty of God, as you said you did, then He must have.


THE ATONEMENT AND MAN'S CONDITION

William I wish you would stop twisting my words. I only mentioned Calvinism, not because I am a Calvinist, or because I think that total depravity is specifically a Calvinistic doctrine. I brought it up for one reason, because I knew you would accuse me of being Calvinistic as soon as I brought up this doctrine. That's why I provided those verses in the 2nd affirmative, which show total depravity is neither Calvinistic nor Arminian, but Biblical. Now the reason why I used the doctrine of total depravity, I told you in the first affirmative, "I do not want to debate on whether Calvinism is Biblical or not, but William I'd say it is of paramount importance to have a correct understanding of mans condition to a Holy God, before we can fully grasp atonement." Mr. Stewart must I remind you, you're the one who continually changes the title of this argument to "Calvinism vs. Armenianism." Now William instead of discrediting this argument, "the Atonement and man's Condition," by applying to me the "Church of Christ", false cultic understanding of depravity, please deal with the verses I provided in my 2nd affirmative, in your 3rd negative. The Bible teaches this concept of total depravity in many places.

The Lord recognized good people (Matthew 22:10), yet He labeled His own disciples as evil men (Matthew 7:11). The mind is affected (Romans 1:28; Ephesians 4:18), the conscience is unclean (Hebrews 9:14), the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), and by nature mankind is subject to wrath (Ephesians 2:3). God sent the flood as a judgment on mankind's depravity (Genesis 6:5). Depravity, according to the Lord, is in the inner being and is the root of evil actions (Mark 7:20-23). With a string of Old Testament quotations Paul also shows it is deep-seated, universal, and total (Romans 3:9-18).


REPENTANCE, OBEDIENCE AND JUSTIFICATION

William would have us believe that we repent to God and are obedient prior to having saving faith, I'm simply saying that faith that I'm talking about and Paul in Romans 5:1, the faith, which justifies, and gives us peace with God, not a cease fire. This faith will lead us to repentance and obedience. William accuses me of putting the cart before the horse. The logic of that assertion escapes me, I'm not excluding repentance or obedience, I'm just saying neither of the two justify us. Faith justifies and this faith will lead us to repent and become obedient. Another way to look at it, faith must come first, and repentance and obedience naturally will follow, if this is the faith, which justifies. I'm not for a second implying that a faith, which is void of repentance or obedience is a saving faith, James said it is not, and it would not be the faith talked about in Ephesians 2:8-10.

William said this in his 2nd negative, "Someone cannot stand justified before God while still dead in sin (Isaiah 59:1-2). It is necessary that we repent (2 Corinthians 7:10) and be obedient to the gospel (1 Peter 4:17), that we might be forgiven of our sins and thus stand justified before the Lord." I have no problem with that, I agree 100%, all that I affirm is, we cannot receive forgiveness of sin, without genuine faith. I affirm we cannot repent without genuine faith. I affirm we cannot be obedient to the gospel without genuine faith, and I affirm that this genuine faith justifies.


JAMES ON FAITH AND WORKS

I wonder what I must do to get it through to William that I'm in full agreement with James? James is talking to believer's concerning how to live the Christian life, James 2:17 is talking about an empty faith, which is evidenced by no good deeds, thus, this faith cannot save us. William, James is not saying we earn salvation through faith plus works, James is talking to believer's who have faith already telling them how to live as those who claim the name of Christ.

James and Paul are not face to face debating whether faith or faith plus works save one? A more accurate analogy is that they're standing back to back, debating opposite foes. James is not talking about works, which you do to earn favor with God, but a "said faith," a simple profession of Christ, in other words. I'll use a illustration to show what I mean. The story is told that the Devil had a meeting with his demons to decide how to persuade men that God was nonexistent. Since they themselves believed in His existence, they wondered just how to do it. One demon suggested that they tell people Jesus Christ never really existed and that men should not believe such fiction. Another demon suggested that they persuade men that death ends all and there is no need to worry about life after death. Finally, the most intelligent demon suggested that they tell everyone that there is a God, that there is Jesus Christ, and that believing in Him saves, but all you have to do is profess faith in Christ and then go on living in sin as you used to. They decided to use this tactic, and it is the tactic the Devil uses even today.

Paul and James are in perfect harmony in their teaching. When Paul speaks of works, it is works of the Law. He says in Romans 3:20, "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." He is saying in effect, "Yes, the Law is a mirror -- it reveals you are a sinner -- but it cannot save you; the works of the Law cannot save you at all." James also says that you have to have something more than just the works of the Law. He wrote, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." (v 10). As someone has put it, "Man cannot be saved by perfect obedience, for he cannot render it. He cannot be saved by imperfect obedience because God will not accept it." The only solution to this dilemma is the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and both James and Paul emphasize that.1


GRACE THROUGH FAITH ... NOT OF WORKS

Hmmm, William did not refute my usage of Ephesians 1:11, all he did was call it Calvinistic. Well William Ephesians 1:11 was around some 1600 hundred years prior to the U of T.U.L.I.P, and no thank you William I do not feel any motivation to debate with you whether your interpretation of Calvinism is biblical or not. I just fail to understand William, he objects to me saying grace is through faith and nothing we do can earn this grace, I wonder what he thinks, this is not a concept of Jason Peacock, but the exact wording of Ephesians 2:8-10. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Who should we believe William who affirms salvation is faith plus works, or the God inspired Apostle Paul who specifically in verse nine excludes works? Of course William will say something like, "The works Paul refers to in verse nine, are works of the Law. Not of obedience." Even if his interpretation is correct, it does not mean the grace that save us through faith has a secret hidden agenda of works. Certainly not works of obedience, as verse 10 covers them.

Mr. Stewart's analogy of the car to the boy as a gift breaks down on a fundamental level; this debate is not about giving cars away. I also deny that were puppets of the most high. God could use us as a puppet if He so willed to, after all He is omnipotent, but God in His love chose to give us freewill. However I do affirm the complete sovereignty of our Lord when it comes to our salvation. I also affirm we cannot work for our salvation, Romans 4:5 makes that clear, "But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." Works are clearly ruled out here. Contrary to what William believes faith plus works is responsible for our salvation.

William, I did not say that God has not given men free will, and it does explain how I chose to receive the gospel message, but when the hard-boiled atheist is presented with the same message, it means nothing. It makes no logical sense for me to reject the fact of free will, after all Mr. Stewart, if there was none, we would not be having this debate. As for God desiring everyone to be saved, I do not doubt that, but William is looking at it from a human perspective, obviously everyone is not saved, or has been, or will be, remember the words of Christ, Matthew 7:13-14 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it, because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."

I spoke too soon by saying I wish I did not affirm faith alone, I still hold to it. But I'd rather say faith alone justifies. Faith plus good fruits or deeds, works prepared for us by God, sanctifies. One equals salvation, the other does not.


Endnotes:

  1. J. Vernon McGee, True the Bible Commentator, 1981