Salvation by faith alone debate

Third negative essay
By William Stewart
Originally posted from http://lookinguntojesus.net/
 
* * *

I thank Mr. Peacock for his participation and each reader for giving attention to the essays presented. I pray that much good will come from this effort.

I consider Jason to be a friend, and have enjoyed conversing with him, but I am convinced that his doctrine of salvation by "faith alone" is foreign to the Bible. Jason admits that if his doctrine is not true, "...the majority of Christian thinkers are not truly saved..." Therefore, I call our earnest attention to this important topic, that we might know and carefully do God's will.

Jason asks, "...if salvation by faith alone is not a Biblical doctrine, then what were the 3000 words affirming in the 2nd affirmative?" In each essay my friend has affirmed "faith alone"; but that does not make it Biblical. Some affirm that homosexuality is acceptable in the sight of God. Others place church traditions on par with the Bible. Just because someone affirms something to be Biblical does not make it so. I fervently deny "faith alone", as I would any other teaching that opposes sound doctrine,

 
Note: Please consider the following passages of Scripture for a moment:
 
"For God so loved the world that He gave is only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life" John 3:16; "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life. and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life." John 5:24, 25; "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31;"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" Rom 1:16; "(God is) just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" Rom 3:26
 
These verses, along with many others, clearly state a direct relationship between salvation, justification, and faith, with nothing else added, mentioned or implied in the verse, thoughts, or context being communicated. To further illustrate the above reality, as well as to show how selective Church of Christ members can be in applying their own standard of 'speaking only where the Bible speaks', consider this 'faith only' argument in the light of Genesis 6:14 and God telling Noah to make yourself an ark -with gopherwood only. To deny the plainly stated truth that salvation is by placing faith in the Jesus Christ alone simply because the Scripture never uses the word "alone" or "only" is like saying, 'Noah was told to build an ark with gopherwood, but God NEVER specified that he was to use gopherwood "only".'

JOHN 3:16 AND CONTEXT

Jason corrects me, "...I did not say that the water is not water, please do not make me say things I have not..." Indeed, he acknowledges water as one of six possible interpretations. However, the nature of truth requires that one understanding be correct, to the exclusion of all others. Rather than answer my question about the new birth, Mr. Peacock danced around it. If his doctrine of "faith alone" is to stand, he must reject that water means water. So, he opts for an obscure position.

Jason believes he "...offered good reasons..." why his position should be accepted. He takes John 3:5 with 3:8, and tells us that Jesus combined "...the 'wind' of Ezekiel 37:9-10 and the 'water' of Isaiah 44:3..." to explain the riddle of Proverbs 30:4. An interesting theory to mold a custom-made explanation of John 3:5. Using that type of convoluted reasoning, why not take Genesis 8:1 ("...God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.") and force it into John 3:5 and pretend Jesus was referring to the Flood?

Jesus did not say "...unless one is born of water, wind, and the Spirit..." nor did He say "...unless one is born of water and the wind..." Sounds more like a 'nature' birth than a 'spiritual' birth to me. In his desperation, Jason must change John 3:5, for he cannot deal with Jesus' plain statement. Mr. Peacock insisted on the importance of the context of John 3:16, yet he has not dealt correctly with the verse nor its context.

Note: When Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be "born of water and the Spirit," He was not referring to two different births (one of water and another of Spirit), rather he was referring to the same spiritual birth in two different ways- 'born of water, (kai) even the Spirit.' Jesus' reply was that being born again by the Holy Spirit is a prerequisite to entering the kingdom of God. Therefore the context of "water" mentioned in John 3:5 is not literal h2o, but a metaphor or reference to the Holy Spirit that brings forth the dead sinner into new spiritual life (Isa. 44:3; Jer. 31:33; Eze. 36:24-27; Joel 2:28,29; Eph. 1:13,14; Col. 2:11-14; Titus 3:4-5). Here in John 3 Jesus rebukes Nicodemus by asking him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?" This implies Jesus had told Nicodemus something that as a teacher he should have known and understood. So what was it that Nicodemus should have known, but did not understand? It is what God had previously promised in the Old Testament that a time was coming when, "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart AND PUT A NEW SPIRIT WITHIN YOU; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT WITHIN YOU and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." Eze. 36:25-27. So Jesus rebuked Nicodemus because he had failed to recall the key Old Testament passages pertaining to the coming of God's New Covenant with His people, and Nicodemus should have been expecting this. In other words, why would Jesus have rebuked Nicodemus for not understanding the need of 'water' baptism if that baptism had not been foretold in the Old Testament? This is an important consideration when someone asks those who believe water baptism is required for salvation why the thief on the cross did not need to be baptized to be saved. A common reply is 'The thief on the cross didn't need to be baptized because he was still under the Old Covenant.' Yet the very some people who say that the thief did not need to be baptized because he was still under the Old Covenant will use John 3:5 as a proof that Jesus was telling Nicodemus he must be water baptized to be saved, even though he too was still under the Old Covenant.
 

MR. PEACOCK'S FAVOURITE TEXTS

Throughout the debate, I have kept track of how often my friend has used Romans 5:1, Ephesians 2:8-10 and Philippians 2:13. These are supposed proof-texts, yet none say or even imply "faith alone". Mr. Peacock reads that into the text. In his second essay, Jason thought the count was "...kind of funny..." Now, he tells us "...I did not find it all that funny..." Whether he is amused or not, we continue the count in this final essay. His total use (misuse) over the three essays is Romans 5:1 (12 times), Ephesians 2:8-10 (16 times) and Philippians 2:13 (7 times).

He says my count is "...like reverting to name calling when your arguments do not succeed..." Not at all. I am simply pointing out his heavy use of these texts, and noting with the reader that none of them support his proposition. If counting the number of times he used specific passages is like name calling, what shall we consider his slanderous words, as he commented on "...the 'Church of Christ' false cultic understanding of Depravity..."?

Jason tells us that many real concepts are taught in the Scriptures without being expressly stated. For instance, the 'trinity'. Indeed, the plurality of the Godhead is taught in Scripture. No one verse speaks of all three persons of the Godhead as being God, but each is called God in the Bible. However, Mr. Peacock is in error, trying to compare "faith alone" to the Godhead. No Scripture specifically rejects the three persons in the Godhead. The New Testament specifically condemns justification by "faith alone". No Bible text affirms there to be only one Person in the Godhead. However, many Bible passages teach that a saving faith is a working faith. My friend has had three essays to illustrate that "faith alone" is a Biblical doctrine. He has not done so. He has introduced passages that speak about faith. I believe faith is essential to salvation. However, he has failed to account for numerous texts which speak of other elements that justify (Matthew 12:37; Luke 18:14; Romans 2:13; Romans 3:24; Romans 5:9; James 2:24).

Note: It is a very common tactic in Church of Christ to flood or overwhelm 'answers' by simply listing lots of verses which are out of context. Here Mr. Stewart references 'justify' verses in the New Testament and then asserts that 'there are other elements that justify' without explaining what these other elements supposedly are. In Luke 7:29 the Word tells us that "the tax collectors justified God." Does this mean that the tax collectors 'made God righteous'? No, God already was righteous. However the context is that the tax collectors did justify (i.e. show, deem, or declare) God's way as right by being baptized by John. Regardless of the assertions that are made by Mr. Stewart, the apostle Paul after systematically explaining the doctrine of justification by faith in Romans chapter 3, and then providing examples of both Abraham and David who were justified by faith in Romans chapter 4, while at the same time excluding works of any kind in the context, he then makes this summary statement in Romans 5:1-2: "Therefore, having been (past tense) justified by faith we have (present tense) peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." 

Jason keeps coming back to the sovereignty of God. That is not at issue, I believe in the sovereignty of God; I reject the puppetry of man. Jason attributes salvation to "faith alone", and then, by his corrupt understanding of Ephesians 2:8, he affirms that this faith is God's gift to us. By this, he rejects Paul's statement that "...faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God..." (Romans 10:17). If faith results from hearing the word of God, then it is not a gift God gives to us, but our responsible reaction to hearing His word (Luke 16:29-31; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Jason, by his insistence that faith is God's gift to us rejects the clear teaching of Scripture and makes God a puppet master over men. Salvation is God's gift to man, not faith, otherwise the free will my friend declares to believe in does not exist.

Note: We will address Mr. Stewart's 'puppetry of man' objection in a moment, however I should take a moment to point out how the Church of Christ views Romans 10:17 and how they understand "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." Those in the Churches of Christ typically understand this verse as saying that 'faith (i.e. faithful obedience) comes by hearing and hearing by the word (i.e. the command requirements) of God.' Yet the context of Romans 10:17 is that faith in Jesus Christ literally comes to a person by hearing the Good News message and believing it. Isn't amazing how people can latch onto a particular pretext to 'prove' their presupposition of works for salvation and yet miss the great doctrine of how a person comes to faith, which is the emphasis of this verse?
 
As we continue, please note this debate is not about the sovereignty of God nor 'the puppetry of man' as it is about the moral ability (or inability) of man. Is man 'basically good' or 'morally neutral' and thus able to save himself by the principle of 'being good' and keeping moral and religious commands and laws, or because of the fall, does man have a sinful or fallen nature, and therefore lost the ability to save himself by the Church of Christ principle of 'New Testament Law-Keeping'? If the later is so, then man is in desperate need of a Savior. The Good News message is that God's solution to our sin problem is to put faith in His Substitute, Jesus Christ, who came and not only paid our penalty for sin (i.e. death) but also lived holy for us so that the basis of going to heaven is based upon His perfect life and not our our own. Galatians 4:4 says that 'Jesus was born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law'. So the question is, does your hope for heaven rest upon your own imperfect good works, piety, or religious performance to meet God's perfect, righteous and holy standard, or is it firmly based upon what Jesus Christ has already perfectly accomplished for you at the cross?

I am charged with believing that "...Philippians 2:12 is best interpreted without its immediate context..." It is not I who has avoided the context. In my previous essay, I said it is our responsibility to work out our own salvation (v 12). God does not act on our behalf, but compels us and supplies us with the wherewithal to do so (v 13). Mr. Peacock has not told us what Paul meant in verse 12. He has avoided it like a plague. What kept him from dealing with verse 12?

What about Romans 9:16 Jason inquires? Paul said, "...it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy." We might will with all our being, and run with all our might; salvation still depends upon "...God who shows mercy." However, our will for and our doing of God's will are not excluded. Neither does the text teach that God arbitrarily gives and withholds mercy. (WARNING) Those who seek righteousness by faith (i.e. "faithful obedience")  will receive God's mercy, those who do not will not (Romans 9:30-33).

Note: As we pointed out in the first negative essay, those in the Churches of Christ are often masters at  saying 'we are not saved by our works', but yet will insist 'there are works we must do to be saved.' Here Mr. Stewart refers to Romans 9:16 and supposedly agrees that "...it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy" but then turns right around and says 'However, our doing of God's will is NOT excluded.'

FAITH AND WORKS

Clearing up a 'misrepresentation', Jason claims, "...I did not say that we must be a Christian to know what God wants of us." Let me refresh my friend's memory. In his first essay, he said, "...we cannot even know what works we should do without God's Spirit..." Either he believes that we must be a Christian to know what God wants of us, or he believes that some who are not Christians have received God's Spirit.

The context of 1 Corinthians 2:14 does not say we must be saved to understand what God's will is. It does teach that we must be of a spiritual mind. The context refers to the Corinthian Christians as carnal, and for this reason, they could not understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).

Note: It should be pointed out that those in the Church of Christ really have no concept of what it means to be 'born again', or the Christian concept of new spiritual birth. To the Churches of Christ, since they reject the dynamics of the fall, they do not understand the need for regeneration. Here, the natural earthly man in Adam, only needs the forgiveness of sin, and therefore there is no need of new spiritual birth. Eph. 2 doesn't say that we were simply 'mortally wounded' because of our transgressions and sin, but spiritually DEAD. But God in His great mercy has made us ALIVE with Christ. The Word also tells us this happens the moment we place our faith in Jesus because we receive NEW LIFE by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us. Eph. 1 says, "And you also were included in Christ when you HEARD the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. WHEN YOU BELIEVED, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit". So Mr. Stewart is completely wrong in his assertion regarding 1 Cor. 2:14, that a man 'does not need to be saved to understand what God's will is', as though salvation is though the natural man's own cooperation and obedience to all of the necessary moral and religious requirements of the New Testament.  To the contrary: "But the natural man does NOT receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; NOR CAN HE KNOW THEM, because they are SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED."

ABRAHAM ON FAITH AND WORKS

Jason cannot accept that we are justified by obedience to the faith for two reasons. Let us alleviate his hesitation to accept God's will:

  1. He holds that if we do anything prior to salvation, Jesus could not have meant it when He said, "It is finished!" The question is, did the Lord mean what Jason thinks He meant? His suffering was finished. The Father's plan to make Him a sacrifice for our sin was finished. His obedience to the Father's will was finished. The prophecies made concerning him (note John 19:28, cf. Psalm 22:15; 69:21) had been finished. Truth be told, Jason's attempt to base his false doctrine on this text is incredibly feeble.
  2. Jason states, "Paul does not say we are justified by being obedient to the faith." Several times the Bible speaks of obeying God's word, in view of salvation. Jesus is "...the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him..." (Hebrews 5:9). In Acts 6:7, we are told that "...many of the priests were obedient to the faith." And that we might appease Jason's concern, Paul himself wrote, "...God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered." (Romans 6:17). Before they obeyed the form of doctrine (the gospel of Christ), they were "slaves of sin". Is a slave of sin justified? Is there any doubt that obedience is necessary to be justified before the Lord?

I asked Jason twice whether Abraham's faith was accounted to him for righteousness before or after he had obeyed the Lord. He has not responded. I am curious why not. The Lord told Abram to leave Ur of the Chaldees, so "...he went out, not knowing where he was going." (Hebrews 11:8; cf. Genesis 12:1-5). Had he not done so, he would not have stood justified before God. When the Lord commanded him to sacrifice Isaac, he would not have stood justified before the Lord unless he heeded the command. As James says, "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." (James 2:22-23).

Note: Again, we must make the distinction between what it means to be saved by placing faith in Jesus Christ, and what Mr. Stewart's asserts- saved through our own 'faithful obedience' to the body of Christian truth. While this may seem to be a subtle difference from the biblical doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ, it is in fact a most critical difference. Romans 3:22 tells us that God's gift of perfect righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ "to all and upon all who believe", not though our own 'faithful obedience'. So while Abraham did many commendable things, such as leaving his homeland to go the land that God would show him, the Scripture tells us that Abraham was justified before God by his faith. Galatians 3:8 says, "Therefore know that ONLY THOSE WHO ARE OF FAITH are sons of Abraham: "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed." So then those who are of faith are blessed with BELIEVING Abraham." 
 

CALVINISM AND "FAITH ALONE"

Mr. Peacock is correct, I keep changing the title of this section in the debate, and I admit it has been deliberate. Jason has tried to camouflage his Calvinistic arguments under the title "The Atonement and Man's Condition". He has been speaking pure Calvinism, so I'll label it for what it is. Of total hereditary depravity, he says "...I knew you would accuse me of being Calvinistic as soon as I brought up this doctrine." Why bring it up then? Our discussion is on "faith alone" not depravity. He tells us that "...it is of paramount importance to have a correct understanding of man's condition to a holy God before we can fully grasp atonement." Amen! But Calvinism will only muddy the waters. Fact is, "faith alone" is based upon his false assumption of depravity.

So far as Jason's depravity proof-texts, I will not deal with them in this debate. I responded to them in part in my first essay, and was rebuked by Mr. Peacock for turning the debate into a discussion of Calvinism when it was he who brought it up in the first place. I have extended a challenge to my friend to debate the topic of depravity at another time, but he has refused.

Note: To the contrary, this is actually an important doctrinal point that must be considered. Mr. Stewart denies (or minimizes) the effects of the fall, and does not believe that Adam's sin adversely affected the rest of mankind's moral and religious abilities to follow commands and laws in order to be saved. Adam's sin (according to the Churches of Christ) only adversely affected Adam and thus is the enabler to their salvation theology of works. In contrast, Jason's (evangelical) view is that salvation though 'our faithful obedience' is an impossibility because man is fallen, that his heart is inclined towards evil, and therefore has an inherit inability to save his soul through his own moral goodness and religious obedience. This is why Jason places faith in Jesus, who not only died for us to take the penalty for our sin that we deserved at the cross, but also lived holy for us so that the basis of going to heaven is based on His perfect life and not our own.
 

REPENTANCE, OBEDIENCE AND JUSTIFICATION

Jason accuses me of saying "...we repent to God and are obedient prior to having saving faith..." I have not said that. I did say that we repent and are obedient before we are justified. One who has faith in God must repent and obey the Lord's will. Then, the faith which is present becomes a saving faith (ie. a faith that has heard and responded to God's word). Jason says, "...faith must come first, and repentance and obedience naturally follow, if this is the faith which justifies." AMEN! Faith must come first. Faith ought to lead us to repent and obey the Lord's commands. What determines whether it is "saving faith" or not? Repentance and obedience. When does it become a "saving faith"? After repentance and obedience.

In my second essay, I said one must repent and be obedient to the gospel, in order to be forgiven of sin and thus stand justified before God. Jason said he agrees 100%. However, his argument throughout this debate says he does not. He believes we must be justified before we can obey, repent or receive the forgiveness of our sins. Mr. Peacock's doctrine has saved people still dead in their sins!

Note: If we will look into the Scriptures, there is not a single verse that supports Mr. Stewart's view that repentance comes after believing but before justification. To the contrary what we see in Scripture is that repentance actually precedes faith- Matt. 21:32 "...you did not repent and believe him."; Mark 1:15 "...Repent, and believe the good news."; Acts 20:21"...repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Again, Biblical repentance means a post-thought, after-thought, conversion, or a change of mind. It means that if you were going to do one thing and then changed your mind, you would have then repented. Therefore whatever else a person was trusting in before they put their faith in Christ, they changed their minds about when they realized that Jesus is the only way, that He is the Savior, and that He is the only way to heaven. It should also be pointed out that when Jason says that 'repentance' comes after justification, the context of what he is referring to is the sanctification of the believer, or those who are already saved in a practical way becoming more 'Christ-like' in this life. This has nothing to do with salvation, but rather is the result or fruit of salvation. However, when Mr. Stewart using the Church of Christ '5 step' formula says that repentance (and what he understands as "self-reformation") comes after believing but before salvation, he once again turns repentance into a precondition of the believer, or a work requirement that the believer must do, perform, or accomplish, before he can be saved. Yet the Word says that we are not saved by our works, but unto good works. Good works are the result of salvation, not the means or the cause of it. Eph. 2:8-10; Titus 3:5

JAMES ON FAITH AND WORKS

Jason tells us that James was writing to Christians about living Christian lives. James says the topic is salvation, "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?" (James 2:14). Notice, he shows that both the long standing child of God (Abraham) and the alien sinner (Rahab) are justified by works. In answer to his own question, James concludes:

  1. "Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (2:17)
  2. "...do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" (2:20)
  3. "...a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." (2:24)
  4. "...as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (2:26)

Note: When reading and interpreting James 2, the Churches of Christ read a number of assumptions into the passage. These assumptions include:

a) Justification by faith alone is a false doctrine.
 
b) It was an error taught even in the first century.
 
c) that James was speaking out against it even then.
 
What the Churches of Christ fail to consider is that salvation by faith alone was taught in the early church, but unfortunately there were those who were confusing salvation by faith alone with salvation by mere intellectual assent alone, and some were deceiving themselves thinking they were saved simply because of a superficial profession of faith and a casual acceptance of the Truths of the Christian faith.
 
In light of this we can certainly understand why James would see a need to challenge those who believed they were saved by mere intellectual assent.
 
Starting in verse 14 he writes:
 
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith saved them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
 
So what is shown to be dead in the passage?
 
Your faith, not accompanied by action, is showing and revealing itself to be dead since good works are not being shown and demonstrated in your life.
 
In other words, there is a radical difference between the fruit of good works in the life of the believer, and the requirement of works. Eph. 2:8 says, ''For is by grace you have been saved, though faith...it is the gift of God...not of works...so that no one can boast". 
 
Good works are the result of salvation, not the means or the cause of it.

GRACE THROUGH FAITH ... NOT OF WORKS

Jason was bothered that I called his use of Ephesians 1:11, 'Calvinism'. The Bible doctrine of election is simply that those who will come to Christ by faith will be saved. Those who are predestined are not randomly selected by the Lord, but those who are found in Christ. Notice through the context Paul's emphasis on being in Christ (v 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13). Paul reveals how we might be in Christ, and thus the sons of God (Galatians 3:26-27).

Jason wrote, "...William...objects to me saying grace is through faith and nothing we do can earn this grace..." Where have I said this? I agree fully with that statement. Paul said "...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." I do not believe we can be saved by works of merit, nor that we can ever earn God's grace. (WARNING) However, it is still required that we do the things commanded by God (Luke 10:17). (WARNING) God's grace does not exclude obedience. It simply removes any ability of boasting in our obedience.

Note: A person cannot simultaneously claim a theology of both GRACE and WORKS, for they are both mutually exclusive to each other. Add one work to grace and it destroys grace: "And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace." Romans 11:6 Once again Mr. Stewart asserts that 'we are not saved by works', but turns right around to say that there are works we must do to be saved.

What I do oppose is salvation by "faith alone". Jason took exception to my car analogy. Whether he likes it or not, the illustration drives home the point that in order to receive a gift, one may have to do something. However, these 'works' are not to earn the gift. God has provided the gift of eternal life. We must DO something to receive it. The Bible evidence for this is overwhelming (Proverbs 10:16; Mattthew 7:21; Luke 10:17; 13:24; Acts 6:7; Romans 2:7; 6:17-18; 1 Corinthians 9:24; Phillipians 2:12; Hebrews 4:11; 5:9; James 2:14, 17, 20, 24, 26 and much more).

Note: The work necessary to provide salvation was fully accomplished by Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life, took God's punishment for sin that we deserved, and He rose again triumphing over death. The Bible is also clear that salvation is conditional; God does not save everyone. The one condition for salvation is faith in Jesus Christ. Over a 150 times in the New Testament, faith, belief or trust is declared to be the sole condition for salvation (John 1:12; Acts 16:31). Grace is God giving us something that is not earned or deserved because we it is received on the basis of a gift, unearned. Here Mr. Stewart asserts that we receive God's gift of eternal life by us obeying certain moral and religious commands (i.e. works), such as believing, repenting from sin, confessing the name of Christ, and being baptized in water. Yet the Word of God says the only way we can receive God's gift of eternal life is by placing faith in the only ONE who can save. Thus true faith in Jesus cannot be considered a work because faith involves a rejection of our own works in order to trust in Jesus Christ. True faith has as its object Jesus Christ Himself and what He accomplished at the cross on our behalf. Here Jason takes this a step further believing that faith cannot even be considered a work because faith itself is a gift from God, something we cannot even produce on our own. Eph. 2:8-9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it (i.e. faith) is a gift of God...."
 
With his wayward concept of God's sovereignty, Jason rejects God's desire for all to be saved. He tells us, "...as for God desiring everyone to be saved, I do not doubt that, but William is looking at it from a human perspective..." Actually, I was looking at it from God's perspective. The apostle Peter said that God "...is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9). Jason tells us "...everyone is not saved, or has been, or will be..." Correct, but that is not because God is the puppet master Mr. Peacock makes Him out to be. Calvinism and "faith alone" turn God into a monster. According to my friend's doctrine, God will condemn those who do not come to Him, though they are unable to, because He has withheld faith from them. He calls this sovereignty. It is unjust and cruel and far from the God of the Bible.
 
Note: Once again, those in the Church of Christ make the Pelagian error that they believe man is born basically "good" or morally neutral and that by his own moral ability he can save himself through his own cooperation and obedience to all of the necessary moral and religious requirements of God. Thus, it is the Church of Christ view of the fall (i.e. that the effects of Adam's sin were negligible to the rest of the human race) that is the enabler to their salvation theology of works. By contrast, the Word of God teaches that because of Adam's sin, the entire human race is fallen, that his heart is inclined towards evil, that he cannot save himself by the principle of 'New Testament law-keeping', and therefore why man is in such Great need of a Savior (See Isa. 64:6; Romans 3:9-20; 5:10-21; 7:14-25; 8:3-4; Eph. 2:1-10). 

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Through this discussion, Mr. Peacock has realized in part the trouble with his doctrine. In his second essay, he acknowledged his mistake "...to defend the presupposition that faith alone saves us..." Now, he says he would rather have said "...faith alone justifies." Distinguishing between justification and sanctification, he tells us "...faith alone justifies" and that "...faith plus good fruits or deeds, works prepared for us by God, sanctifies." I agree with my friend that justification and sanctification are not the same. Justification is to be declared righteous, free of guilt. Sanctification is to separated, or set apart to God. However, the only passage in the Bible which mentions both together reads, "...but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified..." (1 Corinthians 6:11). Shall we believe Jason, who tells us we are justified first, and sanctified afterward? Or shall we believe the apostle Paul, who speaks of being washed, sanctified and justified in concert?

I asked my friend two questions to be answered with his third essay. He refused to organize the list of things related to salvation. In order, according to the Bible, they are:

  1. Hear the gospel (Romans 10:17)
  2. Faith in Christ (John 8:24)
  3. Repentance of sins (Acts 2:38)
  4. Baptism for remission of sins (Acts 2:38)
  5. Saved and added to the Lord's church (Acts 2:41, 47)

Not sure why my friend found that too difficult to deal with, but nonetheless, there is what the Bible reveals.

Note: The Churches of Christ have made an understandable assumption that if a person will read the historical narrative of the book of Acts and be careful to perform all the same moral and religious commands that the first century believers did at salvation, that this is supposedly the gospel and that by accomplishing these same commands, we can be saved as well.
 
These commands include hearing, believing, repenting from sin, confessing the name of Christ and being baptized in water, and then (once in a saved condition) that we can keep ourselves saved by being faithful and continuing to live a moral and religious good life.
 
Unfortunately beginning any study with a false presupposition, pretext, or false doctrinal bias and prevent someone from ever understanding how a person can be saved simply by placing faith in Jesus Christ alone, and can lead someone into a salvation theology of works.
 
Here we simply ask those in the Church of Christ to find out how a person is literally saved by placing faith in Jesus Christ and how water baptism relates or points to salvation, rather than believing we are saved by water baptism, never coming to understand how a person is saved by placing faith in the person of Jesus Christ. 
 
Jesus Christ came to this earth, died on the cross, paid the penalty for YOUR sin (i.e. Death), was buried and God raised Him from the dead. God's promise is that every person who believes in Jesus, trusting Him as their Savior, will not perish, but has everlasting life ("to all and upon all who believe" Rom 3:22).
 
Have you obeyed the gospel?
 
That is, have you believed God's promise that Jesus Christ saves you?.
 
I also asked Mr. Peacock if he would renounce his false doctrine and accept the whole counsel of God regarding the salvation of souls. Sadly, he said no. If he accepted all of God's word, he would reject the doctrine of "faith alone". Not only is it not in the Bible, but it stands contrary to many Bible passages. He takes exception to the phrase "false doctrine", calling such a statement "...the height of arrogance..." If I did not believe that "faith alone" was a false doctrine, I would not have entered into this debate. Likewise, if I believed the doctrine was wrong, but that it was of no eternal consequence to the souls of men, I would not have involved myself in this discussion. I believe with all my heart that salvation by "faith alone" is a false doctrine, and those who attempt to enter heaven by means of this teaching will hear the Lord say "...I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." (Matthew 7:23). Lawlessness is to act without or outside of the law. Salvation by "faith alone" is no part of the law of God.
 
Note: There are over a hundred and fifty passages in the New Testament that tell us that those who place faith in Jesus Christ have eternal life, and the doctrine of justification by faith alone is carefully and systematically taught and explained in Paul's letter to the Romans in chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10 & 11, and because of a doctrinal controversy, it is also explained in Paul's letter to the Galatians in chapters 2, 3, 4 & 5. As Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation TO EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES." 

Throughout this discussion, Mr. Peacock has had one responsibility; to show us that the Bible teaches faith as the exclusive element of salvation. He has failed in this task, and predictably so, for the Bible does not teach salvation by "faith alone". Rather than support his proposition, my friend has attacked it, stating that "...salvation is gained by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone." In that very statement, Jason admitted there to be at least three elements which combine for man's salvation. I appreciate his honesty, but I am puzzled that he refuses to accept the remainder of Scripture. Surely we can see that the New Testament does not teach that one is saved by "faith alone".

Note: Again as Mr. Stewart shows, there is much confusion in the Church of Christ over what evangelicals mean when they say that 'salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ Jesus alone.' Grace Alone means that salvation can only be received on the basis of a gift, not by the economy of a person working to attain it. Faith Alone means that faith, not works, is the only way that a person can receive God's gift of eternal life. And Finally, by saying in Christ Alone, we are talking about the object of the believer's faith. Faith must always have an object to believe in, for there is no such thing as 'faith-in-faith.' Thus, the object of the believer's faith is Jesus Christ, and we are believing upon Him alone for eternal life. Thus, salvation is by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in the person of Christ Jesus alone.
 
In closing, and as stated in our ministry purpose statement, this ministry seeks to explain the oft-misunderstood doctrine of justification by faith alone to those in the Churches of Christ, and to provide answers to many of the objections they have regarding this doctrine. Here we hope the information given has been helpful, and that you will also consider from the Scriptures the points that are being made. 
 
Galatians 2:15-16
 
"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified."