(Except otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the American King James Version).
Abraham is often said to be justified (made right with God) by faith alone, just by believing God. By this, it is meant that Abraham just believed God, without doing anything further, and that was counted to him for righteousness. Following this line of reasoning, it is argued that to be justified and saved, one only has to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and do nothing else, as faith alone is sufficient to justify us before God. Is that really what the Scripture teaches? Are we justified by faith only? Was Abraham, the father of faith, justified by faith alone? We shall examine the Scriptures to answer these questions.
It’s usually said that Abraham, the father of faith, was justified by faith alone. That he just believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. There’s no doubt that Abraham believed God and was justified by faith, and not by the works of the law, like the Jews under the law tried to do. Abraham didn’t work on his own to earn his right standing with God. He didn’t earn his salvation through good works, just like no man can, for we are all inherently sinful and can’t please God by our works of righteousness, which are just like filthy rags before him. But, was Abraham Justified by faith alone? Did he just believe God and was thus justified, without doing anything further? The apostle James does not believe so. In his epistle, James, one of the pillars of the early church in Jerusalem, pointed out the fact that Abraham was justified by faith alright, but not by faith alone! James taught that Abraham’s faith was proved by his works, and that it was after Abraham demonstrated his faith by his works that he was justified, not before! Abraham’s faith in God was tested by God’s command to Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to him. When Abraham passed this test, by his readiness to kill Isaac on the altar of sacrifice, in obedience to God, God approved his faith as real and living, and declared him righteous. Thus, it wasn’t just faith alone that justified Abraham, but faith plus works of faith! Abraham’s work of faith was in obeying God’s commandment after he had believed God.
James 2:17 Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone.
James 2:18 Yes, a man may say, You have faith, and I have works: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
James 2:19 You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
James 2:20 But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son on the altar?
James 2:22 See you how faith worked with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled which said, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
James 2:24 You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Genesis 22:1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said to him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
Genesis 22:2 And he said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and get you into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of.
Genesis 22:3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and split the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went to the place of which God had told him.
Genesis 22:9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar on the wood.
Genesis 22:10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
Genesis 22:11 And the angel of the LORD called to him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
Genesis 22:12 And he said, Lay not your hand on the lad, neither do you any thing to him: for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from me.
Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went.
Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
Hebrews 11:18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall your seed be called:
Hebrews 11:19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from where also he received him in a figure.
That’s the same way Rahab the prostitute was justified—not by faith alone, but by faith coupled with works of faith. Rahab believed Jehovah, the God of Israel, was the true God, and that the spies were his servants. She had heard of the miracles of God in parting the red sea for his people to pass over, and of the victories of Israel over the Amorites. Therefore, Rahab believed Jericho would fall before the Israelites. Simply put, Rahab believed in the God of Israel as the omnipotent God. She didn’t witness those wonderful signs and miracles, but she heard and believed (faith comes by hearing, not seeing). If that was not faith, then what was it? However, Rahab demonstrated her faith by taking the personal risk of hiding the spies and lying to preserve their lives. If she had just believed alone, without helping the spies, her faith would have been useless, or dead, as James called such faith. Such dead faith cannot justify anyone. It cannot save anyone! Rahab couldn’t have saved herself and her family by just believing without acting to save the spies!
Joshua 2:1 And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there.
Joshua 2:2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in here to night of the children of Israel to search out the country.
Joshua 2:3 And the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to you, which are entered into your house: for they be come to search out all the country.
Joshua 2:4 And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men to me, but I knew not from where they were:
Joshua 2:5 And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: where the men went I know not: pursue after them quickly; for you shall overtake them.
Joshua 2:6 But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.
Joshua 2:7 And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan to the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate.
Joshua 2:8 And before they were laid down, she came up to them on the roof;
Joshua 2:9 And she said to the men, I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that your terror is fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.
Joshua 2:10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when you came out of Egypt; and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.
Joshua 2:11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.
Joshua 2:12 Now therefore, I pray you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have showed you kindness, that you will also show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token:
Joshua 2:13 And that you will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brothers, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.
Joshua 2:14 And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if you utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.
Hebrews 11:31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
James 2:25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Now, let’s turn our attention to the requirements of justification for the believer in the gospel age, now that we’ve shown Abraham wasn’t justified by faith alone. Does the Bible teach that the believer is justified by faith alone, without doing any works to prove his faith? Is believing and confessing Christ as Lord and saviour enough to save anyone, without doing what Christ and the apostles said we must do after believing? Well, faith alone didn’t justify Abraham before God, like we saw from the Scriptures, and faith alone isn’t going to justify or save anyone in the gospel age. To be saved, our faith in Christ as Lord and Saviour must be demonstrated by our works of faith. The works of faith required of us, after believing, is to repent and be baptised by water in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins. Christ said only those who believe and are baptised shall be saved. Thus, believing alone, without getting baptised in water, makes our faith dead, for without works, faith alone is dead! Only an active, living faith in Christ can save us, and a living faith is simply faith coupled with works of faith. Like Abraham had to demonstrate his faith by obeying God, and was justified thereby, we too must demonstrate our faith, by obeying Christ in getting baptised after repentance, for us to be justified, otherwise our faith is dead, standing alone! The one who believes, repents and obeys Christ’s command to be water baptised is given the Holy Spirit as a seal of his faith, and is truly born again, being born of water and the Spirit. That’s how to be born again!
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
Matthew 28:19 Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Matthew 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
Mark 16:14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
Mark 16:15 And he said to them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Mark 16:16 He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned.
John 3:1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
John 3:2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said to him, Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that you do, except God be with him.
John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
John 3:4 Nicodemus said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
John 3:5 Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
John 3:7 Marvel not that I said to you, You must be born again.
Matthew 7:21 Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?
Matthew 7:23 And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
Matthew 7:24 Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, which built his house on a rock:
Matthew 7:25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell not: for it was founded on a rock.
Matthew 7:26 And every one that hears these sayings of mine, and does them not, shall be likened to a foolish man, which built his house on the sand:
Matthew 7:27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
The Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brothers, what shall we do?
The Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The Acts 2:39 For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
The Acts 2:40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
The Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls.
The Acts 8:34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray you, of whom speaks the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
The Acts 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached to him Jesus.
The Acts 8:36 And as they went on their way, they came to a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what does hinder me to be baptized?
The Acts 8:37 And Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
The Acts 8:38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
The Acts 8:39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
We see the same scenario in the story of the prodigal son. In the pigsty, he came to his senses, when he couldn’t even get enough husks to fill his hungry belly! Adversity is indeed a better teacher than prosperity, for it crushed the pride of the prodigal one and enabled him come to the realisation that he needn’t continue suffering as he was, when the servants in his father’s house had plenty to eat and to spare, while he had to wait for husks to fall from swine’s tables! He decided he was going back home to ask his father for forgiveness. That is the blessedness of adversity to the transgressor! It makes his way hard and compels him to amend, like nothing else can. The prodigal son believed his father would forgive him, even if it meant treating him as a servant rather than a son. Now, that’s faith. But he didn’t just sit there and fantasise with such beliefs. He got up and started going back home. He repented and made a U-turn. Now his faith was being put to work. When the father sighted him afar off, he ran and embraced him and wept over him. The father ordered a change of clothing for him, and for a ring (his seal) to be put on his finger. He was literally washed and his garment changed (a type of water baptism), and the father’s seal (ring) put on him. That’s a type of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that comes upon those who repent and get water baptised—those who obey Christ’s gospel in totality. Believing and remaining in the foreign land couldn’t have gotten him justified or saved. After believing, he had to repent, make a U-turn and come back home. Following repentance and coming to the father, he was washed, clothed with new garments and sealed. If that’s not repenting, getting water baptised and being sealed with the Holy Spirit (being born again), what is?
Luke 15:11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:
Luke 15:12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me. And he divided to them his living.
Luke 15:13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
Luke 15:14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
Luke 15:15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
Luke 15:16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave to him.
Luke 15:17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
Luke 15:18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you,
Luke 15:19 And am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of your hired servants.
Luke 15:20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
Luke 15:21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son.
Luke 15:22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
Luke 15:23 And bring here the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
Luke 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
The Acts 5:32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God has given to them that obey him.
Ephesians 1:13 In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
Ephesians 1:14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed to the day of redemption.
In conclusion, we’ve seen from the Scriptures that Abraham was justified, not by faith alone, but by faith accompanied by works of faith. His works of faith proved his faith as being genuine, and brought about his justification by God. Believers in Christ too are not just justified by believing, but must go on to repent and get water baptised to be saved, for Jesus taught that only those who believe and are baptised shall be saved. No wonder the apostles preached that to be saved, one must repent and be baptised for the remissions of sins and the person will then receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the seal of God, for only those sealed by God will be saved. There’s no other way to be saved in the gospel age. That’s what Jesus meant by being born of water and of the Spirit. That’s what it means to be born again!
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