The Scheme of Redemption

The Scheme of Redemption
Salvation by Faith

Stan Cox


In our study we have already established that man is saved by the grace of God. We have also shown that man has certain responsibilities that must be met in order to obtain that Redemption. Paul showed this in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 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."

Accepting that man must believe in order to be saved, we do not deny that we are saved by the grace of God. This is almost universally understood. If we accept men are saved by the grace of God, and yet not all are saved, we must accept that man plays a part in his own redemption. To believe otherwise would be to condemn the Almighty as a capricious God and a Respecter of persons. So, salvation is conditional. Jesus said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16).

An Important Parallel

The point we established can be paralleled in the current controversy where some advocate that we are saved by "faith only." Some believe that to claim man must accomplish certain works of obedience in some way invalidates both the concept of salvation by faith, and salvation by the grace of God. To this we say:

So, it is a mistake to claim that advocating the necessity of baptism for the remission of sins in some way invalidates either salvation by Grace, or justification by Faith. With this in mind, it is important we understand the type of faith which saves us.

Saving Faith

We have already indicated that we are saved by faith in God. Not only is this indicated by Paul in Ephesians 2, but also in many other New Testament passages:

The Bible is equally clear regarding what kind of faith saves. We ask, is mere assent that Jesus Christ is the Son of God sufficient to secure salvation for ourselves? The Bible says no! Our faith in Jesus must impel us to action, or we will not be redeemed.

The Rich Young Man

A case in point is the conversation Jesus had with a wealthy young man in Matthew 19:16-22. The young man came recognizing Jesus as a good teacher who had the words to life. He asked the question, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" His confidence in Jesus was great.

However, Jesus response was too much to ask of him. Jesus said, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me" (vs. 21). The young man's faith was not strong enough to impel him to make such a sacrifice. The next verse records, "But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions" (vs. 22). A principle is established here that is actually repeated time and again in scripture: A man's faith is sufficient only if it leads to obedience to the commands of our Lord.

Comparing Hebrews 11 and James 2

The epistle of James does a wonderful job of explaining this. In Chapter 2, verses 14-18, James states, "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. But someone will 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." The premise of James 2 is simple, a man's faith in Christ is not sufficient unless it impels him to obedience to Christ's commands.

James premise, as it is developed in verses 20-25, parallels Paul's wonderful passage regarding faith in Hebrews 11. Notice the parallel:

James 2

Parallels

Hebrews 11

(vs. 21 - 23) "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."

 

Abraham was justified by faith (Heb. 11), but was also justified by works (James 2). His faith led to obedience. If it had not, it could not be said of him, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."

(vs. 17-19) "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called,' concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense."

 

(vs. 25), "Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?"

Rahab was justified by faith (Heb. 11), but was also justified by works (James 2). Her faith led to obedience!

(vs. 31), "By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace."

James concludes with regard to these two examples: "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (vs. 24). AND "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (vs. 26). We might also notice his answer to the one who claims he believes (separate and apart from works), "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe; and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" (vs. 19-20).

It is foolishness to claim that we are saved by faith only! It is as foolish as to claim we are saved by grace only! It is wrong to distort God's scheme of Redemption in any way. We are saved by the Grace of God. That Grace is accessed by our Faith in the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. The faith which saves us is an obedient faith that impels us to obey the commands of God. If we lack any of these things, we can not be saved.

A Biblical Example of Saving Faith

In Acts 8, the Holy Spirit records a wonderful example of conversion which describes saving faith. A eunuch of Ethiopia had worshipped in Jerusalem, and was returning to his country. While travelling he was reading from Isaiah. The evangelist Philip took the opportunity to engage him in conversation, and with a willing student, "beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him" (vs. 35). It does not take a great deal of time to preach the fundamental principles of the gospel of Christ. These have been stated twice elsewhere in this study. Philip used the picture of the suffering Savior (Isaiah 53) to inform the eunuch that Jesus of Nazareth, the son of God, came to earth, died a perfect sacrifice, and was resurrected as a victor over sin and death. We can not know all that was covered, but it is significant that a part of preaching the gospel of Jesus was the subject of water baptism. We know this, because as Philip preached they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" (vs. 36). The eunuch knew what he needed to do to be saved, and wanted to obey God. Philip answered, "'If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he (the eunuch) answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God'" (vs. 37). The eunuch believed, and it led him to confess Christ as the Son of God, and to be baptized, "So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him" (vs. 38).

Conclusion

The popular Protestant notion that man is saved by faith only is flawed. The epistle of James is the only place in the entire New Testament where the words "faith only" are coupled. That verse reads, "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (James 2:24). In explaining the proper concept of faith as revealed in the New Testament we are freed to make the appeal to respond to the gospel.

It is our desire that all who read this article will obtain the redemption of their soul. In order to do this you must believe in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). God sent His son to die for our sins. Jesus led a life of perfection, and submitted willingly to the cross. His blood purchased for us the forgiveness of sins. His resurrection enabled us to hope for eternal life. This eternal reward can be yours. Will you believe?


e-mail this author at stancox@watchmanmag.com

Return to Watchman Front Page