When we read Paul’s statement “by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom. 3:20), several facts ought to be kept in mind. (1) He is dealing with the fact of sin in all men (v. 10). (2) The law under consideration is the law of Moses. (3) He is establishing the validity of a system of justification which has the “obedience of faith” as the means of procuring the benefits of the death of Christ, which is the ground of our justification. The apostle Paul further establishes that justification by the Law of Moses would demand sinlessness (Gal. 3:10). Yet, “all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;” therefore, that law which brought the knowledge of sin could do nothing for the sinner but establish his sinful condition before God. (4) When Paul mentions faith in this passage he is not talking about “faith only” or what one chose to call the “principle of faith alone.” A careful examination of Rom. 3 should show that Paul is teaching that the sinner cannot be pronounced righteous by a law which demands sinlessness, but that we now have a law, “a law of faith,” which provides for the forgiveness of the obedient.
In Eph. 2:8-9, Paul said, “for by grace have you been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man would glory.” This passage has been worked and overworked in an attempt to prove that we are saved by faith only. Paul is dealing with a special kind of works, i.e., works about which one boasts or glories. In true obedience to the word of God there is no such glorying. The plan of salvation is God’s plan (1 Cor. 1:26-29) and by the good works contained therein we are made the “workmanship” of God (Eph. 2:10). This is the same point as is made in Tit. 3:5 where man is taught to rely on the grace and mercy of the Lord and not his own plans and schemes.
The effort to remove repentance, confession, and baptism from the realm of works in ludicrous. It claims, in essence, that work must always be referring to the same thing and can never refer to repentance, confession, and baptism. Such reasoning could be used to show that no command of God, i.e. Lord’s Supper and attendance, is a work, thus reducing the entire system to the absurdity of saying, “You must obey God’s commands, just do not call it that. Call it faith.” The end result would be the same except that those who continue to refer to Bible things with Bible words would be called cold and unfeeling.
The relationship between faith and works is very important. Faith is the principle of the heart which produces proper action on the part of the believer. The faith of the ancients, Heb. 11, is set forth as the basis of their doing. Any other kind of doing would be useless, nonetheless, the doing was an integral part of their obtaining the reward. To have faith without works is as useless as an impoverished man trying to consume the oral blessings of his friends. He is just as hungry as before. Specifically, James said, “Faith apart from works is dead” (Jam. 2:26). There are multitudes of passages which establish the need for obedience (Mt. 7:21 ff; Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 2:13; Heb. 5:8-9; etc.). Obedience must proceed from faith in order to be of any value. “Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to Him” (Heb. 11:6).
Conclusion: The Baptists and Methodists have taught ‘faith only’ for hundreds of years, and yet, many of their churches are as cold and formalistic as any Catholic church on earth. Only by instilling true faith in God based upon the true revelation of the scriptures can we turn men into vibrant and active servants of the Lord. In order to be a Baptist or Methodist one must make the ‘Thief on the cross’ into a ‘faith only’ Christian who did nothing in order to be saved other than say “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”. They must void the great commission of Jesus when He said, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved”. (Mk 16:16) They must void the 3,000 on the day of Pentecost who repented and were baptized for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:37-47) They must void every Christian convert in the new testament.
Let’s get real here! There are too many souls at stake to get this wrong. It was Jesus who died on the cross but until he died, all were under the law of Moses. Therefore, the thief died under that law and not the law of Christ. Until Christ died, the gospel which included the death, burial and resurrection, the gospel could not be in effect.
Let’s get real here! Faith requires works. It was Jesus Christ who commanded belief and baptism in order for anyone to be saved and to be added to His Church. (Mk 16:16)
Let’s get real here! The apostles were sent into all the world to preach the gospel which included all to believe and to be baptized. (Mt 28:19,20). As water saved Noah and his family, it saves us today by the means of baptism. (1 Pet 3:21) All must be buried with Christ by baptism and raised up again to walk in the newness of life. (Rom 6:3,4)
Let’s get real here! If you want to be saved come the day of judgment, you must hear the gospel and believe that Jesus is the Christ the son of God and confess such before men. (Rom 10:9,10) You must repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38) You must remain faithful unto death and then and only then are you awarded a crown of life. (Rev 2:10)