The New Testament teaches that we are saved by faith, but it does not teach that we are saved by “faith only”, or without further acts of obedience (Eph 2:8,9 f; Jam 2:19,20,24). Are there examples of anyone who believed only and was saved? No! Some denominations say the thief on the cross was saved separate and apart from baptism. Remember this, the thief was born and died under the law of Moses. Therefore, the thief is not an example of anyone being saved separate and apart from the gospel of Christ. For the few who believe what the scriptures actually says, consider these facts about the thief. One, he never said he believed Jesus was the Christ. Secondly, the thief never repented of his sins, nor did Jesus ever say he forgave the thief of his sins. Thirdly, Jesus never said the thief was saved. What Jesus actually said was “Today you shall be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:43). Where did Jesus go on the day he died? He didn’t go to heaven for certain. How do we know this? Because Jesus told Mary Magdalene after he arose from the dead, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father” (Jn 20:17). If we believe the apostle Peter, this is where Jesus went the day he died: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure where unto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: (1 Pet 3:19-21). Isn’t it odd to those who believe in “faith only,” that the destination of Jesus after being crucified debunks that one is saved separate and apart from baptism. With all this evidence, it is conclusive that there has been no one saved by “faith only”.
Are there examples of those who believed and were not saved? Yes! Let’s look at those who were not saved and yet believed. In John 12:42-43, the Bible says, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers many also believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” I don’t believe anybody thinks that these people were saved. They refused to confess Christ: they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. Yet they “believed on Christ.” This is the very same expression found in Scriptures like John 3:16, 3:36; Acts 16:31, and many more. These rulers “believed on Christ,” but they were not saved. Yet Jesus said in many places, that they who “believe on him” shall have eternal life. I can hear someone say, “Yes, but these rulers didn’t have ‘saving faith.'” I agree. And that is the point and purpose of this little tract: to show the difference between the faith that saves, and the faith that does not save. The rulers in John 12 are not the only ones in the New Testament who believed and were not saved.
In Acts 2, Peter preached to an assembly of Jews who did not believe in Christ. Beginning in verse 22, he made a three fold argument on the Deity of Christ. Then the apostle summed it all up in verse 36 and reached this conclusion: “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly” (believe with confidence, L.B.) “that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ.” The sermon had its desired effect. The next verse says, “Now when they heard this they were pricked in their hearts and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, men and brethren what shall we do?” They were convinced that the man they had caused to be crucified was truly the Son of God. They BELIEVED! But were they saved? Not unless one can be saved without repentance! Not unless they were saved without having their “remission of sins!” Their question, “What must we do?” brought this answer: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Here are some people who believed and were not saved. Not yet. Why? Because their faith was not yet obedient faith.
Another unsaved believer was Saul of Tarsus. Saul is a fine example of a man who was doing what he believed was right, but who was sinning in doing it. He was on his way to Damascus to carry out a wicked mission, persecuting God’s people, the church. As he journeyed, he saw a light from heaven; he fell to the earth; he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? And he said, Who are you Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom you persecute. .. and he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what will you have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise and go into the city, and there it shall be told thee what you must do” (Acts 9:4-6). Notice that the Lord told Saul to go into the city (Damascus) and there it would be told him what he MUST do. Watch what he was told to do. The Lord sent Ananias to him in the city. When Ananias came to Saul, he told him to “Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). It is in chapter 22 that we have what Ananias told Saul to do. “Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins . . . .” But Saul was a believer before he was told this. He saw the Lord (1 Cor. 15:8). He heard Him speak; he heard Him say, “I am Jesus whom you persecute.” Yes, Saul, was a believer, but not a saved believer, unless he was saved before his sins were washed away; unless he could be saved without doing what the Lord told him he MUST do. We are baptized into the Lord’s death (Rom. 6:3). That is why baptism is used here in connection with the “washing away of sins.” That is why Saul was not saved until he was baptized.
Someone says, “Ananias called him ‘brother Saul’ before he was baptized.” He was a brother Jew. Paul later called some of the men in that mob that was trying to kill him “brethren” (Acts 22:1; 23:1). Peter called those unbelieving Jews who had crucified Christ “brethren” (Acts 3:17).
Examples of Faith in Action
The 11th chapter of Hebrews is filled with such examples. Verse 7, “By faith Noah . . . prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” “By FAITH Noah PREPARED an ark.” He did not simply believe and cause the ark to appear. But he believed and BUILT. And the BUILDING was counted as an element of the faith.
Verse 30, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been compassed about seven days.” But Joshua 6 shows that the whole army of Israel had to march around the walls for a week, a total of thirteen times, and then priests blew on the ram’s horns, and the people gave a shout before the walls fell. But the Hebrew writer said that the walls fell “BY FAITH.” So the marching, blowing the horns and the shouting were all included in the expression “by faith.” These were acts of obedience required to express their faith. And the walls did not fall until they had DONE these things.
In Gal. 3:26, 27 Paul said, “For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Notice that he said they are children of God “BY FAITH in Christ Jesus.” But the next verse said they were “BAPTIZED into Christ.” Therefore, their baptism “into Christ” was a part of the faith by which they became children of God, or entered into Christ. Baptism is an act of faith, a constituent part of the faith that saves. When one is baptized, he is still “saved by faith.” I say again, that it is only in this way that the Bible teaching of salvation by faith can be understood. If repentance and baptism are acts of faith by which we are saved, just like marching, blowing horns and shouting were a part of the faith by which the walls of Jericho fell, then we can understand what the Bible means when it says that we are saved BY FAITH, and yet makes repentance and baptism conditions of salvation. But if we are saved by FAITH ONLY, and “without further obedience,” then no man on earth can explain passages like Acts 2:38, Mk. 16:16, and cases of conversion like Saul’s, without perverting and twisting the Word of God.
Obedience and Works
A lot of people have been taught and have accepted the teaching, that if one must be baptized to be saved, he is saved by works. And they remind us that the Bible says that we are not saved by works. This is a misunderstanding of passages like Eph. 2:8,9 and Titus 3:5. “By grace are you saved by faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast.” Then, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
If Eph. 2:8 and Tit. 3:5 and Rom. 4:4 mean that baptism can’t have anything to do with salvation because baptism is a work, there are some other passages that don’t make sense. Peter told the house of Cornelius in Acts 10:35 that “In every nation he that fears him and works righteousness is accepted with him.” Then, before he had finished his sermon, he “commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (10:48). Remember that when the angel told Cornelius to send for Peter he said that when Peter would come “He will tell thee words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved (Acts 11:13,14). The words that Peter told him included the command to be baptized. If baptism is a work, what kind of work is it? I read in the Bible about the works of the flesh, the works of darkness, the works of the devil, the works of the law, and the works of man’s righteousness. The prophet said man’s righteousness is as filthy rags, but you wouldn’t put baptism in this category would you?
If baptism is a work, it is a work of God’s righteousness, and Peter said that those who work God’s righteousness are “accepted of him.” Even faith itself is called a work of God. “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent” (Jn 6:29). Work is an action word. To believe is action. To confess is action. To repent is action. To be baptized is action. To live faithful unto death is action. On the day of Pentecost they asked of Peter and the other apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter told them what they must DO. Do is an action word. Thus, FAITH without WORKS is DEAD! Dead faith won’t save you. This is why Jesus Christ commanded the gospel to be preached unto all the world. “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, but that believes not shall be condemned” (Mk 16:16). If one believes only, they are lost. If one is baptized only, they are lost. All must hear the gospel, which is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom 10:17 f; 1 Cor 15:1-4). All must believe that Jesus is the Christ (Jn 8:24). All must confess Jesus to be the Christ before men (Rom 10:9,10). All must repent of their sins (Lk 13:3). All must be buried with Christ by baptism (Rom 6:4).