Can We Be Saved by Faith “ALONE?”

Can We Be Saved by Faith “ALONE?”

What God’s word says about salvation is crucial to our condition in eternity. Most of the world’s population knows nothing of the God of the bible. Still more people reject knowledge of Him. Yet if the God of the bible exists and is Who He claims, then everything this book says about human salvation is the most urgently important information in all the world!

There IS general agreement in Christendom (the religious groups and organizations who describe themselves as “Christian”) about “how to be saved.” The common thread in most of their teaching is that salvation is “by faith:” But what “faith” means depends on who is using the word!

Hebrews 4:3 declares, “…we who have believed do enter into that rest; even as he hath said, As I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.” This verse is sometimes offered as “conclusive proof” that the only thing necessary for salvation is belief – faith “ALONE.” In Moses’ day, those who believed still had to walk from Egypt to Canaan to receive the blessing. The idea that they could have received the promise by faith “alone” makes a mockery of their faithfulness. The word for believed in this verse is the same word commonly translated throughout the new testament by the word faith: “We who have believed” is equivalent to “we who have faith.” “Faith” and “faith alone” are very different ideas, in the same way that eating steak with a knife and eating steak with a knife “alone” would be very different experiences! The overall context of Hebrews 4 shows that “belief” (vs. 3) stands in contrast to the faithless-ness of Moses’ generation. Verse 3 highlights the example of Israel’s UNbelief, when they exited Egyptian bondage under Moses’ leadership. At Kadesh-Barnea, they believed the evil report of ten faithless spies (Numbers 14) and refused to enter the promised land. The appeal in Hebrews 3:7-19 is for Christians to learn from (and NOT follow) their evil example. What is the warning? “And … they were not able to enter in because of unbelief.

The significant point here is that Hebrews 3:18 and 19 cite two different “causes” for Israel’s failure to enter the promised land. They were called disobedient in verse 18, and in 19, the same people could not enter in because of their unbelief. “Disobedience” and “unbelief” are interchangeable in this context.

Hebrews 4 continues the lesson introduced in chapter 3 by illustrating it with the example of Israel’s disobedience at Kadesh-Barnea. That example shows why God’s people passed 40 years in the wilderness – because His word was not “united with faith” in their hearts (4:2). This led to their unwillingness to obey His command to enter and conquer the promised land! There is no way to separate the lesson of chapter three from the application of chapter four; those who keep faith with God are those who obey Him. Those who have “only” faith – faith “ALONE” – cannot enter into His promised rest.


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