The rallying cry of contemporary Christianity seems to be “saved by faith plus nothing!” As expressed by its most ardent proponents, faith plus nothing lends itself to what some call “easy believism”. This popular belief is decried by many as a dilution of what Jesus taught and a radical distortion of His teachings. Think of all those silly martyrs! Consider all the misguided believers who wandered through life bereft of comforts and security. And what about those faithful ones who struggled mightily against principalities and powers? The Apostle Paul could have saved himself a lot of trouble had he contented himself with faith plus nothing.
Faith Without Works is Dead
Martin Luther was mightily upset with the book of James and claimed it did not even belong in the Bible! “St. James’ Epistle is really an epistle of straw…We should throw (it) out of this school, for it doesn’t amount to much.” The problem was that the Book of James refuted Luther’s personal views so rather than change his views he attacked scripture. Where did James ever get the idea that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26)? Perhaps he got this wild idea from his half brother Jesus Christ Himself. James had known Jesus for his entire life and grown up with Him in the same household so perhaps he was onto something. I only wish we had a record of Martin Luther and the Apostle James talking this over. Now that would be an interesting dialogue!
It’s Possible to Please God!
Do we believe then that we are saved by faith? Of course we do! This is the essential transaction between the believer and his God. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6) but faith greatly pleases God. But does our faith give us permission to disregard and disobey the teachings of Jesus Christ? Of course not. Jesus told us His position plainly and in no uncertain terms! The essential point was: Don’t call me Lord unless you intend to do what I tell you. (Matthew 7:21-23 and Luke 6:46)
Where is “Plus Nothing” ?
We are wholeheartedly committed to the message of salvation by grace through faith. What we fail to see anywhere in scripture is that little addition…plus nothing. If Sola Scriptura means anything it means we don’t get to add our own thoughts and opinions to what is written in the Bible. (even if those thoughts seem plausible and can be shouted nicely from a pulpit)
This is Better Than Nothing!
Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Galatians 3:6) and then Abraham confirmed the authenticity of his faith by obedience. Abraham acted on his faith and sealed his covenant with God. Obedience was even required of our Savior who was made perfect through His obedience. Faith then is the beginning and ground of our walk with God but without obedience it means nothing. Our message begins with saved by grace through faith and concludes with loving God enough to obey Him. This is better than nothing… a lot better.
Copyright 2023 by Bob Shutes