This post was written at the request of a friend, whose beliefs (which are similar to mine) were attacked and ridiculed by others. This is my response to that attack, which will explain why this is so direct and lacking in 'sugar-coating'.
The whole notion that people are saved in Heaven by ‘belief’ in Christ alone is a false doctrine that was developed centuries ago by preachers who were turning religion into a business. When preachers began depending on followers for an income, attractive doctrines replaced truth. The true commandments of God were replaced with what people wanted to hear.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 (KJV) – “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
Eventually people began to cleave to false doctrines like this, which would make them ‘feel good’ with a shallow, casual relationship with God, rather than the total spiritual commitment that the scriptures clearly indicate is necessary for eternal life. This fictitious doctrine of ‘belief only’ is not taught or supported by the Bible, but is the concoction of men. Any person who believes this false doctrine does not know the Bible or its true purpose, does not know the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and may simply want a cheap and easy way to Heaven, believing only what they want to hear rather than what is clearly declared in holy scripture.
Some of the more popular verses in the Bible to create this notion of ‘belief only’ include:
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
A person would have to conclude that Jesus would accept cheap lip service, simply ‘confessing his name as their Savior’, in exchange for eternal life, the greatest gift He can give us. And despite such a cheap confession, a person could live a willfully sinful life. Such a belief is ridiculous, and is contradictory to everything else taught in the Bible. A simple investigation into what ‘belief’ meant to the followers of Christ at the time will reveal that believing was much more than cheap lip service. Believing was living by the commandments Jesus taught.
Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
It is true that man cannot save himself. Man cannot ‘work’ himself into Heaven. Only those who are given the gift of eternal life, which comes only through Jesus Christ, may enjoy eternity where God dwells. But it is clear throughout the Bible (or should be clear but for these deceitful faith-only doctrines), that Christ commands us to obey him, and that men will be judged and rewarded according to their works. We have all sinned and have fallen short of eternal life. Only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, His suffering for our sins and forgiving us of our shortcomings, do we have a chance to have eternal life. But it is also clear that Christ requires us to live our lives righteously.
First, the whole faith-only fiction is destroyed by a simple reading of James chapter 2. Read the entire chapter. It becomes clear that mere ‘belief’ without obedience is not even showing faith and has no value whatsoever. Exercising real faith requires obedience to God’s commandments.
Second, there are many verses that clearly indicate that obedience (work) is required:
Matthew 7:21 – “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
Is there any question about what the ‘will of the Father’ is? It is belief in His son, Jesus Christ, which includes obedience to the commandments.
John 15:13-14 – “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”
To whom does Christ’s Atonement apply? To His ‘friends’, those who obey His commandments.
Matthew 16:27 – “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
After Christ’s final coming, He will REWARD men according to their works. What reward? Eternal life or something less, depending on their works (obedience).
Could it be any clearer that faith-only is a false doctrine?
Revelation 20:12-13 – “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”
After the resurrection of men, they were judged according to their works. If works (obedience) were not important, why would they be judged and rewarded for them?
James 4:17 - Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
Disobedience to what Christ taught us is sin.
Perhaps one of the most unmistakable declarations that obedience to God’s commandments is required for eternal life comes from the mouth of the Savior Himself in Mark 10:17-23:
“17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!”
It is also clear from this passage in Mark that Christ requires more of us than minimal obedience to the most basic of the ‘Ten Commandments’. He requires us to give our all to Him, as seen in verse 21.
Matthew 22:36-40 reads:
“36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
From all of these Bible verses, we can plainly see that cheap lip service, or simply saying we believe, is not what Christ requires of us. We must devote our lives to Him through obedience to His commandments, by serving others, and more. How much more?
Luke 4:4 – “And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”
We must live every commandment that God has given to us.
Matthew 5:48 – “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
While giving the Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught us that we should try to be perfect like His Father. Of course we cannot achieve that in this life, but we must do our best. Christ’s Atonement, and his forgiving us of our sins and shortcomings, through His grace and mercy, make it possible for us to have eternal life.
The answer to what is required of us is not a mere belief in Christ, but to keep His commandments and live our lives as close to the way He lived as possible.
This is clear and unmistakable doctrine taught by Jesus Christ Himself, not twisted and interpreted by men who are trying to attract a flock of paying followers.
Generally speaking, if a ‘preacher’ wants to earn a living ‘preaching the word’, they must preach things that people WANT to hear. Also generally speaking, some people will try to shift the responsibility for their own salvation onto the preacher, claiming ‘that is what I was taught by God’s minister’, when deep inside they know better. If they don’t hear what they want, what is easy and convenient to follow, they will find another church. See again 2 Timothy 4:3-4. This is where silly doctrines like ‘belief only’ come from – preachers must tell people what they want to hear, or their business of preaching will fail financially.
The false doctrine of faith without works is clearly not found in the Bible, and is dangerous to one’s salvation. Anyone who claims to be a true and honest follower of Jesus Christ should run the other direction from such deceitful beliefs.