Some Unsaved Believers
The creed book of one popular denomination says, “that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.” But is it true? Does the Bible say that if one believes on Jesus, it makes no difference what else he believes or does? Are you surprised that the Bible says plainly that faith alone is not enough?
In James 2:14-12, the Bible addresses the question of “faith alone” by talking about a man who believes but does not obey. James asks (:14) “Can faith save him?” His answer is a clear No! Even demons believe (:19) to no avail. Man is justified “not by faith only” (:24) because “faith without works is dead” (:26).
In John 8:30-36, Jesus spoke to some who “believed in Him.” But they were not yet saved – Jesus said they also needed to obey His word to be made free. They were believers, but they were not yet free from sin. Later, in John 12:42, some among the rulers believed on Jesus but would not confess it. Were they saved? No, Jesus said plainly that one who will not confess Him on earth will be denied before God (Matt. 10:32-33).
In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus says that some who believe enough to accept Him as Lord will be lost because they “practice lawlessness” in spite of their belief. Our practice can affect our salvation! The New Testament speaks of the possibility that one may believe “in vain” (1 Cor 15:2). Luke 8:13 speaks of some who believe and then fall away. We are told in Acts 8:13 that the sorcerer Simon believed, yet in verses 20-23 we see that his heart had become not right with God, and he was back in the “bond of iniquity.” Obviously something more than believing was required.
These scriptures do not minimize the value of faith. Faith is an absolute requirement for forgiveness, but it is not the only one. John 1:12 says believers have “power to become children of God.” They are not yet children of God, but they have the power to become such, because faith empowers all the other things that believers are told to do (Acts 8:35-39; 1 Peter 3:21; Gal. 3:26-27; Acts 22:16). Certainly faith is the foundation, but it is the beginning, not the end.
It is not enough to “simply believe,” or to believe and say a sinner’s prayer. When the Bible says “not by faith only” (James 2:24), it should be clear that something else is required.