Faith Alone means Not by Works means Election
According to Scripture, faith alone is “not works”. The point of faith alone is “grace alone”. And according to Scripture, we cannot say grace alone without saying “for the elect alone”. Romans 9:11, “though they were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of His call.”
I want you to see the connection between “not because of works” and election. When the mainline attempts to leave out the “for the elect alone” and discuss the gospel without talking about election, then mostly all they can do is say “not because of works but because of faith alone”.
Sometimes of course they do talk about the “but because of his call”. They say that the reason you believe is not your freewill but God’s effectual call. Even if you believe the false gospel that Christ died for every sinner, Reformed evangelicals will tell you that God effectually called you to believe that heresy. Of course they won’t tell you it’s heresy, but in select groups (for examples, conferences that charge you big dollars) they will explain a more educated and precise view of things which you might want to add on to what you already believe without needing to repent of heresy or false gospel.
Before you believed in a faith alone gospel, and now you still believe in a faith alone gospel but now you know that the faith came from God, and that this prevenient gift was not to make your faith possible but to make sure that you believed.
The point of faith alone is “not by works”. Faith is not something you bring to the gospel. Faith is something that the gospel brings to the elect. I am not saying we have to hear a preacher or a sermon. But it is necessary for us to HEAR the gospel, and this HEARING is not works but faith. Galatians 3: 5-8, “ Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. I know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, forseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham….”
Since this text does not talk about election, and since it does talk about faith four times, what then is the gospel preached to Abraham that we should preach? First, notice that faith is a hearing produced by God by means of the gospel. The power is not in us but in the gospel message. I Corinthians 1: 18, “for the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”
No doubt I will be falsely accused as advocating that the gospel be given to the elect alone. And then I will be charged with attempts to get people prepared to introspect to see if they are elect. (But I don’t want to get distracted by what might be said. If you want to explore that kind of thing, read Abraham Booth’s “Glad Tidings” and “Divine Justice Essential to the Divine Character”, in which he fully answers the slanders of Andrew Fuller).
The truth is that I believe the full gospel needs to be proclaimed to all sinners (and not just those who have the bucks to get into Reformed conferences). The gospel is only good news for the elect, but we don’t know who the elect are until they have believed the gospel. The promise of the gospel is not for the children of the flesh but for the children of the promise, but we don’t know who the children of the promise are until they have been called.
As Romans 9: 7 reminds us, not all are offspring of Abraham because they are his offspring. As Acts reminds us time after time, the promise is for “as many as“ are called. (2:39, 4:4 ). Romans 8:30 teaches us that as many as He called were also predestined.
It is not enough to talk about calling and election, if election is simply to make sure that some sinners have faith alone. If the object of the faith alone is a false gospel which says that Christ loves everybody and desires to save everybody but that faith is some kind of condition of this salvation, then the faith alone is not in the true Christ but is instead in faith alone (for which they falsely give God the credit, even though the faith is in an unholy lie taught by Satan).
We don’t bring faith to the true gospel, because the true gospel brings faith (hearing) to the elect. The message (for the elect alone) is to be proclaimed to elect and non-elect alike, but it (the message) is the power of God to the elect alone.
The power of the gospel
I want to get back to Galatians 3: 5-8, which doesn’t talk about election but which does talk about the calling, but first I want to emphasize the power of the message. It’s not simply that God was powerful with Abraham, but also that God preached the gospel to Abraham. The word of the cross is the power of God. I Corinthians 2:12,“ Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we would understand the things freely given us by God.”
Freely given by God does not mean that God has made an offer of a free gift if we accept it by faith alone. Freely given by God does not mean that we don’t have to work for it, but that the only condition is faith alone. “Freely given” means “sovereignly given”, given ‘”without a cause”, given by God to the elect chosen and loved in Christ. I Cor 2:12 explains that the elect are given the Spirit to UNDERSTAND the things freely given us by God.
One of the blessings given by God in Christ is understanding the word of the cross, which word I Cor 1 calls the power of God. The elect don’t bring faith to the gospel, because the power of the gospel brings hearing to the elect, so that they understand not only that things are given by God, but also that these things are given freely, sovereignly. Faith alone is not the condition, but to see that, we need a message which tells us about God’s election. Salvation is not by works, but to see that, we need a message which tells us about the “freely given”.
Romans 1:16, “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Evangelicals understand this as teaching that salvation is conditioned on faith alone. Evangelicals don’t understand the gospel. The gospel of “for the elect alone” needs to be proclaimed to every sinner because that very gospel message is the power of God which saves and causes elect sinners to believe. The gospel proclaimed to a non-elect sinner is not the power of God for salvation, but rather “to those who are perishing, a fragrance from death unto death.” (II Cor 2:16).
But what about that one text, Galatians 3:5-8, which does not talk about election and which does talk about faith four times? First, I have shown that the faith is a sovereign gift of God to the elect, not something we bring to God, but what God brings to us. Second, the idea of election goes along with the idea of not works. Romans 9:11, “In order that God’s election might continue, not because of works.” Romans 11: 5, “So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it by grace, it is no longer by works; otherwise grace would be no more grace.”
Doesn’t the apostle Paul understand that you can say “not by works “ without talking about election? Why doesn’t he just say: “by faith and not by works”? Why does he bring in this idea of a remnant? Paul writes about election in order to explain what he means by faith. Paul does not regard faith as a substitute for works. Paul does not believe that God imputes or regards or credits faith as if faith were what the law required.