“Faith Alone” in What?

Faith alone can be misunderstood. Even though Romans 5:1 tells us, “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” faith in the gospel of the Lord Jesus is not the cause or condition of justification.\

Of course I have read discussions about distinctions between conditions, where it is explained that faith is an “instrumental” condition. However confessional that term may be, I don’t agree with that explanation of faith. My problem is not that the traditional “instrumental” language can be misunderstood. Any explanation of faith’s necessity that I give can also be misunderstood.

I believe that faith in the true gospel (which includes “for the elect alone”) is necessary evidence that a person has passed from a state of condemnation to a state of justification. This faith in the gospel is not a knowledge that a person has been justified all along, or assurance that a person has been justified from the time of the cross or before a person was born. This faith in the gospel, which includes understanding of the gospel, is the result of being born again, which is the result of being imputed with the merits of Christ’s death.

In the false gospel which tells all sinners that Christ died for them, faith is misunderstood as making the difference between saved and lost. Even in cases where the fine print tells you that this making-the- difference faith is a result of predestination and regeneration, the credit for salvation does not go to Christ. The credit may go to the Holy Spirit or to predestination, but it cannot go to Christ, if Christ died for all sinners but only some sinners are saved.

Much Amyraldian double talk says that Christ propitiated the wrath of God for all sinners but that Christ also died extra for the elect to give them the faith to get the benefit of Christ’s propitiation. In other words, there is no antithesis with the false gospel of Arminianism. Since they still want to be thought of as evangelicals, and still want to have influence on evangelicals, Amyralidans agree to the heresy that Christ died for everybody. Even if they don’t explicitly say that this was to take away the wrath for every sinner, by their silence about the question, they go along with what everybody already understands, which is that “faith alone” makes the difference.

They can try to put boundaries around that, and say that the object of faith is important. They can even imply that Mormons and open theists are not evangelicals, and maybe not even justified But they are still agreeing, sermon after sermon, every time that they do not say “for the elect alone”, that it is faith alone which makes the difference. And when they do that, there is no Christ alone left.

In the fine print, the glory may go to God for predestinating the Holy Spirit to give faith. But it is no longer Christ’s death which saves, if Christ died for all sinners, and some of these sinners are lost. And though we may talk of Scripture alone, we end up with a canon within a canon, where what the Scripture says about the elect in Christ and therefore being elect in His death becomes segregated out from the gospel and never proclaimed or discussed.

Instead of saying that Christ died only for the elect and not for the non-elect, they leave out the word election and say that Christ died for believers, which comes to mean that” faith alone” makes the difference and not Christ.

If they want to keep the “thoroughly reformed” happy, they might say sometimes that Christ died for his covenant people, but then later they will make it clear that the covenant is conditional and that the his people are believers, so that it will all come back to “faith alone”.

According to Romans 3 and 4, “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.” Please notice the connection between “not because of works” and election.

When “evangelicals” attempt 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 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.

In select groups (for examples “Reformed” 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 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 was not only “prevenient or common” grace to make your faith possible but that it made sure that you would being to believed that Jesus died for everybody.

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 that 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, for seeing 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.” I am sometimes falsely accused as advocating that the gospel be given to the elect alone. At other times I am falsely associated with those who attempt to “prepare” people 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 ). Since Romans 8:30 teaches us that as many as He called were also predestined, I see no reason to leave out the idea of election from the idea of calling.

Those who don’t want to talk about election leave Christ out of the idea of election. 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 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.

Galatians 3: 5-8 does not use the word election but it does talk about God’s calling. 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.” I Corinthians 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.

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).

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.” Does the apostle Paul not understand that you can say “not by works “ without talking about election? Why does Paul not 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.

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: atonement, election, faith

Tags: , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

4 Comments on ““Faith Alone” in What?”

  1. knhurst1 Says:

    Thank you Mark for writing this little article and for saying it an understanding way. So many in today’s Churches will deceive with a false gospel and will not preach the true Gosple of Grace.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    God does not only give absolution but God also forgives justly because Christ died to pay for all the sins absolved–but many object—if paid for, not forgiven, and if forgiven, then no need to pay for. But the gospel is not only grace, but also at the same time about God’s law being satisfied. Romans 3: 24 are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    The idea of the “governmental theory of the atonement” is that there is no real specific law, that there is always something more real than law, behind law.

    1. This causes people to think of all sin as sin against grace—- this makes the law of no consequence, and therefore takes the antithesis out of the antithesis between law and grace . You not only the guilt trip “you killed Jesus” but we are told “you killed Jesus attempting to love you and save you”

    2. But what is the correlation between the sins of Christians against grace and our chastisements—-I have no problem saying that chastisement is Fatherly grace, but I question a Deuteronomic connection between our sins and our chastisements. When a Christian sins against grace, that Christian is still sinning against law.

    Romans 7:4–“You have DIED TO THE LAW through the body of Christ, so that you belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we bear fruit for God.”

    Saying that our “activity” is not law-obedience is NOT the gospel. First, there is no short cut around God’s law. God is both just and justifier of the ungody, so God’s law has been satisfied for the elect alone by Christ’s obedience to death. Second, faith has as its object not just any “Jesus” or any “grace”, but the Jesus who satisfied the law for all who will be justified (and not for the non-elect). Third, this faith is not only a sovereign gift but a righteous gift, given on behalf of Christ and His law-work (Philippians 1:29; John 17).
    There is no escape from legalism in a “difference” between a demand for faith and a demand for law-obedience. Does faith include works or not? If faith works and faith is an instrument, why can’t works of faith be an instrument?

    In our day many folks think they have escaped legalism by simply denying any antithesis between law and gospel. But the important point of the law-gospel antithesis is not “conflict”. It is non-identity. Though law and gospel are not the same thing, they are not opposed because they never claim to have the same function. Law says what God demands. Gospel says how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect. The law never offered life off probation. Only one sin puts you under its curse. No matter how many acts of obedience to the law, the law never promises everlasting life.

    The “end of the law” is Christ dying the death for the elect that the law demanded, so that there is no remainder left for the Spirit enabled Christian to do. The gospel says DONE. The gospel does not say “to be done by the life of Christ in the elect”.

    Christians sin, and therefore their activity (even if you don’t call it “fulfillment of the law” as in Romans 13) cannot ever satisfy the law. But God’s law will not go unsatisfied.

    The law is not the gospel and it never was the gospel. Romans 11:5–”So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is not on the basis of works; otherwise grace would not be grace.”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    more and more “protestants” are afraid of even saying “faith alone”

    they not only say “faith alone is never alone”
    but now say “faith alone includes works”

    Tom Schreiner—-“Too many Protestants reduce faith to mere verbal agreement. Many are mistakenly assured they’ll enjoy eternal life apart from any obedience if they accept Jesus as Savior. Bates convincingly demonstrates that such a reading doesn’t accord with the New Testament’s emphasis on works, for works are clearly essential for the reception of eternal life. We must maintain our faith until the end to be saved.

    Schreiner—“The empty hands with which we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior don’t remain empty. By virtue of being in Christ, we’re empowered to live a new life that pleases God. Genuine trust in God—saving faith in Christ—inevitably leads to a new life manifesting the Spirit’s fruit. The gospel can’t be reduced to the formula “Jesus died for our sins,” since the gospel centers on the truth that Jesus is King. He’s the resurrected and enthroned Lord over all, and we’re called to express our allegiance to him as our Lord. ”

    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/book-review-salvation-by-allegiance-alone

    https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2015/10/08/are-good-works-necessary-to-salvation/

    https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/pipers-foreword


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: