Justification By Faith Alone or Faith Plus Works?
The one thing that seems to make the biggest division within Christendom is the stance of faith and works in regards to salvation. There are some sects that believe salvation is by "faith alone", while their are other sects that believe in a faith plus works salvation. So where does the contradiction come in? Which one is correct ? And does it really matter?
We must first begin by saying YES it does matter! Paul speaking to the Galatians says, " If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that you have received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:9) Any manipulation of the Gospel is forbidden!
So where exactly does the contradiction come in? Paul speaking to the Ephesians says, "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." But James on the other hand says, "Faith if it has not works is dead, being alone." Paul in Romans says Abraham was justified by faith (as follows), "For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God. For what says the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. James on the other hand says Abraham was justified by works (as follows) "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son on the altar?"
Likewise in the Gospel we have two distinct examples, one being of the thief on the cross who seemed to had been saved without any works when he said unto Jesus, "Remember me when you come into thy Kingdom" and Jesus replied "Verily I say unto thee, To day shall you be with me in paradise." Whereas (on the contrary) Judas who had followed Jesus all along, in the end was told "Woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born."
Incorrect and Correct Harmonization
Now some harmonize these two by making a doctrine out of Paul's phrase "but not before God." And so they say that Abraham was justified by faithbefore God (Paul-Romans) but by worksbefore men (James). Now this might sound like a reasonable explanation to some (who do not properly read and study), but to those of us who rightly divide this does not sit well at all. As a matter of fact this doctrine completely goes against the teachings of the True Gospel. First of all in the offering of Isaac (the example used by James) there would had been no one else besides Isaac to witness Abraham's work, therefore it would make no sense at all for James to use this illustration (the offering of Isaac) as an example to show works before men, (for there was no one else besides Isaac to witness). Next we repeatedly hear Jesus condemning the outward works of the hypocrites; who sounded trumpets when giving alms before men and who stood up praying in the synagogues and street corners that they might be seen by men, and who disfigured their faces that they might appear unto men to be fasting. Jesus also said, "How can you believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comes from God only? (John 5:44) And again, "You judge according to the flesh (men's standards) I judge no man, and yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the father that sent me (John 8:15-16) and again "for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:43). And so not only does Jesus condemn those who seek honor from men, but he honors those who with a pure heart seek to please God alone.
Paul likewise speaks to the Galatians saying, "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should Not be the servant of Christ (Gal 1:10). And to the Corinthians he says, "it is a small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea I judge not my own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord (1Cor 4: 3-4) and also to the Corinthians he writes "for Not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends." And lastly to the Philippians he writes, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
Are we denying that God justifies the ungodly apart from works? God Forbid! But we must ask will God justify all or will all inherit the Kingdom of Heaven? Nay! Jesus himself said many shall be called but few chosen. So then there must be something that is required from man himself? And that something is to repent and to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, that you might receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. In this man is required to confess his sins and repent of his old lifestyle of ungodliness. In this he is made free from the guiltiness of his past lifestyle of ignorance and sin and from that point seek after the righteousness of God. But this is where salvation begins for not only did Christ die for our sins, but he was raised for our justification. Meaning our life from that new birth forward should become a shadow of his. And do not blaspheme as some foolishly do and say that it is impossible to please God, for indeed he is in need of nothing. But in order for God to be good he must be just, and so we will all face the Judgment Seat of Christ so that the good God may recompense
Therefore we must put our old lifestyle of sin to the side and carry our cross and follow after him.
Seeking to be justified before men is completely unfamiliar to the Gospel,
Jesus condemns those who make effort to appear righteous before men.
Who said, " Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven", and