Salvation is found in Christ alone, by God’s grace alone, through faith alone. But in John 8:31, Jesus links true discipleship to our works with this statement -“if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples.” So which is it? Are we saved through faith or works? Some might dismiss this confusion by saying, “You become a ‘Christian’ when you put your faith in Jesus, but you become a ‘disciple’ when you obey what He says.” This would be a good point, except Jesus never makes this dichotomy. Jesus rather makes quite the opposite point, “If you are a Christian, you are a disciple. There is no such thing as a ‘non-disciple’ Christian.” So what is Jesus teaching with this message?
James 2:17 says, “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” The point that Jesus was making in saying, “if you continue in my word,” was that all those who came in faith believing in Him, would have the evidence of that faith in their lifestyle. Having changed from being slaves to sin, to being citizens of heaven, believers will live differently. Those who make belief something separate from a transformed life are not agreeing with Scripture, but have unfortunately bought into a heresy called “easy-believism.” This false teaching denies the clear teaching of Christ and says that saving faith has nothing to do with works. R.C. Sproul says it best, “We are justified by faith alone but not by faith that is alone.”
If we truly have been converted (this word means “changed”) then our lifestyle will indicate it. If our lifestyle is not the lifestyle of a Christian, then the evidence seems to indicate clearly that we have never been converted (changed).
Jesus continued to teach in John 8 about those who truly have placed their faith in Him and are living lives that evidence conversion - “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” Clearly, the reality is that those who come in a faith that is not alone will receive eternal life. Many who consider themselves “Christian” do not have any evidence that they are truly converted. Instead of continually working in them through their whole lives, in their estimation the saving grace that they claim to have received finished its work on the day that they prayed a prayer.
So why would someone reject the teaching of Scripture so blatantly? Why would anyone disregard what is spoken from the mouth of Jesus? Perhaps someone who argues that saving faith isn’t evidenced by a life of obedience to Christ, is arguing that point because they are thinking of a specific occurrence in their past. They remember a person who claimed to be a Christian but is now living a life of rejection to God. Because of their love for that person, they would not want to admit that person could be headed towards eternal destruction. Even if it is true, that reality is far too uncomfortable or disconcerting.
Speaking of those who depart from the faith after professing to be Christians, the Apostle John gives this answer in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” In John 8:44, Jesus said that those who “were not of us,” were actually “of their father the devil” and if they continue in disobedience to God they will receive the same punishment that he is going to receive – eternal condemnation.
Food For Thought: What does the phrase “justified by faith alone but not by faith that is alone” mean?