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Fellow ship > Is Faith the Only Condition for Eternal Salvation?- Or, The Biblical Doctrine of Justification by Faith by Tom Stewart

Is Faith the Only Condition for Eternal Salvation?

Or, The Biblical Doctrine of Justification by Faith

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath Everlasting Life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from Death unto Life"

(John 5:24).

by Tom Stewart


The question, "Is faith the only condition for Eternal Salvation?", is crucial to the Body of Christ, because the answer on one extreme leads to antinomianism (the concept that faith alone, WITHOUT obedience to the Moral Law of loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39), is all that is necessary for Salvation), while the other extreme results in the
"unfruitful works of darkness" (Ephesians 5:11) as seen in the sacramental salvation of the Church of Rome. The antinomian declares anathema against any works in Salvation, as a type of legalism. But, they forget that the LORD Jesus Christ declared faith to be a work that man was to perform. "28 Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent" (John 6:28-29). In addition, the Apostle Paul exhorted the Philippian Christians to be personally active in their own Salvation. "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own Salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).

The "other extreme" is represented by Roman Catholicism, which has traditionally been Babylon the Great (Revelation 17:5). It has, more than any other false cult, made
"works" a dirty word. Our response is that Rome's salvation depends upon faith in Rome, while Christ's Salvation depends upon faith in Christ. "To whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey" (Romans 6:16). So then, faith in Christ is the great work we are called to do. "This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent" (John 6:29).

The appropriate response to the question, "Is faith the only condition for Eternal Salvation?", is JESUS SAVES.
"For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Though it is true that faith saves, i.e., "Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31), faith saves only because JESUS SAVES. And, yes, there are Other Conditions for our Justification; but, the keeping of all the conditions in the world does not truly save us. JESUS SAVES! "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). If we can focus upon the real issue of our Eternal Salvation-- that JESUS SAVES-- then we can settle the question, "Is faith the only condition for Eternal Salvation?", with satisfaction. "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the Name of our LORD Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1Corinthians 1:10).

A Historical Note

When Martin Luther raised that blessed cry against the errors of the Church of Rome, Evangelical Christianity renewed its commitment to the doctrine of justification by faith.
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our LORD Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). What freedom, to be justified by faith in Christ, than to be bound by the uncertainty of Rome's salvation! "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men" (1Corinthians 7:23). As a consequence, what Bible Believing Christian today cannot recognize the quotation, "8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9)? And, so great is our certainty concerning justification by faith, that the undoubted sentiment is that only a religious cult would desire to add a single condition to Eternal Life than faith. "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto Life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:14).

However, what may be neglected in professing Christianity's understanding of the faith that justifies is that faith works; or, as Charles G. Finney phrased it in his "Systematic Theology" (1851):

"[Faith] is not a feeling of any kind; that is, it does not belong to, and is not a phenomenon of, the sensibility. The phenomena of the sensibility are passive states of mind, and therefore have no moral character in themselves. Faith, regarded as a virtue, cannot consist in any involuntary state of mind whatever. It is represented in the Bible as an active and most efficient state of mind. It works and 'works by love.' It produces 'the obedience of faith'" (from Lecture 55 on "Faith and Unbelief").

Faith is anything but passive, for "by faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the Promises offered up his only begotten son" (Hebrews 11:17). Faith is so bound up in the Other Conditions for our Justification, that to knowingly omit those other conditions, would declare our faith to be dead. "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:26). All the Other Conditions of our Justification are part of Evangelical Faith and are conditions for Eternal Salvation. These conditions may properly be called the Works of Faith, such as, perseverance (which is a description of those who follow Jesus to Heaven). "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed" (John 8:31).

What is Faith? Faith is Substance.

"And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the True God, and Eternal Life" (1John 5:20). Scripture does not tell us how Jesus is both God and man, only that He is. For this reason, we are not required to believe how He can be both, only that He is both-- by the statement of Inspired Scripture. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).
Charles G. Finney comments in his "Systematic Theology" that the Doctrine of Sin Nature-- "In Adam's fall, we sinned all", or, "We are all sinners, some lost and others saved, but all are still sinners"-- is a mistake in theology that causes the erroneous position of an imputed righteousness

"while yet at least in some degree of sin"
. He wrote: "The relations of the old school view of justification to their view of depravity is obvious. They hold, as we have seen, that the constitution in every faculty and part is sinful. Of course, a return to personal, present holiness, in the sense of entire conformity to the law, cannot with them be a condition of justification. They must have a justification while yet at least in some degree of sin. [WStS emphasis] This must be brought about by imputed righteousness. The intellect revolts at a justification in sin. So a scheme is devised to divert the eye of the law and of the lawgiver from the sinner to his Substitute, who has perfectly obeyed the law. But in order to make out the possibility of his obedience being imputed to them, it must be assumed, that he owed no obedience for himself; than which a greater absurdity cannot be conceived. Constitutional depravity or sinfulness being once assumed, physical regeneration [WStS explanation: Finney reasoned that the proponents of "constitutional depravity" (or, the Doctrine of Sin Nature) teach that sin or human depravity is passed on physically from Adam to us; and so, all of their theological remedies for sin would erroneously but necessarily involve the physical.], physical sanctification, physical divine influence, imputed righteousness, and justification, while personally in the commission of sin [WStS emphasis. Finney rightly opposed any teaching of an "imputed righteousness... while personally in the commission of sin".], follow of course" (from Charles G. Finney's "Systematic Theology", Lecture 56 on "Justification").

It appears that the Pharisees during Christ's earthly ministry believed in this same mistaken notion that men were born sinners, i.e.,
"32 Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33 If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. 34 They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out" (John 9:32-34). [For a fuller discussion of this concept that the Doctrine of Sin Nature is not Scriptural, please see our exposition, "An Urgent Call to Christian Perfection". Of course, Charles G. Finney's "Systematic Theology" is offered to those who are committed to the "strong meat" of the Word of God, i.e., "who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14).]

What is the Defining Characteristic of Faith? Faith Works.

Though God gives Himself and His Word to be believed upon, faith must be an act of the human will, or there is no more virtue in believing than not believing. "Have faith in God" (Mark 11:22).

This embarrassment and de-emphasis of the will of man in the exercise of Evangelical Faith has been a traditional position of Professed Christianity. Sadly, the Westminister Confession of Faith (1646)-- used currently, as well as with the Presbyterians of Charles G. Finney's day-- confessed that the Believer's Justification was not Imputed by Faith:

"Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves [WStS emphasis], it is the gift of God" (excerpted from Chapter 11 "Of Justification" of the Westminister Confession of Faith [1646]).

"What saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted [literally, imputed] unto him for righteousness" (Romans 4:3).
Love caused God to send us His Only Begotten Son. "9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His Only Begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 Herein is Love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1John 4:9-10). Likewise, our obedience to the Son is urged on by our Love for Him. "If ye Love Me, keep My Commandments" (John 14:15).
The Apostle Paul condemned the Judaizers who would make circumcision necessary for Salvation. "1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question" (Acts 15:1-2). Circumcision was a national ordinance or law for Israel, but Israel's Laws were unnecessary and without authority for the Church. "Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the Law: to whom we gave no such commandment" (15:24).

The Ultimate Ground of Gospel Justification is the Love of God

If we were to mistake the Atonement and Vicarious Sufferings of Christ as the Ground of Gospel Justification, then we could incorrectly conclude with Hyper-Calvinism or Universalism. Hyper-Calvinism understands the world for whom Christ died, to be only the Elect; since, Love-- they would say-- did not originate redemption at its source. However, Scripture plainly declares: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life" (John 3:16). Also, they incorrectly argue that Christ's Atonement satisfied an exact payment-- of punishment or reward, i.e., a Retributive Justice-- where Christ purchased Gospel Salvation for only the Elect, and did not obtain a pardon for "whosoever will". But, the Scripture clearly states: "Whosoever will, let him take the Water Of Life freely" (Revelation 22:17).

Faith is the Predominate Condition of Our Justification

"But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing" (Galatians 4:18).

Other Conditions of Gospel Justification-- in Addition to Faith

The wonderful response that the Apostle Paul and Silas gave to the Philippian jailer's question, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30) is an example of Spirit-filled directions. Instead of entering into a discourse on all possible Conditions of Evangelical Salvation, they were led by the Spirit to give the jailer the instructions that would remove the obstacle from the jailer's path to Eternal Life. "Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (Acts 16:31). It is an oversimplification to say that the correct instructions to an anxious sinner must ALWAYS be, "Believe"-- just look at Peter's instructions to the Pentecostal converts. It would be just as erroneous to conclude that ALL anxious sinners must be told, "Repent". Wisdom will dictate just what needs to be emphasized to bring the sinner "from the power of darkness" and "into the kingdom of His Dear Son" (Colossians 1:13). "He that winneth souls is wise" (Proverbs 11:30). But, just as the "fruit of the Spirit" manifests itself in "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Galatians 5:22-23), as the opportunity arises; just so, the Saints will fulfill-- as Providence allows-- all the Conditions of Gospel Justification that will bring them safely to Heaven. "For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not" (2Corinthians 8:12).
The Apostle Paul prayed for the Present and Entire Sanctification of his readers with the assurance that such a thing was possible. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the Coming of our LORD Jesus Christ" (1Thessalonians 5:23). This Entire Sanctification corresponds to our LORD's command to keep the Moral Law: "37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt Love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind... 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt Love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:37,39). And, lest we conclude that our obedience alone must be relied upon for our Salvation, the Saints of the New Covenant have been promised and given the Spirit of the Living God to "will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). This is the New Testament's "Promise of the Spirit" (Galatians 3:14). "26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36:26-27). So, God has assured to the end, the obedience of all that will lean in faith upon Him. "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). [For a Scriptural examination of our necessity to be Entirely Sanctified, see our exposition, "An Urgent Call to Christian Perfection".]
Godly repentance is not repented of. "For Godly sorrow worketh repentance to Salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death" (2Corinthians 7:10). Since the Saints do not repent of their repentance, they will persevere to the end. "4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1John 5:4-5). A morbid dread of not overcoming the world, is not Gospel Faith. "There is no fear in Love; but Perfect Love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in Love" (4:18). Instead, an Active Faith lays hold of the "Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Ephesians 6:17), and boldly pitches camp upon the Promises of God, that are specifically designed to make us "partakers of the Divine Nature" and to help us escape the corruptions of the world. "Whereby are given unto us Exceeding Great And Precious Promises: that by These ye might be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2Peter 1:4). The Living God has a Promise to match our every necessity of life. "According as his Divine Power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and Godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue" (1:3).

Quite the opposite of a uncertain and fearful pilgrimage to the Celestial City, the True Saint is to advance by faith, overcoming all obstacles, while persevering in faith and obedience.
"37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our LORD" (Romans 8:37-39). The faith of the True Saints cannot be stopped because it is actively and continually placed in the person of the LORD Jesus Christ. "30 But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the LORD" (1Corinthians 1:30-31). Better to stand with the Son of God in the "burning fiery furnace"-- "Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God" (Daniel 3:25)-- than to fail to persevere because of the "pleasures of sin for a season" (Hebrews 11:25). May God bless you, the reader, with the faith that endures. "Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it" (1Thessalonians 5:24).


"Faith in Christ is, in the same sense, another condition of justification... I fear that there has been much of error in the conceptions of many upon this subject. They have talked of justification by faith, as if they supposed that, by an arbitrary appointment of God, faith was the condition, and the only condition of justification. This seems to be the antinomian view. The class of persons alluded to speak of justification by faith, as if it were by faith, and not by Christ through faith, that the penitent sinner is justified ["And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto Salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2Timothy 3:15)]; as if faith, and not Christ, were our justification [WStS emphasis]. They seem to regard faith not as a natural, but merely as a mystical condition of justification; as bringing us into a covenant and mystical relation to Christ, in consequence of which his righteousness or personal obedience is imputed to us. It should never be forgotten, that the faith that is the condition of justification, is the faith that works by love [Galatians 5:6]. It is the faith through and by which Christ sanctifies the soul ["That they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me" (Acts 26:18).] A sanctifying faith unites the believer to Christ as his justification; but be it always remembered, that no faith receives Christ as a justification, that does not receive him as a sanctification, to reign within the heart. We have seen that repentance, as well as faith, is a condition of justification [Acts 2:38]. ...perseverance in obedience to the end of life is also a condition of justification. Faith is often spoken of in scripture as if it were the sole condition of salvation, because, as we have seen, from its very nature it implies repentance and every virtue [WStS emphasis]" (excerpted from Lecture 56 on "Justification" from Charles G. Finney's "Systematic Theology").
"He being dead yet speaketh" (Hebrews 11:4).

We must resist the orthodoxy of Laodicea in succumbing to a salvation by antinomian faith-- that worketh not by love. Instead, we ought to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the Saints" (Jude 3) by insisting upon a Gospel Salvation that worketh, and that, by love.

Amen, and Amen.

Tom Stewart

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