THE BELIEF that salvation can be attained through faith alone in Jesus Christ, or the so-called sola fide doctrine, is upheld by many Protestant sects. This teaching asserts that one must simply accept and proclaim that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and that’s it. Just believe. No need for works. No need to join any church. Furthermore, Protestant preachers cite verses from the Bible to assert this claim:
“And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household’.” (Acts 16:30–31 New King James Version)
In these verses, Apostle Paul and Silas told the jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” Notice that they did not say, “believe only”. However, others hastily conclude that whatever kind of work is already unnecessary for man to receive salvation—belief or faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is all that is needed. Is this conclusion correct? Let us examine.
Faith that is worthless
Is faith alone sufficient for man to be saved? Apostle James answers:
“My brothers, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith if his actions do not prove it? Can that faith save him? … So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead.” (James 2:14, 17 Good News Bible)
From this rhetorical question of Apostle James, the answer is clear—faith alone cannot save. This does not mean that he is belittling the value of faith. Having faith is essential. However, when it comes to man’s attainment of salvation, if faith is alone or if it “includes no actions”, then it is worthless. That is why Apostle James called such faith “dead”.
Even our Lord Jesus Christ Himself emphasized that His true disciples are not those who merely believe in Him, but those who obey His teachings:
“So Jesus said to those who believed in him, ‘If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples’” (John 8:31 GNB).
Faith must be coupled with actions
Since faith alone or faith without actions is dead, what then did the apostles do to the jailer and his household whom they instructed to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?
“Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” (Acts 16:32 NKJV)
The apostles taught the Lord’s words to the jailer and his household for, those are what they should obey—the actions they must take and couple their faith with. What is one of the Lord Jesus Christ’s words that man should obey to attain salvation? Enter the fold:
“I am the door; anyone who comes into the fold through me will be safe.” (John 10:9 Revised English Bible)
Take note: Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself—Whom man should believe in to be saved—did not command man to believe only. According to Christ, the person who will be saved is “anyone who comes into the fold”. The fold or flock being referred to is none other than the Church Of Christ:
“Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.” (Acts 20:28 Lamsa Translation)
Steps that should be taken
What did the apostles do to the jailer and his household after they believed in the words taught to them, which proves that joining the Church Of Christ is indeed necessary for salvation? These were the ensuing events:
“And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.” (Acts 16:33 NKJV)
The jailer and his family were baptized. Note again that if all that is needed for salvation is to believe, and nothing else, then why did the apostles have to teach the gospel to the jailer and his family? And why was there a need for the apostles to baptize them? Therefore, listening to the gospel, believing in it, and receiving the true baptism are all needed for salvation as taught by our Savior:
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned’.” (Mark 16:15–16 NKJV)
Those who hear the gospel preached by God-sent messengers, believe in it, and receive the true baptism, become members of the one body:
“For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (I Cor. 12:13 New International Version)
The one body where those who received the true baptism are found is the Church headed by our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:22–23 GNB)—the Church Of Christ (Acts 20:28 Lamsa). Hence, those who received the true baptism are assured of salvation because they became members of the true Church— the fold wherein anyone who wants to be saved must enter.
Ultimately, the Bible should never be misunderstood. It teaches us to believe in order to be saved, and at the same time, it also teaches that there are actions that should be taken. The Iglesia Ni Cristo, having received the pristine words of God through His commissioning of His Messenger in these last days, is firm in its position in upholding what truly is taught in the Scriptures—faith must be coupled with works (James 2:22). Moreover, our Savior identified clearly the steps that should be taken towards the attainment of salvation. Hence, to those who stand by the sola fide teaching, Apostle James, after proving the futility of faith without works, plainly tells this:
“You see, then, that it is by his actions that a person is put right with God, and not by his faith alone.” (James 2:24 GNB)
This article was originally published in the Pasugo: God’s Message magazine, August 2018 issue.