Did Paul Teach Faith Without Works?

Vernon W. Kerns

Did the apostle Paul believe in faith only? Do his writings teach that works are not necessary? Advocates of faith-only salvation like to tout Romans 4:1-5, "What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not: but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." First, let's get the context. Paul, in the end of chapter three, speaks of works of the law. "Where is the boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Romans 3:27-28) Here, Paul compares the law of works with the law of faith. Works of law are different from works of faith; works of law are not based on faith. The Bible says, "And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them." (Galatians 3:12) Then, works of the law are works of merit, by which an individual builds righteousness in doing them. Works of the law produce rewards from debt and not of grace. There is no faith connected to them, and one must do them without mistake.

Was Paul's concept of faith free of works? Paul writes, "By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all the nations, for his name:" (Romans 1:5) "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love." (Galatians 5:6) "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;" (1 Thessalonians 1:3) "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) It seems to me that, when Paul speaks of faith, he speaks of a church member who has an obedient working faith faith that produces the righteous life God intended. This requires works. The Apostle Paul also speaks of salvation being "a gift not of works" (Ephesians 2:8-9) Paul was not alone in this. The apostle John says, "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life ..." (1 John 5:11) Peter says, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." (1 Peter 2:24) "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." These are the words of Peter in Acts 4:12.

Matthew wrote, "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) Matthew said salvation is of Jesus, not of man. Our work is to obey; the work of Jesus is to save. Paul was in agreement with other New Testament writers when he said, "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." (Ephesians 2:8-9) He goes on to say "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10) The purpose of the gift of salvation is to produce good works in the Christian.

In conclusion, Paul worked and taught believers to work. These works were not works of merit like in the Law of Moses but works of faith, or works growing out of faith. Paul's faith was a working faith in which he "labored more abundantly than they all ..." (1 Corinthians 15:10) Paul's teaching and the other New Testament writers' teachings agree. Faith-only salvation is a misconception; it is foreign to the New Testament. Rt. 1 Box 131, Shock, WV 26638.


Return to West Virginia Christian