Is Faith Enough to Save Us?May 15, 2023
It is a common misconception amongst Christians today that we only need to have faith in Jesus to be saved and enter heaven. Many believe that it is not necessary to keep worship services on the Sabbath day or celebrate the New Covenant Passover, as they are unrelated to our salvation. They insist that faith alone is enough to save us. However, this is not Biblically supported. Rather, the Bible teaches us that we cannot be saved without deeds coming from faith.
Origin of misconception that faith alone can save us
There are several Bible verses used by those who claim that deeds, such as keeping worship services, are not necessary for salvation.
The robber on Jesus’ right side
Jesus was crucified with two robbers; one on His left, the other on His right (Matt. 27:38). Shortly before His death, Jesus told the robber on His right, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise [heaven]” (Luke 23:43). In other words, the robber was able to receive salvation.
As a result, some insist that since the robber was saved without performing any deed like keeping worship service, it proves that salvation does not depend on our deeds but only on our faith. However, this comes from a misunderstanding of the robber’s situation.
Those who make this claim often believe that since the robber was saved without deeds, this is an example for us, showing that we too can be saved without deeds; they believe that the robber is a representative example for all people. When we pay careful attention to the event of the robber receiving salvation from Jesus, however, we can see that the robber was a special case, not a representative example.
Now most Christians accept that Jesus’ death on the cross was to give us the forgiveness of sins. But the robber who was saved did not understand why Jesus had to suffer on the cross; not even the disciples of Jesus understood this yet.
Luke 24:19-27 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place…. He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
The above verse depicts the scene where two of the disciples expressed their confusion after Jesus’ crucifixion, not understanding that His death was in fulfilment of Bible prophecy. The disciples of Jesus were the ones He directly taught. Yet, even the disciples did not have a correct understanding of Jesus’ work for our salvation. They did not have correct faith. If even the disciples of Jesus had incorrect faith at that time, how could the robber have had correct faith? It is not possible. This shows that the robber was not saved through his faith. Thus, the robber can never be considered a representative example of faith for us.
How was the robber saved? It was possible only because he was given words of blessing directly from Jesus, the saviour. Jesus had the power to save; it is by the word of Jesus that we can enter heaven, or not. Jesus Himself was the one who told the robber he could enter heaven. We, however, are given different words of salvation from Jesus. We are given words of promise through the New Covenant Passover.
In short, the robber on Jesus’ right is not an example for us. The salvation of the robber is not evidence that we can be saved through faith alone. Faith alone is not enough to save us.
The Sabbath and other worship services were abolished
Those who say that deeds such as keeping the Sabbath day or Passover are unnecessary for our salvation often claim that this is because these were abolished through Jesus’ death on the cross. They say that since Jesus’ death on the cross, faith is enough to save us.
Using Hosea 2:11, some insist that the festivals of God (e.g., the Sabbath day and Passover) were prophesied to be abolished even from the Old Testament times.
Hosea 2:11 I will stop all her celebrations: her yearly festivals, her New Moons, her Sabbath days — all her appointed festivals.
Here, since God says he will stop the Sabbaths and other appointed festivals some believe this applies to us; they believe it means we do not need to keep any worship services in the New Testament times, but only have faith. We need to think carefully about who is being addressed in this verse, however. When we read this verse in context, we can understand that God is saying this to those who worship Baal (a false god), not the true believers in God.
Hosea 2:8; 13 She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold — which they used for Baal…. I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rings and jewellery, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot,” declares the Lord.
In reading surrounding verses we can understand clearly that if God stop His festivals it is a punishment, not a blessing. According to the teachings of the Bible, countless blessings of God are contained in the Sabbath and festivals of God (e.g., the Passover). Therefore, God stops the keeping of His feasts as a punishment for the sin of worshipping false Gods, like Baal.
This same lesson can also be found in the history of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. God blocked Adam and Eve from eating from the tree of life, through which they could have had eternal life, as a punishment for their sin of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:22-24).
In conclusion, it is incorrect to insist that Gods festivals have been abolished based on Hosea 2:11. This is not evidence that faith alone is enough to save us.
Those who claim that faith alone can save us, believe that God’s festivals have been abolished and so they can no longer be the standard for judgement.
Colossians 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
Apostle Paul wrote here, “Do not let anyone judge you” based on the Sabbath or religious festivals. Some believe that this means it is incorrect to insist that we need to keep worship services for salvation.
Despite this, Christians who believe this often still celebrate religious festivals like Christmas, Easter and Sunday worship. Most basically, then, it is a contradiction to claim that we shouldn’t keep religious festivals based on the words of Col. 2:16 while keeping many religious festivals.
Further, Apostle Paul is the writer of the book of Colossians. If Paul meant that all festivals were abolished, we shouldn’t be able to find any instances of Paul Himself celebrating the Sabbath day and other religious festivals; yet, we can find numerous examples throughout the Bible (e.g., 1 Cor. 5:7-8; Acts 17:2; Acts 18:4). Thus, it is certain that Paul wasn’t actually saying that all religious festivals are abolished. Which religious festivals was he referring to, then? The feasts of the Old Testament, the Law of Moses.
This can be understood when we consider the context of his writing. In the phrase, “Do not let anyone judge you,” who are the group referred to as “anyone,” what are they using to judge, and who are the “You” that they were judging? At that time the ones doing the judging were the Jews (Israelites) and the ones being judged were the Christians that Paul was writing to. The Jews were judging the Christians based on the Law of Moses, which the Jews thought was necessary to follow for salvation. Christians were not following the Law of Moses any longer, but the law of Christ. The Jews viewed this as wrong. This becomes clear when we read from verse 14 of the same chapter.
Colossians 2:14-16 Having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
It is written that Jesus took away our legal indebtedness through the cross. This means that He cancelled the Law of Moses through the cross. Paul explains that the Law of Moses has been cancelled, then opens verse 16 with, “therefore,” meaning that what he goes on to say is based on what he said previously (in verses 14-15). In other words, since the Law of Moses has been cancelled, the Christians should not let anyone (the Jews) judge them by the standard of the Law of Moses.
Therefore, this verse does not mean that every religious festival was abolished and that now faith alone is enough to save us, it means that the feasts of the Old Testament (Law of Moses) were abolished. Today too, we do not need to keep the Law of Moses. However, this does not mean that there is nothing we need to do, except have faith, to receive salvation.
Finally, there are some who state that we should actually avoid keeping worships like the Sabbath day, and instead rely only on faith for salvation, based on Gal. 4:10-11.
Galatians 4:10-11 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
They say that this verse means if we keep special days, like the Sabbath day, it is wrong. This verse, too, however, refers to the keeping of the feasts of the Old Testament (the Law of Moses) only.
In those days, some members of the church in Galatia intended to follow the laws of the Old Testament, being influenced by the Jews who tried to hinder the gospel of Christ, holding fast to the Law of Moses. That is why the Apostle Paul, the writer of Galatians, told them not to keep the laws of the Old Testament any longer because they are “weak and miserable forces.”
Galatians 4:2-5;9 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son [Jesus], born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship…. But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces [the Law of Moses]? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?
Paul mentioned “turning back” to weak and miserable forces which they were previously in slavery under before Christ came; he said that Christ redeemed those who were under the “law.” Which law? It can only mean the law which existed before Jesus came i.e., the law of the Old Testament, the Law of Moses.
Therefore, the weak and miserable forces or law that the members of the church in Galatia were considering turning back to at that time, were the “special days and months and seasons and years” of the Law of Moses. Paul was not suggesting that there are no religious festivals that we need to keep in the New Testament times or that only faith is enough to save us.
Faith is not enough to save us
The insistence that we do not need to have deeds but only faith to be saved can be easily disproven by the words of Jesus Himself.
Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Here, Jesus Himself was speaking. He clearly stated that just to believe is not enough to be saved — we need also to be baptized. Baptism is a deed, an action, resulting from faith. It is the actions that come from our faith that can save us, not faith alone.
John 13:8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
Here, Jesus was addressing Apostle Peter. Peter had great faith in Jesus, even testifying that He was the saviour (Matthew 16:16). However, Jesus plainly stated that unless Peter participated and allowed Jesus to wash His feet (a deed or action), Peter had no part with Jesus. If we have no part with Jesus it means we cannot be saved. Thus, Peter’s faith was not enough to save him.
This event is the foot washing ceremony for the festival of the New Covenant Passover (Matt. 26:17-28; Luke 22:15; 19-22). If participating in the foot washing ceremony for the Passover is essential for salvation, how much more the Passover itself? We can be saved only if we have deeds coming from our faith, not by faith alone.
If we want to receive salvation from God, just having faith in Jesus is insufficient. Of course, it is essential to have faith to be saved. However, what is more essential is the deeds or actions that come from our faith. Faith is only enough to save us when accompanied by the correct deeds, that is, when we follow the will and command of God.
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me [Jesus], ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father [God] who is in heaven.”
Who are those who call Jesus, “Lord, Lord?” They are Christians who have faith in Jesus. However, Jesus Himself testified that just having faith in Him is not enough to enter heaven. Instead, those who want to enter heaven must do the will of God. To do the will of God means to have deeds that are in obedience to God’s holy command. Those who claim to have faith but do not follow the commands of God cannot receive salvation.
1 John 2:3-6 We know that we have come to know him [God] if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
As it is written, to profess knowledge and love of God without the appropriate accompanying actions is not sufficient for true believers in Christ. We must have faith that is accompanied by deeds.
James 2:14-20 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
The consistent teaching of the Bible is that faith alone cannot save us. We must have deeds accompanying our faith to receive salvation and enter the kingdom of Heaven. Then, what deeds should we have? We must follow the truth of the New Covenant taught by Jesus and practiced by the apostles of the early church. We must make careful study of the life and example of Jesus and follow His every command. When we do so, we can be certain of our salvation according to the promise of God and our faith may be complete.
If you wish to know more about the New Covenant taught and practiced by Jesus and His apostles then please visit the World Mission Society Church of God, where the truth of the New Covenant is kept so that you too may receive the promised blessing of eternal life.