Discern Daily

Ep. 2 – Saved by Faith Alone, or Not?

Are we saved by faith alone? Greg Morse, a Content Strategist at Desiring God, published an article relating to the topic, titled, “How to Train Your Dragons.” It was a thought-proviking piece that got many people thinking. The big point being made in the article is this — kill your sin before it kills you.

I’m absolutely in 100% agreement that we must 100% repent of all sin. After all, I wrote an entire blog series on repentance and how it relates to salvation. I’m with Greg on that one. However, some of the things he put forth were troubling to me.

For instance, Greg wrote, “But what about being saved by faith alone? You’re not.” That’s a problem. In this episode of Discern Daily, let’s review the article and seek the truth together.

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Desiring God is a great organization. I’m a big fan, but this article was unsettling for me.

Is salvation promised to those who merely have faith without a desire to repent of all their sin habits? Is our salvation dependent upon our killing of sin?

Morse makes a distinction between justification by faith and final salvation. But what about The Golden Chain of Redemption? “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).

Salvation comes when we place biblical faith in Christ. Repentance is produced out of that faith. Therefore, we really are saved by faith alone.

A Helpful Excerpt of Calvin

Now, since Christ confers upon us, and we obtain by faith, both free reconciliation and newness of life, reason and order require that I should here begin to treat of both. The shortest transition, however, will be from faith to repentance; for repentance being properly understood it will better appear how a man is justified freely by faith alone, and yet that holiness of life, real holiness, as it is called, is inseparable from the free imputation of righteousness. That repentance not only always follows faith, but is produced by it, ought to be without controversy. For since pardon and forgiveness are offered by the preaching of the Gospel, in order that the sinner, delivered from the tyranny of Satan, the yoke of sin, and the miserable bondage of iniquity, may pass into the kingdom of God, it is certain that no man can embrace the grace of the Gospel without retaking himself from the errors of his former life into the right path, and making it his whole study to practice repentance. Those who think that repentance precedes faith instead of flowing from, or being produced by it, as the fruit by the tree, have never understood its nature, and are moved to adopt that view on very insufficient grounds. [Source]

Get Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin here.

Share Your Thoughts

What do you think about the article? What are your biblical convictions on the matter? None of us have a perfect theology, but together we can seek the truth and become sharper. Hope to connect with you.

View more episodes of Discern Daily here.

Photo by Ruthson Zimmerman on Unsplash

9 thoughts on “Ep. 2 – Saved by Faith Alone, or Not?

  1. Welllll… as we already know, I’m on Desiring God’s side on this one. I think it’s right they published Greg’s article as it is. You interchange “justification” and “salvation” even in your video here, and the two subjects are different. When those are understood clearly, then what Piper and DG and authors and reformers and scripture all end up to be saying the same thing with no contradictions: Nobody will be saved without works. They will be justified without works. Justification and all following works are done by the empowerment of God’s grace. No man can boast in anything but God. I’d recommend listening to Piper’s responses to this: https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/will-we-be-finally-saved-by-faith-alone

    1. That’s a great interview that helps clarify some things. It also raises more questions. First, I love and agree with John in saying that works are a “fruit” produced by our faith. That is a great way to define works. However, by this definition, it’s consistent to believe in salvation by faith alone if works are merely fruits from it. Works aren’t the only fruit from saving faith. You could argue that persecution is another fruit of faith (cf. 2 Tim. 3:12). But we don’t believe that we are saved by faith+works+persecution. It’s true faith alone along with its fruits. You see what I mean? Help me understand your view better. We are on to something here.

      1. Riley, Colin Smith puts it as succinctly as I’ve heard. I believe this agrees with Payte’s presentation, and it agrees with my understanding. 1.5 min

        Payte, you may have missed my comment on an early posting of this Discern Daily article where I mentioned that Greg Morse and John Piper do seem to share the same view on this. Here is a thorough study of Piper’s view on soteriology from his own words, over the years. He believes we are saved by works.

  2. To comment on one of your last thoughts. In Philippians 2:12, we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Sin is extremely serious. I lost someone I love who died as a believer, but he died because of his sin – he was out partying and had a drug overdose. I have to live the rest of my life never knowing of his eternal destination. How can you glorify God by abusing drugs? I understand that God is just and good and merciful, and only he knows my ex’s heart. But honestly, just like the Bible warns, sin will destroy you and versus warning about hell are all throughout the Old and New Testament.

    To say that “faith alone saves” goes against what scripture teaches us and I believe you’re taking one verse out of context. You’re basically justifying that a child molester, or a fighting drunkard, or a theif, or one person with all of these traits can make it into heaven because they simply have faith. Even the demons have faith and will end up in the lake of fire.

    This “saved by faith” doctrine is not at all biblically sound. Repentance is a crucial part of growing in your faith and without it, no good or fruits of the Spirit will ever come. And it’s by those fruits that we glorify God. So I would re-evaluate your logic and focus on applying your thoughts outside of your feelings toward relying on faith, and what it takes to follow God’s instruction for how to become Christlike. It’s all about Jesus and allowing Him to live within you, not going our own way after saying, “Yes I am a believer!” God cannot exist where sin lives because of his holiness and divinity, and to continue a life in sin contradicts why Jesus died on the cross and is highly selfish and disrespectful. To live in sin entirely contradicts what Christianity is about – we are to deny the flesh, pick up the cross, and strive to be a light in the world. This is not possible while you live in sin. Check out Mathew 7:13-14.

    1. Thanks for joining the conversation. Those are some big claims! Haha. I’m not opposing repentance. I even have entire blog series teaching repentance is required of every believer. I agree that sin leads to death. Now, to work out your salvation does not mean to obtain your salvation by works. It means to show your salvation on the outside of you. Its not an inward faith. It will show on the outside of you. It is to be understood as experiencing more of the reality of your salvation by grace through faith. This is why it’s important to understand that we are not saved by works but saved for works. If righteousness were through works then Christ died for no purpose. In Phil. 2:12-13, the phrase “for it is God who works in you” must not go unnoticed. Upon faith in Christ we will produce fruit and obey out of love for Christ, to his glory. Our works are a result of our salvation, from it, because God is in us and works through us.

      1. Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of people preaching their interpretation of scripture when they have zero credentials and are not biblical scholars with any credibility. There are also a lot of evil churches out there who are misleading people by condoning sin which absolutely leads to the loss of salvation. It’s important that you understand grace is how we are forgiven, how we are saved. We are humans, we will stumble and sin at times, but it’s GRACE that gives us sanctification and not the sacrificed of an animal anymore. We cannot live in willful or unrepentant sin and still go to heaven because we aren’t experiencing any grace at that point. And our works come naturally in response to growing more Christlike, and we are rewarded in heaven for them, but “works alone doesn’t save you” means that you can’t deny Christ and be a self-proclaimed amazingly good person and do a bunch of amazingly good things on earth before you die and believe that you don’t deserve hell. Only Christ deserves heaven, and that’s who God sees standing before us once we get to judgement. The bible has the 10 commandments and a standard of conduct as well as what not to do for a reason, and everyone has been guilty of breaking God’s expectations for us throughout our lives. Without repentance, you have to understand that people are capable of some seriously ugly traits, and many are evil and wicked. This is why God caused the flood in Exodus.

  3. Payte, thanks for your thoughtful writing in these things, and also Herbiblicalmusings. Sometimes i feel like i have to take a step back, like these simple understandings of the gospel yet somehow get confused in discerning them perfectly. To me, among the most horrific verses in scripture is that of, Many will say, Lord, Lord… did we not cast out demons and heal people in your Name? But He replies to them, I never knew you. There are time when Im so certain the Spirit dwells in me and is at work in sanctification. And then ill read some author who says, if youre not crucifying all your sin at once, question if its you or the spirit thats working. Sigh. Im as you describe, one who believed on Christ’s finishes work on the cross, and immediately turned and never looked back on some great sins. And other sin remained. I kept on sinning in some ways, never happy about it, guilt stricken after any time i gave into it. And i prayed for years, Lord its too much, how do i cease sinning. Now that sin ceased too! Oh, look…another big ongoing sin in my life to throw off! Lord, help me! So i dont identify with what youre saying about repenting of all sin at the same time. I do repent of all sin, i know what sin is, and im troubled by it, unlike the unbeliever i reckon, who isnt discerning nor troubled emotionally by sin. If i tried to put it All off, it felt impossible, and id fall time and time again, to all of them. But they’re removed one by one. I know where Im weak. Where i give into sin, such sin remains. If i pray every day, one day, maybe next week, or next month, i am discouraged and sin. Im convicted of that sin, compelled to keep praying and studying the word and wrestling with it till its gone. I dont know that we are free of temptations to sin in one way or another even if by God’s power we’ve overcome that sin and cast it away from us. I dont go out and drink and party, but im sometimes tempted. In those moments i pray, and think on scripture to be sober minded and watchful and alert at all times, and to be a good witness for christ. Public sin is gone, you may say, but some private sin remains. This is to me the harder to do away with. Now, it wasnt but last week when i was studying the law of God in newer details and discernment and examining myself. And it was one morning I woke up grief stricken. I knew it was because of sin, ever struggling to throw it off and not merely distance myself from it for a little while but put it in the past and dead. But for that day i was thinking to myself that God isnt happy with me and i may not be forgiven. Towards the end of the day, i was praying and started reading John. And it stood out to me that i was thinking works were required of me for justification. Being rebuked by scripture as it was clear in John, i stepped back into justified by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. A sturdy peace came back to me immediately. Grace+nothing! Sanctification is a work of the Spirit, its ongoing in our life. We could in our own will, which is also being shaped into Jesus’s will, and perhaps do grieve the Spirit that’s working and trying to teach us away from our sin, nevertheless we may be obstinate, not in all areas but perhaps just the ones where sin remains, which is why it remains. If course we need to let go of the reigns, stop doing it our own way. So i see scripture talking about submitting to the spirit or as Paul puts it beating the flesh in discipline daily.
    I had a friend die last year to an overdose. He was a Christian, and struggled with drinking and pills, a most definitely perilous combination that takes many thousands of lives, millions over the years perhaps. I dont know if he was saved. How does one die in their sin, and still be justified by grace through faith in Jesus? But even as i might lean on saying, nope i see no evidence of faith, i wont judge him, i loved him as a brother and hope he is still justified in christ. And its a wake up call, a louder one than i knew before not knowing but one other personally who died young in this way, sin kills, it can cheat us of life and eternity, get rid of it all.
    My thought on the fruits of the spirit, as evidence of a saving faith… Would i have any victory to speak of over any sin? By grace through faith i nolonger sleep around, i nolonger drug not drink, i dont carouse in toxic bars and such. Could i have discerned their worthlessness and dangers and been grieved in every instance when i gave in and participated in them and purely self-willed on my very own and overcome these? I highly doubt it! Im not that strong self willed. But i thank God mightily for delivering me from them, and pray he keeps on delivering me from the other sins that remain. Im willing, but the flesh is weak. He certainly does more by his great power than i could do with such little power, but I just agree with the spirit who convicts and makes me to discern what sin is and remains, even after a little while i may get busy in life and forget, and I keep trying, again and again and again. I want to be ever sure im in God’s grace and his spirit in me. Tell me ever which way i can test that he is with me. One man said, well you’re concerned and looking for knowledge and closeness to God and have a contrite heart and you can point to sin that youve overcome. What more evidence does anyone need, God’s got you! Be assured! But doubt does sometimes creep in, through a word from some teaxher, saying what Greg did here which can put a man off. Or you can do it to yourself, one day relying all on grace through faith, but then another day comes and youre focused on works, that false gospel being PLUS circumcision, and frustrated because you havent the power to overcome it on your very own, and doubt your safety in Christ. Run quickly and immediately back to grace alone! It seemed to me last week that perhaps anyone who tries to work the Law and gets so caught up in it, they will stumble and if any man continues to stumble in it Is not saved. But i was rebuked by the spirit to see this so quickly, oh i was sorry, and turned back, putting off trying so hard to sanctify myself all at once, pausing my own effort which seemed at that time like i was “running ahead” of him, to let my vanity or vain glory go and just fall down at Jesus’s feet and worship. Maybe im slow in being sanctified, and yet He’s patient with me. I want to be perfected, but perhaps i need one lesson at a time, not in my time, but ij His good timing. Now ill tell you, God put uo with me drinking for so long and i did hear him warm me numerous times, saying it will get worse and worse for me incrementally, and so it was, but beware, it will lead to death. That said, id say Ok God, thank you!, this time Ill do just as you say. But instead of removing all temptation, id remove just one or two, but not three. Aw dang, wouldn’t you know it, hes saying right now the same things about what remains. Im not doing it his way, entirely, im doing things my own way, partially. Welp, good talk! 😀
    What did John say? If anyone at all comes to you and says Grace+something for justification, have nothing to do with him, dont even greet him. Isnt that what he said? But we put up with it readily enough, and this grace+something is everywhere we look, not being rebuked as false teaching, but as just another interpretation. I do think sometimes people dont mean what they’re saying, they think of it properly and have all faith in Christ alone and nothing of themselves, but fail to grasp the apostles teaching and teach properly. Others absolutely mean grace+something and they are deceived and deceive others.
    Counting myself a born again Christian for now 15 years, i so wish i was more mature than i am. But i see that the foolishness of youth grows old. And that too must be grace, because there are some who are old that still act so foolish like they’re 21 and never quit not one sin. How they remain alive though they are dead i dont know, lots of God’s patience. So long as there is life left and a man is still alive, there’s yet hope I believe. But i would never want to be a man who doesn’t know the Lord is good and never in his life taste it, but gamble it all away, but at the very last minute of his entirely wretched and fast/loose life finally come to saving grace in his last breath. God is good and exceedingly patient, but the time of salvation in Jesus is always right now, later on or tomorrow is not guaranteed at all. A conqueror doesnt take every nation at once, but a field then a town then a city then a nation then another. So it seems with me, my sin is conquered a bit at a time. I wouldn’t have it this way, i want to he holy and perfect, or perhaps my stubbornness does have it this way, yes. Then i should be asking God to nail my stubbornness to the cross foremost, whatever is most impeding his cleaning me of all unrighteousness. I think this is where scripture calls on us to be gentle and kind wirh our brothers and sisters in Christ. Strong rebuke of sin, no doubt, but also strong compassion because its hard and we need to encourage in love not discourage anyone away from the faith who may be truly of the grace in faith but still very weak in their faith by proximity to weak teaching and teachers. You know what ramped up my faith extraordinarily, was to stop asking every pastor or teacher or missionary and elder their opinion on spiritual matters and on my personal relationship in christ, and take it to the source, His Word and holy spirit teaching directly and foremost. Obviously since im reading your blog and others and writings, though i stopped reading Desiring God because it seemed one day, its all Piper says this… Piper teaches that… and grievances like this one you saw about someone there saying grace+something. To me theres danger in placing teachers on pedestals, and i think many people do that way too much.