What Is Saving Fatih?
Understanding the Biblical Doctrine of Salvation by Faith.
A few years ago, a pastor of another denomination visited Bet Yeshurun Assembly (BYA). As we talked he said, "I don't know, but it just may be that people aren't saved unless they speak in tongues." His remark saddened me. Here was a Christian pastor of many years of service, who was not sure himself of Elohim's requirements for salvation. My cursory review of denominational literature found that his situation isn't so rare today. Sadly, many people do not know what Elohim requires for their own salvation.
Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, he writes of certain principles of salvation that Yahshuah taught His disciples. "Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Messiah, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward Elohim, of the doctrine of baptisms and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead and of eternal judgment. This will we do, if Elohim permits." (Hebrews 6:1-3)
Four previous Shofar articles (Vols. 517, 518, 519 and 521) examined Yahshuah's doctrines, respectively: (1) repentance from dead works; (2) baptisms; (3) resurrection of the dead; and (4) eternal judgment. To reread these teachings visit our BYA website at www.messianics.us. This article discusses another elementary (foundational) doctrine, "faith toward Elohim."
A Rediscovered Truth Nearly 500 years ago, a German monk, Martin Luther, wrestled with the doctrine of faith. He had nagging doubts about his salvation. According to his church teachings, he needed to work harder toward pleasing Elohim by increasing his good merits. So, he prayed for hours on end every day, fasted and did alms. Still his lingering doubts persisted until one day he read a large Latin Bible in the University of Erfurt. At length, he studied the apostle Paul's "gospel manifesto" (Epistle to the Romans). In that letter, Luther finally found the peace he sought for so long. "For, therein is the righteousness of Elohim revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:17)
This Latin theme of "solae fidae" is also known in English as "by faith alone". This doctrine has provided millions with assurance that salvation was theirs to claim through faith in Yahshuah. This verse was a rallying cry that launched the Protestant Reformation.
The importance of this teaching is evident in that Scripture repeats its message. "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of Elohim, it is evident: for, the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, the man who does them shall live in them. (Galatians 3:11-12) "Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. (Hebrews 10:38) "YAHUAH answered me and said, 'Write the vision and make it plain upon tables that he may run who reads it. For, the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie. Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him. But the just shall live by his faith. (Hab. 2:2-4)
How far have today's churches fallen from the simple truths of Scripture? If all of the methods being taught were gathered and combined into a salvation guidebook, I doubt that anyone could be saved from the whole myriad of them.
Due to such confusion, thousands today haven't the slightest idea of how to be saved. When asked if they're saved, many reply, "I hope so," or "I'm trying to be." Indeed, something is very wrong with this situation in our once Christian America.
Only Believe Yet Paul described a simple truth. In the apostolic era, when a Philippians' jailer asked Paul and Silas, "What must I do to be saved?" Paul simply replies, "Believe on Adonai Yahshuah haMessiach, and you, and your house shall be saved." (Acts 16:30-31) He gave no long list, or structured requirements to follow; only faith alone was needed. Paul also told the Romans "Therefore, we conclude a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Rom. 3:28) Works of flesh aren't required, only simple faith.
Quoting from Yahshuah (Matt. 10:32; Lk. 12:8) Paul also notes, "The righteousness which is of faith speaks on this wise, say not in your heart, who shall ascend into heaven? (That is, to bring Messiah down from above?) Or, who shall descend into the deep? (That is, to bring up Messiah again from the dead?) But what says it? The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart. That is, the word of faith, which we preach. That if thou shall confess with your mouth Adonai Yahshuah, and shall believe in your heart that Elohim has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness and with the mouth confession is made to salvation." (Romans 10:6-10)
Paul also references YAHUAH's words to His prophet (Isaiah 8:16; 49:23) "For whoever shall call upon the name of Adonai (Yahshuah) shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)
Did Paul mislead these hearers when he said simple, genuine faith is Elohim's only requirement for salvation? No! Too many scripture passages with the words of YAHUAH, Yahshuah, the apostles and the prophets affirm his message.
The first step in salvation is faith. The last step is faith, and so is everything in-between. Yes, salvation is not "faith plus something else," It is as Paul said, faith alone, from first to last, nothing added. Consider how the New International Version of the Bible translates this important truth, "righteousness...is of faith from first to last..." (Rom. 1:17 NIV)
Faith plus Something? A mark of false systems of religious worship or ritual (cults) is that they tend to center on works (man-centered) rather than on faith (Elohim-centered). Their salvation message typically denigrates, or downplays, the importance of faith. Be wary of any church that preaches a "faith-plus-something" ideology. It is giving a false and un-Biblical salvation message.
This is not an isolated occurrence, limited to a few small churches! For example, a one-million-member international church said this about "salvation" in their "Gospel Message" booklet: "Salvation comes to those who repent and believe the gospel and is accompanied by the witness of the Spirit of God with our spirit." The "witness of the Spirit" is a euphemism for speaking in tongues. So, this church theology claims salvation depends upon a combination of belief plus tongues or glossalalia. The tract further says, "Then, and then only, is a person saved...Without the experience [i.e., tongues]...no one can truly say they are saved."
In this type of Pentecostalism (a sect that stresses its direct Holy Spirit inspiration), speaking in tongues is emphasized almost continually, with little, or no teaching on salvation by faith. Yet if asked whether they believe that faith is necessary for salvation, these Christians would likely agree. A key difference is the rejection of "salvation by faith alone" or "solae fidae" as taught scripturally. Unfortunately, whenever faith is reduced to a sub-standard role in the salvation process, all the emphasis is upon the "plus something" (human works), and not on the faith itself. They reject the cardinal Bible truth that it is faith that saves. Such theology is actually a false perversion of the Biblical doctrine of salvation.
The Protestant Reformation began as a popular reaction to Roman doctrines, especially those concerned with teachings on salvation. The popes in Rome had developed an extensive man-made system of salvation tied to tithing and the sacraments. Further, the papacy decreed there is no salvation outside of Roman Catholicism. An example of this teaching of "salvation through church sacraments" is found in the 1302 Decree ("Bull") from Pope Boniface VIII. Entitled "Unam Sanctam", This Bull claimed papal control over the temporal affairs of men. This Decree closed with these words, "We, moreover, proclaim, declare, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human being to be subject to the Roman pontiff."
In 1441, Pope Eugene IV in his Bull "Canatate Domino" wrote, "The most Holy Roman Catholic Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church...can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with her." The Protestant Reformation began in earnest when Martin Luther rediscovered the Biblical teaching of salvation by faith alone, and realized that he could no longer be true to Elohim if he remained in the Roman church.
With the current drive toward ecumenism (the re-uniting of all Christians under Rome), the distinctions between Roman Catholics and Protestants are being de-emphasized. Actually, the differences are enormous and important. The Roman Catholic Church claims to uphold faith in Messiah, while denying the Biblical doctrine of salvation by faith alone. This was emphasized in the Papal Bull of 1713 from Clement XI in "Unigenitus" which condemns the Apostle Paul's teachings on grace, sin,and salvation.
The issue is clear: a Christian cannot uphold Elohim's truth and church teachings which deny the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, for the Apostle Paul was certainly under the power of Elohim's Holy Spirit when the New Testament epistles were written.
Is it any wonder that Luther referred to his church as the "True and Very Babylon"? He wasn't engaging in idle name-calling. The Hebrew word, Babel, means "confusion." So in a very real sense, a church that denies the Biblical basis of salvation through justification by faith alone is in Babylon, i.e. a state of "Confusion." This theology confuses the minds of their flock on an important truth of Christian faith: we are justified through faith toward Elohim in our Messiah's sinless perfection and through His blood sacrifice for sin.
James on Faith and Works:
James' Epistle is the basis for some to deny the Biblical doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Yet, how do you answer the question this disciple of Yahshuah asks? "What does it profit, my brethren, though a man say he has faith and have not works? Can faith save him?" (James 2:14) True genuine faith produces light and fruit in the life of a Believer. If over time, with growth in the knowledge of Elohim and His Word, fruit, or Christian works, do not appear, then that faith is not genuine and heart-felt. Therefore, the profession of faith itself is spurious, and it will not save him.
James importantly affirms that works follow faith. Works are not what saves us, but where true faith exists, works follow naturally in a Believer's life. "Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works ... as the body without the spirit is dead, faith without works is dead also." (James 2:17-20)
Paul also describes how Scripture is filled with examples of men and women who demonstrated faith that pleased Elohim. "But we are not of them who draw back to perdition; but of them who believe to the saving of the soul. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report." (Hebrews 10:39 - 11:2) He then goes on to extol the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jepthae, David, Samuel, the prophets. (Hebrews 11:3-40)
Salvation: Cornerstone of Faith:
Today, ecumenism and trendy "salvation gimmicks" are the order of the day. But as true Believers, the weight of Scripture, not the trend of the times, should be our guide. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do to me. Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken to you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Yahshuah HaMessiah the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. (Hebrews 12:6-9)
What can a Believer do when caught within a church that teaches a false salvation message? Scripture supplies a Divine answer. "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them," (Ephesians 5:11)
For everything opposed to the light of Elohim's Word is darkness. Like Reformers of earlier eras, remember that faith toward Elohim is an important doctrine of Yahshuah. Accept no substitutes for Yah's Truth on this subject. Worship with others who emphasize Significant Truths. "Wherefore, seeing that we also are encompassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which does so easily beset us. Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking to Yahshuah the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the throne of Elohim. For, consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds." (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Faith toward Elohim really is not difficult to understand when you have a proper understanding of the term Faith (pistis-#4102 = persuasion). When one understands that faith = persuasion from Yahushuah, that is, from The Word Of Elohim, they realize that living by Faith is actually a way of life that comes quite naturally to us; for most (if not all) of what we do is due to faith/persuasion either within ourselves or someone we trust… Selah. The thing that is unnatural is "Faith toward Elohim" i.e. it's unnatural for one to be persuaded by The Word Of Elohim, especially when it flies in the face of what you've been persuaded by (i.e., had faith in all your life, your very own carnal mind and understanding). In other words, it is quite natural to do what you want, like and feel like doing, but unnatural to do what is opposed to these things even if it is "toward Elohim". In accepting Yahshuah's true character, and in lovingly obeying Yah's commandments, we demonstrate faith. This becomes our source of power in an evil world, which will enable us to overcome it as our Messiah did. As people of faith, we can conquer the world. We become victorious! Now that is Good News: Faith toward Elohim means victory over the world. "Whoever believes that Yahshuah is the Messiah is born of Elohim and everyone who loves Him that begat loves Him also who is begotten of Him. By this, we know that we love the children of Elohim, when we love Elohim and keep His commandments. For, "this is the love of Elohim that we keep His commandments and His commandments are not grievous. For whosoever is born of Elohim overcomes the world and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Yahshuah is the Son of Elohim?" (1 John 5:1-5)