Tri-County church of Christ, Watertown, NY, North Country


April 15, 2003, Vol.3, No.8.
Two new articles every two weeks. Bible Question? E-mail us.
THIS ISSUE: "If 'Faith Alone' saves, will Satan be saved?" (see below)
and "
Introduction to Jeremiah"


If "Faith Alone" saves, will Satan be saved?

by Tom Rainwater

Faith alone, believe only, belief without obedienceQUESTION: John 3:16 states that "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life." Well, Satan believes in God; satanists believe in God. Do they perish? Yes, they do. This verse basically states that if you believe in God, you'll go to Heaven. Yet the Bible also indicates that one must live a life accordingly, and that you have to be devoted. I'm confused.

ANSWER: Hi! You ask an excellent question. When Jesus in John 3:16 says "whoever believes in Him shall not perish," notice that he didn't say "whoever believes ONLY...shall not perish." Many religious groups today affirm that all you have to do is "believe only" and you are saved at the very first instant of faith without ever having to do anything else. The New Testament doesn't teach this. In fact, James chapter 2 shows conclusively that "faith alone" is insufficient to save.

James 2:14

"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?" (NKJV)

James directly poses the question under discussion: Can a person claim faith yet not obey God and still be saved? In order to avoid the question, some denominational people deny that James is talking about salvation here. They should underline the word "save" in the verse: "Can faith save him?" James is indeed talking about salvation.

James 2:15-17

Next, he illustrates the absurdity of "faith only" by showing how pointless it is for someone to have good will toward a person in need, yet to do nothing for him. He concludes from his illustration:

"Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead." (2:17)

James 2:18

"But someone will 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."

James deals with the person who still thinks he can separate faith from works and be pleasing to God. It's just as wrong to think "salvation is by faith without works" as it is to think "salvation is by works without faith." Both faith and works are necessary to be saved. James offers a challenge: "Show me your faith without your works," which is an impossibility. "..and I will show you my faith by my works." James understood that his own true faith was demonstrated by doing the works God commanded.

James 2:19-20

"You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe -- and tremble."

In verse 19, James directly answers your question: demons believe but they are not saved. The devil and his demons most certainly believe in Christ, but they obviously don't obey Him. Therefore they are lost. Anyone else who has faith alone without further obedience will also be lost.

"But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" (2:20)

James 2:21-25

James offers examples of how doing the works of God is an important part of real faith. Abraham obeyed God by his offering of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19). Rahab was justified by works when she protected Joshua's spies (Joshua 2:1-24; 6:25). About Abraham's act of obedience, James says:

"Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?" (2:22)

Only after Abraham heeded the voice of God was it said that he truly "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." (2:23)

James 2:26

"For as the body without the spirit is dead,
so faith without works is dead also"

We can easily distinguish between the living and the dead. A body that is physically dead is still and does nothing without a spirit inside it. But while the spirit still resides in the body, it is evident that the body is alive. Likewise, faith without works is a dead faith. Faith with works is a living faith. What kind of faith do you have?


Yes, belief in Christ is absolutely necessary to be saved, and that 's Jesus' emphasis in John 3:16. But then true faith continues to obey Christ as Lord, and that's James' emphasis in James 2:14-26. The passages don't contradict. They both teach important facts about salvation.

~ ~ ~

For a more detailed article on James 2, go here.



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