The Catholic Church, Iglesia Ni Cristo, Mormons and other Christian religions denounce the teachings of justification by faith alone. Let us study the teachings of sola fide and explore why it is not actually contradicting James teachings on faith and works.
A brief history of Sola Fide
Sola fide (Latin: by faith alone), also known as justification by faith alone, is a Christian theological doctrine that distinguishes most Protestant denominations from the Catholic Church, Iglesia Ni Cristo, the Eastern Orthodox Church and many other Christian religions.
From 1510 to 1520, Martin Luther lectured on the Psalms and the books of Hebrews, Romans, and Galatians. As he studied these portions of the Bible, he came to view the use of terms such as penance and righteousness by the Roman Catholic Church in new ways. He became convinced that the church was corrupt in its ways and had lost sight of what he saw as several of the central truths of Christianity, the most important of which, for Luther, was the doctrine of justification—God’s act of declaring a sinner righteous—by faith alone through God’s grace. He began to teach that salvation or redemption is a gift of God’s grace, attainable only through faith in Jesus.
Luther came to understand justification as entirely the work of God. When God’s righteousness is mentioned in the gospel, it is God’s action of declaring righteous the unrighteous sinner who has faith in Jesus Christ.The righteousness by which the person is justified (declared righteous) is not his own (theologically, proper righteousness) but that of another, Christ (alien righteousness). “That is why faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law,” said Luther. “Faith is that which brings the Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ.” Thus faith, for Luther, is a gift from God. This faith grasps Christ’s righteousness and appropriates it for the believer.
The Pauline doctrine of justification by faith
Apostle Paul in his letters to the Gentile Christians teach that it is by grace, we are saved. Grace is a gift from God.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV) – 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Paul also says in Romans 6:23 (NKJV) – 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
No human being can take away the gift from God, not by expulsion.
Romans 11:29 (NKJV) – 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
It is writen in 1 Corinthians 5:13 – “But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”,. Who is talking? Apostle Paul. Who is he talking to? The believers of Corinths. Paul wrote to the Corinthians because of thew bad news (1 Cor. 1:11-13). Contentions and quarreling were consuming the Corinthian community. When they could not agree even about small matters, some rose up in defiance saying, “I don’t care what others are saying; I know what Paul said, and that is what I am doing.” Others would speak ill of the first, saying, “Apollos taught us differently, and we know we are right in this matter.” Others claimed loyalty to Cephas, and still others said they would only follow Messiah Himself. Brothers went their own ways, divided. None would humble themselves to seek reconciliation with their brothers.”. Paul first reminds Corinthians of the gift they receive from God (1 Cor. 1:4), Christ is the Power and Wisdom of God and the glory is only to the Lord God. Apostle Paul gave specific instruction who Corinthians believers should disassociate themselves. In 1 Cor. 15:11 (NKJV) – But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous [one having or showing a great desire to possess something someone owns] , or an idolater, or a reviler [one who criticize in abusive or insulting manner], or a drunkard, or an extortioner [someone who use abusive or forceful manner to obtain something specially money] — not even to eat with such a person.”. Now think who are these people? Paul is the same person who teaches God’s gift is irrevocable so even those who are removed from fellowship only God can judge. Paul is also the same person teaching the justification that salvation received as a gift and not by works. Do you see how Iglesia Ni Cristo follows some Paul teachings and deny some teachings?
John testified “whoever believes”
John 3:16 (NKJV) – 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
[Side topic: Notice those who believes will not perish – clearly means those who will not believe will perish. The teaching of eternal damnation in the lake of fire is a traditional belief not true biblical teaching. The verses used to explain eternal damnation are apocalyptic language, not literal. If you believe what Christ is saying, unbelievers will perish not forever punished!]
Romans 3:24-28 (NKJV) – being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
Paul says that a man is justified by faith apart from any works.
Romans 4:5 (NKJV) But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
Paul says it is all of faith, and works play no part.
Romans 5:1 (NKJV) – Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Romans 3:24 (NKJV) – being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, ‘
Romans 11:6 (NKJV) – And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.
Galatians 2:16 (NKJV) – knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Another incident in the life of Paul and Silas while in prison, the earthquake shaken the foundation of the prison and made the door opened. The prison guard wanted to kill himself but Paul stopped him. The prison guard then ask:
Acts 16:29-31 (NKJV) – 29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”. 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
John also wrote what was spoken by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ himself teach that he who believes in Him will have everlasting life.
John 3:14-18 (NKJV) “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 5:24 (NKJV) “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
John 6:28-29 (NKJV) Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
John 8:24 (NKJV) “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
John 11:25-26 (NKJV) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
John 20:31 (NKJV) but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
A good example of bible character who was saved just by believing is the thief on the cross.
Luke 23:39-43 (NKJV) – 39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” 40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” 43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Do you see any works in the above verses?
Apostle Peter also emphasized this to the Jews that they are saved [as believers of Christ] the same way as the Gentiles. James was present when these words are spoken:
Acts 15:11 (NKJV) – 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
Let us rewrite the verse, “But we[Apostles and the Jewish audience] believe that through the grace [which is the gift of God] of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they [Gentiles]. What Peter is saying, “We religious Jews are saved in the same way as these pagan Gentiles are, namely, through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In Acts 15:13, James stood and confirmed his agreement with Simon (Peter). The next verses James quoted the teachings from Old Testament (Acts 15:16-18). James argument was: The salvation of the Gentiles agrees with what Amos said. What Peter has said, taking the Gospel to the Gentiles, is the fulfillment of what Amos said. Amos said that the Tabernacle of David would be restored “in order that” the Gentiles may seek after God. The Gentiles were now being saved. The Gentiles could not call on God until the remnant, Amos 5:3, was being brought in, meaning they could not be saved until the Tabernacle of David was restored. Since the Gentiles were being saved in their time, the Tabernacle of David was being restored – this is the restoration of true Israel.
Paul and James agreed
James agreed with Paul that the good gift is from God. That is the grace from God.
James 1:17-18 (NKJV) – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.
When James said,
James 2:17 (NKJV) – Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
He is referring to the works of love as stated in James 2:8
James 2:8 (NKJV) – If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well;
Paul also says that faith works by love:
Galatians 5:6 (NKJV) – For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
So now Paul and James are in harmony to what works is. At least a part of what work is. If faith doesn’t produce love, it is a dead faith and in danger of temporal judgement of God. Faith and works are connected. Your works make your faith grows and matures. If we fail to work [in love], our faith will die. Dead faith is unproductive, is subject to temporal judgement of God. So keep faith alive by working or living in love to one another.
As Christian WE MUST BE PROUD for LOVE is the unique attribute of being a Christians. Others are commanded to kill enemies, as Christian we must love our brethren the same we we should love our enemies.
Matthew 5:43-48 (NKJV) – 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,”
Apostle Paul and James are in harmony what they are teaching. Apostle Paul teaching of salvation, James teaching of being save in faith and works while we are living in this world so that we will not be judged by God because of the sins that we commit in our life.
So is there salvation outside the Iglesia Ni Cristo?
YES, as I testified through verses in the bible, that our salvation is a gift from God. A gift is something you did not work for, you received it in kindness We received it when we believed our Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Messiah who died in the cross for our sins. We did not receive it when we joined an organized Church. There is difference in joining a Church and when we start believing in Christ.
Can you be saved even if your name is not written in the book of life?
Is there evidence the first century Christians have written names in the book when they became believers? When Paul was called by Christ how is his name written in the book? When Christ saved the thief in the cross, who wrote his name? When Cornelius the Gentile became a believer who wrote his name? This is another long topic but the short explanation is that the verses used to teach about the book of life inside the Iglesia Ni Cristo is twisted. Humans are imperfect, the registry books inside the Church are full of errors, written according to one’s secretariat skills. These people are also sinners like us so the book they create are not worthy of presenting to God. How do you think you present more than a thousand registry books with erroneous data to God? Each Church locale has more than 20 registry books, which book is authoritative? How do you justify discrepancies between books? It is only human teaching to write names of those who will be saved in the book made by human. The book of life is an spiritual matter not a physical written names.
How do we live in faith and works?
We can live our faith with works through love, living by what the Lord Jesus Christ teach us. We cannot live as a true believer if we do not understand the true teachings of the scriptures. We must therefore equip ourselves with the knowledge of the bible. The bible is inspired words of God. If someone is teaching as if one verse contradict another verse, proving one verse is correct than the other or one author is correct than the other, it is like un-inspiring the words of God. I must say verify until the true context of the verses are in harmony. Do not make the bible meet what you believe, change what you believe to what the bible teaches us. Perhaps start asking this: “Am I believing what the bible really teach or am I just following a doctrine of the Church?”.
Remember James 5:12 (NKJV) – But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment.. How many times you swear to your office in the Church? How many times you have violated the teaching of James? How about Matthew 5:24 (NKJV) – “34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne;” ? You actually committed sin when you took an oath for an office, even when you swear-in for your membership in the Church. How much more a written affidavit promising you will never miss performing in the Choir or when you wrote a letter promising that you will always abide to the Church Administration, is that not swearing-in against the teaching of the bible? Where did James and Matthew learned their teachings? From our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Read Matthew 23:16-22. The Pharisees bind themselves to their promises in various degrees and so excuse themselves from keeping commitments they had made with lesser oaths. They use their oaths to sound exceedingly pious and to justify themselves as deeply religious, while being in fact hypocritical. Therefore Jesus commanded his followers not to swear but to invest on simple words of yes or no with complete integrity. Ask the question again: “Am I believing what the bible really teach or am I just following a doctrine of the Church?”.
Hope this is profitable to you.