from Issue #1, April 2016, page # 13
by: Andrew V. Ste. Marie
This imaginary conversation exposes the error of the teaching that “faith alone” guarantees one’s salvation. While many Protestants would not carry this teaching to its logical conclusion, if one follows through, the conclusion is inescapable. -AV
Worldly man. Men and brethren! What must I do to be saved?
Anabaptist. If you would enter into life, keep the commandments.
Worldly man. Which ones?
Anabaptist. Repent, and turn to God, and do works that show you have repented. Stop doing evil; learn to do well.
Worldly man. I live with my girlfriend; I shoplift often; I steal from my employer; and I am very covetous. Must I stop doing these things?
Anabaptist. Do not let anyone deceive you with vain words – fornicators, thieves, and covetous men, who are idolaters, shall not inherit the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Protestant. Now wait a minute, Friend Anabaptist. Are you teaching salvation by works?
Anabaptist. How is that?
Protestant. Why, you just told Mr. Worldly that he must stop sinning to be saved. That is a doctrine of works.
Anabaptist. I still do not understand. How would you explain it to Mr. Worldly?
Protestant. We are saved by faith alone. Nothing we do has any bearing on our salvation, now or ever.
Anabaptist. So you are saying that to stop sinning is doing something, and thus is works salvation?
Anabaptist. Well, continuing in sin is doing something too. So is having faith, for that matter.
Protestant. Now it is I who does not understand. What are you getting at?
Anabaptist. Hold on a minute, and you shall see. First, let me ask this: Are you saying that if Mr. Worldly stops fornicating, stealing, and coveting, that it would prove that he is embracing a salvation based on works?
Anabaptist. So if he would continue in these sins, yet believe in Christ, that would prove that he is seeking salvation by faith alone?
Protestant. None of us are perfect. We will continue in sin all our lives. God understands that and forgives us because of our faith.
Anabaptist. That is not an answer to the question. Is continuing to live in sin proof that one is seeking salvation by faith?
Protestant. [Uncomfortable] I cannot say yes…but it does prove that one is not seeking salvation by his own efforts. He is simply trusting in the merits of Christ.
Anabaptist. I will take that as a qualified “yes.” So in other words, you are saying that faith would motivate a life of sin.
Protestant. Not exactly – he may stop his sins later, a er coming to faith. But those living in faith do still sin.
Anabaptist. The Scriptures say that whatsoever is not of faith is sin. therefore, all sin is not of faith. The two are radical opposites. If one is sinning, he is not believing; if he is believing, he is not sinning. Faith cannot motivate sin, and sin is never an evidence of faith. If Mr. Worldly continued in sin, that would give the clearest proof that he does not have faith. If he repents, it must be by faith. Therefore, faith permeates all the counsel which I gave to Mr. Worldly at the beginning of our conversation. One can only repent by faith. Faith is obedience; faith is righteousness; faith is doing the will of God. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin; what is done by faith cannot be sin.
Protestant. Stop! You’re calling my own faith into question now.
Anabaptist. Maybe I am, yet it is not I, but the Word of God that judges you. I do not know your life; if the Holy Spirit is convicting you of faithlessness and unbelief, then give the glory to God and repent.
Protestant. You are teaching works righteousness and will probably go to Hell for your rejection of Christ’s Blood and seeking to gain Heaven by your own efforts.
Anabaptist. Say so if you will; God is Judge, and will be the Revealer of the secrets of all hearts on the Last Day. If Christ and His Apostles were teachers of works, I will be one too.
Worldly man. God, be merciful to me, a sinner! Help me to repent by faith!
— Adapted from The Witness, PO Box 246 Manchester, MI 48158.
For further study:
The following scripture references give a biblical basis for the above discussion:
Matthew 19:17. Acts 26:20. Isaiah 1:16-17. Ephesians 5:5-6. I Corinthians 6:9-10. Romans 6:1-2. I John 3:3-10. Romans 14:23. I Corinthians 4:5.