Without faith in the Messiah, Yahushua, one will not have salvation. I believe the words of John 14:6:
“Yahushua said to him, I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
I also believe the words of Matthew 4:4 where Yahushua quotes Deuteronomy 8:3:
“But He, answering, said, it has been written, men shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of YaHuWaH.” (Matthew 4:4)
Matthew 4:4 means the entirety of the Word needs to be digested and assimilated into one’s mind, life, and actions.
As well, we are told to rightly divide, or handle, the Word of truth in 2 Timothy 2:15. The conditions of salvation by way of the Door, Yahushua, is not only the most important doctrine Biblically, but the most important matter period. There are two fundamental tenets in Christendom: Belief/faith that “Jesus” is Lord and Savior and that by His shed Blood we are saved… by faith alone.
This is the question to be examined here: Are we saved by faith/belief alone? There are a litany of verses used to back this doctrinal position that comes through faith alone primarily found in Paul’s writings and some in the gospels. There are, however, a great deal of passages emphasizing the importance of our works throughout the Scriptures. A “works based salvation” is considered purely heretical doctrine, akin to one being labeled an “anti-vaxxer,” who is considered one of the most irresponsible, uninformed, selfish, and dangerous people out there.
Labels, titles, and categorizations can interfere with seeing matters clearly and this is exactly why labels like anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist are employed… to obscure the truth and shut down conversation and inquiry by attaching labels. The label/title/categorization of “works based salvation” can have the same effect, so let’s forget about labels for a moment and weigh the matter on what the Word actually says about this issue. To be clear though, works without faith in Yahushua are dead. Faith without works is a better place to be than works without faith. A few examples are the following where we see the significance attached to our works:
“For the Son of Adam is going to come in the esteem of His Father with His messengers, and then He shall reward each according to his works.” (Matthew 16:27)
“And loving commitment is your O YaHuWaH; For You reward each one according to his work.” (Psalms 62:12)
“If you say, ‘See, we did not know this!’ Would not He who weighs the heart discern it? He who watches over your life, would He not know it? And shall He not repay man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:12)
“For we all have to appear before the Judgement seat of Messiah, in order for each one to receive according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
“As His mercy is great, so is His correction also: He judges a man according to his works. The sinner shall not escape with his spoils: and the patience of the righteous shall not be frustrated. Make way for every work of mercy: for every man shall find according to his works.” (Sirach 16:12-14)
Sirach is a book found in the original 1611 King James Bible.
Some essential verses to note as to how good works come about:
“For by favor you have been saved, through belief, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of Elohim, it is not by works, so that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yahushua unto good works, which Elohim prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Ephesians 2:8-9 are often cited verses to back up being saved by faith/belief alone, but what about verse 10? Verse 10 is like the redheaded stepchild while verses 8 and 9 are center stage. Being His workmanship unto good works is a key component to what is being conveyed here. Also, from the gospel of John:
“Stay in Me, and I in you. As the branch is unable to bear fruit of itself, unless it stays in the vine, so neither you, unless you stay in Me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. He who stays in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit. Because without me, you are able to do naught.” (John 15:4-5)
Those who are His are created unto good works according to Ephesians and through Messiah by which fruit will be borne according to John. What happens if we do not bear good fruit?
“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 7:19)
How do we ensure that we are not without fruit?
“And our brothers should also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, so that they shall not be without fruit.” (Titus 3:14)
The Greek word associated with “without fruit” is Strong’s G 175 akarpoi (ἄκαρπος): unfruitful, barren, profitless.
What happens to the unfruitful, barren, profitless? Matthew 7:19.
Being taught that we are saved, and are not justified by our works, has great potential to instill idleness in believers and result in unfruitfulness. If He has intended us to be His workmanship unto good works, could our natural inclination to doing things our own way override, resulting in idleness and unfruitfulness if we are taught our works are meaningless and only faith/belief matters? Let’s now examine to what extent our works are or are not tied to salvation.
“But whoever shall deny Me before men, him I shall deny before My Father who is in the heavens.” (Matthew 10:33)
Many take this to mean renouncing Him verbally but is this the only way to deny Him?
“They profess to know Elohim, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unfit for any good work.” (Titus 1:16)
The same Greek word, Strong’s G 720 arneomai (ἀρνέομαι) appears in both Matthew 10:33 and Titus 1:16 for “deny.” If then, He can be denied by one’s works, should we not practice works that affirm Him and are in accordance with the Word? And if as Yahushua says in Matthew 10:33 that He will deny those before the Father who deny Him before men, will being denied by Him result in salvation or destruction? Which sounds more likely considering the tone of the passage? This brings us to the book of James where it is clearly written that faith without works is dead. In James chapter 2, verse 14, in the Scriptures and HalleluYah Scriptures, it reads:
“My brothers, what use is it for anyone to say he has belief but does not have works? This belief is unable to save him.” (James 2:14)
In most or all other versions, though, the statement of “this belief is unable to save him” appears as a question: “Can that faith save him?” (NASB). The question he poses here is obviously rhetorical, which he clearly answers in verses 17, 20, 24, and 26 by stating one way or another that faith without works is dead. James does not leave room for doubt as to what he considers the answer to this question to be. If faith is dead, it is not faith at all. Also, the framing of the matter with James as an issue of faith vs. works is an incorrect framework, for one is not pitted against the other. It is a question of faith with or without works. The many verses in Paul’s writings cited to support faith alone meriting salvation do not simply cancel out everything written in James chapter 2. Either we must take Paul’s verses at face value and cancel James chapter 2, or this is a key chapter that expounds on what faith really means.
“Every word of YaHuWaH is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.” (Proverbs 30:5)
If all His word is pure, as in truth, it can only be that the dimension of works discussed in James expounds on what real, saving faith is. If this is not the case, then James Chapter 2 doesn’t belong in the Bible and we also cannot trust that all His word is pure as it is written in Proverbs 30:5. Paul writes in Romans:
“For if Abraham was declared right by works, he was ground for boasting, but not before Elohim. For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed Elohim, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:2-3)
James also writes about Abraham:
“Was not Abraham our father declared right by works when he offered Isaac his son on the slaughter place? Do you see that the belief was working with his works, and by the works the belief was perfected? And the Scripture was filled which says, ‘Abraham believed Elohim and it was reckoned to him for righteousness.’ And he called him ‘he who loves Elohim.'” (James 2:21-23)
Verse 22 is a key verse in the synthesis of faith and works. If James is stating clearly throughout the chapter that faith without works is dead, then the concept of faith equaling salvation and faith being perfected by works equaling brideship cannot be applied. Faith without works is dead and is therefore not faith according to James, and therefore the first part of the aforementioned equation does not apply. Peter gives us a very specific admonition about Paul’s writings:
“and reckon the patience of our Master as deliverance, as also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you, according to the wisdom given to him, as also in all his letters, speaking in them concerning these matters, in which some are hard to understand, which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the other Scriptures. You then, beloved ones, being forewarned, watch, lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the delusion of the lawless.” (2 Peter 3:15-17)
We are given a powerful admonition about a specific apostle’s writings that people can be misled by because some are hard to understand. We are admonished not to be led into the delusion of lawlessness and the result is their own destruction. Many of Paul’s verses can easily mislead people into lawlessness. The very verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9 many take to mean that if we are not justified by our works that any works are fair game to engage in. The result is that by their works they will deny Him, to hearken back to Titus 1:16. Look at the entirety of the Christian church; foregoing the Sabbath for Sunday church which most do not honor even if it were the Sabbath day, and the honoring of Ishtar and Nimrod on Easter and Christmas as if it’s honoring Yahushua. When shown the truth about these things it doesn’t matter because they’re armed with Paul’s verses that they’re saved by their belief in Jesus and the “do as thou wilt” lifestyle as espoused by Aleister Crowley is therefore fine. Peter’s writings apply here. A key point here is the word destruction. The Greek word is Strong’s G 684 apoleia (ἀπώλεια) meaning: 1) destroying, utter destruction 2) a perishing, ruin, destruction. The word appears 20 times in 19 verses in the New Testament and it is clear from reading the verses in which it appears that in easily half or more of these verses that the meaning is eternal ruin/destruction of the soul. If anything, it is a stretch to postulate that destruction/apoleia as it appears in 2 Peter 3:16 means anything other than eternal ruin.
Paul writes in Galatians:
“And the works of the flesh are well known, which are these: adultery, whoring, uncleanness, indecency, idolatry, drug sorcery, hatred, quarrels, jealousies, fits of rage, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, murders, drunkenness, wild parties, and the like — of which I forewarn you, even as I have said before, that those who practice such as these shall not inherit the reign of Elohim.” (Galatians 5:19-21)
And we see in Revelation at the Great White Throne Judgment after the 1,000-year reign:
“But the fearful, and the unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and drug sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)
Murderers, whoremongers, drug sorcerers, and idolaters were all listed in Galatians 5:19-21 as among those who would not inherit the reign of Elohim. If the reign of Elohim means the 1,000-year reign, the same group also does not have everlasting life after the 1,000-year reign. There are those who claim to have the faith in Yahushua/Jesus who engage regularly in these behaviors is the point here. If so, they would be among this group in Rev. 21:8 at the Great White Throne Judgment. Also, in 1 John:
“The one who says ‘I know Him,’ and does not guard His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:4)
The verse is perfectly straightforward, and liars are another group cited in Rev. 21:8. By works one can deny Him and not guarding His commands is the way to do that.
From the gospel of Matthew, chapter 19:
“And see, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good shall I do to have everlasting life?’ And He said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except One — Elohim. But if you wish to enter into life, guard the commands.’ He said to Him, ‘Which?’ And Yahushua said ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, respect your father and your mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 19:16-19)
Just as one could cite John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9, and Romans 10:9 as being perfectly clear and straightforward to support faith alone, Matthew 19:16-19 can also be cited as such regarding faith and works. Is what is contained in Matthew 19 part of the gospel or is this “another gospel” that Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians 11:4 and Galatians 1:6? Biblical faith either means believing and doing, or this is another passage that doesn’t belong in the Bible along with all of James chapter 2 and Proverbs 30:5. Also from Matthew, chapter 25:
“And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the Sovereign shall say to those on His right hand, Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the reign prepared for you from the foundation of the world – for I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me. Then the righteous shall answer Him saying, ‘Master when did we see You hungry and we fed You, or thirsty and gave You to drink? And when did we see You a stranger and took You in, or naked and clothed You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and we came to You?’ And the Sovereign shall answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, insofar as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’ He shall then also say to those on the left hand, ‘Go away from Me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his messengers — for I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, was naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they shall answer Him, saying, ‘Master when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not serve You?’ Then He shall answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, insofar as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life.” (Matthew 25:33-46)
Powerful words from Yahushua. If you did this set of works, you are the righteous who go into everlasting life. If you did not do this set of works, you are the accursed and go into everlasting punishment. These passages would be in accord with the command of love thy neighbor in Matthew 19:19 and Leviticus 19:18. Is Matthew chapter 25 the gospel or is this another gospel? What about those who had faith in Yahushua and decided that since they weren’t justified by their works, there was no need for them to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, or visit the sick and in prison because they had other things to do? Is this “works based salvation” heresy or did Yahushua say what he said here? From the gospel of Luke:
“And see, a certain one learned in the Torah stood up, trying Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit everlasting life?’ And He said to him, ‘What has been written in the Torah? How do you read it?’ And he answering, said, ‘You shall love YaHuWaH your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your being, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ And He said to him, ‘You have answered rightly. Do this and you shall live.'” (Luke 10:25-28)
What about the thief on the cross? A man who has been a sinner his whole life and sincerely repents at the last minute. Obviously, there is a perfect system of Judgment that Elohim has in place and grace is provided in a perfect and just manner. This doesn’t contradict anything else cited thus far, it’s just an illustration that when repentance is genuine, it’s from that moment forward one is expected to walk in His ways and turn from sin. To not do so is not genuine repentance and faith. For someone who takes the example of the thief on the cross and thinks they have time to do as thou wilt, and when they are on their deathbed and the fun is over as being the time to repent, I doubt the same level of grace would be afforded. The thief on the cross may have been ignorant of or unbelieving of the Scriptures up to that point. In the book of Acts, Paul said this to the Sovereign Agrippa:
“Therefore, Sovereign Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and in all the country of Yehudah, and to the nations, that they should repent, and turn to Elohim, and do works worthy of repentance.” (Acts 26:20)
What happens if we do not do works worthy of repentance? Would this still be considered genuine repentance by Messiah if we only repented in word but not in deed? Doubtful. What does Yahushua say?
“I say to you, no! But unless you repent you shall all perish in the same way.” (Luke 13:3)
The Greek word for “perish” is Strong’s G 622 apollymi (ἀπόλλυμι) meaning: to destroy, abolish, render useless, kill, to devote over to an eternal misery in hell, to be lost, ruined, destroyed.
Two of the most important passages in the gospels come in Luke chapter 13 and Matthew chapter 7:
“and someone said to Him, ‘Master are there few who are being saved?’ And He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate, because many, I say to you, shall seek to enter in and shall not be able.'” (Luke 13:23-24)
The Greek word associated with “strive” is Strong’s G 75 agonizomai (ἀγωνίζομαι): to struggle, literally (to compete for a prize), figuratively (to contend with an adversary), or genitive case (to endeavor to accomplish something): fight, labor fervently, strive. So, He says: Strive (labor fervently) to enter through the narrow gate to be saved. The Greek word associated with “saved” is Strong’s G 4982 sozo (σῴζω) which can either mean saving of the flesh or salvation. In this context in Luke 13:23 it is in reference to salvation in the same way as it appears in Matthew 1:21:
“And she shall give birth to a Son, and you shall call His Name Yahushua for He shall save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
From Matthew chapter 7:
“Enter in through the narrow gate! Because the gate is wide — and the way is broad — that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter in through it. Because the gate is narrow and the way is hard pressed which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14).
The Greek word associated with “life” is Strong’s G 2222 zoe (ζωή) and is the same word that appears in Matthew 19:16-17 and Matthew 25:46, where it appears as everlasting or eternal life. The word for “destruction” is the same word that appears in 2 Peter 3:16, Strong’s G 684 apoleia (ἀπώλεια) meaning utter ruin, or the opposite of everlasting life. That contrast is made in Matthew 7:13-14. The word for “few” as it appears in in Matthew 7:14 and Luke 13:23 is Strong’s G 3641 oligos (ὀλίγος) meaning little, small, few, puny. We are given an indication of what a few means where oligos/few appears in 1 Peter 3:20:
“who were disobedient at one time when the patience of Elohim waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight beings, were saved through water.” (1 Peter 3:20)
The point is, these verses are incongruent with the notion that faith/belief alone without works, obedience, or striving merits salvation because many believe. Many believe but will deny Him by their works; but will nonetheless seek to enter in and will not be able to as it reads in Luke 13:24.
Ron Wyatt, who found the Ark of the Covenant in January 1982, claims that on a follow-up visit to the Ark he encountered four messengers who told him that the mark of the beast law would be a “Sunday law.” Meaning, there would at some point be a law requiring people to break the true Sabbath of Friday sundown to Saturday sundown and instead honor Sunday, but under the guise of some sort of crisis. Ron has stated that if you keep the ten commandments, you will receive the seal of God (Ron used the term God), and if you go along with the law requiring the breaking of the fourth commandment when the time comes, you will receive the mark of the beast. Those receiving the mark of the beast do not get resurrected unto life after the 1,000-year reign. Ron cannot be mistaken on this matter. He is not stating that he thinks or believes he encountered messengers who told him this. He stated plainly that it happened so either it happened the way he said it did, or he made it up and is therefore a fraud, or he was mentally ill and hallucinated it. I’ve never heard Ron cite Deuteronomy to back up his claim about the ten commandments being the seal, or a seal, of The Almighty, but Deuteronomy indeed tells us so:
“And these Words which I am commanding you today shall be in your heart, and you shall impress them upon your children, and shall speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up, and shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8)
In Deuteronomy chapter 5, the ten commandments are reiterated and here in chapter 6 we are shown that it is His seal, as a sign on their hand and between their eyes. The seal/sign on the hand and the forehead symbolizes faith and doing/works. Just as the mark of the beast is in or upon the right hand or in or upon the forehead, YaHuWaH’s seal is also in the forehead and hand. The same thing is stated in Deuteronomy 11:18. From Revelation chapter 14:
“And a third messenger followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘if anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark upon his forehead or upon his hand, he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of Elohim, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His wrath. And he shall be tortured with fire and sulfur before the set-apart messengers and before the Lamb. And the smoke of their torture goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest day or night, those worshipping the beast and his image, also if anyone receives the mark of his name. Here is the endurance of the set-apart ones, here are those guarding the commandments of YaHuWaH and the belief of Yahushua.” (Revelation 14:9-12)
Verse 12 is showing us a group differentiated from those who’ve received the mark of the beast and the characteristics of this group is they guard the commandments and have the faith of Messiah. The point is, if Ron Wyatt is correct in what he claimed, then this also seems incongruent with the notion of salvation by faith alone because most of the Christian church anywhere in the world will find a ‘Sunday law’ entirely normal and will think nothing of it. Yet they all believe in Jesus. Verse 12 also reiterates the seal being the guarding of commandments (the sign on the hand) and the faith in Yahushua (the seal in the forehead/frontlets between the eyes). From the book of Hebrews:
“For if we sin purposely after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a slaughter offering for sins.” (Hebrews 10:26)
“How much worse punishment do you think shall he deserve who has trampled the Son of Elohim underfoot, counted the Blood of the covenant by which he was set-apart as common, and insulted the Spirit of favour.” (Hebrews 10:29)
How would one do this? By willfully disregarding any commandments in the Torah, the Gospels, or Proverbs because of the belief that since we’re not justified by works, and only by faith, we can therefore do as thou wilt and that actually obeying the Word is “legalism.” This belief will result in trampling the Son of Elohim underfoot and denying Him by what they practice.
“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Master and Savior Yahushua Messiah, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, then having known it, to turn from the set-apart command delivered unto them.” (2 Peter 2:20-21)
It is an easy trap to fall back into the entanglements and defilements of the world by believing that as long as they believe in Messiah, all is well in the end. These verses do not say so. They become entangled in the defilements of the world by how they live, what they do… in their works. And by their works they deny Him.
This verse in Sirach is very similar to Revelation 22:14:
“The knowledge of the commandments of YaHuWaH is the doctrine of life: and they that do things that please Him shall receive the fruit of the tree of immortality.” (Sirach 19:19).
It is clear from everything cited here that the scales are not tipped entirely in favor of the doctrine of faith alone meriting salvation. I am not the Judge and not trying to decide who should or should not inherit everlasting life. But it sure seems the wise course of action is this:
“And become doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)