If you were to ask me if we are saved by faith, then I would readily affirm such. However, if you were to ask me if we are saved by faith alone, then I would just as readily deny such. There is no doubt that faith is a key factor in the salvation of man. Jesus explained, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). Also, the writer of Hebrews stated, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). There is no way around it, without faith, we are in trouble!
With that being said, we must not ignore other Scriptures that indicate there is more involved in our salvation than faith. Take for instance Ephesians 2:8-9. Paul identified that grace is also necessary for our salvation. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” We must realize that no matter how much “good” we do while in this life, we will never do enough to put God in our debt. If God had not been gracious, then there would have never been a single man saved. We should remember, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23-24).
Along with faith and grace, there is also the importance of works of obedience. Please notice that I did not say works of merit, but rather works of obedience. These works are actions that are completed due to my faith. For instance, when God commands “…all men every where to repent”, then I must demonstrate my faith by repenting (Acts 17:30). If I refuse to obey the work that God requires of me, then I have a “dead faith”. This was explained by James. “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14-26). Hebrews chapter eleven is a great resource to find many individuals that had faith, but also acted on their faith by obeying the works commanded of them. For instance, Abel lived by faith, but he also “offered” the sacrifice that God commanded (Heb. 11:4; cf. Rom. 10:17). Noah lived by faith, but he also “…prepared an ark…” that God commanded (Heb. 11:7) Then there was Abraham, who also lived by faith, but “…obeyed…not knowing whither he went” (Heb. 11:8). Similarly, Abraham lived by faith when he “…offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son” (Heb. 11:17).
There is no way around it. If I want to be saved by faith, then I must also accept the grace that God has extended. Likewise, in order to be saved by faith, I must obey the “works” that God has commanded me to do. Then, and only then, will I have a faith that saves.