Sola Fida in Acts

September 16, 2009 at 11:21 am | Posted in False teaching, Grace and Faith, Theology | Leave a comment

I have written that Acts 2:38 doesn’t teach baptism as necessary for salvation.  Now I want to demonstrate that all of Acts argues for salvation by grace alone through faith alone.  I will use faith and repentance in this article interchangeably, though they are not exactly the same thing.  Repentance is turning away from something one used to trust; faith is turning to something else and putting one’s trust there.  Genuine, biblical faith, faith that results in salvation, involves both aspects. It is not real saving faith in Jesus, if someone hasn’t turned completely away from his previous trusts.  To be saved one must trust Jesus alone; he cannot just add Jesus to his other lifelines.  So when the Bible talks about faith necessary for salvation or repentance necessary for salvation, it may be emphasizing one aspect of genuine faith over another, but it is not giving two completely different requirements.

After Pentecost, Peter’s very next sermon was about the healing of the lame man in the temple and includes the words “It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing.”  Of course that doesn’t say anything about salvation, but it does say something about the importance of faith in Jesus.  However, plenty of other passages offer support to this argument as well.  Peter speaks to the Sanhedrin and offers this conclusion, “God exalted (Jesus) to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.” (5:31)  There is no mention of anything connected to forgiveness other than repentance.  Then in Peter’s sermon to Cornelius and his family, Peter spells out the requirements for these Gentiles; “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (10:43)  It is interesting that the Holy Spirit came into their lives right at that moment.  The audience had been eagerly waiting about four days to hear what Peter would say, and as soon as he said “believe,” they did.  Baptism wasn’t necessary, though it followed immediately after.  These first Gentile believers were saved before they were baptized, and before they did anything else for that matter!  When Peter was questioned about spending time with Gentiles, he told his story, and “when they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God saying, ‘So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.’” (11:18)

We see the same teaching in the sermons of Paul.  His first one parallels Peter’s first in many ways.  But his application to this mostly Jewish audience is “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the Law of Moses.” (13:38-39)  Again there is no mention of any requirement on our part but faith.  When the Philippian jailer asked point blank, “What must I do to be saved?”  Paul gave the direct answer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” (16:29-31)  His farewell address to the Ephesian elders states, “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.”  (20:21; see also 26:15-18)

However, I believe the key passage in this matter is found in Acts 15.  The Apostles and elders of the Jerusalem church met to discuss the matter of the Gentile believers coming into the church in huge numbers.  They were particularly interested in the question of circumcision – whether or not the Gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved – but their conclusion impacts our question as well.  Peter reminded the Council of his dream from God and of Cornelius’ salvation.   Then he concludes, “He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.   .  .  .  we believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (15:9-11)  The conclusion of the question about circumcision was that God saves by his grace through faith – and nothing else.

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