Proposition: “The New Testament Scriptures teach that unregenerated sinners are saved by grace through faith alone, before and without water baptism.” Keith Saare affirms; Allan Turner denies.
Saare’s First Affirmative(posted10/04/06): Two points I wish to make in defining my proposition above.
First, “by grace” I mean unmerited favor, undeserved kindness, a free gift,
something that cannot be earned by good works. Secondly, the faith I shall
affirm is saving faith (not dead faith from James 2 or other similar passages),
has repentance as an integral part, and is synonymous with belief. Therefore,
when I speak of “faith only” or “faith alone,” I do not mean to exclude
repentance or believing. These three actions take place within the mind, heart,
or will, and exclude any outward effort exerted by the unregenerated sinner in
the form of water baptism, communion, confirmation, or other sacraments. I like
to think of faith and repentance as “two sides of the same coin,” albeit with a
slightly different emphasis.
Additional definitions for concepts I shall use outside the
scope of this proposition are, but not limited to pending unique contexts, as
the act whereby a redeemed sinner is declared
righteous before God or other people. It does not make the sinner righteous,
but is a declaration of the
righteousness already possessed.
·Repentance: from the Greek metanoia, a change of mind resulting in
a change of lifestyle. Wherefore one who has repented will obey as true
believers are characterized by their willingness to obey (cf. Acts & Hebrews 5:9).
as opposed to ordinance which does
not convey grace, a means whereby a sinner seeks to obtain grace through a
human act such as baptism, confession, communion, or other such deeds.
In defending this proposition, I do not forbid the natural
sequence of events which precede salvation. Romans outlines some of these: “How then will they call on
Him whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have
not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” My focus is upon man’s immediate
response to the saving message of the gospel in order to receive salvation, and
that I affirm to be before water baptism and by faith alone.
At the outset of the second part in our debate, I am faced
with the unique challenge to defend a proposition which states that salvation
is by “faith alone,” yet the only place where the words faith and alone appear
together in the Bible is in a context that explicitly denies justification by
James 2:24: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
In beating Mr. Turner to this punch, I remind him that the
immediate topic of James is
justification, a declaration as defined above, not the salvation which I am affirming
in my proposition. Though he may feel an urge to blur the distinction between
justification and salvation (as with the translation and interpretation of eis in Acts ), I choose to follow the grammatico-historical method
of interpretation by observing the finer nuances of key biblical concepts. Henceforth,
if Mr. Turner will submit himself to the finer distinctions of systematic
theology, he must remain silent from arguing James 2:24 against my proposition
since this would introduce irrelevant material to our debate. A “red herring”
if you will.
Though Scripture never states that salvation is by grace
through faith alone in so many words, the concept is certainly to be found. And
if Mr. Turner is apt to deny sola fide
on these grounds, I caution his approach because the same argument makes for a strong
refutation of Trinity, which neither
he nor I wish to suggest.
The concept of faith alone appears in Scripture with a
frequency exponentially higher than the distortions in favor of sacramental
baptism. Though I have never counted, it has been suggested that some 200 verses
in the New Testament address salvation or its accompanying blessings directly
to faith alone, irrespective of mention to water baptism. I cite this because
of the audacity some have to confuse a few verses about baptism while turning a
blind eye to the hundreds of verses that link salvation directly to faith apart
from baptism. This is exegetical ludicrous and results in spiritual suicide
(cf. Galaltians 1:6-9).
In the following survey, faith appears alone as the sole
condition for the reception of salvation or its attendant blessings. Hence, the
concept that salvation is by “faith only” because faith is the ONLY condition
Luke 7:50: And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go
John 1:12: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right
to become children of God, even to
those who believe in His name.
John 3:14-15: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him
have eternal life.”
John 3:18: “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not
believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the
only begotten Son of God.”
John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he
who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on
John 5:24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and
believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment,
but has passed out of death into life.”
John 5:38: “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do
not believe Him whom He sent.”
John 6:40: “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who
beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will
raise him up on the last day.”
John 6:35: Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who
comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”
John 7:38: “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From
his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”
John 11:25-26: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the
life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives
and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”[To this question “Do you believe this?”
Mr. Turner must answer “No!”]
John 20:30-31: Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in
the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these
have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of
God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
Romans 1:16: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the
power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also
to the Greek.
Romans 1:17: For in it the
righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written,
“But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
Romans 3:21-22: But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by
the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness
of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no
Romans 4:11: And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of
the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he
might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that
righteousness might be credited to them.
Romans 10:9: That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart
that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
1 Corinthians 15:2: By which [gospel] also you are saved, if you
hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
Galatians 3:2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you:
did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
Galatians 3:24: Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may
be justified by faith.
Galatians 3:26: For you are all sons of God through faith in
1 John 5:1: Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of
God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.
1 John 5:5: Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who
believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
For the sake of words I am allotted, I must move on and
leave out countless more passages addressing this theme. My purpose above is
not to suggest my view is correct because I have more Bible verses than Mr.
Turner does for baptism. Rather the point should raise a red flag at the
suggestion that baptism is a condition for salvation as we clearly know faith
is. If baptism and faith were on equal leverage
for salvation, then why does the New Testament have so much more to say about the
importance of faith than baptism? Hebrews 11 is the “Faith Hall of Fame.” Where
is the “Baptism Hall of Fame” to be found in Scripture?
This much is obvious: the scale is unevenly tilted toward
the side of faith only.
If I were a Campbellite, it would greatly disturb me having
to eisegete baptism into every text like John 3:16 and Romans 1:16 which do not
address the issue at all. Every statement of “whosoever” and “all” in the above
plethora of verses must be qualified to mean “whosoever [is baptized]” and “all
[who are baptized].” And then “believe” inevitably means “believe + baptism.” To
hold my opponent’s view would give me the hermeneutical heebie-jeebies!
How could anybody miss the point of sola fide when the Bible speaks so much to the topic? The only
answer I can think of is 2 Corinthians 4:3-4:
And even if our gospel is veiled,
it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world
has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light
of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The Right Perspective on Salvation, Faith, & Works
Whereas faith is frequently alone as the sole condition for
receiving salvation, the same concept receives more strength upon examining the
biblical perspective of faith and works in reference to salvation. The Apostle
provides the relationship of all three:
Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves, it is the
gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Is salvation by works? No.
Why not? God does not
want people to boast.
Is salvation through faith? Yes.
Does Keith Saare proclaim salvation through faith? Yes.
If salvation is through faith, not as a result of works, does
this mean faith stands alone? Absolutely.
I am amazed how simple it is to walk through Ephesians 2:8-9
and see the logic unfold. The proposition I defend states this: “The New Testament Scriptures teach that
unregenerated sinners are saved by grace through faith alone, before and
without water baptism.” A side-by-side comparison of my proposition and
Ephesians 2:8-9 is convincing:
In other words, MY
PROPOSITION IS EPHESIANS 2:8-9.
The question to the
relationship between works and salvation is resolved by Ephesians only after the efficacy of works is
explicitly denied by Ephesians 2:9. Scripture states, “For we are His
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared
beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians ). Wherefore, one is not saved by doing good works
(Ephesians 2:8-9), but one does good works because he is saved (Ephesians ), a scriptural principle Mr. Turner must
deny by virtue of his responsibility against this proposition.
It is interesting to note that biblical Christianity is the
only form of “Christianity” in which salvation is 100% free. (See Philippians and Acts 11:18—even faith and repentance are
freely bestowed by God!) All other religions affirm meritorious efforts that
one must exert to achieve some form of salvation or enlightenment. Mormons,
Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics, etc., all teach salvation by works
or sacraments, and so does Mr. Turner with his view of baptismal regeneration. Sad
to say, he is in a poor company of apostate religions by the nature of his
soteriology. My proposition, however, sets me apart from working one’s way into
Heaven as though it could be earned. Christianity is an exclusive religion
(John 14:6), and so is the soteriology I affirm because of its truly unique
message against meritorious works.
“For the wages of sin is death, but
the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans ).
A “free gift” ought to mean something against works. Do you not agree, Mr. Turner?
Paul and James Fighting Back-to-Back
To sustain this
proposition, it is imperative for me to harmonize Romans 4:1-8 and James
2:14-26. Though Mr. Turner should know the differences between salvation,
justification, sanctification, etc., it is possible the readers may not. For
this reason, I am willing to address James and Paul with further clarity to
assist our reading audience rather than for Mr. Turner’s sake.
Though he should
know better, Mr. Turner will undoubtedly seek to refute my proposition with James,
but at the expense of harmonizing with Paul. Because the Bible is a coherent
book, sola fide fits in quite well with James’ emphasis on works. The
Protestant Reformers were fond of saying that one is saved by faith alone, but
it is the kind of faith that is not alone which saves. Interesting paradox, but
it is precisely what Ephesians 2:8-10 taken as a whole teaches.
(For those familiar
with the issue, I accept what is loosely termed “Lordship Salvation” as opposed
to “Easy Believism.” By my view in favor of Lordship Salvation, I find it quite
simple to reconcile James and Paul while avoiding Mr. Turner’s sacramentalism
as an alternative to sola fide.)
the following paradox:
Romans 4:1-5: What then shall we say that Abraham, our
forefather according to the flesh, has found?For if Abraham was
justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For
what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM
BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." Now to
the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the
ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.
James 2:14-26: What use is
it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that
faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily
food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be
filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so
faith, if it has no works, is dead, being
by itself. But someone may well
say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without
the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." You believe that God
is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder…. For just as the
body without the spirit is
dead, so also faith without works is dead.
To state it simply, Paul and James stand back-to-back fighting
different battles. Paul, elaborating on Ephesians 2:8-9, is combating those who
believe one must work in order to gain righteousness. James, elaborating on
Ephesians , is combating those
who deny that works accompany one after gaining righteousness. The matter is
quite simple to harmonize, and a few more observations help sustain my
First, according to Paul there is a distinction between
faith and works; faith is not a work at all: “But to the one who does not work,
but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as
righteousness” (Romans 4:5). Simple enough. Jesus conversing with a crowd of
followers declared in John 6:29b: “This
is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” However, let not
my opponent take comfort in this, for Jesus was merely making a pun to communicate
that salvation is entirely free and that outward rituals were not required by
God for entrance into Heaven. If Romans 4:5 were not clear enough to distinguish
faith and works, there is still Ephesians 2:8-9 in which salvation is also
through faith but not by works. Hence, logic forbids faith for being a work in
a strict literal sense.
Secondly, James seems to have the idea of philanthropy in
mind when declaring that man is justified by works. He shows no concern for
baptism per se as a prerequisite for
salvation, but he does stress the importance of giving food and clothing to
those in need (James 2:15-16). I think Mr. Turner would agree that the works
James discusses by example do not fit his watery gospel of baptismal
regeneration. Since baptism is absent in the context of James 2, one must
eisegete it in if he wishes to view James 2 as supporting baptismal
My final point for now, grammatically it is impossible to
refute my proposition by James’ emphasis on works. He speaks in the second
person when saying “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith
alone” (James ). That is, the reader, not God, is the one who observes the justification of others by
their works. Since nobody has “radar eyes” to look at the condition of a
person’s heart, the only indication of genuine faith is the works that the
professed believer produces. Someone who says he is a Christian, but lives like
the devil, is not to be trusted as possessing genuine salvation.
“Has” or “Has Not”?
Throughout this debate so far, there has been a deafening
silence from Mr. Turner in not addressing the present active indicatives in
passages applying salvation blessings directly to the individual who believes
only. I have made the observation several times that since belief comes before
baptism, salvation likewise must come before baptism. Like John which I previously exegeted, a literal
interpretation of John is
devastating to those who disagree with my view of “faith only.”
John 6:47: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has
eternal life” (emphasis mine, note the present tense verb).
I envision this conversation taking place:
Mr. Saare: “Mr. Turner, do you
agree that believing begins before baptism?”
Mr. Turner: “Yes, I do, but….”
Excuses, excuses. The only view the grammatico-historical
method supports in this regard is mine.
John 3:5 and “Born of Water”
At this point, let me back up and recount our dealings with
John 3:5 during our debate. In Mr. Turner’s first affirmative for the first
proposition, he simply referenced the verse as supporting his view in favor of
baptismal regeneration, yet he completely neglected to exegete the passage or
explain why “born of water” means
baptism. The reader will notice a deafening silence to the matter in his
treatment of John 3:5:
…Jesus taught that unless one is
“born again” he cannot see the kingdom
of God. Perplexed, Nicodemus asked,
“How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter again into his mother’s
womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is
born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom
of God.”Therefore, the new birth or born again
experience of which Jesus referred involved both water and the Spirit.
Hence, if Jesus is here referring to baptism, and I hope to demonstrate that He
was, then being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
involved not just the water of baptism but the Holy Spirit, as well.
Clearly Mr. Turner
has a knack for jumping to conclusions. He interprets without exegeting. Afterwards
he made no attempt to demonstrate the matter in spite of his blurb “and I hope
to demonstrate that He was.” If the reader reviews the context of John 3:5, he
will notice that baptism is nowhere mentioned in the entire discourse Jesus had
with Nicodemus, unless one is prone to eisegete it in. In fact the next time
baptism is mentioned by John is in a whole different
context which points forward to an entirely different
narrative rather than to Jesus’
discussion with Nicodemus (vide John
3:22-4:3). Additionally, we must remember that Jesus baptized nobody per John
4:2, yet He is the Savior of the world. Wherefore baptism must not be part of
the salvation process in a like manner that it is not listed as an element of
the gospel outlined by 1 Corinthians 15:1-5:
Now I make known to you, brethren,
the gospel which I preached to you… that Christ died for our sins according to
the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the
The silence of baptism not being mentioned in 1 Corinthians
15:1-5 is excruciating to Mr. Turner, and so he must shun this passage as
though it did not exist.
For good exegetical reasons in John 3:5, I am convinced that
“born of water” is clarified as being nothing other than “born of the Spirit,”
so that water is the emblem of the Spirit. It is John’s custom to equate water
and the Spirit in figurative language, such as in the next chapter of his
John 4:13-14: Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks
of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will
give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in
him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
At least in John 4:13-14, water does not make a very clear
picture for baptism. Could it be the Holy Spirit? A later direct statement
seems to say yes:
John 7:38-39b: “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From
his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But thisHe
spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive
Even the Old Testament contains similar imagery. Note the
Hebrew parallelism in Isaiah 44:3:
For I will
pour out water on the thirsty land
And streams on the
I will pour out My Spirit on your
And My blessing on
The exegete of the Greek text will have no problems seeing
the affinity that water and Spirit share in John 3:5. There is one preposition
performing duty for two substantives, joined by single conjunction: ex hudatos kai pneumatos. The syntax in
an of itself does not necessarily suggest that water is the Spirit; alone it is
not strong enough to be definitive. But it is a possibility and certainly leans
in this direction nonetheless. If water and Spirit do stand in apposition
meaning the same thing, two acceptable interpretations showing the crescendo
effect of the Greek text would be:
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I
say to you, unless one is born of water—in particular the Spirit—he cannot
enter into the kingdom of God.”
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I
say to you, unless one is born of water, even the Spirit, he cannot enter into
the kingdom of God.”
The function of kai
possibly meaning “even” or “in particular” is so well known that the matter is
beyond debate. Nobody disputes this, not even Mr. Turner! But the question at
hand is this: Does the context lend
support to this idea for John 3:5? Indeed it does, and I have already listed
two reasons from the syntax and surrounding context of John’s gospel in
chapters four and seven. But there is more evidence in the immediate context to
settle the matter in my favor.
It is significant to note that the reference to “water” from
verse 5 is immediately dropped and the role of the Spirit alone is developed in
the following statements. According to John 3:8, “The wind blows where it
wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and
where it is going; so is everyone who is
born of the Spirit” (emphasis mine). Here there is not water mentioned
because Jesus assumes it to be one and the same with “Spirit,” such can be
expected according to my view. As John Calvin observed:
By “water,” therefore, is meant
simply the inward purification and quickening of the Holy Spirit. Nor is it
unusual to employ the word and
explanatorily when the latter clause is an explanation of the former. And the
context supports me too; for when Christ at once adds the reason why we must be
born again He shows without mentioning water how the newness of life which He
requires comes from the Spirit alone. Whence it follows that water must not be separated from the Spirit.
When Nicodemus asked the question “How can these things
be?”, Jesus went on to explain, not by baptism, but by mentioning faith alone: John
3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Hence John
3:5 is definitive in affirming faith alone. My proposition is sustained by the
words of the Lord Himself.
Let us see if Mr. Turner will believe what Jesus Christ has