Christian Faith Part 4: The Real Problem with the Faith Plus Nothing Debate

Is it possible to have faith in Jesus and experience nothing added to our life? No turning our life around and attempting to live more uprightly? No studying the scriptures? No friendships with other believers? No seeking a relationship with Jesus? No trust in God during hard times?

It seems like a ridiculous notion, doesn’t it?

So then, why is it taught? Why are many told that faith plus nothing equals salvation?

Maybe this is an attempt at graciousness that understands the sinful state of man and the dependence we have on Jesus for our salvation. We approach Jesus humbly, knowing that there is nothing we have to offer in return for our salvation. There is no work we can add to our faith that makes us worthy.

Very true.

However, some see this faith-plus-nothing teaching as a loophole that can be used to dismiss sinfulness or discourage people from seeking Jesus for healing from sinful struggles. Some see this as a dismissal of the Holy Spirit and gifts of the Spirit.

Before long, those who teach faith-plus-nothing are accused of teaching a doctrine of devils and leading people astray into unfruitful faith. Before long, those who encourage righteousness through aid of the Holy Spirit are accused of works-based salvation teaching.

What we really have here is a communication and perspective issue.

No sincere and dedicated Christian expects to live a life unchanged after committing themselves to Jesus.

Those who teach faith-plus-nothing humbly understand their dependence on Jesus for all things. We are saved by faith, and they cling to that. Why do they cling to that? It has to do with the Charismatic movement and the Holiness movement.

There are Christians who believe that the Holy Spirit will come and make us free from all sin in a literal and tangible way. They teach that those who have the Holy Spirit do not sin. If they continue to sin, then they are not saved and they will not inherit eternal life.

When faced with this opposition, it is natural that Protestant denominations would choose to focus most on grace and faith alone. It makes sense.

However, there are problems with both points of view. There are accuracies also.

Take the Holiness, Charismatic Christian point of view. It is true that we should receive something from our faith. We should pursue the gifts of God given of the Holy Spirit, and righteousness is a fruit of our salvation that comes through faith. So, the notion of faith plus nothing does not add up.

However, claiming to live without the capacity for sin is problematic. There are scriptures that encourage righteousness and even state that those who are born of God do not sin. Even so, we can become tempted. We can find ourselves sinning in a new way.

We are to be vigilant and know that we always need more from the Spirit. We can always grow. We do not want to be stagnant in our faith.

Now, take the Protestant, faith-plus-nothing point of view. It is true that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. Salvation is by grace, not the works of man. We can never be good enough to earn salvation.

On the surface, a faith-plus-nothing teaching is unfruitful and does not consider the many scriptures that teach to the contrary. This can seem very misleading and there are those who use this teaching to discourage people from growing in righteousness or use grace and the forgiveness of sin as a cop-out for living sinfully.

We are to be vigilant and know that we always need more from Jesus and we can always grow. We do not want to be stagnant in our faith.

Do you see? The outcomes of both teachings are the same.

They both lead to accusation of our brethren. They both lead to potential for stagnancy in the faith.

Here is the reality of it.

Faith is a gift from God. When we receive faith, we get to know Jesus and our lives are changed in proportion to the faith we were given. So long as we are alive, we have time and room to grow in the faith. We are pursuing the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus is our Way. We come to know Him and through the Holy Spirit we are changed. However, we can be tempted to sin or have a sin struggle that we are blind to. We should always look at our state honestly and seek Jesus for more growth.

As for the Holy Spirit, some receive the Holy Spirit in a very profound way. For some the Holy Spirit is a still small voice. It does not have to be just one way. What matters are the fruits—and no one can truly have faith in Jesus without fruitfulness.

Yes. There are warnings in the scripture of unfruitful and dead faith. There are those who will fulfill those scriptures. We will get to that in the next article and we will consider how these scriptures might be useful to us. However, that is not what matters most for us who believe.

What matters most is to look deeply at our own beliefs and our own flaws. Maybe we are allowing things to get in the way.

Our pride makes us resistant to accountability for our sin, so we either claim perfection or we say faith plus nothing and excuse our sin. Our trust in religious leaders and fear of following wrong teachings blinds us to what is true and hinders us from seeking Jesus above the establishment Christian denominations or sects.

Faith-plus-nothing does not exist. Neither are we required to perform works as a requirement for salvation. Faith produces many good works because it is the working of Jesus within us, however we should not claim to be holy and perfected. Only God is Holy and Perfect.

We need to stop accusing one another. We need to understand one another and come to a more well-rounded view.

Protestants accuse Charismatics and Holiness sects of works-based salvation, of being mentally ill or faking spiritual experiences, and of being holier-than-thou. Some say they are not Christian. They believe that they teach the truth while other denominations are cults. Some justify some sins while focusing on others.

Charismatics and Holiness sects accuse Protestants of being lazy in their faith and leading people to damnation with their teachings. Some say they are not really Christians—or go so far as to call them part of the Great Whore. They believe that they are the real Christians. They teach the truth. They have the Spirit and do not sin.

Both accuse. Both proudly think they are the right ones. Both are missing out on getting more from the faith because they think they know it all already. THESE are the problems that both have in common.

Don’t let pet doctrine, fear, and pride get in the way of a better understanding. It’s so easy to do, but we are called away from this.

I did not intend for the article to go this way. I was going to point out scriptures that warn us of dead, unfruitful faith. Maybe in the next article we will look at those verses, however, I do not see them in the same light as I did moments ago. What you read is an in-the-moment thought process I experienced when I sat down to write the article. I know there are redundancies and maybe this article is not so clear, but I want to leave it as is.

I realize that I did not touch on Catholicism. My experience has been between Protestantism and Charismatic denominations. Maybe there will be more to say later on this.

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