The Basic Error of the Protestant Reformation
We judge a tree by its fruit. In most ways great good has come from the Protestant Reformation. If we look at the countries where it flourished and compare them with the countries that clung to the old way, we can see what a good thing it was.
If the Reformers had lived up to their two great slogans, then the history of the religious world would have been different. Here are the two great slogans that were adopted by the Reformers:
THE UNIVERSAL PRIESTHOOD OF THE BELIEVER
THE BIBLE THE FAITH OF THE PROTESTANT
But these noble slogans have been left far behind because today various Protestant denominations are as priest-bound and creed-bound as the Catholic church which they were trying to reform.
The very word REFORMATION is a mistake. It assumes that the Catholic Church was the church and it needed to be cleaned up. A candid perusal of the Bible will show that the Catholic Church is not the church of the Bible and no part of the church of the Bible. It is built on the traditions of men. Jesus described them exactly in Matthew 15:8,9. We have but to look at their doctrine and practices to see how true this is.
The errors of the Protestant world are borrowed largely from the Catholics: infant baptism, sprinkling for immersion, calling men "Reverend," a name that belongs only to God (Psalms 11:9).
However, the most serious error of Protestantism was not borrowed from the Catholics but came in opposition to the Catholic teaching that a man could be saved by the works of the church as prescribed by the church, regardless of what the Bible taught. The Protestants rightly taught that a man is saved by faith in Christ Jesus (John 3:16). We are not saved by the work of the law (Romans 3:28). We are not saved by our own righteousness (Titus 3:5). But men erroneously came to the conclusion that we are saved by faith ALONE.
One of the popular creeds of the Protestant world says: "Faith alone is a very wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort." The Bible does not so teach. The Bible teaches that a man must believe in the person of Christ (John 8:24). He must believe in the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). When we reject the Word of Christ, we reject Christ: "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my saying hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day (John 12:48). To this we add: "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ hath not God, but he that abideth in the teaching hath both the Father and the Son" (II John 9).
We are saved by faith in Christ, but we are saved by an obedient faith (Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26; John 3:36). The Holy Spirit says PLAINLY that Jesus saves those who obey: "And having been made perfect he became unto all THEM THAT OBEY HIM the author of eternal salvation" (Hebrews 5:9). The whole Bible shows that God accepted man only through an obedient faith. To this there is no exception, from Abel to Paul. The Bible says that they that are of the faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham (Galatians 3:9). Abraham was blessed when he obeyed the voice of God AND NOT BEFORE: "And the angel of Jehovah called unto Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said, by myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessings I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thee as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies and in thy seed [that seed was Christ: Galatians 3:16] shall all nations of the earth be blessed because thou hast obeyed my voice" (Genesis 22:16-18). Abraham was blessed when he obeyed. The blessing came AFTER the obedience. We are blessed with the faithful Abraham. How can anyone say we are saved by FAITH ALONE, when the Bible from beginning to end testified that man is saved by an OBEDIENT faith?
In holding to this erroneous doctrine of justification by faith alone, men have rejected the plain teaching of the Word of God: that we are saved by an obedient faith. When one accepts the plain teaching of God's Word then he does not need to reject Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." He does not need to reject the plain teaching of the Holy Spirit: "And Peter said unto them, repent ye and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Judge a tree by its fruit. The doctrine of justification by FAITH ALONE causes man to reject these two Scriptures and many others. To accept the Bible teaching of justification by an obedient faith, one can accept these verses without question AND ALL OTHER SCRIPTURES THAT CALL UPON MAN TO BELIEVE AND OBEY.
The faith that was once for all delivered to the saints was an obedient faith, as is demonstrated hundreds of times in the Word of God. The devils believe but they are not saved FOR THEY DO NOT HAVE AN OBEDIENT FAITH (James 2:19).
We are all saved by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26). This faith causes us to be baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27). Salvation is IN CHRIST (Acts 4:12). We are in Christ by an obedient faith. Salvation is there and only there.
Let us give up the human doctrine of justification by FAITH ALONE. It is one of the traditions of men (Matthew 15:8,9). It is an old tradition that has been believed by millions of good people since the very beginning of the Protestant Reformation. BUT JUSTIFICATION BY AN OBEDIENT FAITH IS AS OLD AS THE BIBLE ITSELF.
"Choose you this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house," we shall accept the Bible doctrine of justification by an obedient faith (Hebrews 5:9).
J.C. Bailey (1986, Bengough, Saskatchewan)
Published in The Old Paths Archive