The Monstrosity of a Faith that is Alone

I am currently reading John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied published in 1955 by Eerdmans Publishing Company. This little book (180 pages) is an amazing dissertation on the meaning of the atonement, how it was accomplished, and how it is applied to sinful man. Murray, a Scottish theologian who died in 1975, spent most of his career at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

In Part 2 of this book, Murray explains what he sees as a Biblical sequence, or order, of application of redemption. I highly recommend this little book.

He walks the reader through each of these sequential steps and explains how one follows the other with Biblical evidence. I was particularly struck with this section in the chapter under Justification and wanted to share with you and explain it further.

Quoted from page 131: “It is an old and time-worn objection that this doctrine ministers to license and looseness (he is speaking of the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone). Only those who know not the power of the gospel will plead such misconception. Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.”

This is an argument we often hear and Murray challenges it strongly by claiming those who make this claim do not know the power of the gospel. Those who say that justification by faith alone will lead to a life of looseness, continued living in sin, and an attitude of living free have a point, but it is short sided in that they do not know how this same justifying faith powerfully changes the person.

Continuing with his quote: “Justification is not all that is embraced in the gospel of redeeming grace. Christ is a complete Savior and it is not justification alone that the believing sinner possesses in him. And faith is not the only response in the heart of him who has entrusted himself to Christ for salvation.”

So, the believer puts his faith and trust in Christ and then he is done?

Is he complete? Is his work finished or is more expected? Is there more to the story?

Murray points to the fact that there is more to the response of faith than just believing.

Will we go on sinning? Or will our lives be different?

Our faith cannot be alone, there must be a response of holiness and works of the faith along with their belief (James 2:17-20). But then does that mean we are saved by works? Not even close.

Continuing with the quote: “Faith alone justifies but a justified person with faith alone would be a monstrosity which never exists in the kingdom of grace. Faith works itself out through love (Gal. 5:6). And Faith without works is dead (James 2:17-20).”

The so called believer who has faith without works is a MONSTROSITY that can’t exist in the kingdom. Faith comes with works. Fruit will follow faith.

Are we without the response of holiness, service, and works of the faith?

Are we a deformed monster that is not actually part of the kingdom since faith cannot exist alone?

Are we living a lie?

Has there been a fruitful response to our belief?

More from Murray: “It is living faith that justifies and living faith unites to Christ both in the virtue of his death and in the power of his resurrection. No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for deliverance from the power of sin. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”

Wow, do you hear that? No one has entrusted themselves to the deliverance of the GUILT of sin (i.e. forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ) who has not also entrusted themselves to the POWER OVER SIN…or in other terms the power given to us through our faith to NOT SIN. This is awesome. Shall we live in sin then since we are free not to? God forbid! Let it not be so! We must embrace and trust the power we have over sin that comes with our faith and justification in the eyes of God. Because we have faith we will fight the temptations that come and we will wage good warfare against sin (1 Tim 1:18-19). We will also love others, serve others, die to self, and give sacrificially because of our faith. We possess these things as an integral part of our faith. It is the natural response to our faith.

Examine yourself as I examine myself. Are we mutant Christians who have a dead faith because it is without works? Are you a monstrosity in the kingdom of God?

21 thoughts on “The Monstrosity of a Faith that is Alone

  1. Amen and amen! I made this point at a friend’s “memorial service” at my old big-box church. I’ve been grieved by the number of people in the “Free Grace” movement teach one can be born again and made a new creature in Christ and NOT BE CHANGED unless man disciples you. I warn people that they’ve prayed a prayer but see no growing hunger for Christ and no growing hatred for sin, they have NO reason to believe they are in Christ. For He can not leave one at peace with sin if His Spirit abides in ye!

    Professing saint of the living God – Is there ANY evidence that the Spirit that raised Christ from the grace abides in you? Cry out to the Lord for mercy and grace – that you might be saved yet.


  2. Many fail to comprehend how someone who is saved by faith alone won’t live a life of sinful indulgence. It’s because they fail to understand that one who is truly born again (by faith alone) is dead to sin and it’s Christ that now lives in him. We then hate what God hates, and love what God loves.

    In light of this post, this may be of further interest to you:

    – Pilgrim

    P.S. I love the picture. It will probably go down as one of the top 10 DefCon post pics. Classic.


  3. shane – “free grace” that leaves one comfortable with sin is truly free: free from the power of salvation. Saving grace is quite costly – causing the Lamb of God to be subject to the wrath of God the Father as payment for the sins of the elect. Those who preach “free grace” are in serious error and deny the power of God in redemption.


  4. I like Paul Washer’s analogy of being hit by a log truck. I don’t have a link for it but I heard him use it in a couple of sermons. It should be easy to find.
    I know I will be glad when I don’t have to battle sin any longer.


  5. shane – you mean this?

    “Paul Washer’s analogy of the logging truck: if I told you I was hit by an 18 wheeler logging truck five minutes ago, you’d expect to see evidence (like a grill imprinted across my forehead). When you encounter the holiness of God, His righteous demands, the person and work of Christ, it is a life changing deal (2 Cor. 5:17).”

    Yeah – that’s good!


  6. shane,

    i have enough trouble fitting in 1 blog, let alone a blog war! 🙂 I love Paul Washer’s take on getting hit by a truck as well. you will never be the same. Sadly, i think the issue of justification by faith alone in this culture is a Lordship issue. People want the fire insurance (i.e. to avoid hell), but they don’t want accountability to the Holy God that created them.

    I praise God that he justifies by faith alone because if I had to show up with my rotten festering foul stinky inadequate sinful works, I’d be doomed.


  7. I admit that lordship salvation is tough. I am at war with my flesh constantly and it usually gets the better of me. But if Harold Camping is right I won’t have to fight with it much longer : )

    I thank God for conviction and the battle though, it helps me in knowing that I am His.


  8. Shane,
    I would not recommend expreacherman’s blog, he strongly criticizes John MacArthur and Paul Washer, he is on the ‘lordship salvation’ bandwagon.(
    Folks who refuse to properly understand full submission to Christ in every area of their lives as well as His authority over them are the ones who falsely accuse men like MacArthur of teaching false doctrine. Pride is usually the root cause of such thinking.
    This guy also says MacArthur’s new book is apostate ( This guy is not biblically sound at all.

    Here is his own words…My greatest problem with the book was that the author, MacArthur, took the ancient images of slavery and superimposed them onto modern Christianity with the intent to create the notion that our normative relationship with God and our service to God should be that of a slave to a master, instead of that of a child of God responding out of love and gratitude to an omnibenevolent (all loving) Father God. Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba,” Father.”
    With this slave-to-master representation set into place, the author proceeded to promote his standard lordship salvation doctrine dressed in new clothes, slave garb. He even used much of the same argumentation that he used in “The Gospel According to Jesus.” And, once again, he freely denigrated and caricaturized Free Grace theology, especially in chapter five.
    Recommended reading: “The Grace Awakening,” by Charles Swindoll
    …from ‘expreacherman’
    The fact that he recommends a book by Swindoll is telling; this guy seems to have a shallow understanding of the attributes of God, which may be why he is an ‘ex preacher’.



  9. Yes I have been debating with ExP for the last few days. I am left somewhat bewildered by his answers as he is probably left bewildered by mine. I will give some of the “free gracer’s” the benefit of the doubt. I honestly believe some of them have good intentions because they are worried about having a works salvation but I could be wrong. They like to bring up the “carnal Christian” doctrine a lot. I agree that we as Christians can act carnal but there will definitely be a marked change in a Christian no matter how small and a true Christian cannot continue to live as the unconverted.
    I did find it amusing that as a Calvinist, I wish there were a different term, perhaps monergist would be better, I was accused of promoting works salvation. Kind of ironic I think. Especially when with the synergist/Arminian is up to the individual to perform something in order to be saved.


  10. Shane,
    To call MacArthur’s book apostate is over the top. Those who see God as all loving and themselves as having free will and free grace have a shallow understanding of His word; again, I suspect pride is the culprit for such views. There will be evidence of salvation manifested in a changed life and there will be full submission to Christ as Lord, Master and Savior. It is essential for the believer to walk humbly with his God for without humility, who can comprehend grace?
    It seems a great waste of time to debate those who are cemented in their free will free grace theology, only God can open the understanding of His truth and pour it into the minds of His children as we study His word. I think it’s frightening if one trusts his salvation to his choice/decision/inviting Jesus into his heart and neglects the proper understanding of grace as well as salvation being God’s gift. The key verses revealing this truth are found in Ephesians 2:8-9. You just cannot find any man-made work anywhere in those verses: God gets full credit and attributes it to His grace.


  11. I would give some of them the benefit to the doubt because of ignorance but it concerns me when someone is shown the truth from Scripture and they blatantly reject it and will not even consider it. It sounds a little like the Pharisees to me when that is the case. Pride is a dangerous thing, it gets the better of me from time to time. Hopefully someone will read some of my points over there and consider if what they believe is Scriptural.
    But if someone will reject MacArthur and Washer I don’t see my feeble points and arguments doing any better at convincing them : )

    I will say this that as I began to study the doctrines of grace I began to see myself as an even greater sinner than I thought I was. It truly gave me a deeper and greater appreciation for the work of Jesus and it gave me a sense of gratefulness. I think prideful men do not want to see themselves as the sinners they really are.

    I also wanted to ask everyone a question. What is your belief of what good works are?
    I have always believed it is what James mentions in James2. Such as helping the needy or basically anything that shows proof of a changed life.


  12. shane,
    James tells us that “pure and undefiled religion is this: to care for orphans and widows and keep one’s self unstained by the world.” So that part is “good works” – but not the totality of them. For the Bible has much to say about what is good and pleasing in God’s sight – and everything that is good and pleasing to the Lord is a good work. Such as rightly preaching His Word, building up the saints in their faith, rebuking a false teacher, praising God for His own sake, etc.

    One thing to bear in mind – the passage in Matthew 25 about visiting people in prison, etc. speaks about the care of brothers and sisters in Christ, not lost people. When we “give a cup of cool water in Christ’s name” to a lost person, we had better tell them who Christ is – else it is no good work.


  13. Shane,
    You say “I will say this that as I began to study the doctrines of grace I began to see myself as an even greater sinner than I thought I was. It truly gave me a deeper and greater appreciation for the work of Jesus and it gave me a sense of gratefulness.”…Amen! That is what a proper understanding of grace does, it develops a deep sense of gratitude, we are all so vile and wicked and definitely not worth saving- praise God for grace made available thru Christ our Lord.



  14. all, there are some important aspects of what good works are all about…definitely what Manfred mentions and the passages in James. I also consider Galatians 5:16-26 as a good description. Paul compares works of the flesh to works of the spirit, or fruit of the spirit. Good works is fruit. here is the passage:

    “16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

    You can see the massive gorge between the works of the flesh and works of the spirit. The life of a disciple of Christ will have fruit of the spirit evident. Which means in the contrary case, no fruit…no spirit.

    For encouragement though, we must remember that we are powerless to bear fruit on our own. we must abide in Christ and he will bear the fruit in our life. Look at John 15:1-16:


    “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”

    Only through abiding in Christ can we bear fruit, which are good works, which is the proper response to our justification . It is all Christ all the time. We need to just ABIDE in HIM!


  15. ………..July 4 2007……………….In his book Faith Alone on page 156 Reformed scholar R.C. Sproul wrote Justification is by faith alone but not by faith that is alone. Saving faith is not a lonely faith having no works following as companion. He is not the first who made similar claim Luther wrote Works are necessary for salvation but they do not cause salvation for faith alone gives life. What Luther says page 1509 . Works in both Sproul and Luther statement refers to those we do in our Sanctification after we become follower of or believers in Christ. The question is why call it Justification by faith alone if it is not by faith that is alone? If works are necessary for salvation as Luther stated then we are not saved by faith alone. The fact that faith in Christ it means Justification to Protestants and Bible only Christians and Sanctification are inseparable was also acknowledged by other Reformer John Calvin who wrote justification and sanctification which we perceive to be united together in him Christ are inseparable Institute of Christian Religion III.11.6 page 449 . What is Catholic position? The Catholic Church declares that Justification includes remission of sins sanctification and the renewal of the inner man Catechism of the Catholic Church 2019 ..Not all Protestants and Bible only Christians agree with the concept salvation by faith alone but not by faith that is alone . In the same book Faith Alone page 25 Sproul wrote that Protestants are divided into two groups on the issue of whether saving faith necessarily produces the work of obedience or regeneration of believers. The first group which he belongs to so did Luther and Calvin believes that true saving faith must necessarily and inevitably yield work of obedience. The second group believes that faith should but not always produce work of obedience. The first group accuses the second to follow a form of antinomianism while the second accuses the first of adding works to faith as condition of salvation i.e. it is no longer salvation by faith alone and they are right . Both groups accuse each other of preaching another gospel condemned by Paul in Galatians 1 8…


  16. business review,

    I’ll direct you back to John Murray’s quote that i started with:

    “It is an old and time-worn objection that this doctrine ministers to license and looseness (he is speaking of the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone). Only those who know not the power of the gospel will plead such misconception.”

    Murray makes the case that those who make the claim of license or looseness don’t understand the power of the gospel. I agree 100%. Justification is by faith alone…but faith in what? Believing that Christ went to the cross obediently, died there, became the sins of the elect, took the wrath of the Father for those sins, completed the penalty for those sins by propitiating the wrath, leaving the believer (elect) no longer guilty…and thus “justified” in legal language. Belief in this is a gift from God. He gives us the joyous gift of faith and those who have faith are justified (i.e. not guilty of those sins). it is a position before God that comes with our faith or our faith comes with our position (justified) before God.

    Therefore our actions can’t affect our position before God. Those redeemed through Christ work on the cross do not have power over God through their actions or behavior or whatever to create this positioning or affect it or lose it. It is by God’s good pleasure to change hearts, give the gift of faith to his children as he chooses. So, justification is by faith alone. There is nothing that can change it. works will not change our justification. lack of works will not change our justification.

    so, why say faith without works is dead? because fruit of the spirit (works) is the evidence of a changed soul. you will not have a justified, redeemed, believer who does not exhibit fruit of the spirit. This is a monstrosity. This would be a mutant Christian that DOES NOT EXIST in the Kingdom of God. It does not exist. God does the justifying, he also bears the fruit. To say a christian could be without fruit is to call God a liar. (John 15 above)

    The legalist and the antinomialist are both wrong because they are focusing on what man is doing. Legalism is a sin, antinomialism is a sin and both remove God from the equation. the true believe bears the fruit of the spirit because he abides in Christ and is justified by faith not by his own doing and he is grateful, excited, obedient, and loves, loves, loves his savior and is an ambassador to this good news.


  17. There is stated opinion by authority that differs from you conjecture.
    “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13 This authority also states that a law has been added to the law after Jesus’ crucifixion.


  18. The fact that believers obey the law is evidence they are righteous. Salvation is not based on a work, Ephesians 2:8-9 says so, ‘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.’

    Galatians 2:16 reminds us about works salvation, ‘nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.’

    Romans 11:6 stresses the importance of grace alone in salvation, ‘But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.’

    And there’s this from 2 Timothy 1:8-9, ‘Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity’.

    Grace is an all but forgotten doctrine in many churches, yet it is key in the saving of sinners.

    Galatians 3:10 clarifies law, ‘For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” verse 11 ‘Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”

    The works believers come after salvation and are wrought by God, ‘For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.’ Ephesians 2:10


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