Back in the 1980s, it was common knowledge and teaching within the SDA church that we are saved by “grace through faith” [Ephesians 2: 8-9] and that “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” [James 2:24]. At the same time outside the SDA church, it was common knowledge and teaching within the vast majority of mainstream Christian churches that they are saved by “faith alone”.
At first glance, this looked more like a meaningless play on words and somebody trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. However, when the “faith alone” movement started taking hold within the SDA church, it was time to take a closer look.
I was caught off guard by the sheer quantity of SDA church members (even among my own family and relatives) whom had gone out the back door of the church and joined other Christian denominations that teach salvation by “faith alone”. Even in the face of glaring Biblical statements to the contrary (such as shared above), every one of them doubled-down on their new belief and the resulting freedom and stress relief they said they felt.
That’s when I finally isolated the underlying key motivation for the exodus: People like “black and white” answers to their questions…. “shades of gray” answers are not only hard to deal with, but the apparent ambiguity can become intolerable after a time. In the world of “saved by grace through faith” and “justification by works, and not by faith only," there’s a ton of apparent wiggle room for you to be lost eternally if you don’t “measure up.” In the world of salvation by “faith alone,” you just have to “believe” that Christ has saved you… period end of sentence… and it’s a forever DONE DEAL, no matter what you do.
If you view the clear language of salvation in the Bible as being repressive and un-assuring, it can really feel like stepping out into fresh air amid “assured salvation” by just accepting the free gift from Jesus…. No strings attached. But look a little deeper into what that really means: It’s “once saved always saved” with a pretty flower on top. In the Bible, King Saul was the “anointed of God," but in the end the Bible said King Saul was lost. Ananias and Sapphira were among treasured new believers in the fledgling church, but then they lied about holding back some money from donated possessions, so they fell dead at Peter’s feet, and were lost.
Bottom line: When we accept the free gift of eternal salvation from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on the outside, we must also yield to His grace to change how we think and function on the inside (a change of heart). Will we still have ups and downs and make mistakes? Yes, we are still only human…and we never have the power of choice taken from us. The difference is that the “faith alone” belief allows you to continue on without a change of heart, whereas the “grace through faith” belief allows you to continue on, but only with a change of heart.