Salvation by Charity Alone?

In a previous post, I noted that the only place in the Bible that mentions “faith alone” or “faith only” is James 2:24, where we are plainly told that salvation is NOT by faith alone (KJV: “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only”; NIV: “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone”). I make this point especially for those who condemn us as somehow being non-Christian for not accepting their doctrine of “salvation by faith alone.” Another verse to consider on this issue is 1 Corinthians 13:2, part of Paul’s famous discourse on charity:

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

Paul the Apostle declares that even if he had all faith, it would be inadequate of he did not have charity. How, then, can faith alone be sufficient for salvation? Of faith, hope, charity, Paul states in verse 13 of that chapter that “the greatest of these is charity.” Perhaps a doctrine of “salvation by charity alone” would be a step closer to the truth.

When we understand that humans have free will and that we are the sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:14-18; Acts 17:28; Hebrews 12:9-10), it helps us also realize that God’s desire is for us to choose Him and follow Him that we might grow and “put on the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:3-10) and become more like Him (1 John 3:2). Then we will understand why He is more interested in having us accept the grace of Jesus Christ in a covenant relationship, in which we strive to follow Him and repent of all our sins and grow in Him, rather than merely believe and be instantly assured of salvation. Keeping the commandments earns nothing and does not save us – it is the grace of Christ that does all that – but Christ nevertheless tells us that we must do so to have eternal life in Matthew 19:16-22, for example: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Keeping the commandments helps us gain access to His blessings and grace, and prepare to enter into His kingdom. Especially the commandment about having charity. Note that the Book of Mormon teaches that charity is a divine gift – but it’s up to us to seek it, and pray with all the energy of heart that we might be filled with it (Moroni 7). We rely on the grace of Christ to have power to keep His commandments and develop charity in the first place – there is never any grounds for boasting in the kingdom of God. But we do have free agency, and must choose to move in that direction with God’s help. We must choose Him and seek to follow Him and to seek His grace in a covenant relationship that includes the covenant of baptism. My advice: don’t delay!


Author: Jeff Lindsay

25 thoughts on “Salvation by Charity Alone?

  1. I must add one place in scripture where one may find the phrase “faith alone”. The Joseph Smith Translation, as published by the Community of Christ, has the following for Romans 3:28: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith alone without the deeds of the law.” Talk about heightening the apparent conflict between James and Paul. Actually, as one of my BYU religion professors pointed out one time when asked about faith and works, “What’s the difference? You can’t have one without the other.”

  2. Many of the “faith aloners” are fond of quoting Ephesians 2:8-9. What they often leave out is 2:10, which clearly puts faith in the context of works. Like the BYU prof said, you can’t have one without the other.

    Also, Jesus made very clear (e.g., Matthew 6:15, Mark 11:25) that God won’t forgive us if we don’t forgive those who have wronged us. If forgiving others isn’t a “work,” I don’t know what is.

  3. Actually, you can have one without the other, it just depends on which one.

    You can have the works without the faith. You can pretend your whole life that you’re a believer and do everything you’re “suppossed” to do, without having faith. Obviously, these “works” are in vain and profit you nothing.

    It does not work the other way. One does not have faith without acting upon that faith.

    Salvation requieres both.

  4. If you do all the right things, even without faith, why does it profit you nothing? Maybe you don’t believe, but are trying to live a good life and do the right things just in case it is true.

    Isn’t that still obedience, even if you don’t believe?

  5. Ah, but whom are you obeying? Yourself?

    If you’re doing “just in case,” then it is little more than food storage, a faith that is holed up somewhere and seldom nourishes anybody. As Elder Eyring noted, faith has an extraordinarily short shelf life.

  6. I’m reminded of a principle taught in the early LDS Church:

    “If men were duly to consider themselves, and turn their thoughts and reflections to the operations of their own minds, they would readily discover that it is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action in them; that without it, both mind and body would be in a state of inactivity, and all their exertions would cease, both physical and mental.”

    In other words, the principle of faith, with no other qualifiers, is not a religious principle, but is _the_ principle of human action. That is why the Fourth Article of Faith adds the qualifier, “…in the Lord Jesus Christ”.

    Anytime anyone does anything, it is the outward manifestation of faith. Whether a person obeys the commandments because he believes he can thereby find favor with God, or because by so doing he thinks he can fool his neighbors, it is still faith. The important question is, “Faith in what?”

    But that’s off-topic. It is wrong to assert that because a gift has conditions attached, it is no longer a gift. That’s nonsense, a feeble attempt to falsely represent the beliefs of others.

  7. If you do all the right things, even without faith, why does it profit you nothing? Maybe you don’t believe, but are trying to live a good life and do the right things just in case it is true.

    I’ve though quite a bit about this, and it seems to me that “works” (as in keeping commandments, doing good things, etc) are important for what they make us become. After all, the end goal is to become the type of person who is capable of both living in Heaven and actually enjoying the experience, which would be a lot of “work” for someone not inclined to keeping the commandments.

    So, doing the works without the faith will lead one of two ways before final judgement (since everyone will have had a true opportunity to accept or reject the gospel by then). Either the works will help them become a person who can gain the faith they now lack, or the works will become too annoying/difficult to maintain and stop.

    One or the other will happen eventually because the only way to “be ye perfect” is through the Atonement. Grace == enabling power.

  8. Dear All,
    I am posting a note that has a little to do with the article “salvation”. I was a Catholic, then when I studied in the USA back in 1993, I encountered born again Christians and although I was the typical French guy (Sartre etc….) I became a Christian in december 1993. When I came back to France, as an evangelical christian, I entered an evangelical chruch – I met my wife who has a PhD in Philosophy and we were both baptized in 1996 as evangelicals. Eevrything was OK until I “bumped” into the LDS Church – this is now more tahn two years ago – at the beginning my aim with meeting the missionnaries was to show them how wrong they are, how satanic the LDS Church is etc….then I attended on some occasion the LDS church with my wife and our three little daughters. The subject of “GOD the Father being an exalted man” is a subject that is hard for me and totally false for my wife – owever after deeply studying, talking with ex-mormons, studying pro and con texts…I feel really close to this Church – if my wife ever said she agrees with the LDS theology I think that I would be willing to get baptized into this Church – I come to realize that Joseph is indeed a Prophet of God (although there are a few things he did that I have a problem with – it is not polygamy because I can accept this – God had asked for polygamy at the beginning – why not for a short period of time in the time of Joseph Smith) – I come to realize that the Book of Mormon is another message of Christ – my wife says she has nothing against Jospeh Smith, that the Book of Mormon may be true, but the idea of GOD as taught in the LDS Church is something she will never agree with – we have just been thrown out of our Church here in France because we have Mormon friends….I’d be ready to enter this Church but my wife is against it – for her it is a cult because of the notion of God the Father – I can say I was a deeply faithful anti-mormon who wanted to provethat the LDS Church is fke – the result is I know it is true. I have read almost 4 times the BoM, D&C, PoGP, I have read Jesus the Christ by Talamge, Our search for Happiness by Elder Ballard, I have read many of the Journals of Discourses etc….everything in order to prove the LDS Church is wrong but to realize it is true….what should I do ? I won’t enter the church without my wife…
    I look forward to your comments !
    In Him
    Richard, Dijon-FRANCE

  9. If you won’t enter the Church without your wife, the only thing you can do, is ask your wife to sincerely pray on the matter. Not knowing exactly what problem your wife has with God the Father, I can’t make any comments to help her get a better understanding of that. Read Jeff’s site, it is good at explaining a lot of the confusing things. There are a few other sites too such as FAIR and FARMS. Good luck. Joining the Church was one of the best things that has happened in my life.

  10. Richard,

    Among other things, I would recommend the reading of this General Conference message by Pres. Boyd K. Packer:

    The Pattern of Our Parentage

    I think it may help with the understanding of God as an exalted man.

    Also, the Church’s Semiannual General Conference begins September 30th. I don’t know how much you know about General Conference, but you will be able to listen to four sessions online here (2 on Saturday, 2 on Sunday):

    General Conference Page

    I would advise listening to as many sessions as you can, in a spirit of humility and faith. Prepare yourself by continuing to read the scriptures and praying for the Lord’s latter-day prophets and apostles that they might speak with the power of the Holy Ghost and that you might receive answers. And invite your wife to join you.

    God bless.

  11. Walker, in this case we have established there is no faith, so shelf life is not the issue here.

    I understand what Pops is saying about all actions being predicated by faith at some level, but I am specifically talking about faith in the LDS church, not faith in how a neighbor will react, etc.

    I just think it is awful presumptuous to think that 2 people that go thru life with identical works, values, morals, etc. are not going to recieve the same reward because one had faith in the LDS church and the other had faith somewhere else.

  12. I stuggled with the same issue of believing and my wife not for years. This doctirine was also one of the things my wife struggled with. I made a resolve that if I did believe this was the truth, then God would bless me for taking the plunge into it. I did so and she saw me change, for the better, as a Husband, Father, and individual. The spirit is what testifies of truth, and she slowly started to feel that spirit more and more with this wonderful church. After years, I had the opportunity of baptizing her 2 nights ago into the church. I feel this was a direct result of me following the commandments of God. I would suggest to take this up with Heavenly Father, and be willing to do whatever he asks you to do. With strong tests of faith come great spiritual blessings. He is the key to happiness.
    ….as for this issue have you read
    My wife felt a little better about this issue after reading this.

  13. Aaron, thanks for the link. I did read it, but reading it only brought up several additional questions.


    “As man now is, God once was: as God now is, man may be.” This controversial passage is clearly applicable to Christ himself, a God who became mortal for a time and yet was still and is still God.


    This interpretation doesn’t work for me, because I am not a mortal God, so the parallel doesn’t work.

    Also, how did Jesus become a God, before coming to earth? Did he have to pass thru a mortal existence on some other planet before becoming a God, and then came to earth as a mortal God?

    If we are all sons and daughters (including Jesus) of the same Heavenly Father, why is he the only one who was already a God? Something is not jiving here. Why can we not also achieve that status when we all started out the same? Again something not jiving here.

    How can Jesus only do what he saw his father do, when he didn’t exist at that time?

  14. I do not believe that it is referring to Christ. It is referring to God the Father. Christ sets the example of mortality.

    The sad element of this debate is that it is doomed to go in circles unless we see some interprative evidence by Lorenzo Snow. Perhaps I could be corrected, since I have not done the research on Snow’s quote. In any case, let’s see what comes of it.

  15. ONe more thought: Revelation 3:21 says it best: Christ grants those who overcome EVEN AS HE OVERCAME the opportunity to sit on his throne.

    Christ the man, we follow; Christ the Savior we worship.

  16. It is apparant that James, in chapter 2 of his epistle, is expounding the idea that there are two kinds of justifcation. There is a justification by faith and there is a justification by works, two kinds of justification!

    In 2:24, this is brought out most emphatically in the Greek.

    a literal rendering would be:

    “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not only [justified] by faith.”

    The key to this understanding is the Greek adverb “only” (monon), which does not qualify (i.e., modify) the word faith, since the form would then have been mones. As an adverb, however, it modifies the verb justified implied in the second clause. James is saying that a by-faith justification is not the only kind of justification there is. There is also a by-works justification. The former type is before God; the latter type is before men.

    Romans 4:5 “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted as righteousness.”

    Romans 11:6 “If it is by grace, it is no longer of works, or else grace is no longer grace”

    Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done but by His mercy are we saved”

    Gal 2:21 “I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness comes by works, then Christ died in vain”


  17. “The former type is before God; the latter type is before men.”

    That does not fit to me. Could not another equally plausible explanation be that “justified” refers to a TWO-PRONGED justification–one is justified by works AND justified by faith? That is supported by the text. The separation you draw requires more evidence (evidence that is not available in James) and therefore is far more of a stretch.

  18. Walker, in that case he would have used the the adjective mones which would modify the noun “faith”. Nowhere in the grammatical construction could it be adduced that James is talking about a justification by faith plus works.

    James states emphatically that Abraham and Rahab were justified by works. This is his point. neither in 2:21 (Abraham) nor 2:25 (Rahab) does James say that anyone is justified by faith + works. To state this would be to import that into James’ words. He most emphatically says “justified by works” not “justified by faith and works”. Those in whom James addresses are already justified by faith and born again (James 1:18 cf 2:1).

    He addresses regenerate Christians who have already been forensically declared righteous.

    Further, in support, Paul conceives of two different justifiations:

    Rom 4:2
    2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

    Writing at wat was no doubt a later time than James, Paul states this. The form of the statement in Greek does not deny the truth of the point under consideration. The phrase “but not before God” srongly suggests that Paul can conceive of a sense in which people are justified by works. But, he insists, that is not the way people are justified before God. That is, it does not establish their legal standing before Him.

    Paul, in his next verses says:

    Rom 4:3-6
    3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

    But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

    Justification before God is by faith apart from works. It is by grace. If it was by works then it would be by debt, and not grace. But Paul is emphatic that it is by grace.

    Jesus Christ is the Guarantor of eternal life and resurrection to the believer in Him for it. Jesus says:

    “Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life”. Believe Christ’s promise and you have eternal life that can never be taken away from you, for He guarantees it:

    John 11:25-26a

    25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”

    The Greek is emphatic in verse 26. It states, “You shall my no means die, even into eternity”

    Jesus asks you merely to believe in Him and he will guarantee that you will have eternal life and resurrection.

    His next words are instructive:

    “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26b)


  19. First of all, this debate is as old as the hills. Can’t we move beyond Luther and Calvin and come closer to Christ’s words?

    “Walker, in that case he would have used the the adjective mones which would modify the noun “faith”. Nowhere in the grammatical construction could it be adduced that James is talking about a justification by faith plus works.”

    I would disagree. Justification is the key word here. I still content that only IS indeed an adverb (as you claim) and that it modifies justify. IE Abraham was not only justified by faith nor was he only justified by works. Staying true to your Greek interpretation while allowing for dual-pronged salvation.

    Plus, I see that you are IMPORTING the interpretation of man’s justification vs. God’s justification in James. Absolutely no reason to read that in the Greek. A big leap from a minor grammatical construction to a theological “big picture.”

    “Those in whom James addresses are already justified by faith and born again (James 1:18 cf 2:1).”

    Therefore Abraham’s works were quite redundant–as he had already been justified by faith (which Paul says elsewhere). Unless we are to pit James against Paul (which I am not inclined to do), we have no choice but to allow the balance to come into play. If the word of God is indeed God’s word, then I have no choice but to reconcile. Now if you want establish a hierarchy of scriptures (Paul is better than James), you can do that. I would be very interested in a serious rationale for that hierarchy.

    “Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.”

    C.S. Lewis’ scissors analogy is relevant here–faith and acting on that faith are two blades of a pair of scissors. You can’t cut with just one.

    “Jesus asks you merely to believe in Him and he will guarantee that you will have eternal life and resurrection.”

    I don’t agree with your injection of the word “merely” in Christ’s words.
    But such things are petty.

    Again, my discussions on this topic with all different faiths have been circular in the extreme. WE ALL BELIEVE IN FOLLOWING THE SAVIOR!

    Again, let’s let Luther and Calvin rest in peace.

  20. If we are all sons and daughters (including Jesus) of the same Heavenly Father, why is he the only one who was already a God? Why can we not also achieve that status when we all started out the same?

    I think Abinadi had something to say about this:
    “3 And this is the manner after which they were ordained —- being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.
    4 And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.
    — Alma 13

    As you say, we all started out equal, but it sounds to me like we weren’t perfect in the pre-existence, while Christ was.

    I have a hard time telling how much of those verses refers to the pre-existence, but it could all fit, if the war in Heaven is any indication.

  21. Walker,

    You are obviously comfortable with your position on this subject and therefore do not think it is important to discuss. This is fine, but there are those on this blog that don’t have that same level of comfort and want to discuss this further.


    Are you saying that actions in the pre-existence determine our status in this life? I know you are using scripture to back this line of thinking up, but does that make sense to you? It doesn’t make sense to me and here is why:

    If we could remember what happened in the pre-existence, I wouldn’t have a problem with this, but we can’t, so for someone who is in a higher calling in the church (whether ancient or today) to make a statement that those in higher callings are there because of being more righteous in the pre-existence sounds self-serving.

    Since we all enter this world with a clean slate, with no memory of the pre-existence, that tells me that we are not to develop any type of prejudice based on the pre-existence. That goes for any type of foreordained heirarchy, or skin color, or gender, or any other factor.

    I would be interested in your thoughts on this.

  22. Rick:

    The real point I was trying to make was: If Christ hadn’t been perfect in the pre-existence, do you really think He would have been chosen as the Savior?

    I was not trying to say that every person on earth has had their blessings/afflictions lined up since before birth. That’s obviously wrong (since Christ said so, if for no other reason).

    “Bound” would be a better word. I think it’s perfectly reasonable that we have certain bounds set for us in this life because of how we behaved in the pre-existence. Now, how that might translate into a particular life station for a particular person is a question I won’t try to answer.

    In any case, since we don’t remember the pre-existence we can’t really say what person X did there, other than not being one of the 1/3. That doesn’t leave much evidence to base prejudice on.

    For instance, I could easily imagine that many people who lived during the Apostacy were there precisely because God knew that they would be faithful in spite of the false doctrines that surrounded them, and that many of them would be willing to sacrifice everything to nudge history toward the Restoration they would never live to see.

    Another example: many Church leaders have suggested that the talents we have in this life are a result of work and practice in the pre-existence. I am most certainly “bounded” in my free-hand art skills, for instance. I will simply never match my brother’s ability.

  23. Ryan,

    Do you think that Jesus was the only one in the pre-existence that was perfect? If not, then you would have to suppose that others were qualified for the calling of savior as well.

    I get the sense from this particular subject, that Jeff and others feel that Jesus is the only one that really has a chance to become a God (as he was already a God befor coming to earth). So everyone else is vying for their mansion (reward) whatever that may be, but it will not be Godhood. Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but that is contrary to what I have always been taught in every ward, quorum, whatever, since I joined the LDS church. Lorenzo Snow’s statement has always been taught as literal truth. Now I am hearing that it is not church doctrine, because no one really knows what Lorenzo meant. Who is right?

  24. True, we are justified by faith alone or aquited from the full consequences of sin for a time. But we are sanctified by our good works. At some point “all knees shall bow and all tongues confess that Jesus is the Christ” and most everyone will recieve some measure of salvation from Outer Darkness. But only those through the grace of Jesus Christ who accept his sacrifice by faith and works will be exalted in the “third heaven.”

  25. “So everyone else is vying for their mansion (reward) whatever that may be, but it will not be Godhood.”

    I think that Paul’s teaching that we are joint-heirs with Christ is significant here. The ONLY way we can become Gods is through Christ. In this sense, we will be eternally indebted to him no matter our lot in the world to come. Why it was Christ and not others, I don’t know other than that he was the only one able to do it.

    The doctrines of the deification and the doctrine of atonement is one and the same in my book and as I’ve understood it through my years in the Church.

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