This is from the comments on “Faith and Works: A Brief Summary”, my June 19 blog post. I wrote this in response to a good question.
Your comment (that the only mention of faith alone in the bible is in James 2:24 where it says “not by faith alone”) is one of my favorite things to point out to those who think we can live however we want and go to heaven, but to be fair, it is not that simple. While the only occurrence of faith alone in Scripture is “not by faith alone,” we also find “faith apart from works” and “not by works” in the Bible … quite often. Thus, we do have to have a thought-out explanation. The fact is, we have been (past tense) saved “apart from works” (Eph. 2:8-9) and “not by works of righteousness which we have done” (Tit. 3:5).
2 Peter 1:3-11 is my explanation. Verses 3-4 explain the great salvation we can receive by faith without works of any kind. We receive everything that pertains to life and godliness, we are rescued from the corruption that is in the world through lust, and we become partakers of his divine nature. This is the new creation spoken of in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 and Ephesians 2:10.
One we have received that incredible transformation, we then “diligently” add to our faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. If these things are in us and increasing, then we will never be barren or unfruitful, and we will never stumble. If we don’t add these things, then we are blinded, and we will soon forget that we were every rescued from our old sins.
Thus, Peter concludes, “Be diligent to make your calling and election sure because if you do these things, you will never stumble. For in this way an entrance shall be supplied to you richly into the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
We are saved by faith, apart from works, and that salvation is beyond anything we can understand. Once we have that salvation, we must diligently add to our faith by the new life and Spirit that is in us, and then we will reap eternal life, if we do not grow weary in doing good (Gal. 6:9).