Drollinger: Dig Into One of the Most Important Passages in the Bible


Can you work your way to heaven?

When asked why they think they are going to heaven, many people say, “Because I am a good person.” If that is true, how good is good enough? Murder would probably knock you off the residential rolls, but is coveting every now and then acceptable? What about a lifetime of white lies?

And if faith is all we need, where do good works fit in?

In this study, “Is Salvation by Faith Alone in Christ Alone?,” we dig into one of the most important passages in the entire Bible. It sheds great light on the historic arguments regarding the doctrine of salvation: Is justification accomplished by faith alone, or is something needed in addition? This subject has been controversial throughout church history and remains so today.

The basis of salvation is a major doctrinal issue requiring essential clarity. This study helps you ascertain what you believe about your own salvation and, more important, if it squares with God’s Word or not.

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As we survey the Scriptures in pursuit of an answer as to what they teach regarding our salvation, I will rely on basic hermeneutic principles of interpretation. One of the most fundamental rules of hermeneutics in the study of the Bible is the principle known as analogia scriptura.

The premise of this principle is that God’s Word does not contradict itself. Another way of stating analogia scriptura is that Scripture interprets Scripture — the Bible is in total harmony, without contradiction or conflict.

Having prefaced this study with this explanation, let us examine Ephesians 2:8-9, our primary passage for this week: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

In this passage, the Apostle Paul is communicating to the believers at the church in Ephesus that even the faith they need to believe is not from themselves; it is the gift of God. Salvation is not based on man’s efforts, but rather on God’s graciousness.

Quoting abundant Scriptures, this Bible study shows that faith alone in Christ alone resonates throughout the Bible and is the singular answer!

The compendium of Scripture speaks for itself, beginning in the Old Testament where the formula for salvation is first found: “Then [Abraham] believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

There is no mention of good works. Abraham was reckoned righteous simply based on faith (cf. James 2:20-23, Hebrews 11:17-19, Romans 4:3).

To provide the full picture, numerous Scriptures that seem to contradict the tenet of faith alone are examined with in-depth exegesis. The Scriptures studied include James 2:26b: “Faith without works is dead.”

The book of James addresses phony faith, as does Matthew 7:21, wherein Jesus states, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”

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How is anyone to ascertain true faith from phony faith, according to the Bible? Matthew 7:20 answers, “You will know them by their fruits.”

James is making the same point: Faith that has no accompanying outward manifestations is fraudulent. Good works always accompany genuine saving faith.

In Genesis 22, Abraham was willing to offer Isaac as an expression of his genuine faith. This external manifestation of obedience was directly related to his internal salvation as recorded in Genesis 15.

James’ epistle has been greatly misunderstood throughout church history, as if what it teaches contradicts salvation by faith alone. Rather, the book emphasizes the fact that outward manifestations — or personal meritorious works — always accompany genuine saving faith.

Conversely, James does not at all mean that faith must have works in addition in order to achieve salvation. That would contradict the remainder of Scripture, as we have clearly seen. It would violate the hermeneutical principle of analogia scriptura.

Does Scripture teach that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone? The answer is a resounding yes! In addition, it also teaches that true saving faith is always characterized and accompanied by good works.

Good works do not lead to salvation; rather, they are the products of salvation.

The doctrine of salvation is very important because it is the essence of the gospel. Put another way, for the spiritual leader to get this wrong means he could be leading others to hell.

My prayer is that this study will cause you to contemplate and perhaps rethink your soteriology if need be. Determine who and/or what you are relying on for your salvation — God or yourself.

Is your doctrine of salvation squared away with all these copious Bible passages? Moreover, if you are relying on your own good deeds to get yourself to heaven, in whole or in part, then you need to repent of your sin of pride.

Please click here to read the full Bible study.

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Ralph Drollinger, president and founder of Capitol Ministries, leads three Bible studies with political leaders every week. One on the Hill for U.S. senators and one for representatives, plus a weekly remote Bible study for state governors, former governors, and former White House Cabinet members and senior staff. Learn more at

Drollinger played basketball at UCLA under coach John Wooden and was the first player in NCAA history to go to the Final Four four times. Drollinger was taken in the NBA draft three times but chose to forgo the NBA to play with Athletes in Action, an evangelistic basketball team that toured the world and preached the gospel at halftime. Drollinger signed with the Dallas Mavericks in 1980 as a free agent, becoming the first Maverick in the history of the franchise.