By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
This is an imagined conversation between an Anabaptist and a Protestant regarding the way of salvation. By using the term “Protestant,” we do not mean to say that all Protestants would agree with every statement made by the Protestant in our story. Rather, we hope this story will be helpful and thought-provoking to you in your interactions with those who claim that works of any kind play no role in salvation.—Ed.
Worldly man. Men and brethren! What must I do to be saved?
Anabaptist. If thou would enter into life, keep the commandments.
Anabaptist. Repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. Cease to do evil; learn to do well.
Worldly. I live with my girlfriend; I shoplift often; I steal from my employer; and I am very covetous. Must I cease all these?
Anabaptist. Do not let anyone deceive you with vain words – fornicators, thieves, and covetous men, who are idolaters, shall not inherit the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Protestant. Now wait a minute, Friend Anabaptist. Are you not teaching salvation by works?
Anabaptist. How is that?
Protestant. Why, you just told Mr. Worldly that he must cease sinning to be saved. That is a doctrine of works.
Anabaptist. I still do not understand. How would you explain it to Mr. Worldly?
Protestant. We are saved by faith alone. Nothing we do has any bearing on our salvation, now or ever.
Anabaptist. So you are saying that ceasing to sin is doing something, and thus is works salvation?
Anabaptist. Well, continuing in sin is doing something too. So is having faith, for that matter.
Protestant. Now it is I who does not understand. What are you getting at?
Anabaptist. Hold a minute, and you shall see. First, let me ask this: Are you saying that if Mr. Worldly stops fornicating, stealing, and coveting, that it would prove that he is embracing a salvation based on works?
Anabaptist. So if he would continue in these sins, yet believe in Christ, that would prove that he is seeking salvation by faith alone?
Protestant. None of us are perfect. We will continue in sin all our lives. God understands that and forgives us because of our faith.
Anabaptist. That is not an answer to the question. Is continuing in sin a proof that one is seeking salvation by faith?
Protestant. [Uncomfortable] I cannot say yes…but it does prove that one is not seeking salvation by his own efforts, but simply trusting in the merits of Christ.
Anabaptist. I will take that as a qualified “yes.” So in other words, you are saying that faith would motivate a life of sin.
Protestant. Not exactly – he may stop his sins later, after coming to faith. But those living in faith do still sin.
Anabaptist. The Scriptures say that whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Therefore, all sin is not of faith. The two are radical opposites. If one is sinning, he is not believing; if he is believing, he is not sinning. Faith cannot motivate sin, and sin is never an evidence of faith. If Mr. Worldly continued in sin, that would give the clearest proof that he does not have faith. If he repents, it must be by faith. Therefore, faith permeates all the counsel which I gave to Mr. Worldly at the beginning of our conversation. One can only repent by faith. Faith is obedience; faith is righteousness; faith is doing the will of God. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin; what is done by faith cannot be sin.
Protestant. Stop! You’re calling my own faith into question now.
Anabaptist. No, I am not. I do not know your life; if the Holy Spirit is convicting you of faithlessness and unbelief, then give the glory to God and repent.
Protestant. You are teaching works righteousness and will probably go to Hell for your rejection of Christ’s Blood and seeking to gain Heaven by your own efforts.
Anabaptist. Say so if you will; God is Judge, and will be the Revealer of the secrets of all hearts on the Last Day. If Christ and His Apostles were teachers of works, I will be one too.
Worldly. God, be merciful to me, a sinner! Help me to repent by faith!
 Matthew 19:17.
 Acts 26:20.
 Isaiah 1:16-17.
 Ephesians 5:5-6; I Corinthians 6:9-10.
 See Romans 6:1-2.
 See I John 3:3-10.
 Romans 14:23.
 I Corinthians 4:5.
Originally published in The Witness 13(4) (April 2015):13-14.