(262) 385-7485

Martin Luther added the word ALONE to Romans 3:28 to come up with faith alone. Why did Fr. Martin Luther add his own word to God's words?

Bill calls the addition of the word “alone” by Luther, "a common misconception by Catholics."  And so what is the truth?  Did Luther add the word “alone” to his Bible to come up with “faith alone” or not? 

Luther added the word "alone" to his Bible in Romans 3:28 to come up with “Faith Alone.”  This is something that Luther readily admits.   

Fr. Martin Luther's answer to Emser's exposition of his perversion of the text was: "If your Papist annoys you with the word [alone], tell him straightway: Dr. Martin Luther will have it so: Papist and ass are one and the same thing. Whoever will not have my translation, let him give it the go by: the devil's thanks to him who censures it without my will and knowledge.  Luther will have it so, and he is a doctor above all the doctors in Popedom” (Luther and the Bible, Ohare; Amic. Discussion, 1, 127). 

So this is why people today believe “Faith Alone” because Luther would have it so. He added the word "alone" to his Bible.   Most of the Protestant Bibles are better today; they have removed the word alone. Never-the-less the concept stuck and even though the concept is not in the Bible and even contrary to the Bible.  I realize that there will still be people who will believe in “faith alone,” and to these people I simply concede. “Faith alone” is in the Bible.  In fact it is in the Catholic Bible; however, it is preceded by two words “NOT BY.” “See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (Jm 2:24).

  1. Justification by faith apart from works of the Law
  2. Were James and Paul fighting over faith and good works?
  3. James and Paul both spoke for good works
  4. Faith without works is useless
  5. Dead works cannot save you and neither can dead faith
  6. Dead works are animal sacrifices
  7. Does the Bible say "faith alone" or "not by faith alone"?

Justification by faith apart from works of the Law:

The Apostle Paul says in Romans, "for we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Does God belong to Jews alone?  Does he not belong to Gentiles, too?  Yes, also to Gentiles, for God is one and will justify the circumcised on the basis of faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (Rom 3:28-29). 

Notice, first of all, that the word “alone” is not in the text.   Also notice that it is faith apart from "works of the Law," not faith verses good works.   And what was the specific work of the Law that they were dealing? It was circumcision, not to be confused with good works.  There are those who take these verses out of context and use it to put faith and good works at odds, when in fact the verse is contrasting faith versus works of the Law, circumcision.  Verse 28 is quoted without verse 29 and as a result It is easy to get people to believe this is speaking against good works. However; once verse 29 is quoted, we realize that the work of the law that is referenced is circumcision, not good works.

Were James and Paul fighting over faith and good works? There are some who will claim that there was a fight between Paul and James. They will take Paul's side against works and oppose James side, who spoke for works; however, there is no record of any disagreement between the these two apostles. The Church has always understood that the Bible properly understood in context does not contradict.  If we follow the above scenario, then Paul would be contradicting James and so the Bible fails because here is a seeming contradiction in the Bible.

I would propose a simpler solution that takes the Bible in context.  Paul and James were in fact speaking about two different things.  Paul was speaking against works of the law, circumcision.   Paul was speaking for good works, feeding and clothing the hungry, and taking care of widows and orphans.  And so there is no contradiction; check it out for yourself.

THE APOSTLE PAUL SAYS:                                                                                              For we consider that a person is justified by FAITH
apart from works of the law (Rom 3:28).
CONTEXT: works of the law, circumcision (Rom 3:29).

THE APOSTLE JAMES SAYS:                                                                                            See how a person is justified by WORKS                                                                                and not by faith alone (Jm 2:24).
CONTEXT: good works, feeding and clothing widows and orphans (Jm 1:26-27; 2:14).

James and Paul both spoke for good works: And even after they see this, there are some who will speak up to Paul and down to James as though the two were at odds when it comes to good works.   Yes they understand that James spoke for good works; however, they have no comprehension that Paul very eloquently also spoke for good works.

“By your stubbornness and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God, who will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in goood works" (Rm 2:5-7).  So adament are some against good works that if you include the word works in the same sentence as salvation or eternal life then the unfair allegation is made that you are preaching another Gospel and Jesus cross was insufficient.  

I wonder if these same people would accuse Paul of salvation by works when he said, "God, who will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works" (Rm 2:5-7).

Faith without works is useless: Again to those who wish not to believe in faith and works; the Apostle James said this.  “Do you want proof you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless”(Jm 2:20)?  Interesting, the Bible uses the term IGNORAMUS to refer to those who do believe in faith without works.  When I quoted James 2:5-7 to one friend, he accused me of name calling.  He believed that I was calling him an ignoramus.  I begged to differ to him; I was not doing so.  I was in fact quoting the Apostle James in the Bible; he was the one who was calling my friend an ignoramus, because he beleived in faith without works.

Dead works cannot save you and neither can dead faith: On more than one occasion, I have had people say that dead works can't save you and I always agree; dead works, cannot save you, but then neither can dead faith save you.  Dead faith is faith without works according to James.   There are those who want to demonstrate their faith without works, however, the Apostle James wants to demonstrate his faith with works;   “In deed some might say, “You have faith and I have works “Demonstrate your faith without works and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works” (Jm 2:18).  

Dead works are animal sacrifices: Dead works is a concept in the Bible and it is used on as an argument against good works and then they will quote either Hebrews 6:1 or 9:14.  "How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God! (Heb 9:14), however they never mention the context of dead works. 

Hebrews 9:14 is one of  the most used and abused Bible verses.  This happens when it is used against good works suggesting that these dead works are good works.  In the  context there is no mention of good works, but works of the old Law, animal sacrifices.  If  you look at verse 13 the old Testament animal sacrifice are these dead works. and "He entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption" (Heb 9:12).  We no longer need the dead works, animal sacrifices because we have Jesus very own blood that has been sacrificed.  

For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins (Heb 10:4). To confuse “dead works” animal sacrifice, with good works is a corruption of Scripture. 

Does the Bible say "faith alone" or "not by faith alone"? Some people believe in “Faith Alone” a concept not in the Bible, but I believe “Not by faith alone,” a concept in the Bible.  Now you can see why Luther called James a book of straw. Some of James sayings seem to be at odds with Luther's theology.  It would not have been necessary for Luther to down grade James, had he realized that Paul was speaking against “works of the law” (circumcision) and James was speaking for “good works” and also realized that Paul and James were in agreement on good works.  It is a real eye  opener when people realize that James and Paul were in the same camp.  Even after this is fully explained, some will still insist on  "faith alone."  To these people I will simply concede: 

“Faith alone” is in the Bible.  In fact it is in the Catholic Bible; however, it is preceded by two words “NOT BY.” “See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (Jm 2:24).

I have sometimes been asked the question, “Was Martin Luther right or wrong?”  And my answer is always this, “Right or wrong about what!”  Luther was a complex individual.   Lutherans might see Luther as Lutheran and Protestants might see Luther as Protestant.   Some Evangelicals see Luther as a great holy man of God and other Evangelicals see Luther as a heretic equally as bad as the Catholics.   As for me I see Luther as an Augustinian Catholic priest because he was in fact a Catholic priest. 
Where Fr. Martin Luther has left Catholic teaching, I leave Luther.  Where Luther defended Catholic teaching, I stand with Luther.  Although it is true, Luther left the Catholic Church on some of its teachings; it is also true he defended many Catholic teachings.   For example, Luther defended most of the Marian teachings.  He defended the prayer the"Hail Mary".  He defended the "Immaculate Conception".  He defended "Mary ever-virgin".  He even gave the Catholic Church credit for the existence of the Bible.  And so on these and more I stand with Fr. Martin Luther.   Perhaps the reason why some, Evangelicals consider Luther a heretic is because of his many Catholic understandings that he did not reject.