At a wedding, we used to decorate a woman's virginity with a white dress. Such is no longer the case. Women who have lived with their boyfriend for years opt for a white dress because it has become the traditional women's wear for the occasion. It is often the case that that which we valued enough to decorate is replaced by the decoration itself. At least the decoration become as important and folks need to do hard thinking to merely see the thing and its decoration discretely and separately. Do we need a Christmas tree to value the Incarnation? So it is with the Gospel. What is the message that saves and what is its decoration?
"What must I do to be saved?" asked the jailer in Philippi. What would you answer? St. Paul suggested that the jailer "believe in the Lord Jesus". That is the sufficient and necessary condition for salvation but what does this "belief" contain? Does it contain baptism? Does it contain repentance from sin? Does it contain calling on God? Does it contain church membership? The list goes on and many brands of Christian adherents would be happy to suggest additions to that list. Some decorate with the patina of age, some with art, some with new ideas hatched by evangelicals.
Saint Paul in Romans 10 makes it clear:
4 For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified. 5 Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on the law shall live by it. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?" (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or "Who will descend into the abyss?" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); 9 because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, "No one who believes in him will be put to shame." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. 13 For, "every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved." 14 But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? 15 And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!" 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.
The Oracle sez: A propositional agreement to the claims of Christ's person and atonement with the response of turning from your sins and calling on God for forgiveness will bring to you the grace of God unto eternal life. Nothing less will work and nothing more is needful. All the rest is decoration. In some cases we decorate as authoritatively instructed and in some our decoration is ripe with our own artistic developments, now or in the past. Don't confuse the decorations with Faith Alone or it will not be Faith Alone for long.