Lucia's Blog: 2020-01-26
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Saturday, February 1, 2020

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ACCEPT JESUS AS LORD AND SAVIOR?

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.  Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand."'  27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.'" 
Matthew 7:21-26


God in His revealed Word has given us His laws and instructions, as well as His authority to do what He wants us to do. Therefore, it must be done.  If God has not granted authority for an action, we must not do it at all.  Most of us prefer to play games with God. We make up our own rules as if we were wiser than our Lord.  In the end, we fall short of completely obeying what He has commanded and find ourselves condemned by our own self-absorbed rebellion and foolishness.  

True and faithful obedience is doing what God commands us to do, and we must acknowledge it!  We must obey God exactly in the way He commands and precisely for the purpose He specifies.  Obedience to God is not just something that we do for the pleasure of doing it when we agree with God that we need to do it or see the need for it.  Protestants emphasize substantially that we are not under Law but Grace.  For them, this implies that we are under no Law at all!  Let us give careful consideration to the Bible Truth concerning these matters.


I.  OBEDIENCE TO JESUS, AS LORD, AND HIS LORDSHIP:

In Luke 6:46, Jesus stated, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" He also said, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing"  (John 5:15).  We are nothing without God. We can do nothing apart from God. This gives us all the more reason to seek His authority and counsel in every decision that we make and in every action that we take. We cannot abide in the vine if we don't listen to Him and do all that He tells us to do.  Jesus is our Master, and we must obey Him as His servants (Rom. 6:16, Matt. 6:24).  Can one claim to have Jesus as Lord and still not obey Him?  What right do you have?  If one does not obey all that He tells him to do, then he has rejected Him as his Master and Lord.  You see, it is not enough to call Jesus "Lord, Lord," and enter the kingdom of heaven.  And though many out there claim that obedience is not vital to salvation, eternal life, Jesus says that one must do the will of the Father (v. 21).  Building on the Rock is hearing and doing (complete obedience) what the Master dictates, Jesus.  To enter the kingdom of heaven (v. 21), one must do (obey).  So if you claim to accept Jesus as Lord as well as His Lordship, then you must obey His doctrines, His teachings.  Otherwise, it is an empty claim!!

So to accept Jesus as Savior implies that one must come to Him for the forgiveness of sins.  By the same token, if He is Savior of our lives, one must submit to His commands.  He is the One who dictates whom He will save and what one must do to obey Him and be acceptable to Him.  To be acceptable to Him, one must fear Him (respect and revere His authority) and work righteousness (obey His authority), Acts 10:35.  One cannot claim to accept Jesus as Lord without reverent obedience to Him and all of His commands, laws (Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 12:47f; 17:9f; 1 Cor. 7:19; Col. 3:23f; Heb. 13:20f; John 8:31).  That simple!

In Hebrews 5:9, we read that "having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source (author) of eternal salvation."  So to receive salvation, one must obey Him since He is the only source of salvation.  To claim to have accepted Him as Lord and Savior imply that one obeys the conditions and commands that He requires in His Word to receive eternal life.  To be made free from the bondage of sin and become slaves of righteousnessone must obey His delivered teachings (doctrines).  We are made free from sin when we obey all His teachings or doctrines.  We purify our souls when we obey the Truth without reservations.  Jesus' doctrines require obedience because He is Lord and Savior.  We cannot accept Him without complete and reverent obedience.  Jesus said, 

"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. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’  24 'Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall'"  (Matthew 7:21-27).

II.   OBEYING GOD'S LAWS (INSTRUCTIONS, COMMANDS) IS ESSENTIAL TO     ETERNAL LIFE:

When it comes to strict and reverent obedience, many, even some of our brethren, have the wrong attitude.  Why do I say that?  Because they think that strict obedience to God and His commands, laws, is not really that necessary for salvation, eternal life.  They claim that as long as one is doing what's rightit does not matter how strictly he adheres to all of Jesus' teachings of the "perfect law of liberty"  (James 1:25).  As a consequence of this, they give the label of "legalists" to those of us who suggest that kind of adherence to Jesus and His Lordship.   But guess what?  God has always demanded strict obedience (100% obedience) to all His commands.  No matter what law from God man was under.  Man was expected to diligently learn and know His law, to do, or obey the will of God.  Take, for instance, Noah, who explicitly followed God's instructions about how to build the ark to save his family.  Cain disobeyed God's law when he offered a sacrifice that was not pleasing to God.  He did not obey God's instructions when making his offering.  And though Cain believed in God and offered what he thought was best, he still did not do what God commanded him to do.  His works are called evil (1 John 3:12).  Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, Canaan, and lead the children of Israel because he failed to honor God before the people.  They all failed to comply with God's instructions, His laws (Heb. 11:4).  God, under no circumstances, will accept any worship from any man that is not acceptable and pleasing to Him.  Take heed!

Partial obedience to God is not enough!  God demands one hundred percent obedience, complete submission to His will.  When one obeys partially, he is disobedient to God.  Period!
  • Adam and Eve in The Garden of Eden:
Let us reflect on how sin entered the world back in the Garden of Eden and the beginning of mankind.  When God saw everything that He had made, He acknowledged it was “very good” (Genesis 1:7).  God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed life into him (Genesis 2:7).  Then God planted a beautiful Garden in Eden and put Adam there, the man he had formed.  Amid that beautiful Garden, God planted the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Since God put Adam in charge of it, he had to work and keep it.

God gave Adam a way of living that was defined by the Word of God.  He gave him, at least, one law.  He commanded him not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  God said, 
“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).  

Adam and Eve were permitted to do anything they pleased in that beautiful garden except to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They would die!  God did not give them a long list of prohibitions.  He only forbade them one thing that is recorded in Scripture. It was something that was not essential to sustain life. Sadly, Adam and Eve violated God's law when they were tempted and surrendered to that temptation.

Adam and Eve died that day.  Although they continued to live physically, they died spiritually being separated from a close fellowship with God, their Creator.  Why?  Because they had sinned and rebelled against God's will to them.  In Isaiah 59:12, we read of this separation (death).
“Behold, Jehovah's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear.”

Our iniquities or sins separate us from our Creator.  They build a wall of separation between Him and us because God hates lawlessness (sin).  “Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness”  (I John 3:4).   Sin is lawbreaking.  It is breaking God's Law!

Jesus, our Lord, brought peace between man and God when He died on the cross, drawing us near to His Father through His precious blood.  We were children of wrath because of our disobedience, which had separated us from our God.

It is undeniable that God has had law from the beginning of mankind.  From Adam to Moses, all men had a law system, laws (rules) to keep and obey.  Therefore, they were accountable to God!

Take note that from Moses to Christ, it is easy to see a complete set of laws and commands, frequently referred to as the Old Testament (the Law of Moses).  God gave the Law of Moses to the descendants of Abraham, the Hebrews.  The purpose of the Law was to prepare them for the Messiah’s coming (Galatians 3:24-25).  It also kept sin (lawlessness) under control, until the fullness of time had come (Galatians 4:3-4).  Thus, the Hebrews that lived before Christ were responsible and accountable to God as well.  They had to obey laws!

By the same token, the Gentiles, living at that time before Christ, were also under some form of divine law, though we know little about it.  God also loved them and expected them to live according to that standard defined by law.
  • What does the word “law” mean?   
The answer is found in one of my all-time favorite Psalms, Psalm 119:1-11.
“Blessed are they that are perfect in the way, Who walk in the law of Jehovah.  2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, That seek him with the whole heart. 3 Yea, they do no unrighteousness; They walk in his ways.  4 Thou hast commanded us thy precepts, That we should observe them diligently.  5 Oh that my ways were established To observe thy statutes! 6 Then shall I not be put to shame, When I have respect unto all thy commandments.  7 I will give thanks unto thee with uprightness of heart, When I learn thy righteous judgments.  8 I will observe thy statutes: Oh forsake me not utterly.  9 Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.  10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: Oh let me not wander from thy commandments.  11 Thy word have I laid up in my heart, That I might not sin against thee.”
Consider the following verses that are used to refer to “the Law of God.”
  1. “His testimonies” (verse 2).
  2. “His ways” (verse 3).
  3. “His precepts” (verse 4).
  4. “His statutes” (verses 5, 8).
  5. “His commandments” (verse 6).
  6. “His judgments” (verse 7).
  7. “Thy word” (verses 9, 11).

Therefore, the word “law” is clearly the same as the “Word of God.”  We must be careful when  we speak of the “law.”

For the majority of the religious world, there is no distinction between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ.   For them, law is law, and commandments are commandments.  They refuse to distinguish between the two (Law of Moses and Law of Christ).  They prefer not to make any distinction between the Ten Commandments of the Law of Moses and obedience to the Gospel of Christ, e.g., the Law of Christ.  Notice what James 1:25 says in regards to this, 
“But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

As a tragic result of their confusion for not understanding well these two concepts (Law of Moses vs. Law of Christ), the primary target of their attacks against “being under the law” is baptism They willfully ignore those Bible passages that confirm that baptism is essential for salvation (the forgiveness of sins, Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:4, etc.).  They immediately start attacking and accusing us of being “legalists” who seek to be saved by obeying the Gospel (which they call "works") rather than being saved by grace and faith alone (which they define as doing nothing).

On the day of Pentecost, in Acts 2, all men were bound by the Law of Christ, i.e., the New Testament.  Today all people must obey the teachings of the Law of Christ (this new covenant) and submit to God the way He demands we do it.  Notice what the apostle Peter said in Acts 2:22

“Men of Israel, hear these words.”  Which words?  The words of the Holy Spirit.  Also, in Acts 11:14, the angel said to Cornelius that the apostle Peter would “speak unto thee words, whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house.”

The Word of God clearly and directly teaches that we are under:
  • The “Law of Christ,” “the law of faith” (Romans 3:27).
  • The “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2);
  • "Being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21).
  • "The perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25).  

Notice that one of the specific commands of that law is baptism. It is given as a condition of the forgiveness of sins. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is the Gospel, the law that requires baptism that we might be saved from sin. 

Those who teach error about the word “law” misuse the Truth and do not handle it well (2 Timothy 2:15).  They twist the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).  Each verse that speaks of “law” must be studied carefully in its context.  About which law is the text speaking?  What does the word “law” mean in each text?

Since the beginning of mankind, God has always “spoken” to man.  Notice what Hebrews 1:1-2 says, 
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” 
Indeed, God spoke to the patriarchs (Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.), and then later He spoke to the people of Israel (by the Law of Moses), and now He speaks to all by “His son” (by the Gospel of His Son, the New Testament, the Law of Christ).

We must understand what Paul is implying in Romans 6:14 when he says, “since you are not under law."  The apostle Paul is not saying that we are not under any law whatsoever since he himself affirms that we are under the Law of Christ in 1 Corinthians 9:21, “not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ.”  

So the question is:  Why is Paul saying that “you are not under law but under grace? 

Notice that the article “the” is missing.  Even though it is missing the article “the,” it is still referring to the Law of Moses.  The absence of the article “the” calls attention to a quality of the word in context.  It does not intend to shift to a discussion of the quality of all other laws in general. So it is not important if the article “the” is missing or not since it is also missing in several verses when it is, of course, talking about the Law of Moses.  Take note of those texts:  Romans 2:12, 17, 25;3:21. Notice that in Romans 3:19-20, it says “the law” and not “law.”

So, the contrast between the law and grace in Romans 6:14 is exactly the same as that of John 1:17
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  

In Paul’s writings, the verses that speak of  “law” are referring to the Law of Moses.  The grace of God that Paul is speaking of relates to the Gospel of Christ, His Law (Titus 2:11).

Therefore, those who cite Romans 6:14 to teach that we are not under the Law of Christ are but false teachers.  They are teaching error!  

Undoubtedly, mankind has always had laws from God.  If there were no laws from God, then there could be no sin whatsoever (Romans 3:15).  And all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  However, regardless of the differences in God’s laws from one age to the other, we can clearly see (if we look at the Bible examples) that God has always required or demanded one thing of man.  He requires man to love Him with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37-38). 


III.  OBEDIENCE AND LOVING GOD:
  • What does it mean to love God? 
The answer is given to us by Jesus in John 14:15:
    •  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” 
    • “And His commandments are not burdensome”  (I John 5:3).  

Therefore, to love God means to obey Him completely.  It sounds simple.  Right?  The problem is that man has always had trouble with simple things.  Take, for instance, what Adam and Eve did back in the Garden of Eden, or what Nadab and Abihu did when they disobeyed what God had commanded them to do.  God commanded them to use an explicit fire when burning incense in the tabernacle.  They instead chose to use a different one.  They disobeyed God by offering unauthorized fire before Him (Leviticus 10:1-3).  Let’s not forget Jonah, Ananias and Sapphira, and many others.
"If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed"  (1 Cor. 16:22).  
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing"  (1 Cor. 13:1-3).

Indeed, almost everybody recognizes the importance of love, but when one suggests obedience, some will always say, "I don't think it matters how one serves the Lord or what one does in His service. What really matters is if you love Him."  But is it possible to love the Lord without obedience to Him and His commands?  You see, love is a form of obedience.  According to Matthew 22:36-39, the two greatest commands are to love God and love our neighbor.  Thus, if one believes that love is vital to salvation, then one must also believe and accept that love is a command that we must obey!
"This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you"  (John 15:12; 13:34).

Love is fundamental to salvation. But wait!  Love is a command.  So, obeying commands, laws is essential to salvation for all agree that love is a command necessary to salvation.  Thus, whoever claims that obedience to commands is not essential is indeed saying that love is not essential.  For love is a command.  It is the greatest of all commands!  (John 15:13f; 1 John 3:22-24; 4:21; 2 John 5; 1 Tim. 1:5; Jas. 2:8).

Love requires us to obey other commands.  In John 14:15, 21-24 Jesus said,
"If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments. 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him. 22 Judas (not Iscariot) saith unto him, Lord, what is come to pass that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my words: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me."'

One who claims to love Jesus must also keep His commands (v. 21, 23).  One who does not love does not keep His commands either (v. 24).  Therefore, whoever says that obedience is not essential, is indeed stating that one can please God and be saved without loving Him!  For to love God is to keep His commands (1 John 5:2).  We must love in deed and truth (1 John 3:18).  Our actions show our love.  Therefore one who claims to love God must obey His commands.  True love demands obedience.  So obedience is a requisite of love.  Love is vital to salvation.  Obedience is essential to salvation, eternal life.  The Bible doctrine of love proves that obedience is required!  (Rom. 13:8-10; 1 John 2:5; Rev. 2:4-5; 1 Thess. 1:3; John 15:10; Luke 6:27-36).

Obedience is often viewed negatively.  Some believe that obedience is a force applied to bring about the desired result.  But the truth is, that the kind of obedience that pleases God originates from a heart of trust, devotion, and love.  A heart that is willing, humble, and compliant, is obedient to God carefully and scrupulously.  Obedience to God is our expression of love to Him.  Obedience to Him shows respect, reverence, for God's love (1 John 5:3).  Respect for God demands our obedience (Deut. 11:18-23).  Our obedience to God reflects how we honor Him (1 Peter 3:15).


IV.   SO, WHY IS IT THAT MAN HAS SUCH A HARD TIME OBEYING GOD?

The reason man has so much trouble obeying what God has commanded him to do is that he likes to do things in his own way rather than God’s way (laws, commands, rules, etc.).   Man thinks his own ways are better than God’s ways!  You see, this was King Saul’s biggest problem.  If you turn the pages of your Bible to I Samuel 15, you will find that God had explicitly commanded King Saul to destroy the Amalekites because of the wickedness they had done to the people of Israel.  Saul was to destroy (kill) everything:  both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.  Destruction was to be complete (1 Sam. 15:3).  

But Saul thought he had a better idea.  I don’t doubt Saul was sincere in what he thought was best.  In I Samuel 15:8-9 we read that,
"He took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction."

Indeed, God was not pleased by their actions!  Saul deceived himself when he thought he had a good reason for not killing all the animals since he planned on offering them to God as a sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:15).  Do you suppose that was not a good reason?  It sounds like one to me!  But, Saul forgot one thing. God commanded him to destroy all the animals since they were under God’s ban (prohibition).  Saul violated what God had commanded him to do.  Like Saul, many prefer to ignore the most important thing:  to obey what God has commanded to do.  Man cannot please God in his own way.  God takes it personally when we violate His will.  God was very disappointed in Saul's disobedience.  Saul's disobedience was not acceptable to God.

In Samuel 15:22, the prophet Samuel explains this idea to Saul: 
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”

So, to obey God (all His system of laws, commands, etc.) is better than sacrifice!  Complete (100%) obedience to God is doing everything He has commanded us to do rather than doing things our own way, just because we think it is better.  Lest we forget, we can never please God if that involves disobeying Him!  No matter how noble our intentions might be.  Saul’s problem was to justify himself, not knowing that one can never justify any action that is contrary to the will of God regardless of how well one may “rationalize” it.  It will not work with God.  Period!

This problem of trying to rationalize things our way was the same for:
  • Nadab and Abihu,  It was presumptuous to offer profane fire (their way) rather than the sanctified fire to God (Lev. 10). And though Nadab and Abihu offered worship to God, they were still not acceptable because they did not worship God the way He had commanded. God expected the priests to obey the Law completely, exactly. God's silence does not authorize a practice or activity to God (Lev. 10).  God expected the priests to obey the Law completely, exactly.  God's silence does not authorize a practice or activity.
  • Moses, who also had this same problem when he struck the rock with his staff twice (in a fit of anger).   God had commanded him to just speak to the rock (Num. 20).  Because of this, Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.  He disobeyed God’s command and paid for it.  
  • Adam and Eve violated God's law when they disobeyed Him back in the Garden of Eden.  
  • Lot’s wife. The angel of God told her not to turn and look back at the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but instead, she disobeyed and looked back (Gen. 19).    
  • David, who did not take the time to research the proper manner of transporting the ark of the covenant.  Placing the ark on a cart was a violation of the Law.  The Law (the Old Testament) required that the ark be carried by the sons of Kohath (Exodus 25:14-15; Numbers 3:30-31; 4:5-8; 7:9).  David's actions were like those of the ignorant Philistines (1Sam. 6:7, 10).  Uzzah put forth his hand to steady the Ark but was struck dead by God because of his irreverence.  He violated God's will, God's command. 
  • The Pharisees whom Jesus condemned because of their hypocrisy.  They failed to do both the weightier things and those that were not so weighty.  They did not keep all the Law.  God demanded obedience to all His precepts.

God's laws cannot be violated, no matter how unreasonable they might seem to us.  God has not changed His commands or precepts and still demands that we obey Him, without adding to or subtracting from His Law, His Word.  God must be obeyed!  One cannot obey just a portion of what He has commanded and still please God and receive eternal life.
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all (James 2:10).  

The truth is that there can be “liberty” only where there is “law” since law means to restrict.  Restrict what?  Sin.  When sin is not restricted, hopelessness and total slavery abide.  Take, for instance, one who is a drug addict. He rejects all law, living in despair without any restriction whatsoever.  Likewise, those called “pastors” and evangelists that are bound to their creeds are only striving to eliminate law and obedience to baptism from God’s plan of salvation, thus becoming victims of their own error.  Their interpretation of Acts 2:38 puts them in the same category as the Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons as well as others who twist the Scriptures to their liking (2 Peter 3:16).  They dare to deny the need for baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  If baptism is not essential for the forgiveness of sins, neither is repentance or confession.  It is tragic that Satan has deceived so many religious teachers and has taken many souls captive!!

These false teachers can denounce “law” and “obedience” until they get tired but can never change the divine plan of salvation.  Today according to the Scriptures (Christ’s Law), for one to be saved, one must:  
  1. Hear first the Gospel of Christ (Rom. 10:17).
  2. Believe it (John 8:24).
  3. Be willing to repent of his sinful ways (Luke 13:3).
  4. Confess his faith in the Lord (Romans 10:9-10).
  5. One must be willing to submit to immersion (baptism) for the forgiveness of his sins (Acts 2:38).
  6. And finally, one must remain faithful unto death (Matt. 7:13-14; Matt. 25:31-43; Romans 2:7, 10; 2 Timothy 4:7; 2 Peter 1:10; Rev. 22:12; James 1:27; Rev. 3-11-12; 2 Tim. 2:5; I Cor. 9:24-25; Rev. 19:8; Rev. 2:10; 1 John 1:7-10).
To some, these steps are reasonable except for the last two (5,6).  They appear to understand the need to believe in God, to turn away from their sins, and confess one’s faith as a rational process of salvation.  However, when they get to the last two steps of the process of salvation (baptism and faithful living), they refuse to view these things as essential for salvation.  They see it as not reasonable since they cannot comprehend how such obedience could be demanded for salvation.

Therefore, those who claim that God’s “plan of salvation is legalism must acknowledge that they are actually accusing Jesus Christ of being Legalist.”  And even though salvation is a gift of God, such a gift has its own conditions appointed by the Savior Himself.  Faith itself is a condition or requirement!


CONCLUSION:

God has always demanded complete obedience, and He still requires it today.  Obedience to Him does not negate His Grace and Mercy.  And though we can come to Him when we fail to live up to His expectations and stumble or fall (praying and confessing our sins to Him, 1 John 1:9), His grace will not indulge us or give us license to continue in sin, doing as we please.  It is a sin to neglect to submit to Him and to all that He has commanded for us to do, (Rom. 6:1-4).  We must seek to do His will in all things.  We must submit to His Son's Lordship!  "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"  (Luke 6:46)  "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:22-23).  Our obedience to God and doing His will are vital to eternal life.  Jesus spoke and did the will of the Father (John 7:16-17; 8:28; 12:49-50; 14:24; 14:31).  To enter heaven, one must do the will of God and do all that He has commanded us to do.

All true Christians must obey Jesus because He is Lord, King, and Master.  He has taught us all that pertains to entering the kingdom of heaven and being saved.  Our salvation, eternal life is connected to our obedience to Him and His commands.  There is no other way to heaven!

Our obedience to God reflects our wisdom, our love for God, and our abiding in Him (Psalm 111:10; Matt. 7:24-25; John 14:15; 23; 1 John 2:3-5; 1 John 3:24).  In the Old Testament, many of God's blessings toward His people depended upon their obedience to Him (Ex. 20:6; Psalm 25:10; 103:17-18; Ex. 15:26; 23:22; 1 Kings 2:3; 3:14; Prov. 19:16; Deut. 7:12-15).  Today is no different.  Many of our blessings depend on our obedience to God (Matt. 12:50; John 15:14; 1 John 3:22; Rom. 6:17-18; Heb. 3:6; Col. 1:21-23; John 8:51; Matt. 7:21; Lk. 11:28; John 13:17).

Moses said in his farewell address to Israel in Deuteronomy 4, to hear the voice of God means to obey Him and live.  It naturally follows that we must not add or take from the words that we hear. God commands, and man must obey, even if he does not understand why!  We must completely accept the reasoning behind God’s commands.  This will eventually make it easier to follow Him whether or not we understand the reasoning behind it.  Partial obedience to God is not enough!  God demands obedience, complete submission to His will.  When one obeys partially, he is disobedient to God.  Therefore we must unite our voices with the people of Israel and say, "All that Jehovah hath spoken will we do, and be obedient"  (Exodus 24:7).  The consequences of disobeying God and the Gospel of His Son, Jesus are terrible (Matt. 5:19-20).

May we obey God completely even when we disagree and cannot understand the rationale behind His instructions or commands.

Luci



Thursday, January 30, 2020

SALVATION "BY FAITH" DEMANDS OBEDIENCE

"Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him... "
Hebrews 5:8-10


The purpose of my study is to determine whether or not reverent obedience is vital to receiving eternal life, salvation.  God demands obedience for all mankind.  There are only two pathways:  to obey all that God has commanded us to do and receive eternal life, or obey Satan and his kingdom of darkness and be cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity.  The Catholic Church of the Dark Ages taught earnestly that man's salvation was contingent on his performing works and rituals or by making monetary contributions to the church.  On the other hand, Martin Luther, a former priest, broke away from what he considered to be the strict and hypocritical doctrines of Catholicism.  He then began to teach that man was justified "by faith alone."  You see, the Catholic doctrine of salvation motivated Martin Luther to teach that man was saved "by faith alone" without works whatsoever.  Moreover, John Calvin, a contemporary of Martin Luther, also rejected the concept of man being saved by works.  He likewise believed that man is saved by faith only.  Calvin taught that man was saved by God's grace and that he could surely do nothing to be saved (not even believe!!). Calvin believed it was God's sovereignty that determines who would and who would not be saved.

The crafty serpent told Eve that she would not surely die if she disobeyed God’s first command given to mankind. Emboldened by that lie, Eve disobeyed God and became an example of men throughout the ages who listen to the lie that men can disregard God’s commands and warnings. The serpent was philosophical and logical even though he based his reasons on speculation.  Let's consider what the Lord wants us to do about this controversy brought to us by the whispering serpent.


I.   SALVATION BY "FAITH ONLY"  VS. OBEDIENT FAITH:


  • Faith is Essential to Salvation:
In the Bible, the word "faith" has different meanings.  Jesus showed that in many of His statements. In Matthew 6:30, Jesus spoke of those who have little faith and do not trust in God.  He likewise used the same term to rebuke Peter in Matthew 14:31.  He also compared faith with doubt (Mark 4:40).  Jesus never implied that His disciples were atheists or anything similar but that they lacked complete trust toward Him.  However, Jesus told the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:25-29"Great is thy faith."  In this story, her humility and total trust in Both the Father and the Son are emphasized.  Thus, there are many forms of the word "faith" from which faith and belief (with its accompanying verb and  adjective form) derive from the Greek words "pistis, pistos, pisteuo" meaning "faith, faithful, belief, believe."  The Greek word "apistos" is the negative form which is translated as "unbelief, unbeliever, unfaithful, infidel."  The word "peitho" is translated at times as "believe, obey, confidence, persuaded, trust."  Its negative form is "apeitheo," which is translated as "believe not, obey not, disobedient."  The lexicon definitions of these words display a variety of applications which one must be careful to apply rightly when using the Scriptures.

Moreover, the word "faith" is also used to refer to revelation from God.  Personal faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17).  The Word of God is the source of "faith" and is many times spoken of as "the Faith."  It is often classified by the definite article (the) before the word "faith."  The definite article often indicates something special about the word without saying what it is.  That is why one must allow the context to rule in such cases.

In the New Testament, the term "te pistei" occurs 23 times; half of them refer to the unique faith one possesses and not revelation.  Whether it is "pistis" or "pistos," the definite article preceding it usually points out the strong or full faith of a person.  Romans 4:19-20 speaks of Abraham's faith as an example of faith for us to follow, and what our faith must be (Romans 5:2).  In Acts 6:7the Jews were "obedient to the faith."  In Acts 14:22the disciples were urged to "continue in the faith."  In Acts 16:5the churches were "strengthened in the faith."  1 Corinthians 16:13the Corinthians were commanded to "stand firm in the faith."  Philippians 1:27the Philippians were to strive "for the faith of the gospel.  I Timothy 4:1some would "fall away from the faith" in the latter times.  In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul declares, "I have kept the faith." He tells the Colossians"if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister"  (Colossians 1:23).  In Jude 3, we have the well-known statement that we are "to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."  In Galatians 3:2, 5 are the most accurate statements of that which was delivered "by hearing with faith (revelation)."  Other translations say, "the message of faith."  The message that was heard was called "the faith."  This sets the tone for Law versus the faith, the New Testament, in Galatians 3Thus the New Testament, the Gospel, is equal to the word "faith." 
"But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe (Galatians 3:22).

We find subjective faith in the phrase, "those who believe."  "The promise by faith in Jesus Christ" is the message that came forth from Jesus Christ.  This Scripture follows the statements made in verses 23-25"But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor."

Notice that the word "faith" in these verses describes that which was revealed, as opposed to the Law, and it follows that by which justification occurs.  Indeed, the opening statement should read, "before THE faith came," as well as in verse 25"now that THE faith is come," as they are in the original text.  The same applies to verse 26"For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus,"  as actually, "For ye are all sons of God, through  THE faith, in Christ Jesus."  Adding the definite article as it is in the original Greek text will definitely give full meaning to the context that deals with Law versus Gospel.  In Romans 1:16-17, we read, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith."

So what is the Gospel message? It is God's revelation, and righteousness revealed in it as the Scriptures explicitly say it, "ek pisteos eis pistin," "by, or out of, faith unto faith."  And though the definite article is missing, the first precedent of "faith" is "revelation, the gospel."  So what is the purpose of this revelation, the Gospel?  To generate or create our own faith that occurs as a result of hearing God's revealed will to us through His Word (Romans 10:17faith comes by hearing the Word of God).  However, this faith must be a lifelong commitment and dedication to serving God faithfully. As it should be translated, "the JUST BY FAITH shall live."  As verse 16 states, "the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."

The word "believeth," means more than just accepting the facts of the Gospel.  It indicates the same as "the just by faith shall live."  Paul discusses this subject in Chapters 3 & 4, especially ch. 4, to speak of Abraham's faith.  I will discuss this later in my study.  In Romans 5:1, Paul declares that we are justified by faith, the kind of faith that Abraham had.  Romans 1:17 (the just shall live by faith), and Romans 5:1 (we are justified by faith) are merely sources of revelation.

Other Scriptures that teach that we are saved by faith (John 3:16; Romans 1:16; Romans 5:1-2; Eph. 2:8; Acts 16:31; 10:43; 15:9; 13:39; John 8:24; 3:36; 5:24; 6:40; 20:30-31; Romans 3:22-28; 4:3, 16).  So we infer that faith is essential to salvation, and without faith, no man can be saved. However, nowhere in the Bible does it state that we are saved by faith only or by faith alone.  It is an abuse of the above passages to say that faith is necessary to salvation while denying the necessity of baptism for salvation.  Is there any Scripture that states that we are saved by "faith only" or "faith alone"?  Is faith alone the only condition for salvation?  Are we saved by faith without baptism or without obedience?  None of these statements are found in the Bible.

All Scriptures mentioned above teach that we are saved by faith, but do not teach that we are saved by faith alone without obedience.  By the same token, many passages in the Bible mention faith but do not mention repentance or confession any more than baptism.  So shall we conclude that they are all not necessary?  Should we not acknowledge and accept the necessity of baptism?  Later in this study, I will discuss those things that are needed or essential to salvation.

  • The Bible Denies That We are Saved by "Faith Only."
Many passages in the Scriptures point out that faith in one's heart, by itself, will not save us.  Consider some of them:

    • John 12:42-43:  "Nevertheless even of the rulers many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: 43 for they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God"  Were the rulers of the Jews saved and acceptable with God when they believed in Jesus? (CF. Rom. 10:9-10; Matt. 10:32-33).
    • James 2:19-20 "You believe there is one God. That’s good, but even the demons believe that! And they shake with fear.  20 You fool! Faith that does nothing is worth nothing. Do you want me to prove this to you?"  The demons believe and are aware that there is only one true God, are they saved?
    • James 2:14, 24 "My brothers and sisters, if a person claims to have faith but does nothing, that faith is worth nothingFaith like that cannot save anyone...  24 So you see that people are made right with God by what they do. They cannot be made right by faith alone."  So the question is, can faith save without obedience?  NO!  It is a dead faith (verses 17, 20, 26).  It implies that man is not justified by "faith only."  And though this passage mentioned “faith alone," it does say that we are not justified by "faith alone"!  Those who teach justification by faith only are teaching error and are false.  The Bible emphatically declares that we are NOT justified by faith alone!  Take heed!

Some say that unsaved believers may have the wrong kind of faith and, therefore, not be saved.  They have intellectual conviction but do not trust Jesus to save them.  When we present the Gospel, sometimes our friends will say, “I believe that ” but they're merely emphasizing their intellectual acceptance of what they are told.  In the New Testament or Gospel of Christ, the words for "faith" and "believe" are applied to subjective acceptance of facts.  The preaching of the Gospel might produce this acceptance.
"After he was raised from death, his followers remembered that he had said this. So they believed the Scriptures, and they believed the words Jesus said.  23 Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Many people believed in him because they saw the miraculous signs he did"  (John 2:22-23).
"Many of the Samaritan people in that town believed in Jesus. They believed because of what the woman had told them about him. She had told them, 'He told me everything I have ever done... 41 Many more people became believers because of the things he said.  42 The people said to the woman, 'First we believed in Jesus because of what you told us. But now we believe because we heard him ourselves. We know now that he really is the one who will save the world'"  (John 4:39, 41-42).
"I told them the words you gave me, and they accepted them. They realized the fact that I came from you and believed that you sent me"  (John 17:8)
"(His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue)"  (John 9:22).  

The rulers feared that they would be persecuted.  Confessing Jesus is more than just accepting the facts concerning Him like the demons did in James 2.  Jesus said that whoever confesses Him before men, He would confess before the Father and whoever denied Him before men, He would deny before the Father (Matt. 10:32).  The same is true in Romans 10:8-14, where belief comes before confessing.  Both are necessary to be justified
"But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth, one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, 'Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.' 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'  14 How then will they call on 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 someone preaching?"'  

This passage demands total dedication to the Lord, not just momentary acceptance of facts. Philippians 2:10-11 illustrates this well, "so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  However, just acceptance of facts alone, faith alone, is not enough to be acceptable to God (James 2:19).  This system of thinking acknowledges that faith is vital to salvation but that there are various kinds of faith.  Many forms of faith do not save, even when people believe in God and the Son.  So the question is, what kind of faith saves and what does it require? Does it require repentance, confession, baptism, and obedience to God's divine commands?

  • Obedience is Essential to Salvation:

There can be no doubt that obedience is key to mankind's salvation.  The doctrine of "faith alone" claims that faith is the one and only prerequisite to forgiveness and that all acts of obedience come "after" forgiveness.  That none are essential to obtain forgiveness of sins.  According to some, even the Gospel’s doctrine is not necessary to be saved, but it is important because we have been saved.  But the Bible contradicts what they say.  Consider some Scriptures that prove this:

    • 1 Peter 1:22-23:  "Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently: 23 having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which liveth and abideth."  How do we purify our souls?  By obedience to the Truth, by obeying from the heart to be made free from sin (Romans 5:9).
    • Hebrews 5:9:  "And having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation."  Who is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him?  Jesus, our Lord!
    • James 2:24:  "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."  So, is man justified by "faith alone"?  NO!  By works and not faith only!
    • Acts  11:14; 10:34-35:  "He will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household." "34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation, anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him,"   Peter told Cornelius those words that were necessary for him to be savedHe likewise said that to be accepted by God, everyone must work righteousness.  God shows no partiality. All who fear Him and do what is righteous are acceptable to Him.
    • Matthew 7:21-27; Luke 6:46:  "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven... Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."  Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?"'  So, can one accept Jesus as Lord (Ruler and Master) and not do what He says one must do to enter the kingdom of heaven?  Can one believe and confess Him only and expect not to be rejected because he refused to obey Him?  What do you think?
    • 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Romans 2:6-10:  "In flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might."  Romans 2:6-10"He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil... "  Can one who does evil and not obey the Truth receive eternal life, heaven?  Those who do not obey the Truth, the Gospel, will be condemned to hell forever.
    • 1 John 5:3; John 14:15, 21-24:  "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome."  John 14:15, 21-24, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments... 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me. Loving God demands that we keep His commandments (rules, laws).  We don't love Him when we disobey Him.  So, can one be saved if he does not love God (cf. 1 Cor. 16:22; Matt. 22:37-39)?

The doctrine of "faith alone" denies the need for all obedience to the commands of God.  It is a false view of the doctrines of the Gospel of Christ.  Consider some Scriptures that state the consequences of this system of theology that claims that obedience is not essential to man's salvation.
    • Matthew 22:37-39:  "And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."'  Notice that love is the greatest of all commands.  So, if obeying commands is not essential to man's salvation, then love is not necessary as commanded by the Lord.  Yet, in 1 Corinthians 16:22, we read, "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed... "
    • Acts 17:30:  "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent."  Do you suppose repentance is not a command?  So, if keeping commands, laws, rules is not vital and necessary for man's salvation, then repentance is not essential to man's salvation either.  Yet, Acts 2:38; 3:19; Luke 13:3; 2 Peter 3:9 declare that repentance is necessary!
    • Romans 10:9-10:  "Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth, one confesses and is saved."  Confession with our mouth is a command.  So, if obeying commands is not necessary to salvation, then confession is not essential either!  Yet, our passage plainly declares that it is vital or essential to man's salvation!  Notice, that confession is made with our mouth in contrast to the faith in the heart!
    • 1 John 3:23; John 6:28-29:  "And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us."  John 6:28-29:  "Then they said to him, 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?' 29 Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.'"  Faith itself is another command.   Notice that it is a work that God demands that we obey or do.  So, if works and obedience are not essential or vital to man's salvation, then faith itself is not necessary.  Why? Simply because it is a work God has commanded us to do!!  If one admits that faith is essential, then one must disregard the false concept that obedience and works are not essential!  
    • Some claim that John 6:29 speaks of faith as a work that God does for us, and not something that we must do.  However, 1 John 3:23 still declares that believing is a command given to us (Mark 16:15-16).  John 6:29 answers the question asked in verse 28"What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”  The works of God in this Scripture imply the works that men must do as obedience to God's commands.  Notice the parallel in 1 Corinthians 15:58 when it says, "in the work of the Lord."  Here, the work of the Lord is that work that we abound in always; it is our labor in the Lord ("love of God" in 1 John 5:3).  Therefore, if faith is entirely a work that God does for us, then God is responsible for those who do not believe in Him, the unbelievers.  That makes Him a God who causes some to believe but not others.  It makes God a respecter of people, which is contrary to what we read in Acts 10:34-35 and Romans 2:11.  So, we infer from John 6:29 that faith is something that we must do, and that is essential to man's salvation as obedience is essential to forgiveness.  With this in mind, what command must we obey?  Is baptism one of those commands or works?  Does the Gospel include commands (law) and works (obedience)?  Consider the following.

  • Is obedience a necessary component of the Gospel?  
Again, I must stress that law is that which must be obeyed.  If law is not necessary under the Gospel of Christ, then neither is obedience.  On the other hand, if obedience is essential, then so is law also.  Consider the following.
    • Romans 6:17-18:  "But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness."  Paul declares that we have been set free from sin when we obey the standard of teaching (the doctrine delivered).
    • Hebrews 5:9:  "And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,"  Jesus is the Author of eternal salvation to those who obey Him.
    • Matthew 7:21-27:  "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’  24 Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock... "  To enter the kingdom of heaven, one must do the will of God.  Learning Jesus' teachings or claiming to believe in Him is not enough if one does not do or obey the will of the Father.
    • 1 Peter 1:22:  "Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart."  When we obey the Truth, we purify our souls.
    • 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9:  "in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might." Those who do not obey the Gospel of Christ will be punished in flaming fire.  And though the Gospel is not a system of justification by works of the law, yet it is a fact that the Gospel is a law in which works and obedience to commands are vital to receiving salvation.  Take heed that the words "law" or "works" can have different meanings and can be different things.  So, the Gospel is a law that demands works.

II.   FAITH AND OBEDIENCE GO HAND IN HAND:

Many people agree that saving faith includes repentance and confession.  However, saving faith also requires obedience, and obedience is essential to salvation.  The faith that saves is a faith that obeys God to receive forgiveness from Him.  He will not grant any forgiveness to anyone until he obeys His terms of salvation.  In Hebrews 10:39 to chapter 11, we have many examples of people who "by faith" obeyed the will of God and pleased Him to be rewarded by Him (verse 6).   That is the kind of faith that believes to the saving of our soul (Heb. 10:39).  My question is, did the heroes of faith receive their reward before or after they obeyed God? Consider the following:
  • Noah:
"And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And it repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And Jehovah said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the ground; both man, and beast, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens; for it repenteth me that I have made them. 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of Jehovah" (Gen. 6:5-6).  

Noah was a man who feared God, wanting to do what was right before God (he stood faithful, obedient, and righteous), even though he lived amid so much wickedness.  Noah's sparkling qualities caught God's eyes in heaven.  And since Noah chose to live righteously before Jehovah, God chose to favor him as a result (Noah found grace in the eyes of God).  Noah was saved by faith (Heb. 11:7).  By faith, Noah prepared an ark to save his house, becoming an heir of righteousness according to faith.  My question iswas he saved by faith before he obeyed? Or was he required to obey God first?  Did God then save him from the flood?  Would God have saved him if he had not obeyed?  Noah was saved because he believed God was sending a flood and prepared an ark as God had commanded him.  We, too, are saved because we believe that God has already sent His Son, who was crucified for our sins, buried and raised.

Noah benefited from God's Grace because of his faith. In the same way, we benefit from God's Grace through faith in Jesus (Romans 5:1-2).  Even though the Grace of God was playing an essential role in Noah's salvation, he was not saved by Grace alone.  Did Noah's faith take away from God's Grace?  Absolutely NOT!  So, are we any less saved by grace if we are required by God to have faith?  NO!  Paul declares that it is by faith that we have access to God's Grace.  So, if we do not have faith, the Grace of God will do us no good (Romans 5:1-2).  Remember, Noah was saved by grace and by faith and not by any of them alone.  It is the same way with us today!

Noah was saved by works.  Without his works, Noah’s faith would have been useless.  "Thus also faith by itself if it does not have works is dead"  (James 2:17).  A faith that does not exercise works will die.  A dead faith is good for nothing!  An active faith has access to God's Grace.  God’s generous offer of Grace to Noah would have failed had he not believed God and obeyed His commands. Without works of obedience, we can never have access to God's Grace.  Works that simply do what God has commanded us to do!  (Phil. 2:13).  God demands that we do His will, and this requires works (James 2:24).  Therefore, man is justified by works and not by faith only!!
Noah was also saved by water.  Only eight souls were saved from the floodwaters.

God's Grace made salvation possible by faith and works (the building of the ark).  The floodwaters washed away the wickedness of that world back then. At the same time, the waters lifted the saving ark high above the destruction.  1 Peter 3:20 declares, "that aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water." 

 And though Noah was saved by God's Grace and faith, he was also saved by his works and water.  God chose water to save Noah.  Today, God says that in the waters of baptism, one's sins are washed away (Acts 2:38; 22:16).  Just like the flood was a new beginning, so it is with baptism.  Noah was saved by Grace, faith, works, and water.  Grace alone does not save!  Faith alone does not save!  Works alone do not save!  Water alone does not save either!  But all of these components together do save!  God's Grace teaches us to repent and deny worldly lusts (Titus 2:12). Our works will perfect our faith (James 2:2).  Baptism will put us into Christ (Gal. 3:27).  Only in Jesus, salvation is found (2 Tim. 2:10).  So, is man saved by grace, faith, works, and water?  Absolutely YES!
  • Abraham:
"By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out unto a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing whither he went"  (Heb. 11:8).
Did God reward Abraham before he obeyed, or after he obeyed?  Would God have rewarded him had he not obeyed?  

Abraham did what God commanded him to do with trust and obedience.  This is faith that was counted for righteousness.  You see, when Abraham was commanded by God to leave Ur (Gen. 12), he departed to go to the land that God had promised to give him and his descendants.  "And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness."  (Genesis 15:6).  Indeed, his faith was an active one. 
"4 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin." 

In this passage, we see Abraham's faith that was counted as righteousness. So, does Romans 4:1-5 teach that when Abraham obeyed God's command, he wanted to justify himself by "works"?  Does Paul teach that when he (Abraham) obeyed the command of leaving his land, his obedience was not necessary?  Though he did not have any children yet, God promised him that he would have offspring and that they would be like the stars in heaven (Gen. 15:5-6; Rom. 4:3).  Many twist Romans 4:3 into saying that Abraham was justified by faith only.  But in Romans 2:8, Paul states, "but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury."  So, faith that does not obey is nothing!  It is again a dead faith (James 2:26).

In James 2:21-24, we read, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." 

Abraham was justified every time he obeyed God. Our “faith only” friends avoid the insight of James by saying that this "justification" is not the same kind of justification that Paul is talking about. Citing Romans 4:2they say Abraham was not justified before God but perhaps before men. Yet, there were no human witnesses to Abraham offering his son as a sacrifice to God. Genesis 22:12, God himself said, “now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”  Such an argument is pure foolishness designed to ignore the importance of Abraham's obedient faith, he walked by faith, Romans 4:12.  Justification is justification. Period! 

The only correct explanation is that Paul and James are speaking of different kinds of works. Paul is speaking of "works done by us in righteousness"  (Titus 3:5, as in the case of Cornelius, Acts 10, 11).  On the other hand, James is talking about works of obedience toward God, as in the case of Abraham and the other examples of the faithful ones mentioned in Hebrews 11 because of their works of obedience.

So, Paul states in Romans 4 that Abraham was not justified by "works," while James 2 says that Abraham was indeed justified by works.  Which of them is correct?  Obviously both!  Why? Because both James and Paul speak with one voice saying in Romans 4:12"and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised."

Thus, Abraham's faith was not faith only.  It was a faith that walked in the footsteps of the faith.  His footsteps were actions, doings, or works of obedience.  Those who quote Romans 4:1-5 to teach justification by faith alone twist the Scripture to their own destruction (2 Pet. 3:16).  They ignore and do not care what Paul himself states in the same letter in Romans 2; 4:12 and James 2:20-24.  Take heed!

Indeed, Abraham never thought to justify himself like the Jews did (Luke 16:15).  That is, he never thought to justify himself because of his own works aside from God's forgiveness.  Paul continues in Romans 4:6-7"Just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:  7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,  and whose sins are covered."  That is, those who seek God and accept His forgiveness on His terms seek out "righteousness apart from works," and are justified by faith and not by "works."  We must allow Paul to explain himself.  It is not necessary to abandon the text under consideration to fully understand the meaning of justification, not by works.  It is an abuse of verses 3-5 to not include the conclusion of Paul’s argument in verses 5-8. It is not honest!  They don't rightly handle the Word of Truth!  (2 Tim. 2:15).

So, was Abraham justified without obedience to God's commandments?  Of course not! Correspondingly, when Christ and the apostles teach baptism for salvation (the forgiveness of sins), obedience to this commandment is not "work" in the sense of Ephesians 2: 8-9, nor is the worship that we offer God each Lord's Day.
  • Israel at Jericho:
"By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days"  (Heb. 11:30).


Did the walls fall before the Israelites did what God said, or afterward?  Would they have fallen, had they not obeyed God?  Our text says that the walls fell "after they had been encircled for seven days."  There are many other examples of obedient faith in Hebrews 11God rewarded those who had an obedient faith.  They received the blessing "by faith," not before they obeyed or without obedience but only after they had obeyed (as a result of their obedience).  When faith leads to obedience, then one receives the reward "by faith."  A saving faith is a faith that obeys.  So, what about those who believe that obedience is not necessary?  Will God save them before they obey? Their faith is not a saving faith until they obey. The faith that avails is the faith that works.  God requires a working faith! (Gal. 5:6; 2 Cor. 5:7; 1 Thess. 1:3; Gal. 2:20; 2 Thess. 1:11; Rom. 1:5; 16:26).


CONCLUSION:

A truly clever person can nearly always find justification to exempt himself from doing what he ought to do, especially with the help of the Prince of Darkness. The brilliance of the Evil One is seen today in the belief that those who are scrupulous in obeying the Lord are the wicked Pharisees, and those who intend to honor Him, but actually don't, are the righteous.  When it comes to reverent obedience, many have the wrong attitude.  Why do I say that?  Because they think that obedience to God and His commands, His laws, is not really essential or vital for salvation, eternal life.  They claim that as long as one is doing what's “right,” it does not matter how strictly he adheres to all of Jesus' teachings of the "perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25).  As a consequence of this, they give the label of "legalists" to those of us who suggest that kind of adherence to Jesus and His Lordship.  No matter which law God had placed over man, he was expected to diligently learn and know the law, and do it because that was the will of God.

It is true that no man is sinless. So, of course, no man will be saved by living a perfectly sinless life (Rom. 3:23). Though no man's obedience deserves eternal life (no man is saved without grace and faith). It is also true that because of sin, there are things man must do (besides grace and faith) to obtain forgiveness of sins.  The blood of Jesus has the power to forgive sins.  Once man sins, there is nothing that he can do to compensate for his sins. Only the blood of Jesus can overcome sin.  However, the Word of God instructs us that obedience is essential for us to benefit from the cleansing power of Jesus' blood. Jesus' doctrines are essential to salvation.  Obedience to the terms determined by Jesus' Lordship is vital to receiving eternal life.  He is the only Lord, Master, Ruler, and the One who exercises all authority in heaven and earth.  So to accept Him as Lord demands that we obey His rules, laws, and commands. We must submit completely to Him and to His authority with complete and reverent obedience.

We must understand and accept the importance of grace, faith, works, and law that we not belittle the importance of God's conditions for receiving the forgiveness of our sins.  Instead, we must rather trust and obey.  We must not belittle the importance of living a life that is pure and holy, devoted to service to God.  When we have an obedient faith like Noah had, we meet the conditions of salvation and are saved by Grace through faith even as Noah was (Acts 18:27; 8:22; John 1:12-17; Gal. 5:4-6; Titus 3:3-8; Heb. 12:14-15).  Saving faith requires obedience.  Obedience to God's commands is vital to receiving salvation.

God's laws cannot be violated, no matter how unreasonable they might seem to us.  God has not changed His commands or precepts and still demands that we obey Him, without adding to or subtracting from His Law, His Word.  God must be obeyed!  One cannot obey just a portion of what He has commanded and still please God and receive eternal life.
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all (James 2:10).  

Today, we have many who willfully ignore and disobey, violating the requirements (the obedience to the Gospel of Christ) to be saved.  Most people understand that salvation is by grace, i.e., that man cannot save himself (have his sins forgiven), but he must rely on the blood of our Lord and Savior.  However, the same people who acknowledge that salvation is by grace also must admit that salvation is not universal.  Jesus said,
For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few”  (Matthew 7:14).
"And if the righteous is scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?" (1 Peter 4:18)
Also, 
“And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him  (Heb. 5:9).  

God has been very specific about the requirements that man must obey to be saved.  This is what it means:
  •  “To obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (Romans 10:16; 2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17). 
  •  It is also “obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).  
  • And “obedience to the Truth” (1 Peter 1:22).  
  • The Bible (especially the Book of Acts) is full of examples of those who obeyed the Gospel of Christ (Acts 2:37-41; 8:12; 8:35-39; 9:18; 11:14; 10:48; 16:30-34; 18:8; 19:5 and 22:16).

Many stubbornly insist on teaching error, saying that salvation is by “faith alone.”  They ignore what the jailer asked Paul and Silas:
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?''  And they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.'  And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house”'  (Acts 16:32).  

Take note that the “word” they spoke to him and his family was the Gospel of Christ, which included baptism.  After they had heard the Gospel, they wanted to obey it and were baptized at once (Acts 16:33). Therefore, there is only one baptism and one plan of salvation, and man must obey the Gospel to be saved, be forgiven, be justified, and have the hope of eternal life (salvation).

The Law of Christ consists of rules, requirements, and commands.  They all demand obedience. In Matthew 7:21, 24, 26 Jesus said,
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven…  Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock… And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”  

Jesus says it is foolish not to obey His words, His Law, His Gospel.  The apostles also insisted that we must obey the Gospel (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 4:17; 2 Thess. 1:7-8).

Today we have the Law of Christ (the New Testament), which demands the same obedience to God altogether.  Disobedience to God was not, nor ever has been, tolerated under either of the two systems. Under both systems, obedience has always received the blessings of God.

Sadly, many choose to obey only the portion of the Bible; they believe fits them well.   I will then leave you with these questions:

Have you obeyed the Lord?

Are you willing to obey Him and everything that He has commanded us to do?

Do you suppose that we can make it to heaven without knowing and obeying our God?  We cannot know God if we do not walk in the same way in which Jesus walked, completely obedient to His Father's will. 

May we always do our very best and be like Noah and all those heroes of faith and not like Saul and all those who chose to disobey God following their own ways and reasoning.  May we walk in total obedience (faith) according to all that God has commanded us to do.  May our faith (obedience) be demonstrated by the way we walk, that is, by our actions.  May we obey God even when we disagree and cannot understand the rationale behind His instructions or commands.  May we be willing to hear His Word and become doers of the same, that we may enter the kingdom of heaven and receive our eternal reward.


Luci