The great need of our time is faith. Men need more faith in God, more faith in His Word, and more faith in their fellow-man. Faith in God and His Word will make for greater faith in man, and will clear up most of our problems in human relations.
Men have become so infatuated with the scientific advancements of the age that they have forgotten the basic need for faith in getting along with one another. For instance, we know a thousand times as much about the stars that God told Abraham to go out into the night and count, but he knew a thousand times as much about the hand that made those stars. And it was his faith in God that led him to permit Lot to make first choice of the land, and it was this same faith that caused him to appeal to Lot by saying: "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen; for we are brethren." (Gen. 13:8.)
William Quayle once said of John Burroughs, the great naturalist, "He knew the garden, but never found the Gardener." It is time that we pause in our adoration of science and lift our eyes to Him who made the laws men have discovered in science.
Christianity a System of Faith
From center to circumference, Christianity is a system of faith. Every act of obedience in this great system must spring of faith. Every act of worship, every deed of kindness, every word of cheer, comfort, or warning must spring of faith in the heart. Without faith, there can be no hope of our pleasing God. "Without faith," says the apostle Paul, "it is impossible to be well pleasing unto God" (Heb. 11:6). Singing, without faith, is worse than no song at all. Baptism not born of faith's conviction is no baptism at all.
If we might liken Christianity to a building, faith is the foundation, and obedience the superstructure. It does no good to build a house without putting a foundation under it, according to the Lord's parable (Luke 6:46-49). But it is even more foolish to try to live in a foundation without a roof over our heads.
"Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1). There is no question about it - the believer is justified. No one but a believer can be justified. But we make a great mistake if we think one can be justified by faith only. In the same epistle, the inspired author said his gospel "is made known unto all the nations unto the obedience of faith" (Rom. 15:26). Earlier, he informs us that his apostleship was "unto obedience of faith among all the nations, for his name's sake" (Rom. 1:5).
The Obedience of Faith
In writing his history of the first church of Christ, the evangelist Luke relates how "a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7).
No one doubts that God will justify the believer. But the question is, what kind of a believer? Does He justify the obedient believer, or is it the disobedient believer?
It is clearly manifest from the Word of God that only the first class have any assurance of salvation. The apostle John gives us some living examples of the latter class, of whom no one could hardly imagine were saved: "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: for they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God" (John 12:42-44).
All Mankind in Two Classes
It is generally recognized that a man is either saved or lost. There are only two classes of mankind in so far as God is concerned. It is equally true that all mankind fall into two classes with regard to obedience to the gospel. They have either obeyed the gospel, or else they have not. They may believe the gospel, and still not obey it. If they belong to this class, they are disobedient believers.
Of such, Paul said: "At the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might" (II Thess. 1:7-9).
This Scripture should clearly establish the fact that there is no assurance of salvation in simply believing. Obedience is unmistakably necessary.
Faith Without Works
The apostle James was a half-brother of Jesus, according to the flesh, and was inspired by God's Holy Spirit in writing his short epistle. He wrote at length to prove the fallacy of salvation by faith only. Notice his words: "What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works: can that faith save him? If a brother or a sister be naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; and yet ye give them not the things needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself. Yea, a man will say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith apart from thy works, and I by my works will show thee my faith. Thou believest that God is one; thou doest well: the demons also believe, and shudder But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect; and the scripture was fulfilled which saith, and Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness and he was called the friend of God. Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. And in like manner was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead" (James 2:14-26).
Faith Results in Obedience
Real faith is demonstrated in obedience. When one fails to obey God it is obvious that faith is lacking. We may lay claim to being believers, but failure to obey is an absolute demonstration of lack of faith. For all practical purposes, the disobedient person is an atheist, even though his claims may be ever so loud to the contrary.
Whenever you read of a believer being saved, it is the direct result of faith demonstrating itself in obedience. No case of salvation by faith alone can be found in the Bible. Even the thief on the cross made a confession of faith, and clearly portrays the truth that every person must manifest his faith according to the ability given him. About all a crucified man could do would be to honor the Lord with his lips.
God requires of each of us according to our ability. We know of persons on their sickbeds who are not able to do much, but they speak to their visitors of the Lord, and His salvation.
The trouble is that with many of us the doctrine of salvation by faith only is an excuse. Some seem to think they don't have to go to church meetings, helping the needy and the missionary is not important, and Christian living needs little concern us; for we will be saved by faith only. But such faith is worse than no faith at all; for it is in actuality no faith - but pure deception.
No man has ever lived who had greater faith than Jesus of Nazareth. He is the very symbol of all that Christians would like to become, when we consider His great faith. Yet, even He was not accepted for so great a faith, it was necessary for Him to prove His faith by His obedience. "Though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation" (Heb. 5:8-9).
Permit me to call your attention, in passing, to the fact that there is no assurance of salvation to one who does not obey the Son of God. Christ is the author of salvation only to them that obey Him.
Christianity a Practical System
Jesus Christ was a pragmatist, in that He never taught anything that was not practical nor useful. In fact, theorists and formalists find little in the Word of God. It is an evil tendency that man possesses to teach one thing and practice something of a baser sort. Jesus recognized this fault, and said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven."
There are many of these impractical souls who are going to be surprised at the judgment. Of a truth, there will be many professed Christians who will appear before Him, and will begin to enumerate the miracles they have performed in His name, only to hear Him say: "I never knew you: depart from me, ye workers of iniquity" (Matt. 7:21-23).
There is no substitute for genuine Christianity, as demonstrated by obedience to the will of God. Modern healing, talking in tongues, baptism in the Holy Ghost, and other such claims of supernatural powers today have no value in evidence of real Christianity. Jesus indicates that these are but deceptive methods by which false teachers will try to lead the elect astray. Those who use such, Jesus classifies as workers of iniquity. Jesus wants a practical demonstration of Christianity, and has insisted that there is no substitute for obedience.
Faith and Obedience Mean the Same Thing
It is remarkable that the inspired writers and speakers of the Bible used the terms faith and obedience interchangeably. This will be noted in this language from the pen of the apostle John: "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but be that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36).
The King James Version renders the second phrase, "believeth not the Son"; but this is faulty. Prof. J. Henry Thayer defines the Greek word to mean: "to refuse belief and obedience" (Greek - English Lexicon of New Testament, p.56). Prof. J. P.Lange renders it: "Is not obedient in faith to the Son"; and adds this comment: "Is disobedient; meaning, however, as standing opposed to faith, the refusal of the obedience of faith" (Critical, Doctrinal, and homiletical Commentary, Vol. XVIII, p.145). These are just two of the many scholars who show that the American Standard Version is correct in rendering this term (which also appears in the following references in Hebrews) by the English meaning of "disobedience".
Israel's Disobedience Was Unbelief
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews used the same terms referred to above from the writings of the apostle John. In speaking of the wanderings of Israel, and relating the cause for their failure to enter the promised rest, the apostle informs us, "We see that they were not able to enter in because of unbelief" (3:19). Later, he adds: "Let us give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience" (4:12).
Since inspired men used the ideas of faith and obedience interchangeably, our conclusion is that they are interminably identified with one another.
This synonymous use of faith and obedience did not originate with the inspired men of God. The Greek philosopher, Plato, once said: "Atheism is a disease, and a corruption of the soul; and no man ever did an unrighteous act, or uttered an impious word, unless he was a theoretical or practical atheist."
Justification by Faith Includes Baptism
A cursory examination of the following verses of Scripture will show that the Bible teaches that baptism is one of the things that are necessary for the remission of sins:
"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins" (Acts 2:38).
"The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us" (I Pet. 3:21).
"Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (John 8:5).
None of these inspired men meant to imply that faith was excluded, but all these statements are based on the Lord's words, where He said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). Water, and water alone, never saved anyone. Nor is pardon to be found in the abstract act of baptism. Pardon takes place in the mind of God, and is given in response to our faith and obedience to His will.
In the same vein Paul says, "For we are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ" (Gal. 3:26-27). Faith is the actuating motive that leads to baptism and makes it effectual. There is no efficacy in baptism, without faith. But when our faith is great enough to accept God at His Word by submitting to the ordinance of baptism, He is pleased to remit all our past sins.
Baptism No Work of Righteousness
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). Here, you will notice the apostle Paul places baptism on one side of the ledger, and the works of righteousness on the other. Baptism is not a work of righteousness. The two are in direct opposition to one another.
These works of righteousness are doctrines and practices that originate with man, and not with God. No one can read in his Bible anything about counting beads, the auricular confession, masses for souls in purgatory, or submitting to the rule of the pope. Therefore, it is human righteousness for us to practice such. God's commandments contain His righteousness: "All thy commandments are righteousness:" (Psalm 119:172). Furthermore, the grace of God reigns through those commandments: "Even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life" (Rom. 5:21).
We cannot reject the commandments of God and hope to stand in His grace. We may safely reject the mourner's bench, since it is nowhere commanded in God's Word. But we cannot reject baptism, since it is a positive divine commandment (Please read Acts 10:48). For us to reject baptism, is to reject the counsel of God: "But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God, being not baptized of him"' Luke 7:30). Can one be saved while rejecting the counsel of God?
The true Christian makes no effort to rationalise the matter. He does not need to reason out what there is about baptism that helps save him. He sees that God has commanded it, and like Abraham, he knows that nothing short of what God says can mean salvation. He walks by faith, instead of sight. He has enough faith to see that anything God appoints as a means to his salvation, will do exactly what God predicates of it. "He does not ask the reason why, he simply seeks to do or die."
My friend, do you have enough faith to see that baptism, which has the appearance of being nothing more than water, can bring the forgiveness of your sins? Do you have as much faith as Naaman had when he was told to dip in the river Jordan seven times to cleanse his leprosy? If so. let me urge upon you the words of Ananias to Saul of Tarsus:
"And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins" (Acts 22:16).
"Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness " (Romans 6:16).
Maurice A Meredith
1230 Orlando Drive, Coolidge, Arizona 85228
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