The doctrine of easy-believism has flooded the modern church leaving in its wake a church drowning in false professions and unsubstantiated hopes of salvation as well as empty pews or pews occupied by “believers” who look and act just like the world around them. No one who reverences the Word of God would deny that salvation is by faith alone through grace alone. Just a partial citation of the verses attesting to this fact is sufficient. “For by grace you have been saved through faith”—Eph. 2:8. “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law”—Rom. 3:28. “The Father . . . has caused us to be born again . . . [and to be] protected by the power of God through faith” –1 Pet. 1:3, 5. “Whoever believes [the verb form of the noun translated faith] in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”—John 3:16. “Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life”—John 6:40. “He who believes in me will live”—John 11:25. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life”—John 3:36.
The last verse cited above provides a significant contrast between the saved and the lost. And, if it does not exactly define faith, it lends insight into what constitutes saving faith. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life,” John writes, affirming, yet again, that a sinner is saved, not by works, but by believing alone. But then he declares the opposing truth: “but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). In John’s parlance, to fail to believe in the Son for eternal life is to disobey the Son.
Other inspired passages use similar expressions. For example, we understand that the Holy Spirit indwells only those who are saved by faith. And Peter declared that God gives the Holy Spirit “to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32). In the greatest treatise on salvation and faith that has ever been penned, Paul wrote that God called him to be an apostle in order “to bring about the obedience of faith [i.e., salvation] among all the Gentiles” (Rom. 1:5). Later in the same epistle, he explained that the Romans who were “slaves to sin” (in other words, lost and on their way to hell), “became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed” (Rom. 6:17). The result of this obedience from the heart? They were “freed from sin” (v. 18); that is, they were saved. Paul explained to the Thessalonian believers that those who will someday “pay the penalty of eternal destruction” are those “who do not know God and . . . who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:8, 9). Similarly, Peter talks of the severity of the final judgment that will befall the unbelieving lost, asking a rhetorical question: “what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17). The testimony is clear and significant: the New Testament speaks of salvation as “obey[ing] the Son,” “the obedience of faith,” being “obedient from the heart,” and “obey[ing] the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
Does Scripture contradict itself? Are there two ways of salvation? The answer to both questions is “Of course not.” But the testimony of Scripture is that the relationship between faith and obedience is inseparable. Genuine faith results in measurable obedience. It is not possible to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, to believe the message of salvation, without submitting to the Word of God, without obeying it. That obedience is never perfect this side of the believer’s glorification, but it does exist wherever genuine saving faith exists. We are not assured of salvation because we prayed a prayer or gave mental assent to the message that Jesus saves sinners. John explained that “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). Real salvation does not dead end in a faith that fails to transform the life in any discernible manner. Paul affirmed that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
An invaluable blow to the error of easy-believism would be struck if those who profess to preach the gospel would add the truths contained in the passages cited above to their repertoire. And to make personal application: is your faith real? Are you obedient to the Word of God?
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