Faith is at the center of the religion of Christ. Everything else rests on it. No hope is offered without it; no effort has value unless faith prompts it.
Of course, other things are necessary, but they become part of our lives and mold our thinking in direct proportion as we believe the divine pattern of conduct and thought revealed in the Word of God. What one believes religiously must be based on God’s Word, not the opinions men have about religion. This is why Paul wrote: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
The wise man said: “For as he thinketh within himself, so is he” (Pro. 23:7). In other words, whatever a person believes determines his character and what he does. So we arc told: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life” (Pro. 4:23). Jesus was emphasizing the same point when he said: “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Mat. 12:34). Acceptable, saving faith is “…conviction and trust, conjoined with obedience.”
What a person believes is important. Hence, the entire Bible, and especially the facts, commands, and promises of the New Testament, will be accepted as true and the guide for his life. If he really believes the Bible is the revelation of the will of God for man, he will not hesitate to do what it requires.
The Scriptures teach: “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). If someone believes the Bible is true, he will accept whatever it says about God—His wisdom, power, knowledge, love, kindness, justice, faithfulness, etc. He will believe the promises of God are valid and will be given when and if the conditions are met upon which they are offered.
Jesus said, “except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8: 24). Men are to believe Jesus was who he claimed to be—Emmanuel, God made flesh, the Son of God. We are to believe He lived a perfect life, taught the very words of God, the words of life. We are to believe He died on the cross-shedding His blood for the remission of man’s sins, was raised by the power of God, ascended back to the Father, and now sits on His throne on God’s right hand reigning over His kingdom—the assembly of those called out of the world—the church of Christ.
Faith, if it is to be acceptable to God, must be active, Paul said, “But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered; and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17f). James said: “Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself (Jam. 2:17).
If one believes what the Bible teaches about God and His Son, he believes God wills only good for man. He is very much aware of the love God had for men, even when they were hostile and enemies of God (Rom. 5:6-10; Col. 1:21f; 1 John 4:10). That divine love moves him to love God in return, so love (along with faith) is the motive for what he does (1 Cor. 13:1-3). If he claims to love God but will not obey God’s commands, for whatever reason, his professed love is a sham. Jesus said: “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. He that loveth me not keepeth not my words” (John 14:23-24; see also John 14:15; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 6). These passages stress that if one loves God he will obey the Lord’s commandments.
If we believe what is taught in Scripture, our faith is a result of hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). We learn of God’s great love only from the Word, and both faith and love are the motives for our obedience to God’s will, This is what Paul was talking about when he said that faith works through love (Gal. 5:6).
Those who insist that salvation is “by grace only” and “faith only” show they really do not understand the meaning or the relationship of faith, love, and obedience. Acceptable faith (conviction and trust conjoined with obedience) in God manifests itself in the kind of love Jesus had. Belief generates such love. A believer, cannot be unconcerned or nonchalant about God’s expression of His love toward man in the gift of His Son. Paul wrote: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that one died for all, therefore all died; and he died for all, that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their, sakes died and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
Faith that pleases God is active. A faithful person obeys every command of the One in whom he believes. Indeed, that is why he is considered faithful. Jesus challenged those who professed faith in Him but would not obey Him: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). This verse shows how contradictory it is to claim to believe in the Lord and at the same time refuse to obey His will.
Jesus again showed the necessity of obedience:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Mat. 7:21-23).
They professed to believe in Christ, but to their everlasting horror, their failure to obey Him brought about their eternal ruin.
Faith moves us to live by God’s great moral code (1 Tim. 1:5; 5:22; 1 John 3:3). It prompts us to submit to every aspect of God’s revealed will. We do not obey the Lord in order to merit salvation as a debt owed to us; we do it because we know this pleases Him, and that is our aim (2 Cor. 5:9).