A gracEmail subscriber asks, “Must we merely believe to be saved, or do we also have to obey God? Some say that faith is enough by itself, and others say that faith in the Bible includes obedience.”
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The Churches of Christ, in which I was nourished from birth and from which I now serve as my home base, early went astray on this point. Not uncommonly, our own feeble efforts at obedience stole the spotlight from God’s work of salvation accomplished in Jesus. Just this week I listened to a set of sermon tapes in which the speaker based salvation wholly on our “compliance” with “the plan of salvation” (by which he chiefly meant immersion baptism for the forgiveness of sins). He gave no indication that Jesus has already reconciled us to God and that we are thereby enabled to trust entirely in what Jesus has done for us as our Savior and substitute.
The good news is that Christ-centered preaching is common today in many Churches of Christ, whose message is increasingly consistent with their name. Gospel reform still awaits many evangelical churches that have always preached grace but who have often substituted a doctrine of grace for whole-hearted personal dependence on Jesus Christ, and have often replaced a living relationship with God with a one-time profession of faith. Satan does not care what method he uses, so long as he can take our attention away from the Savior.
The question at the top of this gracEmail is itself confused and misleading. It portrays faith as an item rather than an attitude. It sees faith as one act of human obedience, in competition with other acts of human obedience. It assumes that, in the end, we can look with satisfaction and even with pride at our own faith. The late Dutch saint Corrie ten Boom told the truth when she said: “Look around and be distressed. Look within and be depressed. Look at Jesus and be at rest” (Heb. 12:2).