“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”(Ephesians 2:8).
So many in the denominational world want to say we are saved by faith alone. Neither this verse nor any other says we are saved by faith alone. However, I think we need to consider what the biblical definition of faith is.
The Bible does not give us a definition like the dictionary does but I believe we can come to a conclusion of a biblical definition by studying the scripture. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Hebrews 11:7).It is plainly stated that by faith Noah prepared an ark. Why did he build an ark? God warned him of things not seen as yet. How did he build the ark? Did he just say I believe that something I have not seen is going to happen and stop there? No! Noah went to work and built an ark. His belief of what God told him caused him to do what God had commanded him to do (Genesis 6:11-14).
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise” (Hebrews 11:8-9). Again we can see that faith caused Abraham to follow God’s command. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Hebrews 11:17-19). What did Abraham’s faith cause him to do? He believed God’s promise about Isaac being the seed in whom the world would be blessed; therefore, he did not hesitate to obey God. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” (James 2:21). So we can see that the faith of Noah, Abraham and the others in Hebrews chapter 11 did not stand empty handed; their faith was accompanied by obedience. James goes on to say, “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God” (James 2:23). We have to conclude that the biblical definition of faith contains the idea of obedience.
Let us consider what Christ said in the book of John: “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:28-29). Now considering what was said about those in Hebrews 11, how they believed and took action, is it possible that Christ was telling them all they had to do was believe? “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). James in this verse shows that just believing is not enough.
Our faith has to be like the examples in Hebrews 11; it has to be an obedient faith. “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” (James 2:20-22).
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).We were created in Christ Jesus by baptism. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). What were we created for or unto? Unto good works. What are those good works? The works Christ has commanded throughout the New Testament. We are to hear the word of God (Romans 10:17); we must believe (John 3:16); we must confess Christ before men (Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8); and we must repent (Luke 24:47). If we stop here, as many denominations do, we have not obeyed the commands of Christ. Our faith has to be an obedient faith which provokes us to be obedient to Christ and he has told us in Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Biblical faith requires us to obey all of Christ’s commands not just the ones we choose.
We are told in Revelation 2:10 to remain faithful unto death and we will receive a crown of life. How do we continue in faith? We continue in good works. Now we all understand if we have obeyed the gospel of Christ in baptism we don’t need to be baptized again. However, we need to continue to hear, believe and our lives should be a confession of Christ, and when we sin we need to repent. The many good works listed in the Bible are more than we have space to enumerate; however, I would like to point one out that is very important. Christ gave a command to his apostles in Matthew 28:19-20 that covers all of his commands: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Christ commanded them to teach those that they taught to obey all things he had commanded them to do. This in turn commands us to do the same. If our faith is an obedient faith, as that of Noah and Abraham and all those listed in Hebrews 11, we must obey all the commands of Christ. We cannot pick and choose.
You may be thinking this is not what Ephesians 2:8 says, it says we are saved by grace through faith, which is absolutely true. But what kind of faith saves? When we look at the way the Bible uses faith, it is an obedient faith, one that causes us to do the works of God.
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