The Obedience of Faith

by Rev. David K. Bernard

Salvation is more than simply believing that Jesus really exists, it is obedience to the gospel. The following column appeared in the July 2017 Pentecostal Herald authored by David K. Bernard. In it, Rev. Bernard searches the scriptures to examine what we must do be saved. Good reading!

By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name. (Romans 1:5)

As we discussed last month, in every age salvation has come by grace through faith based on the blood of Christ (Romans 3:24-25). Saving faith is more than intellectual acceptance or verbal agreement. It includes response or application, namely, the obedience of faith.

Noah: saved by a ship

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). What if Noah had protested, “Lord, You can save me without an ark. Building an ark would mean salvation by my works, so I will just believe in You and confess You when the rain comes”? He would have drowned. His faith became real when He obeyed God’s command. He wasn’t saved by his works but by genuine faith in God’s Word, which caused him to obey God’s plan.

Abraham obeys

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 (Hebrews 11:8). He left his home and old way of life to serve the one true God. He had the attitude of genuine faith and repentance. By faith he obeyed and was counted as righteous.

Moses: saved by the blood of the lamb

Through faith [Moses] kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them (Hebrews 11:28). What if the Israelites had said, “Lord, we don’t want to kill a lamb and sprinkle blood on our doorposts. We will simply sit in our homes believing in You and confessing You?” The angel of death would have visited their home, killing their firstborn, and they would not have been delivered from Egypt. Their faith became real in the act of obedience.

Disciples follow the directions

When Jesus called Peter and Andrew to become disciples, He said, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). What if they had responded, “We believe you are the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world,” but then continued fishing? They would not have become His disciples. They became His disciples when they left their nets and followed Him.

Just before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He appeared to over five hundred disciples at one time (I Corinthians 15:6). He commanded them to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Ghost. How many initially received the promise? Not the five hundred who saw the resurrected Christ and believed in His resurrection, but the 120 who waited in prayer on the Day of Pentecost. It is likely that the others subsequently did also, but the promise came only to those who acted upon it and claimed it personally.

Saved by obeying

According to Romans 1:16, we are saved by believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ. According to Romans 6:17, we are saved by obeying the doctrine. These are not contradictory statements by the same author, nor do they describe two different methods of salvation. Instead, they are equivalent statements inspired by the Holy Spirit. When we truly believe the gospel, we will obey the gospel.

Jesus becomes the author of eternal life for all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9). God gives the Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). Judgment will come upon all who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (II Thessalonians 1:7-8).

In the church age, we are to believe and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. What is this gospel, or good news? Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again (I Corinthians 15:1-4). How do we believe this gospel and apply it personally?

What shall we do?

The apostles gave the answer on the birthday of the church (Acts 2). Peter preached the simple gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The hearers were convicted of sin and cried out to the apostles, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) They were not asking how to be blessed, but how to be forgiven of their sin of murdering Jesus and how to accept Him as their Lord and Savior. Peter did not say, “Since you have changed your minds and now believe Jesus is the Lord and Savior, you are saved.” Instead, he instructed them to act upon their new belief by repentance (death to sin), water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (burial), and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (resurrection life).

This answer was simply what Jesus had taught: by faith we repent (Mark 1:15), by faith we are baptized (Mark 16:16), and by faith we receive the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). These events are not our works to earn salvation but God’s works in us as we respond to the gospel in faith. By faith we apply the gospel to our lives and receive the new birth.