It is common to hear someone say that one is saved by faith only and without any acts of obedience. Often John 3:16 and other such passages are cited as proof. But, does any passage in the Bible say that a man is saved by faith “alone” or faith “only”. There is no doubt whatsoever that faith is required in order to have salvation, but there is a great difference in salvation by faith and salvation by faith only without the works of obedience. We wish to consider God’s word, obedience and salvation.
There are three thoughts concerning God. There is atheism which says that there is no God. Then, there is deism which says there is a God who created the universe but that He then abandoned it and has had no control or influence over it or given any revelation to man. Then there is theism which believes that not only is there a God who created the universe, but that He has also revealed Himself and His will for man. Assuming that any who would be reading these words would be one who is a theist, we then have to understand that God’s revelation to man can only have been done directly or indirectly. Directly, would be God speaking directly to man, indirectly would be God speaking to man through some specific man or by scripture. Prior to the giving of the law of Moses, God spoke to the heads of the houses directly and to their families indirectly, through that head to whom He spoke directly. During the time of the law of Moses, God spoke directly to Moses and the other prophets, and then indirectly to the rest of the people through Moses and the other prophets and also through the scriptures that were written by those men.
It must also be noted that both of these have been used since creation and that in both cases it was done with “words”. This is the only way that man can understand. God’s “word” must of necessity therefore be revealed to us in some way. We could not know it otherwise. The apostle Paul wrote, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (I Cor. 2:9-10). Just a couple of verse later we read, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (I Cor. 2:13). God has in every age revealed His will to man by way of “words”; the word of God.
In this Christian age, God no longer speaks to man by way of the words of the heads of the house, nor the words of Moses or the other Old Testament prophets, but by the words of the gospel of Christ. The Hebrew writer begins his epistle saying, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1-2). The apostle Peter wrote, “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (I Pet. 1:24-25). Speaking of the gospel of Christ, Paul said, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17).
A very important point about God’s word, whether in the times of the patriarchs, the time of the law of Moses or this Christian age is that God’s word is the absolute standard of authority. His word is to be taken objectively, not subjectively. Man has not the right nor authority to change God’s word in any way, shape or manner. We are commanded to neither add to it nor diminish ought from it (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Gal. 1:8-9; Rev. 22:18-19). What man might consider a minor change or adjustment in what God said, God will consider it major. God’s thoughts and ways are not the same as man’s, but much higher (Isa. 55:8-9). Good motive does not change disobedience to God’s word to obedience. Saul’s good intentions did not negate his disobedience in the manner of bringing back some of the spoils of Amalek (I Sam. 15:22). The good intentions of Uzzah did not negate his disobedience in touching the ark of the covenant (II Sam. 6:6-7).
There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the Bible teaches that belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is mandatory to obtain eternal salvation in heaven (John 8:24). However, to say that one is saved by faith only, and that no obedience is required in order to have salvation is not only in opposition to what the word of God teaches, it really does not even meet the test of good common sense. Let’s face it, one will either obey the word of God or disobey the word of God. Does anyone really think that salvation comes from disobeying the word of God? Or, would good common sense suggest that salvation would come from obeying the word of God? Obviously, the latter! Read Matthew 7:21.