The direct connection between true, saving faith and one’s obedience to the Lord could not be more clearly and emphatically stated in the New Testament. By definition, Biblical faith involves one’s obedience, and by repeated usage of terms, Biblical faith and obedience are tied inseparably together.
So, what about all of the verses that state that faith saves us? And what about the example of Abraham whose faith was accounted to him for righteousness? How can these be reconciled in light of what the Scripture teaches about faith and obedience?
First, we must readily accept ALL that the Word of God teaches on any matter, but especially when it comes to our salvation. We are “saved” by grace “through faith” (Eph. 2:8). We have been “justified by faith” (Rom. 5:1). God wants to give “eternal life” to “whoever believes in Him” (John 3:16). When we read these verses, there are two things that we must recognize and affirm: (1) No verse teaches that we are saved by faith “alone” or “only.” (2) Other New Testament verses mention other choices on our part that “save” us.
We must “repent” to have the “forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). “Baptism now saves you” (1 Pet. 3:21). Jesus is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). Certainly, none of these verses say that these choices “alone” or “only” save us, but they do “save” us. Rather than pick and choose verses that agree with a certain point of view, we must understand and accept, “The sum of thy word is truth” (Psa. 119:160). We must “add” all of these verses together to find the “sum” of God’s truth on the matter. Does faith save? Yes! But only when it finds its true fulfillment in repentance, baptism and full obedience to the gospel!
In fact, James explicitly states that “a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (2:24). Only when faith is “working together with [our] works” is our faith “made perfect” (2:22). Those words are used to describe the faith of the “Great Man of Faith” himself—Abraham. Sometimes the faith of Abraham is misused to teach the doctrine of “faith only,” for Genesis 15:6 does state, “He believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” However, this does not teach that God counted Abraham as righteous upon his faith alone. By the time of Genesis 15, Abraham had already been called by God (Gen. 12:1-3), “obeyed” God (Heb. 11:8), built altars to worship God (Gen. 12:6-8; 13:3-4) and had been faithfully following God for quite some time. His “faith” in Genesis 15 was a summarization of his life of obedience.
God’s Word must be studied in its fullness to find His (not man’s) truth! Biblical faith involves one’s obedience.