(Click to listen to an audio recording of this article: Can you have faith without obedience?)
The way of obedience is the way of life, because Jesus became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. (Hebrews 5:9) In other words, there is no salvation, no eternal life, without obedience! Death entered in through disobedience. Life and immortality were brought to light through obedience to the faith! The way was opened up for us by the obedience of Christ. The way is now there, open for us.
Faith produces obedience. By our obedience we walk on the way, step by step. God has given the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him. (Acts 5:32) Only by this Spirit do we receive light and power to walk on the way of life.
We cannot make any progress at all on the way of life just by relying on Christ’s substitutional obedience. However, having His obedience as the foundation, origin, and source, it is absolutely vital that we exercise personal obedience, as written so plainly and unmistakably in Hebrews 5:9. We cannot take a single step on the way of life without personal obedience!
Apostleship for obedience to the faith
What did Paul receive grace and apostleship to bring about? Romans 1:5: “Obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.” Souls are to be led to obedience, not just to believe in Christ’s obedience and rejoice over it. It is precisely through personal obedience that we, in spirit and in truth, take each step on the way of life. We begin on the way of obedience on the day we are– when we call on His name, believe in Jesus, and confess our sins – because this is the first thing the gospel commands us to do. From then on, it is important that we continue as we have begun: being obedient at every point.
The message of the gospel is crystal clear and easy to understand, even if, on occasion, one could think otherwise. If anything should be unclear for us, then we need to seek the reason in ourselves. Who could ask for a clearer word than, for example, Matthew 28:20? “… teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;” – to obey every single word!
Think, for example, of the Sermon on the Mount! There is plenty to do when you have finished reading this. No danger of being out of work here! This requires faith and love! This requires prayer! This requires Spirit and power! All that we might need in order to be obedient is given to us, in and through Jesus Christ, and is available for us both day and night. God be praised!
Obedience leads to works
Who could ask for anything clearer or more straightforward than James’ blessed words concerning obedience? They are crystal-clear! “What does it profit, my, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? … Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works [obedience], is dead. … Even the demons believe … But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is useless? … For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James 2:14-26.
Surely nobody has the slightest doubt about what this means? Without obedience, it is useless, absolutely useless! You can think what you want, say what you want and believe what you want — obedience is what counts! No salvation without it. No further progress without a deeper obedience. Not a single step further on the way of life without obedience.
God gives grace, but for what purpose? Precisely for this one reason: obedience! If we imagine anything else, then we are only deceiving ourselves and will come to regret it bitterly one day. Irrespective of what you say or do, irrespective of what stage you are at, know this: the only thing that counts is obedience to the faith.
Everything that is needed in order to be obedient can be found and obtained in Christ Jesus, so we are without excuse. Let us therefore do our utmost to be obedient in everything! (2 Corinthians 10:5-6; 2 Corinthians 2:9)
This article has been translated from Norwegian, and was first published in November 1935 in the book “The Way of Life,” as a chapter titled “The Way of Obedience to the Faith.”
© Copyright Stiftelsen Skjulte Skatters Forlag
You may be interested in reading more on our topic page about obedience to the faith, or by clicking on the articles below.
This sermon on The Obedience of Faith,” by C.H. Spurgeon may also be of interest.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.