Obedience That Comes From Faith
Few areas of theology have caused more problems for the Church than the lack of
balance concerning the relationship of faith and works. Two damaging extremes always
seem to crop up:
Extreme #1: Faith alone in Jesus Christ saves (which is true); therefore, there is no need
for subsequent good works in the Christian life (which is false). Such good works are
optional for the believer. In other words, if I say I believe Jesus Christ died for me and
rose again, I can live any way I please.
Extreme #2: Faith is Jesus Christ saves (which is true), but to be saved, faith must be
coupled with subsequent good works (which is false). That is, salvation is based not only
on the finished work of Christ on the Cross but also on our good works.
The first extreme results in libertinism or license, that is, an attitude which says Christian
living has nothing at all to do with saving faith. The Christian is free to sin as frequently
as he wishes because he claims he believes Jesus died for his sins and rose again for his
justification. The second extreme results in legalism, that is, the addition of any human
effort to Jesus finished work on the Cross for our salvation.
What is the error found in position number one? Although it is absolutely true that faith
alone in Jesus Christ saves, true saving faith always produces some evidence of Christian
living! Certainly the fruit of our faith will never save us, but it will always confirm the
reality of our faith! As Martin Luther explained it: A man is justified by faith alone, but
not by a faith that is alone., (an approximate quotation). This beautiful balance is seen,
for example, in Ephesians 2:8-10:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and not from ourselves, it is the
gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are Gods workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The error of position number two is clearly the failure to realize our salvation must
always be founded on what Christ did for us on the Cross and never on what we can do in
any way to earn our salvation. False cults, for example, will always add something to the
Cross even though Jesus exclaimed: It is finished! As Paul expressed: I do not set
aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died
for nothing!, Galatians 2:21.
What we always seek is biblical balance. Multiple portions of Scripture give us this
balance such as Ephesians 2:8-10 quoted above, but I would also refer the reader to
Romans 1:1-5 and 16:25-27. Did you notice the key words, obedience that comes from
faith and believe and obey? Nobody emphasized salvation by faith alone more than
Paul, e.g. Romans 1:17; 3:21-31; 5:1-2 etc. but nobody stresses the indissoluble link
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between true saving faith and subsequent (non-saving) works more than he does. Please
note Romans 6:1-2, 15-23; 7:4-6; 8:12-14 etc.
Obedience that comes from faith thats the biblical balance of faith and works! Saving
faith always results in non-saving good works to some extent! Galatians 5:6b says it so
well: The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Lets never be
drawn into either disastrous extreme libertinism or legalism. Both lead to spiritual
death. The biblical balance of faith and works always leads to spiritual life and