Merely thinking we are right with God does not make it so (cf. Matt. 7:21-23). By His words, God has given us a measurable standard by which we may examine whether our lives are truly what He desires (Jn. 12:48). In fact, God commands us to continually examine whether we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).
In matters of salvation, only a faith that works through love can save us (Gal. 5:6; James 2:14ff). It’s not enough just to believe the truth; we also have to live the truth in order to be right with God. Examining our faith is a matter not just of hearing, but of doing. It’s not just information, but action that’s important (James 1:22).
Do you obey the truth that you know? Consider several Biblical cases where men were required not just to believe, but to obey:
Israel and the Red Sea — In Exodus 14, the children of Israel were in an impossible situation: the Red Sea blocked them on one side while the chariots of Egypt pursued them from the other. They cried out to God for deliverance, and God commanded Moses to stretch his staff over the waters (v.16). Notice, when the waters were miraculously parted, it was not enough just to believe God would deliver them, but the Israelites had to obey God and cross through the sea. Their faith in God had to be put into action.
Moses and the Bronze Serpent — When “fiery serpents” were killing the people of Israel in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-7), God commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent and set it on a pole (v.8). Anyone who was bitten by one of the serpents was required to look at the bronze serpent in order to be healed. Notice again, it was not merely enough to believe that God would heal them, but obedience was also required.
The battle of Jericho — As Israel entered the land of promise, the first city they were to conquer was Jericho (Joshua 6). God gave careful instructions to Joshua and the Israelites about how they were to “conquer” this city. The instructions included strange “tactics” like marching around the city and blowing trumpets. Again, it was not enough for the Israelites to just believe that God would deliver the city to them. They were required to obey the voice of the Lord.
Naaman commanded to dip in the Jordan — Naaman the Syrian general was stricken with the horrible disease of leprosy, and he sought a cure from the God of Israel (2 Kings 5). The prophet Elisha did not come out and greet him, but merely told Naaman to go dip in the Jordan seven times to be healed. At first, Naaman was enraged at what he thought was an insult, but when he believed the words spoken by God’s prophet and obeyed what was commanded, God delivered him from his disease (2 Kings 5:14).
Obeying the Gospel — Scripture teaches that one must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He alone is able to deliver from sin (John 3:16), but as we have seen above, belief alone has never been enough for deliverance (see James 2:19). God has commanded us to receive His gift of deliverance by obeying His commands. We obey Him when we confess that Jesus is Lord (Rom. 10:9-10), and when we repent of our sins (Luke 13:3). We receive salvation at the point of baptism (1 Pet. 3:21; Rom. 6:3-6). Just like Naaman was cleansed of a physical malady, we arise out of the water cleansed of our spiritual malady — sin.
Faith is much more than good intentions. Saving faith believes God and subsequently obeys what God has commanded. Are you a hearer and a doer of God’s word? —JB