by Mike Ratliff
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrews 11:1-3 ESV)
I received an email today from a friend pointing to a webpage called the Purpose Driven Connection specifically to a devotion for February 15. The title for this devotion really took me aback, “Faith: Doing Exactly What Jesus Says to Do.” That is not a definition of faith, but a description of one who is faithful and obedient. In fact, the focus of that devotion leads one to believe that our faith is “works based.” This is rampant in our time my brethren. There is a huge push in our churches for people to have the right world view, the right value system, the right diet and workout plan, the right way to raise their kids, their right way to manage their finances and the right way to be faithful in church and that makes them right with God. Sorry, but all that does is make a person right in one’s own eyes dependant upon one’s own righteousness not the righteousness of Christ. All of that is stuff any of us can do, but I assure you that the salvation that those truly in Christ have is something bought at a price that none of us could pay because the debt was far more than most of us realize. What is true faith if isn’t what the Purpose Driven folks say it is?
Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (Hebrews 11:1-3). Also, you may want to look at Romans 1:8, 1 Thessalonians 1:8, Romans 15:18, Romans 16:19, and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8. In these passages, we see that believing does mean obeying and true faith demands lordship because it has the underlying foundation of obedience, commitment, and submission. However, there is more to our faith than simply saying, “Faith: Doing exactly what Jesus says to do,” which would make people believe our “faith” actually consists of a form of works righteousness. However, if you are at all familiar with the Purpose Driven paradigm then you know that that is exactly what they teach.
True saving faith always produces obedience, but this obedience is evidence of our salvation. Faith is a verb. It is always an action, and it must have an object. The word in the passage above that the ESV translates as faith is πίστις or pistis, “to persuade, being persuaded, faith, belief. In general it implies such a knowledge of, assent to, and confidence in certain divine truths, especially those of the gospel, as produces good works.” Truly believing the Gospel is being fully persuaded of it, and trusting in it automatically demands behavior that conforms to the belief.
In our salvation, to “believe in Jesus” means three things. First, it means to believe in Who He is, that He is God incarnate, Saviour, and sovereign Lord. Second, it means to believe in what He did, that He died for your sins and rose again from the grave. Third, it means to believe in what He says, to trust Him and His Word implicitly and desire to obey Him in all respects. To obey Him means we acknowledge His lordship and submit to His authority. Any presentation of the Gospel that does not in some way present the essence of these three elements is a false presentation of the Gospel and that makes those preaching that way suspect and we should confront them with the truth. If they refuse to change (repent) then we should not listen to them as genuine preachers of the Gospel nor among those who rightly divide the Word of Truth.
Soli Deo Gloria!