Subscribe to the Real Truth for FREE news and analysis.Subscribe Now
We have covered real, biblical faith, including common misconceptions. We also examined the Bible definition of faith, and the difference between human faith and Christ’s faith. We saw it is impossible to please God without faith. We also learned one condition to having true faith. Yet other conditions exist and this final part reveals them.
The vast majority of people are confused about this all-important topic. But you need not be among them. You can have real faith.
Most people believe the only faith needed for salvation is to “just believe.” It is popular to recite, “if you shall confess with your mouth…and believe in your heart…you shall be saved” and “for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9, 13). But is this all there is to receiving salvation? Can it really be this easy? If so, the Bible should be two verses long. The rest of it becomes unnecessary!
It is amazing how millions of people are content to accept outright twisting of the Bible in order to practice a Christianity of their own devising. The apostle Peter wrote, “…no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (II Pet. 1:20)—and this is true of every Bible doctrine. All verses pertaining to any matter must be taken together to have the complete picture. Seizing “pet verses” and taking them out of context leads to deception, confusion and ignorance.
What about law, sin, grace, faith and works? Do these bring any requirements to those who practice true faith? Is faith alone sufficient for everything? Or must Christians obey God? Are any works attached to salvation? Most people believe the answers to these questions are “no.” They want to believe Christ “died for their sins” and they are saved by “faith alone” without doing anything about sin in their lives.
If the law is done away, no one can be guilty of sin. But Romans 3:23 states, “…all have sinned…” How is this possible if there is no law to be kept?
Several things must be considered. I John 3:4 states, “…sin is the transgression of the law.” All professing Christians are certainly willing to acknowledge Jesus “died for their sins,” but they continue with the assumption that, because He died for past sins, they no longer need to worry about future ones. This is a ridiculous argument. Yet it has effectively swallowed hundreds of millions of people for nearly 2,000 years.
Consider Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it [the faith] is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”
People love to quote this. It is also common for people to quote Romans 3:20: “…by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight…” Few are willing to read the very next phrase, which says, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” We could ask: What would be the purpose of having any law except for keeping it? Would its purpose be to demonstrate people may freely break it without worrying because Jesus “died for their sins”?
The purpose of God’s Law has never been to forgive sin or bring justification. (No law could do this.) This is what the blood of Christ is for—and it is why mankind needs a Savior. The purpose of the law is to point out sin!
Think about prison systems in most countries of the world. Convicted criminals are sometimes pardoned or their sentences are commuted. Others are released from prison early through what is called “shock probation.” Are these people pardoned and released with the idea that they can re-enter society to repeat the exact same crimes that put them in prison? Of course not!
The very idea is absurd. The police would simply re-arrest and incarcerate them again—probably with a stronger sentence! How is it that so many can believe the judgment of the great God of the universe somehow requires less justice with His Law than do civil authorities with theirs? It insults Him to suggest He would give His Son for people’s spiritual crimes—sins—only to see them continue in the very things that required Christ’s death.
What pitiful human logic!
To believe the deception that forgiveness, through Christ’s blood, permits people to freely break the law is hypocrisy. It not only insults God, and the intelligence of His Master Plan, but it also ignores the following extensive verses in James 2. These explain how law, sin, faith and works fit together.
Carefully consider this longer passage: “What does it profit…though a man say he has faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?…Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone…I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils [demons] also believe, and tremble. But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? See you how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?…You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (vs. 14, 17-22, 24).
Like demons, many people do believe God exists. However, most of them do not tremble at the existence of God—but demons do!
Remember, we must never “add to God’s Word” because “every word of it is pure” (Prov. 30:5-6). God says what He means and means what He says. The above verses do not teach works save us. They do teach that faith must be accompanied by works. This is what the apostle Paul meant when he asked: “What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law [meaning under its penalty], but under grace? God forbid” (Rom. 6:15).
What about grace, faith and works? How do they work together? Notice again: “Shall we continue in sin [breaking the law], that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1-2). The answer to Paul’s rhetorical question is obvious. We cannot.
Finally, notice how the Bible asks, “Do we then make void the law through faith?” It answers its own question: “God forbid: yes, we establish the law” (Rom. 3:31). The ministers of this world generally permit people to break God’s Law—usually because they want their congregation to pay them a salary—but God forbids lawbreaking!
The devil will not obey God’s Law because he hates it. Neither will “his ministers” (II Cor. 11:13-15). They deliberately ignore these verses and many others. They deceive people who seem to willingly accept their shallow arguments—arguments ignorant of the plain truth of Scripture.
Paul taught that God’s Law is holy, just, good and spiritual (Rom. 7:12, 14). David said it endures forever (Psa. 111:7-8) and is perfect (Psa. 19:7). James calls the Ten Commandments “the royal law…of liberty” (Jms. 2:8-12). Jesus said it will never be done away—that heaven and Earth would disappear before the Law did (Matt. 5:17-19). Deceiving impostors teach that Christians must focus on “just having love” while ignoring plain scriptures like Romans 13:10, which says, “…love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Also see I John 5:1-3.) No wonder the apostle John said that any who claim to “know [Christ], and keeps not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (I John 2:4).
Strong words! I have known many people who claimed to know Christ but did not keep the Commandments, including the fourth one. You saw how God views them.
It takes faith in Christ for the Christian to be able to keep God’s Law. Recall Christ said that He could of His own self do nothing and that the Father did the works in Him. Jesus kept the Law perfectly and a Christian “…follow[s] His steps” (I Pet. 2:21).
With God’s help, you will be able to keep the Commandments. Do not ever allow anyone to tell you otherwise.
My book The Ten Commandments – “Nailed to the Cross” or Required for Salvation? answers every question you have about obedience to God.
Jesus never taught that people should just “believe on Him” to receive salvation. When a young rich man asked Him what he must do to have “eternal life”—to receive salvation—Jesus answered, “If you will enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17).
Hearing this, the disciples were shocked. They did not understand how this was possible and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus answered, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (vs. 25-26). You cannot keep God’s Law, but Christ in you can—if you have true, living faith!
God gives His Spirit only to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). Obedience is preceded by repentance and baptism, with the Holy Spirit being given at this point, upon one’s repentance of breaking God’s Law. (Read Acts 2:38.)
Jesus said, “…in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men” (Mark 7:7-8). Did you realize it is possible to worship Christ in vain—that it is possible to think about Him, talk about Him, and even use His name often and still do all of this in vain?
Notice: “Not every one that says unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven [“of,” not “in,” heaven]; but He that does the will of My Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Remember, it is the doers of the law that will be justified.
Paul told Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life…” (I Tim. 6:12). Faith is more than a battle. It is a war that all Christians wage throughout their lives! And it is not an easy war won in a single battle. It involves many battles.
The apostle Jude tells Christians, “…you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The next verse warns of “certain men” who “crept in unawares” into the early Church, diluting it with false teachings, with the goal of destroying the Church’s foundation—that of holding to the true doctrines of the Bible. The meaning of real faith also became corrupted in the minds of many at that time. Sadly, history shows people have always been willing to let deceivers reduce Christianity to little more than “just believing.”
Do not fall for this!
We have discussed how Christians must keep God’s Law while they are at the same time justified by the faith of Christ. The book of Revelation records, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (14:12).
There is a reason this verse joins patience, commandment-keeping, and Jesus Christ’s faith. They are inseparable. Christians are able to keep the commandments, but only through the faith of Jesus. It takes patience to do this throughout a lifetime. Yet this is exactly what true Christians—saints—must continually do.
There is an Old Testament verse that is so important it appears twice more in the New Testament. Habakkuk 2:4 says, “…the just shall live by his faith.” This is a powerful statement about faith as a way of life! It is the faith of each person (notice the singular word “his”) that guides individuals through life. This verse is cited to show God has always taught that His true servants must have real faith. Faith has never been merely a New Testament requirement for salvation. In fact, some of the greatest examples of faith are found throughout the Old Testament. Actually, every example found in the “faith chapter” of Hebrews 11 lived in Old Testament times. This did not keep them from being “witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) to the awesome power of properly understood faith.
Two verses repeat Habakkuk almost verbatim: “The just shall live by faith” (Heb. 10:38; Rom. 1:17). The definition of faith follows immediately on the heels of Hebrews 10:38. Again, God could not require people to live by faith and then not tell them what it is! In the very same verse, God continues, “…but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.”
Where faith is lacking, God is not pleased!
Faith is not merely something you exercise during life’s moments of crisis. It is not just something to consider when “things aren’t going well.” In other words, faith is not just for the “bad times”—it is full time! Grasp this vital point. Faith is completely inseparable from the entire spiritual understanding through which you are to confront every issue you face in the Christian walk (II Cor. 5:7).
All people on Earth will be sorely tested in the years just ahead. Make no mistake! Without real faith no one will survive the terrible calamities foretold to occur just prior to Jesus’ soon-coming Return. Operating on human steam or ingenuity will not be sufficient to survive the great crisis coming at the close of this age! Complete faith in all of God’s promises will be required—and needed.
Let’s ask: what does the true Christ expect of His followers?
He commanded, “Repent…and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The Bible adds, “God…commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30)—meaning to change their thoughts, attitudes, words and actions, and to live the only way He always intended. God is calling but a select few into the understanding of His truth, to live His way of life.
It takes faith to change, to reject the pulls of the flesh, the devil and society, and permit Christ to live in you through His Spirit. It means growing from human faith to the faith of Christ, to come under Jesus’ authority, and to submit to His government, administered in His Church.
Being called into the way of true Christianity means you must permit God to build His holy, righteous, perfect character within you—a lifelong process involving time, trials, tests and lessons. You must yield yourself as clay to the Master Potter, and put your will aside. You must voluntarily choose to, as Jesus said, “enter you in at the strait gate [the difficult gate]: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in there: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it [the Greek means, are finding it, present progressive]” (Matt. 7:13-14).
With God’s Way come endless benefits for faithful obedience. This means: “…we [have] confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (I John 3:21-22).
Jesus set the example, the pattern for overcoming sin and focusing one’s life on being born into the kingdom of God.
There are two opposing ways of life. One is described as the way of “give,” the other of “get.” One of the greatest teachings of Jesus is, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Of course, He set the ultimate example by giving Himself for mankind. The give way for Christians begins with recognizing they belong to God as “living sacrifices.”
Being called also means being willing to “…endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”—to untangle and disengage “himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who has chosen him to be a soldier” (II Tim. 2:3-4). It means a life of waging spiritual warfare—but also of enjoying unbounded happiness at the same time!
The way of true Christianity is infinitely more than mere talk—it requires action. It brings with it security, peace of mind, excitement, thrilling news of God’s Work, and a host of blessings—including the greatest one: hearing Jesus say upon His Return, “Well done, you good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your Lord” (Matt. 25:21). In other words, receive rulership under the glorified Christ in His kingdom.
But the path to God’s kingdom is not easy. Building character is the only thing one can carry into eternal life, for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 15:50).
It will not be easy to follow and practice God’s truths and believe His promises. Over 40 years of doing this have taught me this lesson—deeply! God will test your faith—and the devil will tempt you to abandon it. Have no doubt of this. I have also learned that God will always deliver, no matter how dark circumstances seem.
I grew up in a comfortable home. Then God called me at age 17 and the real trials began. By age 23, I was married and had an infant son of less than four months old. My wife had nearly died in childbirth and had lost her milk because of it. She could not nurse our son. During this brief period, I did not have a full-time job in the ministry. I had lost my salary. I was unemployed and we were struggling with significant debt from our college years. We were living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Even the car’s heater had ceased to function and it was late November. Space does not permit me to describe all the trials we were facing at just that one time. Our faith was being sorely tested!
I will never forget one particular moment. We were, quite literally, down to our last dime. There was almost no gas in the car or food in the house. Our baby was crying and we had nothing to feed him. I had a single dime in my pocket. I pulled it out and held it up to the light over our kitchen table. My wife and I determined we would trust God to provide for us.
That evening (I remember it was a Thursday night), my wife was asked to teach two flute lessons and was paid seven dollars. She immediately bought milk for the baby. I received a job the next morning (Friday), and my boss offered to advance me a full paycheck the first day I arrived. God had answered our prayers and left us with a faith-building experience that we never forgot. I have recalled it often when times are difficult, and I still draw strength from God’s intervention when I most needed it—and numerous other similar interventions in my life!
Every day has not been “sunny.” I have had to face many obstacles in my over 40 years in the ministry. This very Work is a work of faith. God never fails to provide for our needs. The hindrance of accusers, slanderers, liars and outright enemies has, at times, been an almost daily way of life for us. God has never failed His Work.
In the end, He always defeats those who seek to overthrow His purpose. He has always protected and delivered our staff through “thick and thin.” I am confidently assured—I have faith—He will continue to do this. You can also develop confident assurance—faith—that God will always deliver you.
Typically, people think of faith as something they work up or express toward God so that He will do something for them. Actually, the real case is often exactly the opposite! Many times, faith is something God gives to a person so he will have the strength to do something for Him—usually to fulfill His overall purpose. I have seen this in my life over and over again.
If you ask God, He will do the same for you. Sometimes you must exercise the fruit of faith—and sometimes you may need to ask for the gift of faith in order to face the most severe trials or most difficult decisions in your life.
The Bible lists nine separate fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) and nine different gifts of the Spirit (I Cor. 12:1, 7-10). Faith is the only quality of spiritual character mentioned in both lists. It is both a fruit and a gift of the Spirit. God often chooses to grant extra faith to certain people—as a gift—because in some way it is necessary in the fulfillment of His purpose.
Remember, even the very Spirit of God is given to us (Acts 2:38). The opportunity to learn to exercise the fruit of faith also starts with a gift—the faith-containing Holy Spirit. God will give you the very same faith that was once in Jesus Christ.
Matthew and Luke record an important parallel account regarding faith. Jesus and His disciples were in a boat when a tremendous storm arose. The disciples became terribly frightened while Jesus was asleep. This account reflects the dramatic difference between the faith that Jesus had and the fear that governs the thinking of most human beings. Notice the account records that they “awoke Him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish” (Matt. 8:25). The disciples thought they were about to die. They lacked even basic human confidence that, with Christ in the boat, this could not happen.
Jesus’ response is instructive for all today. He asked two questions—with one in each gospel. Let’s connect them. In Matthew, He asked the disciples, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” (vs. 26). In Luke’s account Jesus was more blunt when He asked His disciples, “Where is your faith?” (8:25). Of course, the disciples were not converted at this point. Lacking the Holy Spirit, they were not able to develop godly faith. Apparently they did not even have temporary human faith at the time. Christ’s two towering questions remain for all people—Why are you fearful?—and Where is your faith?
Just as Jesus’ disciples went on to learn and practice great faith in their lives—and their writings record that they also taught its meaning to many others—so must God’s true servants today answer these questions in their lives. I now ask you: Why are you fearful? Where is your faith?
Be sure to read my vital booklet What Is Real Faith? It teaches the points that this series has explained, principles taught nowhere else.
We began with Hebrews 11:6 stating, “Without faith it is impossible to please [God]…” God wants you to learn to rely on Him—to trust Him completely in everything! You really do not have a choice if you want to please Him. Like any human father, God does not want you to fret, worry and agonize over your needs. In numerous places throughout His Word, He promises to provide for you in all circumstances. He will always take care of you. Do not doubt! Believe God! Trust Him! Wait on Him! Expect Him to keep all of His promises—and He will!
Faith is your evidence!