33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart. 35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. 36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness. (Psalm 119:33–36, NKJV)
Living by faith is not a blind leap in the dark. Faith is the rationale response of the heart that longs for God, His ways, and His blessings. Note this as the psalmist implores God to teach him the path of divine statues, and he will keep them (v. 33). He pleads for an understanding of God’s law so that he may keep it with a heart that is enlarged and completely devoted to God (v. 34; Psa. 119:32). He yearns for the discipline that comes with divine instruction so that he will walk on the path of obedience (v. 35). He obeys the commands of God with delight because his heart is full of the love of God, not greed for plunder (v. 36). Like the psalmist, let us pray for understanding to keep God’s word with our whole heart (Col. 1:9-11). Obeying the gospel from the heart freed us from sin’s slavery (Rom. 6:17-18). Now, let us keep on learning and living the commands of God with our whole hearts “to the end” (v. 33). Problems of sin arise when we no longer want God to teach us. The heart hardens against the way of His statutes. The path of His commands is no longer delightful. If this is where your heart and life are, then repent (change your heart) and return to the delight of obeying God with your whole heart.
47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days. (Acts 10:47–48, NKJV)
Many Bible teachers say believers “should not be baptized” for salvation. Others confidently forbid water baptism for salvation, but then teach it is necessary to obey Jesus. This doublespeak fails to see the biblical link between water baptism and salvation. Does it harmonize with the Scriptures to separate water baptism from salvation while also commanding it as a mark of loyalty to Christ? No, it does not. The Bible answer is clear; Obedience by believers is essential to being saved by Christ. Scripture says, “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). Christ saves those who obey Him. Peter had just preached that “in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:35). To work righteousness is nothing less than to obey the gospel (Rom. 6:17-18). If it is proper to exclude (forbid) the command of baptism from salvation, then no amount of obedience bears on one’s salvation (including “Lordship baptism”). Yet, Scripture affirms that saving faith includes obeying the commands to confess one’s faith, to repent of sins, and to be baptized. These works of righteousness are obeyed by believers who want to be saved (Rom. 10:9; Acts 17:30; Acts 2:37-38). And, Jesus saves them (Heb. 5:9).
10 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Matthew 15:10–11, NKJV)
When moral and religious disagreements arise we may demand that others hear and understand us. No doubt, good communication skills (like careful listening) are essential to resolving tensions. Yet, there is something even more crucial and fundamental to harmonious resolution. We must listen to Jesus, understand His word, and follow Him. How do I do this? First, I must believe that God speaks to me through His Son (Heb. 1:1-2 says God does). Many Scriptures confirm Jesus speaks to me and you through the inspired words of His apostles and prophets (Jno. 16:8-15; 1 Cor. 2:6-13; 14:37; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). I must listen to their writings, or I are not listening to Jesus (Jno. 13:20). Secondly, I must commit myself to the principle that God’s word is true (Jno. 17:17; Rom. 3:4). I must yield my will to His on “all things that pertain to life and godliness” to partake of His promises and nature (2 Pet. 1:3-4). Thirdly, I must agree that I can understand the Scriptures. As Jesus exhorted the multitude to comprehend His words, so also we are commanded to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). Fourthly, I must follow the word of Jesus (Lk. 6:46). Instead of demanding others focus on understanding me when tensions arise, I should focus on hearing, understanding, and following Jesus.
51 “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” 52 Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ 53 Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” (John 8:51–53, NKJV)
Jesus confidently taught that anyone who keeps His word will not die (“never see death”). Later, Jesus comforted Martha with this same truth following the death of her brother Lazarus: “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:26). Jesus was talking about escaping spiritual death, but His accusers could only think in physical terms. So, they charged Him with being possessed and controlled by a demon. It is false and futile to separate obeying Jesus from having eternal life, since Jesus linked obedience with victory over death. (Even His enemies understood Him to say people who obey Him would not die.) Why do so many teach that people “shall never see death” with faith only? This doctrine convinces millions that obeying Jesus is not necessary for salvation. Yet, Jesus said it is. We know who Jesus is, even though His enemies rejected Him and His teaching. He is the Christ, the Son of God (John 8:49, 54-55). Therefore, we believe what He said, and endeavor to keep His word to escape eternal death (Rom. 6:23).
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. (Romans 1:8, NKJV)
Paul was thankful for the faith of the Roman saints. More specifically, he was grateful to God that their faith was favorably spoken of throughout the world. Here’s a simple question to ask as we ponder the meaning of faith. If faith is only mental assent or agreement, then how would people throughout the world know about their faith? When faith is uncoupled from the works of faith (obedience), it is profitless and cannot save a person (Jas. 2:14). When faith is not active it is dead, because it is alone (“by itself,” Jas. 2:17, 20). When faith has no corresponding action, it is unseen (Jas. 2:18). When faith is defined as nothing more than agreement with some truth, it is no more than what the demons possess (Jas. 2:19). Faith is more than mental assent or agreement with some statement of truth. The faith of the Roman saints was observable through their obedience to the gospel. The Scriptures confirm their obedient faith: “For your obedience has become known to all” (Rom. 16:19). Their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world because it was known through their obedience. Your faith is shown through your obedience to Christ (Jas. 2:18). Saving faith is an obedient faith (Jas. 2:14, 24-26). Commit yourselves to showing your faith by always obeying the Lord.
1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the Lord! 2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! 3 They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways. (Psalm 119:1–3, NKJV)
Divine spiritual blessings are given the “undefiled.” (The word means to be “entire, complete, sound,” Strong’s, BDB.) They are undefiled (sound) in the way – they “walk in the law of the Lord” (v. 1). Does our obedience matter to God? Most certainty! (Disobedience is sin, and defiles our souls, 1 Jno. 3:4; Jas. 4:8.) We are not saved by Christ without obedience (Heb. 5:9; Mk. 16:16). The “undefiled” are not such because they have never sinned, but because their life is directed by the law of the Lord (Rom. 3:23). His testimonies are kept with a whole heart that seeks God and keeps His declarations (Matt. 6:24, 33). Does whether we understanding God’s word matter to God? Most certainly! (We must understand the word of God to obey it, Acts 8:30-38). That the undefiled “do no iniquity” reminds us of 1 John 3:6, “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him” (cf. vss. 4-10). Both passages describe practicing righteousness and practicing sin. Does it matter to God whether or not we sin? Most certainly! Righteousness, not sin, must rule the Christian’s life (Rom. 6:14-18). We do not say we “have no sin,” we repent and confess it when we do (1 Jno. 1:8-9). Thus, we refuse to walk in sin. Instead, we will walk in His ways, practicing His truth (1 Jno. 1:6-7).
“For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”” (Luke 7:8, NKJV)
We all encounter authority every day. Whether it is the rules of the road as we drive, or the authority under which medications are dispensed, there are countless ways we tacitly accept living under authority. Yet, in matters of faith, too often we think we are free to do whatever we feel is right. We must learn to acknowledge and yield to the authority of Jesus Christ in every part of our lives. He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). The authority of Jesus, which is so cavalierly rejected by many, was not taken for granted by the Roman centurion in today’s passage. He understood authority, both serving under it and exercising it. He trusted the power of Jesus to heal his servant because he believed Jesus had authority over distance and disease. When we believe Jesus has authority over us, it changes how we think and act in every area of our lives. Because He has supreme authority over us, Jesus deserves more than lip service from us. Let us be so committed to the authority of Christ that whatever His word says, we believe it and do it. Without hesitation or doubt, fully trusting He will fulfill His will, we follow Him. Submissive obedience to His word is the identifying mark of respecting the authority of Jesus.
5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 6 So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5–6, NKJV)
The apostles understood they would need faith to forgive others and avoid being offenses (Lk. 17:1-4). Their request for Jesus to increase their faith did not go unanswered. The Lord explained to them how to increase in faith (Lk. 17:6-10). Please note, the Lord did not promise to send them an “enabling grace” to empower them with the ability to believe. Since faith comes by hearing, and hearing God comes from His word, we can expect our faith to increase as we rely on His word to lead us (Rom. 10:17). We must trust the power of faith for our faith to increase (v. 6). We must practice our faith, trusting God’s will is fulfilled in us as we put our faith into action (Phil. 2:12-13). Little faith can accomplish great things because Christ dwells in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17-20). We devote ourselves to the power of faith when we obey His word. Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). To increase in faith, use your present faith to do what Christ commands. In the context of this passage, that means start forgiving the way Jesus said to forgive (Lk. 17:3-4). Faith activates our obedience, showing we trust the power of faith.
9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.” (Romans 4:9–10, NKJV)
The blessedness of which Paul speaks is the forgiveness of sins, given by God as He imputes righteousness to sinners by faith (Rom. 4:5-8). This blessed forgiveness is available to all, and is revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19-20; Rom. 1:16-17). Those who tried to define forgiveness through keeping the law of the circumcised (the Law of Moses given to the Jews) failed to recognize that Abraham’s faith was counted to him for righteousness while he was uncircumcised (Gen. 15:6). Binding any part of the Law of Moses as essential for salvation is inconsistent with this fact (Acts 15:5-11). When we “walk in the steps of the faith” that Abraham had (while he was still uncircumcised), our faith will also be accounted to us for righteousness. Justifying faith is active (it is a walk), it is obedient. We walk in the footsteps of Abraham when we obey the gospel by believing in Christ, confessing our faith, repenting and being baptized (Jno. 8:24; Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 2:37-38). God is not a respecter of persons. Whoever “fears Him” and “works righteousness” is “accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35). We are justified by faith when we believe and obey God like Abraham did (Jas. 2:20-24).
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:27–28, NKJV)
No one has room to boast before God of being a perfect keeper and therefore, of being justified by law. Everyone under the law of Moses sinned against it and were condemned as sinners by it (Rom. 3:19-20, 23). By the works or “deeds of the law,” no one is justified because all have sinned against it. It is the “law of faith” (the gospel), which is “apart from the deeds of the law,” that justifies sinners. Paul defines “works” in this context as “the deeds of the law” (the Greek text does not include the article, so literally the phrase here is “deeds of law”). Keeping law for justification demands sinless perfection. That is earning salvation. But, that avenue is forever impossible to us, since we have all sinned. None of us can earn our salvation. Scripture says we are justified by faith (v. 28). The gospel (the faith, Gal. 1:11, 23) produces personal faith (Rom. 1:16-17). Personal faith includes obedience, but an obedient faith is not “works” that earn salvation. Obedience is the action of trust in Jesus to save you when you obey Him (Heb. 5:8-9). When we trust and obey the gospel our only boast is in Jesus, not in ourselves (Lk. 17:10; Gal. 6:14).