Chapter 3: Faith Obeys

Home Books The Misunder­standing of Faith

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

The above passage is Christianity’s theme scripture. We use it to explain how anyone can have eternal life. Ephesians 2:8 goes on further to say: “For by grace you have been saved through faith…” This explains that we were saved by grace but through Faith. Faith is the very conduit through which we are saved. Hebrews 11:6 says, “without Faith, is it impossible to please God” So, not only is Faith the conduit through which we are saved (coupled with the grace of God), without it, we cannot even please God.

Faith in Jesus is a foundational element that must be understood before a person even becomes a Christian. The Father certainly doesn’t want us to be ignorant on a matter such as this. To misunderstand Faith in Jesus puts a person in grave danger and screws up their entire life. So, to understand Faith, let’s grab a bunch of dictionaries, American and Strong’s, and the famous Hebrews 11 passage, and you will probably get a good definition of what Faith means. Then, all you have to do is apply the definition to Jesus and here’s what you get:

Faith in Jesus means to entrust one’s life to Jesus Christ for salvation, to trust and believe his words; and be convinced, assured and be in agreement with and in full confidence in who Jesus says he is; and what he has and is going to do, even though you have never seen, heard, or touched him.

Fully believing in Jesus is the essential step of Faith. But there is one thing that is overlooked and often left out of this definition: Faith obeys. Real Faith in Jesus leads to obedience. Obedience is the one aspect of Faith that is never associated with Faith when defined by a dictionary. Obedience can only be applied to Faith when that Faith is placed in Jesus Christ.

Where did I get this from? I got it from Jesus himself and from his Word, the Bible. As you recall, in the first chapter, I talked about wanting to know what it meant to have Faith in Jesus, so I asked the author. I said, “Jesus, what does it mean to have ‘Faith in you’, what does ‘Faith in you’ really mean?” He said this:

“All those who believe, keep my commandments.”

God

This is what I heard as I listened to my audio Bible read by Max McLean one evening. I remember listening to John chapter 14, when the sound faded to the background and I heard Jesus speak over Max. I jumped off the bed and hit the pause button. I searched for that passage, but those exact words couldn’t be found in the text. I had no doubt it was the voice of Jesus giving me the answer.

I didn’t have a preconceived theory that I was waiting for confirmation on. I wasn’t even expecting to actually hear Jesus, but he spoke that evening and it was enlightening. A simple, seven word answer delivered by Jesus. I knew it was Jesus because his answer lined up with the Bible.

A note about the words: Faith & Believe

Both words are used interchangeably by Jesus and others in the Bible. Jesus says, “Believes in Me” in John 6:47.But when talking to Saul on the road to Damascus, Jesus says, “Faith in Me”, in Acts 26:18. The book of Hebrews 10:32-39 uses both words in the same context as well. And if you look up the Greek definition of Faith and Believe in the Strong’s Dictionary, you will get two different meanings, but the word Believe comes from the word Faith.

  • Believe – G4100
    pisteuo (pist-yoo’-o)
    From G4102; to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), that is, credit; by implication to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well being to Christ):—believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.
  • Faith – G4102
    pistis (pis’-tis)
    From G3982; persuasion, that is, credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly constancy in such profession; by extension the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself:—assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.

Because the words Believe and Faith are used interchangeably and because Believe means: to have Faith, I use the word Faith as the choice in this book. Now, back to obedience and how it relates to Faith in Jesus.

“Keep My Commandments”

I remembered Jesus referring to “keeping his commandments” before in John 14:15: “If you love Me, keep My commandments”. But now he was telling me that believers, people who claim to have Faith in him, are people who keep his commandments. The Strong’s Greek dictionary defines “keep” (G5083) as: to guard and prevent from loss, hold fast, fulfill a command. The NIV Bible translates John 14:15 and “keep” as: obeying what Jesus commands. In other words: “All those who have Faith in me, obey my commandments.”

The Strong’s Greek Dictionary also speaks to the fact that obedience is tied to Faith in Jesus. Notice that Faith comes from the word “persuade” and the word “obey” is included in the list of definitions.

  • Believe – G4100
    pisteuo (pist-yoo’-o)
    From G4102; to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), that is, credit; by implication to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well being to Christ):—believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.
  • Faith – G4102
    pistis (pis’-tis)
    From G3982; persuasion, that is, credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly constancy in such profession; by extension the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself:—assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.
  • Persuade – G3982
    peitho (pi’-tho)
    A primary verb; to convince (by argument, true or false); by analogy to pacify or conciliate (by other fair means); reflexively or passively to assent (to evidence or authority), to rely (by inward certainty):—agree, assure, believe, have confidence, be (wax) content, make friend, obey, persuade, trust, yield.

This finding doesn’t mean that “persuade” can be used interchangeably with “Faith” or “believe”, but it does mean that to understand Faith, you will have to understand the word it was taken from to grasp its full meaning. But putting aside Greek dictionaries, I believe a full and correct understanding of Faith can only come by the Word of God through the teaching of the Holy Spirit. We can’t always understand the meaning of certain words and principles in the Bible by our own fleshly intellect, Greek dictionaries, and the opinions of old seminary professors; these are spiritual things; we need the help of the author himself, Jesus Christ.

Biblical Proof

The following is from Hebrews chapter eleven; it gives further proof that Faith leads to obedience. I highlighted certain phrases to make a point.

7 By Faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to Faith. 8 By Faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By Faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;

17 By Faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten Son,

27 By Faith he [Moses] forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By Faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. (Hebrews 11:7-9, 17, 27-28)

In the Hebrews account, Faith led to several things, but the main one I want to emphasize is obedience. Faith in Jesus led to actions of  obedience, notice the actions highlighted in the text. These were all things God told them to do, and because they had Faith, they obeyed. It was by Faith they obeyed; and obedience was the result of their Faith in God. Romans 16:26 says, “The eternal God commanded his prophets to write about the good news, so that all nations would obey and have Faith.” Therefore, obedience is tied to Faith in Jesus.

God Loves Obedience

Here are ten passages (CEV) which explain how God feels about obedience:

  1. Obedient people get into Heaven
    Not everyone who calls me their Lord will get into the kingdom of heaven. Only the ones who obey my Father in heaven will get in. – Matthew 7:21
  2. Obedient people are “solid as a rock”
    But anyone who hears what I say and doesn’t obey me is like someone whose house wasn’t built on solid rock. As soon as the river rushed against that house, it was smashed to pieces! – Luke 6:49
  3. Obedient people are considered family
    Jesus answered, “My mother and my brothers are those people who hear and obey God’s message.” – Luke 8:21
  4. Obedient people are blessed by God
    Jesus replied, “That’s true, but the people who are really blessed are the ones who hear and obey God’s message!” – Luke 11:28
  5. Obedient people will have eternal life
    I tell you for certain that if you obey my words, you will never die. – John 8:51
  6. Obedient people are heard by God when they pray
    We know that God listens only to people who love and obey him. God doesn’t listen to sinners. – John 9:31
  7. Obedience to Jesus is above old Mosaic laws
    Being circumcised or uncircumcised isn’t really what matters. The important thing is to obey God’s commands. – 1 Corinthians 7:19
  8. Obedient people actually know God
    When we obey God, we are sure that we know him. But if we claim to know him and don’t obey him, we are lying and the truth isn’t in our hearts. – 1 John 2:3-4
  9. Obedient people get what they want when they ask
    He will give us whatever we ask, because we obey him and do what pleases him. – 1 John 3:22
  10. Obedient people are unified with God
    If we obey God’s commandments, we will stay one in our hearts with him, and he will stay one with us. The Spirit that he has given us is proof that we are one with him. – 1 John 3:24

Associated with 1 John 3:24, another reference to the Spirit and obedience is found in Acts 5:32 (CEV):

“We are here to tell you about all this, and so is the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to everyone who obeys God”.

At the initial point of my reconciliation to the Father, among other things, I repented of my sins and decided to follow Jesus. I obeyed his command when he said, “Repent” (Mark 1:15). I stopped doing what I knew was wrong and then I received the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:2-5). Do you see the relation between obedience and receiving the very important Holy Spirit?

My point is: obedience is tied to Faith; and without initial obedience, an unbeliever cannot receive the Holy Spirit. And without the Holy Spirit, is the person truly born-again? Faith is the conduit by which we are saved (Eph 2:8) and the Holy Spirit is the down payment (Eph 1:13-14) for the purchase of our souls by the Father. Faith is what pleases God (Heb 11:6) and if we say we have Faith in Jesus we must show it by our obedience to his commandments.

Obedience & Love

When Jesus talks about keeping the commandments he is referring to the ones he gives through the Bible and prayer, this includes the original ten (the moral law) which can be summed up into one command: love God and everyone else. John chapter 14 (CEV) says:

Jesus said to his disciples: If you love me, you will do as I command (v.15). If you love me, you will do what I have said, and my Father will love you. I will also love you and show you what I am like (v. 21).

Jesus replied: If anyone loves me, they will obey me. Then my Father will love them, and we will come to them and live in them. But anyone who doesn’t love me, won’t obey me. What they have heard me say doesn’t really come from me, but  from the Father who sent me (v. 23-24).

When we obey Jesus, we show him that we love him, therefore our Faith in Jesus leads to our love for Jesus. Jesus was very clear about this. But so many Christians profess to love Jesus but don’t obey his commands. There is nothing wrong with singing, dancing and “getting emotional” about Jesus, but obedience to his commandments is his criteria for love. We must stop loving Jesus our way and love him his way. If he tells us to do something, let’s do it.

The Commandment of Love

36 “Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. 38 This is the first and most important commandment. 39 The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-39 CEV)

Jesus replied: If anyone loves me, they will obey me. Then my Father will love them, and we will come to them and live in them. But anyone who doesn’t love me, won’t obey me. What they have heard me say doesn’t really come from me, but from the Father who sent me (John 14:23-24 CEV).

10 If you obey me, I will keep loving you, just as my Father keeps loving me, because I have obeyed him. 11 I have told you this to make you as completely happy as I am. 12 Now I tell you to love each other, as I have loved you (John 15:10-12 CEV).

The above passages expound on obedience. We show obedience by loving God and everyone else. Obedience and love are almost synonymous in relation to God. Another point to be made here is: God’s love is based on the condition of our obedience to him: “Then my Father will love them” (John 14:23 CEV) and “If you obey me, I will keep loving you… I have told you this to make you as completely happy as I am.” (John 15:10-11 CEV).

“Then” and “if” are conditions, therefore God’s love may not be unconditional as mainstream teachers would have you believe. I know that’s a big shocker to some people, but what did the passages say? Look them up in other translations, read them in full context; these passages will say the same thing. But aside from God’s seemingly conditional love, the focus should be: knowing what will make us completely happy (as Jesus is) and that is: obedience.

So, when we obey Jesus, we’re are showing our Faith in him and he is pleased and this brings happiness to all of us. The remaining question is: are we obeying his commandments? And if we are not obeying the commandments; do we really love Jesus? Or, is he really our Lord? Jesus said:

Why do you keep on saying that I am your Lord, when you refuse to do what I say? (Luke 6:46 CEV)

Obedience & Repentance

A Faith that leads to obedience is in direct opposition to what most preachers instruct on Sunday. Preachers tell unbelievers to “have Faith in Jesus” for salvation, but always leave out the part about repentance of sin. One of the first things Jesus preached was for people to  repent (Mark 1:15, Luke 13:1-5); he also told his disciples to preach the same (Mark 6:12). But why don’t preachers include repentance as a part of the “invitation to Christ”?

What unbelievers hear on Sunday is usually a message that sounds like this:

“Jesus died for your sins and washed them all away and if you put your Faith in him you will be saved”.

This misleads people to believe that they are saved based on their belief in Jesus: their acknowledgment of the facts of Jesus and that this  acknowledgment is what having Faith is. Another thing to look at is: they tell people to “make Jesus Lord” without even explaining what  this declaration really means. So “making Jesus Lord” often implies: choosing Jesus as the God you side with as opposed to Buddha or Allah.

So, from the pulpits it is implied:

“having a mental acknowledgment and declaring Jesus as your number-one God is what Faith is.”

But nowhere do they mention repentance. I have yet to even hear repentance preached in some “New Members” classes. This makes it look like God sent his only begotten Son to die for our sins, just so we can continue in sin, but be free from the penalty. Does that even make sense? But that is what they are implying. It makes obedience look optional. And in some groups, like the Liberal Church, obedience does seem to be optional. If the Lord’s commandments are optional, then is he really a Lord? Or to put it a different way: are these really commandments, or are they suggestions? We all know Moses didn’t come down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Suggestions.

What about the third man at the cross?

Some argue that the other man at the cross with Christ didn’t do anything but believe in Jesus and therefore was saved; likewise unbelievers today are saved by belief alone (Luke 23:39-43). But the man did far more than believe in Jesus, he:

  • Recognized Jesus as God.
  • Rebuked the other robber to show Jesus respect.
  • Acknowledged that he himself was wrong and deserved his punishment.
  • Repented of his sins.
  • Obeyed the gospel by believing that Jesus would save his soul.

This guy did all he could, he was dying; he wasn’t expected to get off the cross and begin giving to the poor; and we cannot say just because this guy believed and repented without any further obedient acts, that this is all that is required of us today. His particular  circumstances limited his ability to do anything more. The main point in that scripture is: Faith leads to acknowledgment of sin and repentance, and no matter if you’re about to die, you can still have Faith in Jesus and be saved.

The misunderstanding of Faith breeds fake Christians.

Because these unbelievers are convinced they have eternal life because of simple acknowledgment, without knowing the true requirements of God, have they really been born again? In actuality, are they really “coming to Jesus” at all? Perhaps they are coming to the religion of Jesus, a “false Jesus”; a Jesus that doesn’t require obedience or repentance; just head-knowledge. The unbeliever may stop cussing or change their outward behavior but neither their hearts, nor their minds, really repent. They live a double life: one person in church and another outside. They become people who speak “Christianese”, but are, in fact, still of the world; they never were converted. I know a lot of fake Christians.

Repent means:

to think differently or afterward, that is, reconsider, morally to feel compunction, which is, a sting of conscience or a pang of doubt aroused by wrongdoing or the prospect of wrongdoing (Strong’s Greek Dictionary – G3340).

Perhaps unbelievers should be told to repent from the things they know to be wrong and turn to Jesus. There’s no excuse, we all have a conscience; we know when we’ve done wrong. I’ve heard it said that repentance is: to turn my back completely on sin and face Jesus. The sin that we used to know should be behind us. As some of these sins return we must continue to repent.

Because obedience and repentance isn’t a one-time-thing, I believe Faith in Jesus is not either, rather, a continual process. Some say, “It’s impossible to obey Jesus all the time, or to keep his commandments…” But Jesus wouldn’t tell us to do anything that isn’t possible for us. Doesn’t the Bible say that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us? (Philippians 4:13); we’ll talk about this next.

Next chapter: