Periodically I get emails, letters, and comments on this blog from folks who object to that imagery. Usually, itās from someone concerned about one of two extremes ā either that Iām over-simplifying the gospel or adding something extra to it. Recently someone wrote:
āI donāt see how Larry adheres to āfaith alone in Christ alone.ā In fact I expect he would admit that he sees that statement off the mark of accuracy. Alone still means āseparate and by itselfā right? It would be nice to hear that Jesusā promise in John 3:16 is as simple as it sounds. Instead, I can grab a packet with hours of sermons to explain to me what āgiving Jesus the Steering Wheel of my Lifeā means.ā
Of course, āfaith alone in Christ aloneā is not a phrase found anywhere in the Bible. Itās a theological summation. And itās always interesting to me how we can get all worked up and divided over terms the scriptures donāt even use. But, still, itās a legitimate question.
Hereās my response:
Iām sorry, but before I can claim to adhere or deny āfaith alone in Christ aloneā I need to know what you mean by āfaith alone.ā
If by āfaith alone in Christ aloneā you mean an intellectual assent that matches the way the demons believe in Jesus (James 2:19) then I have to plead guilty as charged. I donāt buy it. If you mean that we can claim to have faith in Christ and live like hell (and still count that empty faith as saving faith) then you can count me out.
But if you mean by āfaith alone in Christ aloneā that salvation can only be found through faith in Christ and can never be found or furthered by our good deeds or the works of the OT law ā then Iām all in. And if your definition of faith matches that of Jesus and the NT writers, Iām there.
Bottom line: When it comes to trying to figure out how faith and obedience intersect, it seems to me that weĀ canāt improve upon the Apostle Johnās simple test to determine if we actually know God.
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, āI know him,ā but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, Godās love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.Ā 1 John 2:3-6
I see no reason to redefine or tweak his words ā after all, they are scripture, and all of our theological ruminations are not.
When it comes to determining the role obedience does or doesnāt play in our salvation, doesnāt it make sense to let his words speak for themselves?
Not everyone who says to me, āLord, Lord,ā will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, āLord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?ā Then I will tell them plainly, āI never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!ā
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.Ā Matthew 7:21 -27
And finally, doesnāt the Great Commission conclude with a command to teach those who have come to Christ to āobey everything I have taught youā? Apparently, Jesus considers obedience to be neither āadding to the gospelā nor an extra credit add-on for those who are really into it.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, andĀ teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.Ā Matthew 28:19-20
So, when I speak of stepping over the line and giving God the steering wheel of our life, Iām not suggesting that we somehow work our way into Godās favor or earn our salvation. I am suggesting that genuine faith, by definition, includes a pattern of obedience.
But according to the Apostle John, it is the one test that distinguishes between genuine faith and counterfeit faith.
The Steering Wheel packets we provide at North Coast Church contain practical pointers to help new Christians know what following Christ looks like and how to grow in their walk with God.
And according to Jesus and John (and the rest of the scriptures) this thing called obedience does seem to be a rather important by-product of genuine faith and belief.
On Twitter #obedience or leave a comment
Dr. Larry OsborneĀ has served as a Senior Pastor and Teaching Pastor at North Coast Church since 1980. He has helped oversee the growth of the church from a fledgling group of 128 meeting in a rented school, to a multi-site ministry that reaches over 9,000 in weekend attendance.
Larry is also an author and a nationally recognized trainer of pastors. His books include Accidental Pharisees, Sticky Church and Sticky Teams. He travels extensively speaking at conferences and mentoring pastors and church planters across the country.
Larry holds both a Master of Divinity degree and a Doctorate from Talbot Theological Seminary. He and his wife Nancy live in Oceanside. They have three grown children.
Find great resources from Larry Osborne atĀ Amazon.com