Evangelist, Chouteau Hills Church of Christ
A favorite Scripture of many people is John 3:16, which says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In this beautiful but often misunderstood passage, Jesus says that those who believe in Him should not perish. The reason they should not perish is because faith in Jesus gives one the right to become a child of God.
John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Notice that this verse does not say those who believe in Jesus are children of God. It simply says they have the right to become children of God. If I have a ticket to a football game, it gives me the right to attend that football game. But I must use the ticket to get into the game. If I don’t go to the football field and use the ticket, I cannot get into the game. We all understand that. In the same way, a person who believes in Jesus has the right to become a Christian, but he must use that right by obeying God in order to become a Christian.
When Philip taught the Ethiopian eunuch as they were traveling along in a chariot, Acts 8:36 says, “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’” Philip answered, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” Without faith, he would not have had the right to become a Christian. His faith gave him the right to be baptized.
No one can be saved without faith. Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Jesus said in John 8:24, “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” A person who does not believe in Jesus does not have the right to be saved. Faith is what gives one that right. So, unless one has faith in Jesus as God’s Son, his soul will be eternally lost.
To believe that Jesus is the Son of God is to recognize that He is Lord. Those who recognize that Jesus is Lord must be willing to submit to His will, or obey Him. Jesus asks in Luke 6:46, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” We should not refer to Jesus as Lord if we are not willing to obey Him.
True faith always leads to obedience. In Hebrews 11, we are told that Abel offered a sacrifice by faith, Noah built an ark by faith, Abraham obeyed by faith, and the Israelites conquered Jericho by faith. Other examples are also given in that chapter to show the connection between faith and obedience. James says that faith without obedience is like a body without a spirit. Both are dead (James 2:26). Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
Romans 1:16 tells us that the gospel of Christ is God’s power to save everyone who believes. Believers can be saved by the gospel. But the gospel must be obeyed. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 teaches us that God will take vengeance on those who do not know Him and on those who do not obey the gospel. They will be punished with everlasting destruction. How then, could anyone say that obedience is not essential?
A person who does not obey God does not really know God. I John 2:3-4 says, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” Genuine faith leads to obedience, and obedience leads to salvation (Mark 16:16)