I remember growing up and being interested in and trying to learn all I could about religion. I spent time with various groups, studying their tracts. The word “saved” was prominently used in evangelical circles defining the relationship one had with God and still does even today. While this may be semantically correct, it speaks not of the process involved. There are several beliefs across the spectrum as to what it takes to find oneself in a “saved state” but few addresses the idea of “obeying the Gospel”. Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians indicates that those who don’t know God or do not obey the Gospel will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of God. (2 Thess 1:8-9) What does it mean to obey the gospel? Certainly the implication includes some type of action in connection with escaping penalty.
I’m not adverse to the term “saved’, especially considering the words of Jesus Himself, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) There is also the text of 1 Cor 1:18 “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (NAS) I don’t want to seem presumptuous, but more often than not, an individual that uses the word saved appears to believe salvation comes without any behavior or action on the part of the individual. This is a “faith only” doctrine that is inconsistent with scripture. James chapter 2 speaks of the faith of Abraham, “a friend of God”, telling the reader that his faith was working with his works, and as a result of his works, his faith was perfected, or made complete. (vs. 22) Just four verses later we read that faith without works (behavior) is dead (vs. 26).
I believe “faith only” is an adverse reaction to the idea of a works salvation (Eph 2:8-9). Peter tells believers to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). How do these passages work together? The answer is in who does the work in baptism. It is the one who forgives sins, God. This action (work) perfects (completes) our faith, culminating in obeying the Gospel. Questions? Let’s study!
Copyright © 2010, Nolan P. Rutter