Faith, Love, and Keeping His Commandments
Robert Wurtz II
“Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (Romans 3:32).
If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you (John 14:15-16).
But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him (1 John 2:5).
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).
And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:12f).
I have selected several passages to demonstrate what I believe is a fundamental misunderstanding of “salvation by grace and through faith.” It is an ancient misunderstanding that led to all kinds of deceptions and controversies. In modern times, the prevailing view among those who are Protestant is that if a person simply believes the claims of the Gospel they will be saved forever — no strings attached. Though we are indeed saved by believing the claims of the Gospel, it is an incomplete truth and can be seriously misleading.
Obedience of Faith
Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations (Romans 1:5).
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith (Romans 16:25-26).
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:16-17).
Notice how believing and obeying are linked in Romans 10:16 and that faith comes when we hear the word of God. We either respond in obedience or respond in disobedience. Obedience is faith and disobedience is sin. An evil heart of unbelief is a heart that disobeys the claims and demands of God (Hebrews 3:12-13). When a person hardens their heart towards God they are resisting and ignoring His dealings. Like hardened soil, it does not accept the “seed” of God’s word—even though the seed carries within itself the grace to do what God is saying. Moreover, the Holy Spirit, like rain, operates with the word to bring about fruit.
The First Beginning
Understand that we begin our Christian walk with faith in Christ. This is the “starting point” that must continue until we die (die in faith) or the Lord returns. We must continue walking in faith for that initial belief to have meaning. Our faith is placed in the word of God and that word must continue to grow in our hearts to a point of fruitfulness. We don’t just believe as a one-off event, but we go on believing all that God reveals to us. This means that faith is the path and means of receiving the Holy Spirit. This is a vital truth.
As Ron Bailey has often said, faith is “the right response to revelation.” This is what Romans 10:16-17 reveals. It is not merely an assent of the mind. Faith and obedience are nearly synonymous terms. When the Holy Spirit deals with us as we hear His word we either submit to Him or resist Him. The religious leaders always resisted the Holy Spirit as did their fathers (Acts 7). This is why they never got on with God and why they were not living by faith. You can’t resist the Holy Spirit and live by faith at the same time.
Faith That Obeys
But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great (Luke 6:46f).
If words have meaning, then according to Jesus, there is no saving faith that does not yield a life that keeps the commandments of Christ. Full stop. End of story. Many people will throw around the term “Lord, Lord” even at the great judgment, but will be shocked to know He viewed them as a worker of lawlessness (Matthew 7:22). Think of that fact. Undoubtedly, they claimed to believe in Jesus, but they practiced lawlessness (iniquity). They were deceived and misunderstood God’s purposes in salvation.
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them (Romans 2:14-15).
The Jews took hold of what we call the Old Testament and what they call Tanakh and codified it into 613 Laws (365 neg and 248 pos). After the destruction of the Temple, somewhere between 100 and 200 can be carried out. By anyone’s standards that is a long way from “fulfilling the law.” Why would anyone want to be joined to a system that is over 2/3 obsolete (even if you were trying to keep the commands)? Adding the additional writings and substituting laws for other things (such as acts of righteousness) will never do. But does this mean that God’s people are “lawless”? God forbid. Lawless is just another word for iniquity and nobody wants to stand before God who has been a “worker of iniquity.”
Moreover, the non-believing Jews and believers who were “zealous for the law” (Acts 21:20) were forever accusing Paul of antinomianism or something similar. They didn’t understand that he preached a Gospel where people were expected to be “led by” and “walk-in” the Spirit and in so doing their life is in harmony with the law. As he stated to the Galatians 5, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law.” Or as he explained this same truth in 1 Corinthians 9, “not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:21 ESV).
If a person is led of the Spirit they are not under the law (Galatians 5:18). Why? Because the same Holy Spirit that inspired the word is leading them. They aren’t consciously obeying laws, they are living in such a way that they agree with God’s revealed will and personality. They love Him with all of their hearts and they love others as themselves.
Although it is true that God justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5) and that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us; God didn’t send Jesus into the world to save sinners in their sin(s) but to save them from their sin(s). The whole purpose of justification by faith is to bring us to a place where we can receive the Holy Spirit, be led by the Spirit, and by nature fulfill the law. That is to say, by nature, we do (in the power of the Spirit) what can never be done by the works of the law.
Is salvation by grace through faith? Absolutely! Is it the gift of God? Absolutely! Is it not of works lest any man should boast? Absolutely! Is that the end of it? Absolutely not. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” Ephesians 2:10). How can we do it? “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18 ESV). The Holy Spirit is the gift that accompanies the gift of salvation so that all who believe may receive the Spirit, be led of the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, and yield the fruit of the Spirit. There is no improvement in God’s design.
The Jews wanted to know what “works” they could do to do the works of God. That was their mindset. They were forever trying to establish their own righteousness by their own works that sprang from their own ideas about God and His laws. What did Jesus say, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29)? Obey what He says and stop doing your own thing. Follow the pattern of being “led by” and “walking in” the Spirit that God has set forth and you WILL do the works of God. There is no possible way to improve upon this life or to better please God. It is the only way to accomplish what the law could never do and we must endeavor to walk in it.