And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. Hebrews 3:18, 19 NIVIt seems from this passage that obedience and belief are linked. Mental assent isn’t enough. If you believe, you will obey; if you don’t obey, you don’t really believe. What does this say about the many people who call themselves Christian and believe they are saved but who live lives no different from non-Christians? Can I say I believe if I am not obeying? Obeying what? And what if I obey all but one or two things? What does that say about my belief? Does the degree to which I obey demonstrate the degree to which I believe?
But then, what does one do with this: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”? What degree of belief is Paul talking about? Am I saved if I give mental assent but do not obey? James says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” (James 2:19 NIV) What is the difference between Christians and the demons who acknowledge the same truths we do?
If believing means obedience, what are we obeying? The Sermon on the Mount given by Jesus is a good start. He spoke about anger being the same as murder, lust the same as adultery. He told us to settle matters quickly with our adversaries; to reconcile with those who have something against us; to avoid divorce except for marital unfaithfulness; to be generous with evil people; to love our enemies; to give to the needy, not be showy about our spiritual actions, pray and fast; to serve God instead of money; to stop worrying and judging others; to ask for what we need and to be sure we put Jesus’ words into action (Matthew 5-7).
James tells us to persevere (James 1:3, 4, 12).
Peter tells us to rid ourselves of all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander; to endure suffering and to live in harmony with each other, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble, repay evil with blessing and keep our tongues from evil (1 Peter 2 & 3).
Paul warns against loving oneself and money; being boastful, proud and abusive; disobedience to parents, ingratitude, unforgiveness, lack of self-control, brutality, treachery, rashness and conceit; denying the power of godliness (2 Timothy 3:1-5). He tells us to set our hearts and minds on things above instead of on earthly things and to “put to death...sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed.” (Colossians 3:1-5 NIV)
I haven’t listed all the instruction we’ve been given in the New Testament but even with what I have mentioned, can I do all these things? And if I don’t, can I say I believe? Does believing “on the Lord Jesus Christ” mean that I obey each of these instructions? If belief and obedience are linked, what am I to obey?
Ach! I have been rambling and I’m not sure I’ve said anything of worth. But maybe I’ve given you something to think about. I know I want to pursue these thoughts some more.
Father, how much do I believe in your Son, Jesus? How do I know that I do? I want to believe, please help my unbelief!