Is Not Obedience Too Much Forgotten When You Insist on Justification by Faith?

 •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Q. Is not obedience too much forgotten when you insist on justification by faith? Does not Paul exhort us to “fear” and to “labor” to enter into that rest. E. P.
A. Scripture maintains obedience and practice in the right place; that is, good works do not make, but they manifest and become the Christian. They cannot exist before a man is regenerate; though they may to a certain extent before he enjoys peace with God and the consciousness of acceptance. He who is not a believer, is by nature a child of wrath, and inevitably fulfills the desires of the flesh and of the mind. “There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” They travel the same road, each his own way, it is true, but all with their backs toward God. Some may have traveled long and fast, others a comparatively short way and time; these may be outstripped by those in self-destructive madness and rebellion, but both agree alas! in their terrible condition of sin, ruin, and death. To speak to such of obedience as a means of salvation simply proves entire ignorance of ourselves and of God—shows that, like Israel at Sinai, we confound responsibility with power. Doubtless, men ought to obey, but can they? Beyond controversy, God gives Christians the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. Therefore are we to be partakers of the afflictions of the gospel, according to the power of God, who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, NOT according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace (2 Tim. 1:7-97For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 8Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 9Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (2 Timothy 1:7‑9)). This is the divine description of a Christian accepted, but not yet glorified. The apostle clearly speaks of believers on earth—not in heaven, where are no afflictions of the gospel, and no temptations to forget our holy calling. On the other hand, the rest in Heb. 4 is future rest—the rest that remains for God's people. We are there viewed as journeying through the wilderness, and in danger of carelessness, ease, and settling down. Hence the apostle exhorts to fear and labor. Had the question been of justification, he would have said, Do not fear, do not labor; “for to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”