Although she held a postgraduate degree from one of the most prestigious American universities, viewed herself as a prayer warrior and had faithfully attended her church for years, she was at a loss to understand how the New Testament could speak of salvation in terms of both faith and obedience. Having been taught that faith in Jesus refers to accepting Jesus into your heart, she understood this as denying the necessity of any obedient action to enter into Christ. She will continue to fail to grasp the harmony within Scripture unless somehow she experiences a paradigm shift. I suspect she is not alone.
The apostle Paul faced a formidable challenge. Among those early churches were some who proclaimed that a person could not be saved unless certain provisions of the Mosaical Law were fulfilled.\1 In stark contrast to the principle of self-reliance through the Law, Paul insisted that salvation was the result of a completely different path. Doggedly, Paul had asserted that what mattered was whether the person had relied upon Jesus for salvation.\2 Ardently, Paul defended the principle that salvation comes through depending upon Jesus. Why was this so critical? God has given us a salvation which we can never earn. Jesus’ blood is the only means by which anybody’s guilt can be taken away. In Paul’s words, salvation is by grace through faith, not by works.
A paradigm shift involves seeing the same evidence in an entirely new way. The woman I wrote about earlier makes an assumption every time she reads the word faith. She assumes it means “just believe in Jesus” instead of “trust in Jesus.” There is a world of difference. Because of this, although she is convinced she has a clear understanding of what it means to be saved by faith, she has discovered many other Scriptures which she considers “difficult.”
Anybody can test the Scriptures to see which of these understandings was intended. If by faith the biblical authors meant “just believe,” then we would not expect any of the following to be found within the New Testament:
- Faith in Jesus involves being baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:26,27),
- Baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38),
- Sins are washed away when someone is baptized (Acts 22:16),
- Being set free from sin is the result of wholeheartedly obeying a form of teaching (Romans 6:17,18),
- Jesus is the source of salvation for all those who obey him (Hebrews 5:9),
- Christians have purified themselves by obeying the truth (1 Peter 1:22),
- The gospel is intended to lead a person to the obedience of faith (Romans 16:25,26; 1:5), and
- Those who do not obey the gospel will be lost (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17)
Trusting in Jesus and in his blood saves us. Biblically, to trust in Jesus that we might become children of God and be included in Christ involves being baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:26,27). The message of Scripture is harmonious. We are saved by faith. When someone responds to Jesus by being baptized they are saved.
1/ Acts 15:1-2, Galatians 3:3; Philippians 3:2-4
2/ Galatians 2:16,21; 3:11; Philippians 3:9; Romans 9:30-32; Ephesians 2:8,9