by Tim Hall
**”Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17, NKJV).**
You might call it an unholy alliance. Of the three kings standing before the prophet Elisha, two were well known for their love of idols. Had it not been for the good king Jehoshaphat, Elisha would not even have considered their request (2 Kings 3:14).
The three kings had set out to wage war with Moab, but were stymied by a lack of water. Seven days had passed with nothing to drink. How could one hope to retreat, much less fight, in such a dehydrated condition?
After consulting with the Lord, a solution was proposed: “Make this valley full of ditches,” Elisha commanded (2 Kings 3:16). The next morning the ditches they dug would be filled with water, though they would not see rain nor wind. The ditches would not be filled by natural means.
God, as always, was true to his word. The next morning water filled all the ditches that had been dug. The water proved to be more than vital refreshment to the armies of Judah, Israel and Edom. As the sun rose upon the valley, the Moabites concluded the pools before them were of blood, shed among the three loosely-allied armies. Thinking the fight was over, the Moabites walked into a death trap.
A miracle took place that day. God filled every ditch with water. But why didn’t God also carve out the ditches? Would that not have added to the impressiveness of the miracle?
Faith and obedience are commonly found together in God’s word. Jesus called Lazarus to miraculously come forth from the tomb in which he had reposed for four days (John 11:43,44). Just before that astonishing event, Jesus commanded bystanders to “Take away the stone” (John 11:39). Why? Did Jesus have only enough power to raise a dead man, but not to also roll away a stone?
Many religious people argue that salvation is “by faith only”. To tell people that they must do anything before they can be saved is to detract from the power of God, they say. This is why baptism is so commonly ignored in discussions of salvation. We who stress the importance of baptism are dismissed as “water dogs” (or worse), as if we had invented the command on our own.
The phrase “by faith only” can be found only one time in the Scriptures: “You see then that a man is justified by his works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). The one time that popular catch-phrase can be found, it is modified by the word “not”. Our faith must be accompanied by obedience, James wrote.
What if Elisha’s command long ago had been ignored, and no ditches had been dug? Would God have provided water? What if we ignore our Lord’s command today (e.g. Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; et.al.)?
Will we be saved?
by Tim Hall