When martin luther rediscovered the basic truth, “The just shall live by faith”—salvation by faith alone—he found himself released from the burden of a conscience weighed down by sin from which no efforts of his own could have freed him. Out of this there came the Reformation with its recognition of the grace and mercy of God to which alone man owes his salvation.

But since that time there have been those who have misinterpreted “faith” to be a mere affirmation of words, and “grace” to be a gift without corresponding obligations.

Perhaps we all would do well to stop and consider that faith becomes saving faith when validated by obedience, and saving grace is God’s free gift only to those who do God’s will.

Many years ago I visited in the home of a man who was a prominent Bible teacher in his community. There I discovered by his own admission that he was living a life of open and unrepented-of sin. The “grace” about which he taught was a cheap grace that denied the holiness of God and the life of obedience God requires of those who call on his name.

The Apostle Paul answers this question once for all: “Now grace is the ruling factor, with righteousness as its purpose and its end the bringing of men to the eternal Life of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Now what is our response to be? Shall we sin to our heart’s content and see how far we can exploit the grace of God? What a ghastly thought!” (Rom. 5:21–6:2, Phillips).

Our Lord also made it clear that the only faith that counts is a faith that results in obedience. Near the conclusion of his “Sermon on the Mount” he declared: “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).

That ...

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