Obedience: “Because Of,” Or “In Order To”?

By Larry Ray Hafley

(1) The Alien Sinner. Baptists and others have argued for “lo, these many years” that, “We do not work (obey) to be saved, but because we are saved. ” Obviously, this cannot apply to the alien sinner. He has to obey in order to be saved. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34,35). “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:8,9).

The very question, “What must I do to be saved (Acts 16:30)?” implies that there is something (obedience) that I “must do (in order) to be saved.”

(2) The Erring Brother. The erring child of God is lost (Jas. 5:19,20). In the process of restoration, does he obey God because he is saved or in order to be saved? He was “purged (cleansed) from his old (past) sins” when he became a Christian. Later, he erred from the truth; his soul was in danger of death (Jas. 5:19,20; Rom. 8:12,13). Must he act because he is already forgiven, or must he respond in order to be forgiven? See Simon the Sorcerer. He believed, was baptized, and, in accord with Jesus’ promise, was saved from his past sins (Acts 8:12,13; Mk. 16:15,16; 2 Pet. 1:9). After his conversion and salvation, he sinned, and was “in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:23). That is strange language to describe a man who is still saved! He was lost and needed his soul saved from death. Peter gave the divine formula. “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness and pray God if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:22).

(3) The Faithful Christian. The Christian has been saved from his past sins, but there remains a salvation “ready to be revealed in the last time . . . at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:5,7). Paul spoke to Romans who had been saved when they “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine” (Rom. 6:17,18). Still, he spoke of a future deliverance; “for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11). Regarding that future salvation, do we obey in order to be saved or because we are saved? Because we have been saved from our past sins, we obey in order to receive the salvation which will be given “at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” Initially, we are “purged from (our) old (past) sins” and saved. Then we must “give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:9-11). “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). We are to “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing” (Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:12; Eph. 4: 1), “that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Pet. 3:14). “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 Jn. 2:28).

Finally, on this point, “And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard” (Col. 1:21-23).

Summation and Conclusion

Hence, obedience is rendered in order to be saved. This is true of the alien sinner (Acts 2:37,38), the erring brother (Acts 8:22,23; Jas. 5:19,20) and the faithful Christian (2 Pet. 1:10, 11; 3:14; Rev. 22:14). To the alien, the grace of God and the blood of Christ are the grounds, the basis, of his salvation. Faith, repentance, confession and baptism are the terms or conditions of his salvation. To the erring brother, the grace of God and the blood of Christ are the grounds, the foundation, of his salvation. Repentance, confession and prayer are the stipulations or terms of his salvation (Acts 8:22,23; 1 Jn. 1:9; 2:1). To the faithful child of God, the grace of God and the blood of Christ are the grounds of salvation. “Good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” are the conditions of salvation being maintained here and attained hereafter (Phil. 2:12; Eph. 2:10; 2 Pet. 1:5-11; Col. 1:23).

The alien sinner is not saved by works, but by grace, even though he must obey or submit to the terms of pardon. The erring brother is not saved by works, but by grace, even though he must obey or comply with the conditions of forgiveness. The faithful saint is not saved by works, but by grace, even though he must obey or “work out (his) own salvation.”

In debate, Baptist preachers have affirmed that one is saved without acts of obedience but that after one is saved he obeys because he is saved. They have been asked, “If obedience on the part of a child of God does not eliminate grace, why do you say that obedience by an alien sinner nullifies grace?” Now, saints engaged in certain controversies over these and related issues, should reverse that thought. If obedience on the part of an alien sinner does not make void God’s grace, then why would one say that obedience on the part of a Christian nullifies the grace of God? It is a fair question.

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 12, pp. 355, 375
June 21, 1984