By Eric McKee
The faith that is able to save our souls is a living, active faith. It is a faith that takes God at his word and puts trust in him. It is a faith that will cause us to want to do whatever it takes to be found pleasing in the sight of the Lord.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen . . . By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible . . . Without faith, it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must be lieve that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him (Heb. 11:1, 3, 6).
Faith is the foundation of all true conversions to the Lord and is essential to the salvation of all mankind. Therefore, it is important for us to understand what it really means to have faith in God. From where does it come? What is it? Is it the only thing we need? These questions can be answered by taking a look at the tiny story (only three verses) of Lydia found in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts. She was a human being who was found faithful in the eyes of God and attained salvation. Now, if we know that God accepted her, we can have confidence that if we follow her example, we will be accepted by him also.
In verse 12, we find that Paul and his traveling companions are visiting the city of Philippi to preach the gospel. They end up preaching to some ladies on the bank of the river. “On the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard us” (Acts 16:13-14). Now, a few obvious conclusions can be drawn from this passage. The first is that Lydia seems to be a religious, devout woman. She worships God; she prays to him; she keeps the Sabbath; she has faith. However, apparently something is missing in her life. Otherwise, why would these men be preaching the gospel to her? The answer is Jesus Christ. During his ministry, Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). So, even though Lydia had “faith,” she did not have the faith that saves, because she was simply unaware of the truth — the truth that Jesus Christ had come to this earth to die on the cross for her sins — the truth that could set her free (John 8:32). No matter how religious she had been in the past, she can now no longer have a relationship with God without also having a knowledge of the truth and a true faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
Romans 10:17 tells us, “Faith comes by hearing the word of God.” Before Paul and his companions came to the bank of the river, we find Lydia praying and worshiping the Lord. When the men arrive, Paul begins telling these women about Jesus. The words which he speaks produce faith in the heart of Lydia. Keep in mind that these things which Paul preaches are not from his own mind, but from the mind of God (2 Pet. 1:20-21).
Verse 14 declares that “the Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” Notice that her faith was not produced by the praying and worshiping she had done previously. It was not produced by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit on her heart. Her faith was produced from hearing the simple teaching of the Word of God. That is where the power of the gospel lies — in its ability to “cut a person to the heart” (Acts 2:37) —to cause a person to realize his lost condition and want to make the necessary changes in his life in order to be pleasing to God.
Let’s take a look at how the story of Lydia ends. “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul, and when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying,
‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ So she persuaded us” (vv. 1, 2). Had Lydia been faithful to the Lord? By the reaction of Paul and the others, we can definitely make that conclusion. What then had Lydia done that had caused them to be persuaded that she had faith? We know that she must have done something, because we recognize that the Lord had saved her at this point. We are taught through- out the New Testament that there is something that must be done in order for one to obtain salvation. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). “Be doers of the word and not hearers only” (Jas. 1:22). That is the way in which faith works. We hear the Word of God proclaimed (or read it in our Bibles), and this produces faith in our hearts. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
Now, how is that faith made known? It is expressed through our actions. In James 2:14-26, James begins by asking, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have You believe there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble! For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” What good is it for a person to claim to have faith in God, yet neglect to do the things which he has commanded?
Now, go back to Lydia’s situation. In what way did she express the faith she had in Jesus Christ? We are told that she and her household were baptized. There is no way that she could have even known to be baptized unless she had been told to do so. Therefore, we know that Paul must have told her that baptism was necessary for salvation. Jesus had taught, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Peter, as he preached to the Jews on the day of Pentecost, said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Now, let us suppose that Lydia had not been baptized. Would she have been found faithful to the Lord? Remember: “Faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:17). If she had neglected to follow the prescription set forth by Jesus Christ, could she have received salvation? Let’s put it this way: if she had not been baptized, what would have been her motive? If a person truly has faith in God and wants to do what is right, why wouldn’t he be baptized when he is told to do so by Jesus himself? It is not that a person is trying to earn or merit his salvation, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). The simple truth is that if a person truly has faith in God, he will be more than willing to obey him — being baptized for the remission of his sins, just as Lydia and her household did.
The faith that is able to save our souls is a living, active faith. It is a faith that takes God at his word and puts trust in him. It is a faith that will cause us to want to do whatever it takes to be found pleasing in the sight of the Lord. This is what we must have, the same faith that this woman Lydia possessed, for “without faith, it is impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6).