What Justification by Faith Means

By Cecil Willis

This is our last lesson on faith in this present series. We have studied the great theme of faith for eighteen issues and we now bring this particular study to a close with this week’s lesson, “What Justification by Faith Means.”

The Bible very plainly teaches in many, many instances that one is justified by faith, but for the most part, the religious world has very little (if any) conception of what it means to be justified by faith. It would be absurd of one, professing to believe the Bible, to deny that one is saved by faith, and such is not my intention. I believe that faith justifies, but I also believe what the Bible says about when it justifies. Paul says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). Further, the writer of the book of Hebrews states that Christ is the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him (Heb. 5:9). We therefore see from these passages that it takes two things to save one, namely, faith and obedience. There are a number of commandments that one must obey in order to be saved. Our entire lesson last week was devoted to a study of God’s eternal principle of salvation, and in that lesson we pointed out that God has always justified man according to the same principle. In every age it has been necessary for man to believe and obey in order to be justified. The commandments have been changed from time to time. The Jews under Moses’ Law were commanded to offer animal sacrifices, but we are given different commandments to obey, and yet God demands that both we and they believe and obey. The principle of salvation has not changed!

And now, in this article, we are ready to study what the Bible says about how far one’s faith must go in obeying in order to make one pleasing in the sight of God. Is there any limit beyond which one’s faith must not go in obedience, and yet that faith still be pleasing to God?

Faith Must Extend Beyond Human Reason

in order to be pleasing to God. One’s faith must obey when it can see no human reason for doing the thing commanded. When God gave the command to Noah to build an ark because there was going to come a great flood upon all the earth, and told him that the only way that he and his household could be saved was by his building the ark, surely the world must have sneered and laughed. It would seem to be absolute foolishness to spend so much of one’s time in preparing4 large boat in which to escape’ a flood that was to cover the whole earth. The world could see no human reason why one should be spending so much time and effort in the building of the ark to avert destruction by the flood. It was not a matter of human reason.

Human reason would be completely against the possibility of a flood such as that for which Noah was preparing. There is some indication that prior to this time there had not even been any rain, but that God had watered the earth by the dew that came up from the earth, but this is not conclusive, and consequently I advance this idea only as a possibility. Certainly the world had never experienced the degree of a flood that Noah anticipated.

In all probability Noah was the subject of ridicule and scorn as he labored on the ark, and warned the world of the impending flood, but when his faith led him to obey, when there was no reason for obeying from a strictly human standpoint, it justified him. Therefore, the first extent to which one’s faith must go in obeying, is that it must obey when, from a human standpoint, no reason can be seen why it should.

Faith Must Extend Beyond What Men Think Is Right Or Wrong

The command that Jehovah gave to Abraham in Genesis 22 is an example of this principle. Here God told Abraham to take his son, his only son, the one through whom the promise had been made, and take him into the land of Moriah, and offer him as a burnt offering unto the Lord. God has always condemned the offering of human sacrifices unto idol gods, and had disapproved taking the lives of innocent men. Certainly Abraham must have been cognizant of God’s dealings with Cain for his murder of Abel, and now God has commanded him to take the life of his own son. What was he to do? Obey, or rebel? The writer says in Hebrews 11:17, 18, “By faith Abraham, being tried, offered up Isaac, yea, he that had gladly received the promises was offering up his only begotten son, even he to whom it was said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” This action was in obedience to God’s command. It was necessary that the faith of Abraham obey when the thing commanded in itself seemed wrong.

Faith Must Extend When Men Can Not See The Reasoning Between Cause And Effect

We read in Hebrews 11 that by faith Noah prepared The third extent, to which we now call attention, to an ark to the saving of his house, and so we see that he which one’s faith must go in obeying, is that it must obeyed the eternal principle of salvation by faith and obey when we can see no connection between the end obedience. Here is the first point that we want to make sought (effect) and the means employed (cause) in pointing out how far one’s faith must go in obedience seeking that end. Our faith must obey a commandment of God even though we can see no connection between what we are trying to accomplish and the thing we are told to do to accomplish it.

The Bible is full of excellent illustrations of this particular point. Think, now, of the events recorded in Numbers 21: The children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness because they lacked faith and had disobeyed the divine injunction of God. They began to murmur against God and Moses, and said, “Why did you bring us out in this wilderness to die?” Because of their rebellious spirit, God sent serpents among them, and they were bitten and were dying. They cried to Moses, and said, “We told Moses to make a brazen serpent and put it on the pole set up in the middle of the camp, and that all who looked upon this brazen serpent would be made whole. When the serpent was set upon the pole, many of the Israelites responded in obedience to God’s advice, and were healed of the snake bites.

Our point is that one’s faith must obey when it can see no connection between the end sought, and the means employed in the seeking of that end. Notice these points in our illustration from Numbers 21. What was the end sought? The people had been snake bitten, and wanted to be cured of the bite. What was the means used in curing them? They were told to look upon a brass serpent erected in the middle of the camp. There is no connection between looking at a brass snake and being cured of a snake bite, and yet until their faith was willing to obey, they could not be healed of the snake bite. Their faith had to obey when they could see no human connection between the ends sought and the means employed.

In 2 Kings 5, we find the record of the leprous Naaman. He wanted to be healed of the dreaded disease of leprosy. This was the end sought. Well, what was the means employed? He went to the prophet Elisha, and Elisha told him to go down to the Jordan River and dip in it seven times. Naaman could see absolutely no connection between dipping seven times in the Jordan River and getting cured of leprosy, and neither can you. The reasonable thing to do when one finds that he has leprosy is not to take a trip to Palestine and dip seven times in the River Jordan. It seemed foolish of Naaman to have to go down into the dirty waters of the Jordan River seven times in order to be healed. But the truth was, he could not be healed until he did the thing commanded of God, even though he could not see the connection between what God through the prophet told him to do, and in the benefit he wanted to obtain. Naaman wanted his leprosy removed, and God said, Go dip seven times in the Jordan River.

Here is the test of his faith. Was he to obey when the thing commanded by the prophet seemed pointless? His faith, in order, to heal him, had to comply with the divine decree, and so Naaman went and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan River, as God commanded, and when he did, he came up whole. But it was not until he obeyed that he received the end that he was seeking. He was still a leprous man until he completed doing what the Lord commanded.

In John 9, we find the record of a very sad story. Here is a man that has been blind from his mother’s womb. He has never had the glorious privilege of seeing the sunlight of a new day. The disciples asked the Lord who it was that had sinned, this man, or his parents. Christ said that neither of them had sinned. He then told the man what to do to be healed of his blindness. Our Lord spat upon the ground, and then mixed clay with that spittal. With this mixture of clay and spittal he covered the blinded eyes of this poor man. He then sent him to the pool of Siloam, and told him to wash the mixture from his eyes and he would come forth seeing. Let me ask a simple question that will bring out our point: If you were blind and a doctor told you to take clay and spit and put it on your eyes and then go wash in the pool of Siloam, would you expect to come forth seeing, if you did? Certainly not, for there is no human connection between a mixture of spit and clay, and washing in the pool of Siloam, and in being healed of one’s blindness. But this man had to obey when he could understand no connection whatever between what he wanted (healed of his blindness), and in what the Lord told him to do. But he was not healed until his faith led him to obey even though he could see no connection.


Let us bring the point vividly to our minds now. Our Lord has given some commandments for men to obey. Men can see no connection between the commandments that Christ gave . and what they are to receive for obeying them. Christ said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). Peter commanded the Jews on the day of Pentecost to “Repent ye, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Ananias, the God sent preacher, told Saul to “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). Peter said that baptism “doth also now save us” (1 Peter 3:21). The Lord has commanded that men and women be baptized in order to be saved.

Men today say, “I just can’t see what baptism has to do with salvation. I just cannot see what good it does to go down into a pool of water.” Frankly, friends, humanly speaking, I cannot either. But I do know that God said to do it, and that my faith must obey whether the thing commanded seems that it is the thing that one should do in order to reach the end sought. I cannot see what going down into the Jordan River had to do with Naaman’s leprosy, but he was not healed until he did go down into it. I see no connection between being healed of blindness and in going to wash in the pool of Siloam, but the man would have died blind had he not obeyed.

The end sought (effect) is the remission of sins, and the things commanded (causes-on our part) are faith, repentance, confession, and baptism in order to receive the remission of sins. Unless I have faith enough to obey, and even when I cannot see the connection between the end sought and the means employed, then I do not have enough faith to justify me.

The world of today says that if one has to be baptized in order to be saved, then that would be water salvation. Your salvation would be dependent upon water. Did you ever hear anyone say that the blind man of John 9 was made whole by water healing? He was commanded to go wash in the pool of Siloam, and I have never heard anyone say that he was made whole by water healing. What about Naaman? He was told to go dip seven times in the Jordan to be healed of leprosy. Was this water healing? Certainly not. It was healing by faith, but only when he did the thing commanded.

The man in Jn. 9 was told to wash in the pool of Siloam, and yet we have a song today about him, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see.” The song says that this was by grace, but he had to go wash the clay and spittle from his eyes in the pool of Siloam. This man was no different than the man that is baptized in order to be saved. It was through grace that both accomplished their means. If you do not have enough faith to obey the command of the Lord whether you can see the connection between what He said do and the end you are seeking, you do not have enough faith to be saved. God commanded baptism. There is not a man living that will deny that. “And Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 10:48). Are you unbelieving enough to say it is not necessary? If so, you cannot be justified by faith.


What does justification by faith mean? Justification by faith is believing to the extent that we are willing to obey, and then obeying. We then are justified by our faith that obeyed, as was our spiritual father Abraham. Baptism For The Remission Of Sins Is Justification By Faith. We are praying and pleading that you will have faith enough to obey the commandments of the Lord, for without obedience, you cannot be saved.

Truth Magazine XIX: 45, pp. 707-709
September 25, 1975