The Church – An Extension of Christ
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

23 – Trust and Obey

(Hebrews 11:7-10)

In recent years, the popular definition given for “faith” is the word “trust.”  Something about this definition bothered me, so I decided to investigate and find out how Biblically accurate this definition is.  The reason for my concern is that the word “trust” can become a very passive thing that does not produce any change in one’s life.

For example, we trust our auto insurance company to cover the cost of our damaged car if we are involved in an accident.  Or we trust our health insurance to cover our medical costs should we get sick.  But neither of these things we trust produces a dramatic life change.

As I investigated what the Scripture had to say about faith being synonymous with trust, I found out that there are two Greek words that can be translated into our English word trust.  The two words are elpizo and pitho.  But neither of these two words are used in Scripture equivalent to the word faith.  The reason is because faith involves much more than trust.

Yes, to be sure, faith does definitely involve trust in God and His Word.  But, as I mentioned, faith involves more than trust.  In fact, it involves three major things:

  1. The first is knowledge.  Genuine New Testament faith is possible only after receiving the knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ, i.e., the gospel:

    John 8:32, 36; 17:3
    Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  ...So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  ...Now this is eternal life:  that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
    Romans 10:13-15, 17
    ...For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  ...Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
  2. Secondly, faith requires us to believe what we have heard about the gospel or any Biblical truth.  By belief I mean a mental assent to truth.  A good example of belief is how the disciple Thomas related to the resurrection:

    John 20:24-29
    Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
    But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
    A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them.  Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe.”
    Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
    Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

    All through Scripture one of the key elements of faith is belief:

    John 5:24
    I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
    John 6:40
    For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
    Acts 8:35-38
    Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.  As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water.  Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”
    And he gave orders to stop the chariot.  Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.
    Romans 10:9
    ...If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
  3. Most Christians are familiar with these two requirements that go to make up faith.  But, unfortunately, most Christians stop here.  It is the third element of faith that many of God’s people are ignorant of, including many Adventists.  What is this third element of faith?  It is obeying the truth as it is in Christ.

Without this third element, faith loses much of its ability to experience the power of the gospel which radically transforms our lives.  In fact, it is this third element of faith that makes it possible for the church to function as the body of Christ.  Without this obedience of faith on the part of every believer, the church will fail to be the extension of Christ.

In dealing with this third element of faith, let us start by reading several texts that clearly point out that genuine New Testament faith involves obedience.  These texts are both the positive and the negative aspects of obedience:

Romans 6:17
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.
Romans 10:16
But not all the Israelites accepted the good news.  For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”
Romans 16:25-27
Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him — to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ!  Amen.
Galatians 5:7
You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8
...And give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well.  This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Hebrews 5:9
...And, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him....
1 Peter 4:17
For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

But what does it mean to obey the gospel?  The first thing that I would like to point to is that obeying the gospel must not be equated with obeying the law.  Yes, the two are related, so that obeying the gospel will produce a people who will obey the law as a standard of Christian living.  However, the two are not synonymous, otherwise the gospel becomes legalism, which, as you know, is the great enemy of the gospel.

What then does it mean to obey the gospel?  Keep in mind that the gospel is not a set of rules like the law.  The gospel is the truth as it is in Christ.  But it is here where many have a problem.  Adventists, generally speaking, belong to the Armenian camp.  The Armenian gospel, based on the teachings of Jacob Armenius, teaches that no one was actually saved on the cross of Christ but that the gospel is only provisional.  Let me explain.

According to Jacob Armenius, a contemporary of John Calvin whom he clashed with over the gospel, all that God did in the life and death of Christ was make provision for the salvation of the entire human race.  However, for this salvation to become a reality, one must believe in Christ and repent of sins.  Only then will God put you into Christ and save you.

When you examine this view of salvation, the gospel is not good news but good advice.  Why is this so?  Because I have to first do something, i.e., take the initiative by believing and repenting, before God can put me into Christ and save me.  This contradicts Paul’s view of the gospel.  For, according to this great apostle, it is the goodness of God (the gospel) that leads us to repentance.  Note his statement:

Romans 2:4
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?

According to the clear teaching of the New Testament, God took the initiative in our salvation.  First, out of His agape love, He chose the whole human race in Christ so that we may be holy and blameless in Him:

Ephesians 1:4
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will....

Then, about 2,000 years ago, He carried out this plan by putting us into Christ at the incarnation so that by His death, Christ could rewrite our history and change our status from condemnation unto death to justification unto life:

Romans 5:18
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
1 Corinthians 1:30-31
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written:  “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
Ephesians 2:5-6
[God] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus....

On the cross the corporate, sinful, mortal life of the human race died forever the second death in Christ, the second Adam.  In exchange, God gave mankind the eternal life of His Son so that humanity could rise with Christ in the resurrection.  This is what constitutes the good news of the gospel.  This gospel becomes effective in our lives when we by faith obey the gospel:

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
1 John 5:11-12
And this is the testimony:  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

With these facts in mind, how do we define obeying the gospel?  It is consenting to what God did to us in Christ.  It is the surrender of the will, what Paul calls the inner man, to the truth as it is in Christ.  It is, above all, participating in Christ:

Romans 6:10-11
The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 2:19-20
For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This obedience to the gospel is, of course, confessed by baptism.  It is for this reason Christ made it plain to His disciples, when He gave them the great commission.  Anyone, He said, who hears the gospel, believes it, and is baptized will be saved:

Mark 16:15-16
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

By baptism Christ did not mean that the act of baptism saves but the truth of baptism.  What is the truth of baptism?  It is confessing from the heart that you have obeyed the gospel and have become one with Christ, especially in His death, burial, and resurrection:

Galatians 3:27
...For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Romans 6:3-8
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

What then does it really mean to have faith in Christ?  It is more than trusting in Him.  More precisely, it is TRUST and OBEY.  This is what Hebrews 11, the hall of faith, is all about.  Our Scripture reading presents just two examples:

Hebrews 11:7-10
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.  By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

This is where “the rubber meets the road,” to use a good American expression.  All through our Christian experience our obedience of faith will be tested.  Every time God places a demand on us, financial or otherwise, our faith is being tested.  May we all demonstrate such trust and obedience.

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