Many people in the religious world hold an erroneous belief about salvation that means that God is different now, in the Christian era, than He was in the Old Testament. How did God treat people in the Old Testament? Let’s take a look at some examples and establish a pattern.
First, think about Noah. God came to him and said, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth”, Genesis 6:13. Though God had resolved to destroy mankind, Noah, we are told, “found grace in the eyes of the Lord”, Genesis 6:8; and God would save Noah from the coming flood. How? Did God tell Noah that when the time came He would remove Noah and those with him to a safe, spiritual place until the flood was over? God certainly could have done that, but instead He told Noah to build an ark.
Second, when God resolved that the immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah warranted their destruction, He sent angels to Lot to tell him of the impending fire and brimstone, Genesis 19:13. Once Lot knew about the judgment, did the angels tell him that God would transport him and his family to a city outside the range of the destruction? God could have done such a thing, but the angels told Lot to flee the city on foot.
Third, what about the Jews wandering the wilderness after leaving Egypt? They needed food. They were grumbling and complaining that things had been better for them in Egypt. After all, they had plenty of food there. God knew they needed food and would provide for them. Did He merely give them the feeling of fullness? Did He put food into their stomachs? He could have, but He chose instead to tell the people that Manna would rain down from heaven and they would have to go out and gather it, Exodus 16.
There are many more examples to prove that God expected something from those who believed in Him. In fact, even in the New Testament we see the principle expressed. In Hebrews 11, we read about people who were faithful. In verse 4, we read that Abel offered his sacrifice to God by faith. In verse 17, Abraham offered up Isaac by faith. In verses 24 & 25, Moses chose rather to suffer affliction by faith. What does the idea by faith mean? It means that one’s faith motivated him to act.
As such, God’s view of faith is different than ours. We believe that merely acknowledging something as true means we have faith, but God goes one step further. He binds that faith to what that faith motivates us to accomplish for Him. Faith is inextricably linked to action in the Bible. Having faith moves us to act, as it did those mentioned previously. If we do not act, we cannot be said to have faith, James 2:18. Would Noah have been found faithful if he had not built the ark? Would Lot have been considered believing if he had merely sat down in Sodom? Would the people have been right in God’s sight if they had gathered no manna even though they believed what God said? Similar is the admonition of Paul in 2Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat”.
Now some will say the works James speaks of are those things we do once we have become Christians, doing the will of the Lord. The moment we have faith, however, is the moment when that faith must begin to act.
In fact, what do we do to become Christians? Did God say merely to believe? Did He tell us that if we acknowledge His word as truth, His Son as Savior, and His way as ours we are saved? If He did so, then He treated us in a way that He has never treated His people in times past. He allows us to become saved with no action on our part. In like manner as Noah, Lot, and the Jews in the wilderness, are we to be found faithful if we do not respond in obedience to the Lord’s commands in becoming Christians?
What exactly are those commands? Peter, speaking to a crowd of Jews who had aided in the murder of Jesus and become persuaded of their sin, said to them, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins….”, Acts 2:38. In Acts 2:41, we read, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added”. So we see that faith in the words of Peter’s sermon demanded the hearers take action and be baptized. The act of baptism showed they had repented. To what were they added after their baptism and by whom? Acts 2:47 answers, “And the Lord added to the church (NKJV, or assembly or their number, which constituted the church) daily those who were being saved”.
Were those people saved at the point of hearing? At the point of believing? Or at the point of taking obedient action in response to their faith and being baptized? The answer is obvious. Our faith demands an active response. The response to your faith in the Gospel is repentance and baptism, just as it was on that Pentecost so long ago. Nowhere does the Bible say that we are saved by faith alone or only. Won’t you allow your faith to be an active, obedient faith and submit to baptism for the remission of your sins today and be added to the church by the Lord?