Let us look at what the New Testament says:
- Romans 10:12-16--note the method God has set up for salvation. Preachers are sent, they preach, people hear, then have the opportunity to believe, if they believe they will call on the name of the Lord to be saved. But then comes the sober reality. In 10:16 (NASB) it says, "However they did not all heed the good news..." But a more literal translation can say, "However they did not all obey the Gospel..."
- 1st Peter 1:22--"Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart" The truth is not just to be believed but something to be obeyed. Furthermore, this is in reference to their initial conversion (notice the past tense) not their continued adherence to the covenant.
- Acts 6:7b--"a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith" Again we see that when people heard the Gospel they didn't simply believe it they had to obey it.
Therefore, the pivotal question is, "What are the terms of obedience?"
First we must make some clarifications between Justification and Sanctification. The latter is the progressive process of becoming more and more like Christ in our moral character. The former refers to our leal standing with God. In terms of Justification we are either condemned or counted as if our penalty has already been paid. Justification refers to that one time declaration by God, the Judge, to declare "no more penalty for you" (Rom 8:1). Thus, when we are speaking about obeying the Gospel we are referring to what one must do in order to be justified.
Walter Scott, a Restoration Movement preacher in the 1800's, came up with a 5 finger exercise. He would go into a town and gather the children. He would teach them this exercise and tell them to repeat it. Then he would instruct them to go home to their parents and tell them that is what he was preaching on that evening at the revival meeting.
Mr. Scott, though, before counting off his 5 finger exercise would always start with the confession that Jesus is Lord. What I mean is that he would teach people what it means that Jesus is Lord. For if one does not believe this then why tell them how to obey the Gospel? Here is the exercise:
- Faith--with this we get a changed mind. Atheists like to tell the world faith is believing in spite of the evidence. To the contrary the Bible says faith is to believe in what you cannot see based on the evidence you can see. Faith has two aspects; Assent and Trust. The former is inadequate for salvation (James 2:19). The object of our trust is Jesus Christ as Lord. We have confidence in the conclusions drawn from intellectual assent to the truth so that we can change our minds about how we view Jesus. We trust that his sacrificial death is an adequate substitute for our death.
- Repentance--with it we get a changed will. We should not mistake this for regret, sorrow for the consequences of sin, nor superficial remorse. Initially Repentance is a changed will in regards to Lordship. Do we want Jesus to be Lord or do we want to be Lord of our life? But repentance is a life-long process. Everyday we try to align our will with God's NOT His will with ours.
- Baptism--with this we get a changed identity (Acts 2:38). Now don't go charging me with being a "Baptismal Regenerationist". I don't believe in that non-sense. I do not think there is something in the water, regardless of how many times Carrie Underwood sings it. Peter very clearly tells us it is not the water that saves us (1st Peter 3:21). Do not charge me with adding works to salvation. I believe we are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:6, 8). The question is not "what is the means of salvation?". That is crystal clear; it is faith. The question, however, is this, "what is the occasion of salvation?" In other words, WHEN does God bestow on us the benefits of Christ. The typical evangelical world will say "as soon as we have faith" or "when I prayed Jesus into my heart". But is this found in the New Testament? NO!!! What do we find? We find that a person who has come to trust that Jesus is the Christ comes to the waters of baptism calling on God for a clean conscious (1st Peter 3:21). They are buried with Christ and raised through their faith (Romans 6; Col 2:12). It is kind of hard to appeal to God for a clean conscious when you are already saved! And why would you bury a man who has already been made alive? Or can a person be a Christian without having the forgiveness of sins and gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)?
- Forgiveness of sins--here we receive a changed state. We have done our part of obeying the Gospel (Faith, Repentance, Baptism). Now this is God's part. he pays our penalty (Acts 2:38) so that we no longer have any condemnation (Rom 8:1) because we have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us (2nd Cor 5:21). We enter into a state of Grace (Rom 5:2). We enter Into Christ where all the spiritual blessings are bestowed (Eph 1).
- Gift of the Holy Spirit--finally we receive a changed condition. Not only does God take care of our legal problem (justified) but he takes care of our sickness (sanctification). We are give the Spirit of God to help us become conformed to the image of Christ. We are made alive together with Christ (Eph 2:5) by the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5).
If sin is considered double trouble--it causes a legal debt and a sickness--then grace is a double cure. The only question that remains is this....Have you Obeyed the Gospel according to the New Testament pattern?"
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.