“Why has no one told me this?” This was the question that a 16-year-old named Braden Hammer asked me as we studied what the Bible says about baptism. Braden had been raised in the Baptist church and a few years earlier he had “accepted Jesus in his heart” through a prayer and was told that he was saved by faith.
A few years later he was invited to the local church of Christ by a friend. All of this brought him to this point when we were sitting in a cabin at camp at 1:00 in the morning. He was in shock by what he was reading in scripture about God’s plan for saving man. There was one thing that really stuck out about Braden—his love for God. He wanted to do whatever it took to follow Jesus. As the week went on after more study, counseling, and even resistance from his parents he trusted in God and made the decision of to be immersed into Christ.
What brings a person to go against everything they had been previously taught by influential leaders in denominations, parents and friends to follow Jesus? The answer is faith. The Word of God is powerful. When a person accepts the word of God they will do whatever it takes to serve him—even when it doesn’t make sense to those who know them. That is faith. That is faith that convicts. That is faith that saves. That is faith that obeys.
Faith That Convicts
There was a man named Abraham hundreds of year before Jesus walked this earth. Abraham had faith like this. See, like Braden, Abraham loved God. He had faith in God. This was not simply a belief that God existed, but a belief that God was sufficient. This true biblical faith led Abraham to follow God wherever He led him.
In Genesis 12:1-4, God came to Abraham and said, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Abraham heard the word of God. “And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8b). God said come and you will be blessed, and his faith in what God had promised convicted him to follow.
There comes a time when one hears the word of God that it leads them to completely rethink everything the previously knew and believed in. Braden experienced this conviction that late night in the cabin at camp. Many others have before him as well.
In Acts 2:37, on the day of Pentecost, after hearing Peter preach the word of God and the Jews realized that they had crucified Jesus the son of God, it says, “they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” They were convicted and ready to do whatever it took to be in a right relationship with God. Conviction is the beginning of an amazing, adventurous and radical life of faith.
Faith That Saves
Throughout his entire life, Abraham walked in faith. In times of happiness and times of sadness, in times of triumph and in times of trouble, he trusted in God. God promised him that he would be the father of a great nation, yet Sarah his wife was barren. God stood by His promise, and so did Abraham. “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God. Fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promise” (Rom. 4:20-21).
The result of his faith in God was justification. “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). God counted him righteous—he was in right standing with God, he was justified—he was saved. When we put our faith in God we are saved as well.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” It has nothing to do will our ability or talents. The beautiful promise of the Gospel is that anyone can be justified and saved if they put all of their faith in God. Faith is trusting in His ability rather than our own. We cannot save ourselves by our own power—only God has that power. If we put our faith and trust in him and live that faith out—we will be justified—and we will be counted as righteous as Abraham was before us (Rom. 5:1). This is His promise to us.
Faith That Obeys
Do not miss this—Abraham did not simply have a belief in God. This could not be enough. There needs to be some kind of action that exhibits that belief. He believed in God’s power and followed Him every step of the way. Paul tells us “that is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness’” (Rom. 4:22). The reason that Abraham was saved, was that he had faith in God and he acted on that faith—he obeyed.
“By Faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb. 11:9). Everything that Abraham did through faith was through obedience. That is what saved him—faith that obeys is faith that will save.
You cannot have one without the other. “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (Jas. 2:26). Faith without obedience is not true faith—it is a belief in the existence of God without commitment or trust. Abraham had real faith. He had obedient faith.
“You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works” (Jas. 2:22). When faith and obedience come together, God begins to do beautiful things. What was Peter’s response to those men who want to know what they must do in acts 2:37? Peter said “repent and baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The God did something beautiful as he always does when faith in him is exhibited. 3,000 soul responded in faith. They repented and were baptized. They were justified, counted as righteous—they were saved.
God worked beautiful things in these men’s lives. God worked beautiful things in the life of Abraham. God worked beautiful things in the life of Braden Hammer. God will work in your life too, if you develop faith that is trusting and obedient.
by Noah Icenhour
[This article first appeared in the Gospel Advocate in 2016]