Why do you teach that obedience to God's law is necessary to inherit eternal life? Didn't Paul say that all that is required is to believe in Jesus?


It is indeed correct that Paul told the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And it is also true that we MUST believe in Christ, as only in His name can we find salvation (compare Acts 4:12). However, Paul did not say that belief in Christ is ALL that we must have. Rather, belief in Christ is only the starting point. Notice how the record in Acts 16 continues, in verses 32-33:

“Then they [Paul and Silas] spoke the WORD of the LORD to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes [The jailor responded to Paul’s teaching of the word of God by showing kindness to Paul.] And immediately he and all his family were baptized [They had repented of their sins and showed their faith by baptism, so that they could receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, compare Acts 2:38].”

Paul did not preach, and the jailor did not understand him to preach, that ALL that was required of him was just to believe that Jesus was the Christ. Rather, his belief had to be accompanied and manifested by obedience to Christ’s words.

Jesus told us in John 15:14: “You are My friends if you DO whatever I COMMAND you.” He continued in verse 17: “These things I COMMAND you, that you LOVE one another.”

The jailor showed LOVE to Paul when he washed his stripes and gave him food to eat (Acts 16:33-34). Paul told us in Romans 13:8-10 that when we love each other, we FULFILL God’s LAW of love. He said in verse 9: “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

In other words, if we LOVE our neighbor enough so that we don’t kill him or steal from him, or lie to or about him, or covet what he has, or commit adultery with his wife [which are all injunctions contained in the Ten Commandments], we FULFILL God’s law. We read in 1 John 5:3: “For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments.” 1 John 3:23 explains: “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, AND LOVE one another.”

When a young man asked Christ what to do to inherit eternal life, Christ told him: “But if you want to enter into life, KEEP [or OBEY] the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). He proceeded to list some of the Ten Commandments, to show which commandments He was talking about (verses 18 and 19). And James would later explain that we break ALL of the Ten Commandments, when we just break one of them (James 2:8-11). As the Ten Commandments define love to God and neighbor, we don’t show the love of God in our lives when we transgress His law.

Paul did not tell the Philippian jailor that all he had to do was just to believe in Jesus Christ. James tells us that even the demons believe in God (James 2:19). Rather, Paul was teaching that we need to OBEY God, once we come to believe in Him.

We read Paul’s word in Romans 1:5: “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship FOR OBEDIENCE TO THE FAITH.” He also stated in Romans 16:26: “… [the mystery] has been made manifest… according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for OBEDIENCE TO THE FAITH.”

Acts 6:7 reports about the beginning of the New Testament Church: “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were OBEDIENT TO THE FAITH.”

We read in John 3:36 (correctly translated from the Greek, compare the Revised Standard Version): “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does NOT OBEY the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.”

When the Bible talks about the right kind of faith which we must have to inherit eternal life, it equates faith with obedience. Faith alone in Christ, which does not manifest itself in an obedient lifestyle to God’s Law, is NOT enough.

In fact, Paul tells us in Romans 2:8 that God will pour out “indignation and wrath” on those who “are self-seeking and do NOT OBEY the truth, but obey unrighteousness.” And “truth” is defined as “all Your commandments” (Psalm 119:151). Paul reiterates in 2 Thessalonians 1:8 that God will take “vengeance on those who… do NOT OBEY the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Romans 6:17, 22, Paul states: “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin [and sin is defined as the “transgression of the LAW,” 1 John 3:4, Authorized Version], yet you OBEYED from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered… having become SLAVES of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and THE END, everlasting life.”

Further proof that our faith must be accompanied by OBEDIENCE, can be found in Peter’s first letter. Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:2 to the “elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, FOR THE OBEDIENCE and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” He continues in verse 22: “Since you have purified your souls in OBEYING THE TRUTH through the Spirit in SINCERE LOVE of the brethren, LOVE one another fervently with a pure heart.”

Peter also admonished the brethren to conduct themselves as “OBEDIENT CHILDREN, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (verses 14-15). Again, in 1 Peter 4:17, we are warned about the fate of those who do “NOT OBEY the gospel of God.”

We will only inherit salvation and eternal life, if we obey God. This is very clearly expressed in Hebrews 5:8-9: Even Christ “learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation TO ALL WHO OBEY HIM.”

As Christ obeyed God’s commandments, so must we (John 15:10). Only if we DO the will of our Father in heaven, that is, only if we cease practicing lawlessness, will we enter God’s kingdom (Matthew 7:21-23). The MERE confession that we believe in Christ, will NOT be enough (verse 21).

Peter made it very clear that we must obey God at all times, even if that means disobeying man (Acts 5:29). He also clarified that God will give His Spirit — which is a guarantee that we WILL inherit eternal life (Ephesians 1:13-14) — only to those who OBEY Him (Acts 5:32).

For more information, please read our free booklets, “And Lawlessness Will Abound” and “Baptism–A Requirement of Salvation?”

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