For the majority of religious thinkers, faith simply means a mental assent. From this definition, most believe once a person believes that Jesus is the Son of God, they cannot fall from grace, regardless how they live. An extreme example of this doctrine is the late Reverend Sam Morris of the First Baptist Church in Stamford, Texas. In his tract titled “Do A Christian’s Sins Damn His Soul?”, Morris wrote, “We take the position that a Christian’s sins do not damn his soul. The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul…all the sins the Christian may commit from idolatry to murder will not make his soul in any more danger…The way a man lives has nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul.”
While few faith only advocates are willing to go this far, the conclusion Morris draws accurately represents the position for those who will keep it consistently. One can mentally assent to the deity of Christ while not complying with His will. Charles Manson is a solid case in point. Manson gave mental assent to Jesus as the Son of God, but who would argue that he lived a life of biblical faith? Apparently, the Reverend Sam Morris would.
Let us hear the Bible’s definition of faith. The premier verse of faith only advocates is John 3:16. We must recognize the beauty of this verse as it gives hope for all who come to faith in Christ. However, this verse only teaches that biblical faith will save the lost soul. It does not define the faith of which Jesus spoke. We must examine the full context to understand its meaning.
First, in John 3:18, Jesus contrasts the believer and the unbeliever saying the believer is not condemned while the unbeliever is. He then defined the condemnation saying, “…that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn. 3:19). From this we see Jesus contrasting believers and unbelievers on the basis of their deeds, rather than with indifference to their deeds. Next, in John 3:36, the inspired apostle lays bare the meaning of biblical faith as he says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” This rendering from the English Standard Version properly captures the original language used in the verse. The Greek term translated “belief” is pisteuon, which is the word for faith or belief. The Greek term translated “does not obey” is apeithon which is rightly translated does not obey. It is also important to note the tense of the verb believes in John 3. It is a present active participle which indicates the belief spoken of is a continuous action. Literally it would read, “whoever continues believing.”
To add to this case, the Hebrews writer likewise describes disobedience as the opposite of belief. Notice he says, “And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:18-19). He again makes the same comparison in Hebrews 4:2-6. Hence, the Bible classifies people in two categories: those who believe and those who disobey. From this we conclude that the only faith the Bible knows is obedient faith. Thus Jesus is “the author of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Heb. 5:9).