Practical godliness requires a practical faith. Practical faith is something that has been spoken about more often than anything else in many of the Christian religions today.
In Luke 18:8, Jesus said, “I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes [speaking of the second coming] will He really find faith on the earth?” That is a very serious question to ponder.
How important is faith? Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
In order for God to reward someone with righteousness or eternal life, that person must have a practical faith and not just an intellectual faith. Someone may say, “I believe in God,” but when you check out his life, he may be an alcoholic and not living his faith. His faith is merely of an intellectual nature devoid of any power to change his habit. We have to go further than just having an intellectual faith. Some say, “Oh, I believe in Jesus Christ,” and then recite John 3:16. That is not enough. Our faith must be practical, for without it, it is impossible to have a practical godliness. The devil also believes. The Bible describes faith this way: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for.” Hebrews 11:1. There is something you hope to get.
I remember the first time I hoped to buy a car. I was hoping so much and was so excited that I would dream about my car when asleep and would wake up thinking about it. It was on my mind constantly when walking around and even when in the shower. I would talk about the car and plan where to take it to show it. I was still hoping that one day it would be in my possession. This made me go into action, and all of my effort and energy went into getting the car. I saved my money, made my plans and hoped. Do you understand what I am saying? Whatever you hope for takes your energy and resources until you finally receive it. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Think about it; faith is the substance. Did you get that word? It is the evidence of things not yet seen.
If you witness a car accident on the road and report the incident, you would be asked, “Where is the evidence?” It is easily seen in the wreckage of the vehicles because something actually took place. A mere intellectual faith has no substance or evidence to produce. But not so with practical faith where the evidence is clearly seen.
Faith is practical and not a mere assent to a belief. The Scripture is divinely put together, and because God knew that many people would get stuck on just having an intellectual faith, He gave a practical illustration in Hebrews 11:4: “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.” This is a true example of righteousness by faith.
In Patriarchs and Prophets, 72, the inspired writer, Ellen White, said, “So far as birth and religious instruction were concerned, these brothers were equal.” They were brought up in the same home. They had the same teachers in the house, ate the same food, received the same spiritual instruction and the same understanding of salvation through their parents. However, it says, “Both acknowledged the claims of God to reverence and worship. To outward appearance their religion was the same up to a certain point.” In other words, if you watched them, one had an intellectual faith and one had a practical faith. So when it came to a certain point, there was a distinction between the two of them. She continues, “… but beyond this the difference between the two was great.” What was the difference? Abel chose faith and obedience while Cain chose unbelief and rebellion.
On this point the whole matter rested. Cain and Abel represented two classes that will exist until the close of time. A practical illustration showing the difference between intellectual faith and practical faith with its ultimate result was given right at the beginning of time to help the remnant church in every generation understand that rebellion against God causes war. Read the whole story in Genesis 4.
Abel practiced his faith and obeyed. The evidence of obedience supported his faith. Without evidence it is impossible to recognize true faith. With the evidence of obedience comes acceptance. The two classes of belief will continue until the end of time.
Hebrews 11 is known as the faith chapter of the Bible with many illustrations of practical faith. Also there is another practical illustration found in Exodus 12:12, 13. The story is very well known. After the children of Israel had spent about 400 years in Egypt, they were ready to move out. God had given instructions through Moses that they were to move out at midnight on a specific night and how to be ready. Let me illustrate practical faith.
Just imagine one family of four—father, mother and the eldest son along with his sister. God had given particular instructions regarding their deliverance. The father, faithful to obey the command, gathers the lamb and slays it, placing the blood on the doorposts of his home, while the son and the daughter played inside the house. They didn’t see what was taking place or the preparation that was made. After fulfilling the requirements, he (the father) came back inside where mother prepared the meal for that evening. They all knew that their deliverance was to be at midnight, so they had their meal and waited. The time marched on. God had said that every firstborn would die unless under the protection of the blood on the doorposts. What would be the concern of the eldest son regarding the blood? His as well as the rest of his family’s concern would be whether the blood was on the doorposts. When 11:30 came, if I were the elder son in that family, I would go out and check to make sure the blood was still visible. Sincerity in the promise of salvation could never save him without the physical action of obedience.
An intellectual faith without obedience cannot result in salvation. Obedience can never be separated from faith. It is not the evidence of salvation, but it is the evidence of faith. You must get these points clear. Obedience is the fruit of your faith. Obedience is not the fruit of your salvation. Sincerity without obedience is just an intellectual assent and can never save.
Regarding the Passover evening, Mrs. White wrote, “Before obtaining freedom, the bond-men must show their faith in the great deliverance about to be accomplished. The token of blood must be placed upon their houses, and they must separate themselves and their families from the Egyptians, and gather within their own dwellings. Had the Israelites disregarded in any particular the directions given them, had they neglected to separate their children from the Egyptians, had they slain the lamb, but failed to strike the doorpost[s] with blood, or had any gone out of their houses, they would not have been secure.” Ibid., 278.
Do you understand the difference between practical faith and practical obedience?
“They might have honestly believed that they had done all that was necessary, but their sincerity would not have saved them. All who failed to heed the Lord’s directions would lose their first-born by the hand of the destroyer. …
“While it is Christ only that can redeem us from the penalty of transgression, we are to turn from sin to obedience [that begins in the heart]. Man is to be saved by faith, not by works; yet his faith must be shown by his works.” Ibid., 278, 279.
It is not his salvation that is to be shown by his works. It is his faith that must be shown by his obedience. I can believe in Jesus Christ; I can believe in the Sabbath; I can believe in the Seventh-day Adventist Church but if it is only intellectual, it will not save me. Practical faith producing obedience must begin in the heart. Before the children of Israel put the blood on their doorposts, they had to yield their hearts. With yielded hearts, their legs took them to the door in obedience to strike the blood.
All who hope to be saved by the merits of the blood of Christ should realize that they themselves have something to do in securing their salvation—have faith, a saving faith. We place our faith in God because of His promise. When God says “I will deliver you at midnight,” believe and have faith because He said it, not because somebody else said it, not because the president of the church said it, but because God said it.
Choose today to put your trust and faith in God and obey Him. Then the evidence must come. Obedience is the evidence of faith. The result is deliverance—deliverance from sin and ultimately deliverance from this world when Jesus comes.
Revelation 14:12 says, “Here is the patience of the saints.” We are talking about those who have been patient; those who have been waiting and waiting for the Lord’s return; those who have endured to the end. It is not a seesaw like the weather. The “patience of the saints” means we wait patiently; we abide in Jesus Christ on a daily basis, moment by moment. Study His word, pray, putting into practice the principles found therein. It is not just a once a week experience of getting a spiritual high on the Sabbath and letting go during the week. Our faith is not based on the pastor of the church. Our faith is based on Jesus Christ, and as we continue to read the Word, He continues to feed us and to give us solid food.
Let’s read the rest of that text. “Here are those who keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus.” What kind of faith was that? He was continually obedient to His Father. That is why He never sinned. Had He failed to obey God, that would have been the end. All of us would have no hope. So those who keep the commandments of God have the faith of Jesus Christ. It is a practical faith. It is not an intellectual faith. It is not a faith that somebody says, “Well I believe in Jesus Christ. I can do anything I want to do.” No!
Obedience is the evidence of faith. Obedience is not the evidence of salvation. Without obedience there is no evidence of the faith. Again, in Luke 18:8, Jesus says, “I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
(Bible texts quoted are from the New King James Version translation.)