Someone sent me an email about a former Reformed Baptist, Steve Ray, who is now a Catholic apologist. He sent me a 27-minute message Ray gave entitled, “By Faith Alone.” You can see it here. See especially his discussion from 16:30 to 24:00.
He described saving faith as being like a hot dog. It isn’t just the hot dog itself. To be a hot dog it must be cooked, must have a bun, mustard, and relish. All of that is part of a hot dog. In the same way he said the word believe is “a pregnant word,” “packed with lots of things” (21:10-20).
Seconds later he made this direct statement, “The word believe in the Bible means to obey—to believe to the point of committal and obedience. And so, wrapped up in the word believe is obedience” (21:35-45).
As he was wrapping up, he said that to be saved one must repent, submit to water baptism, confess with your mouth, learn the knowledge of the truth, do good works, and persevere (25:45-26:30). In his view, even obedience is not enough. A lifetime of obedience until death is required.
Catholic apologist Steve Ray is comfortable saying that saving faith is obedience.
Reformed theologians do not say that saving faith is obedience. They say it results in obedience, that obedience necessarily perseveres the rest of the life of one who truly believes, that faith includes commitment and surrender, but not the obedience that they are convinced must follow the commitment and surrender.
A few years back I conducted a radio debate with a Protestant, Matthew Bates, who argued that saving faith is allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. While what Steve Ray is saying is a more straightforward works salvation, I do not find that great a difference between what they each are arguing.
When I came to faith, Evangelicals had a burning desire to reach Roman Catholics for Christ. Today I find many Evangelicals do not think that Roman Catholics need evangelizing. In the minds of many Evangelicals, Roman Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ.
I, for one, am still very much concerned about the eternal destiny of anyone who does not believe the simple promise of life. Anyone who feels the need to define faith as being obedience or even as necessarily resulting in a life of obedience is someone who currently does not believe the message of life. Maybe they believed it in the past. But if not, they are without Christ.
Instead of illustrating saving faith as a complicated hot dog, an illustration not found in the Bible, why not use some of the simple illustrations our Lord used? He said that saving faith is like one drink of water (John 4:10-14) or like one bite of bread (John 6:35). Not a lifetime of eating or drinking. Just once is all that is required.
And not eating everything on your plate. Not drinking everything in the cup. Just one drink. Just one bite.
Why do so many today make up their own illustrations rather than using the ones the Lord used? I think it is because there is no mustard, no relish, no onions, and no chili in His illustrations. (But there is bread.)
If you want to turn saving faith into obedience, then you need to make up your own illustrations.