If faith alone justifies us, we must make sure we understand what true faith is, otherwise we may deceive ourselves into thinking that we have faith when in reality we do not. We have seen that our faith is in a person — the Lord Jesus Christ. In order for us to have faith in Jesus, we must know something about Him, believe that He is who He says He is, and trust in Him alone. All of this involves repentance because turning from our sin is the first step we take as we truly rest on Christ alone for salvation (Mark 1:14–15).
Placing our trust in Christ alone involves believing that as our sovereign Lord, He will accomplish all of His promises. We show that we love Him and understand that He alone perfectly knows what is good, right, and true only if we obey Him (Gen. 2:16–17; 22:1–14; John 14:15; James 2:14–26).
Today’s passage tells us that we must submit to Jesus as the Lord of all things if we are to be saved (Rom. 10:9). Recently, however, some have taught that it is possible to be in a state of justification and yet be disobedient to Jesus. They have said that it is possible to receive Jesus as Savior without bowing to Him as Lord. Of course, these teachers have not said that this is the ideal situation, acknowledging that Christians should obey Jesus and manifest the fruit of the Spirit. Yet they have also said that a person can fail to live Christianly throughout the entirety of his life and still be saved. These teachers are attempting to preserve the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and they see any requirement of obedience to Christ as making salvation dependent upon our works.
But all this teaching does is misrepresent the biblical teaching on faith. Indeed, works do not contribute to our justification. Nevertheless, they do demonstrate that justifying faith is present. Romans 6:1–4, James 2:14–26, and many other passages, are clear that obedience to Christ as Lord inevitably, necessarily, and immediately follows true faith. Authentic believers want to follow God in order to express how grateful they are for His grace. These good works of obedience in no sense justify us, but if we do not have them, we do not possess the living faith that justifies.