We go back 70 years to Sept. 24, 1949, for today’s feature.
In that issue, it was “announced that Dean E. Walker, head of the department of church history of the School of Religion of Butler University of Indianapolis, Ind., has accepted a call to the presidency of Milligan College.” Walker’s start date was Feb. 1, 1950, and he served until retirement in 1968.
The presidential announcement serves as a lead-in to our main focus: an article (part of a series) called “The True Test of Faith” written by Dean Walker’s father, W. R. Walker. We also will include a companion editorial from that same issue. The elder Walker, as we chronicled recently (Aug. 1 and 8), was a longtime minister who served as president of Standard Publishing for several decades and was Christian Standard’s “editorial counselor” from 1945 until his death in 1962.
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The Basic Christian Faith (Chapter 20)
The True Test of Faith
[Concluded from September 10.]
By W. R. Walker
September 24, 1949; p. 13
There is an infallible test for faith. It is always identified by deeds. . . .
As Jesus interpreted it, love is not mere sentiment, or emotion. It is an active principle motivating life. It is always measured in deeds. The true believer will keep Jesus’ commandments. He will not evade them, not offer a substitute for them, not apologize for them. He will keep them. . . .
[Next, Walker discussed and provided much context for two verses commonly cited by proponents of faith-only salvation—Acts 16:31, which quoted Paul and Silas: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. . . .” and Romans 5:1, written by Paul: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith. . . .” Then came the article’s conclusion.]
TRUST AND OBEY
There is one chapter in Hebrews, which gives the Pauline teaching on “faith” (Hebrews 11). The emphasis both in his definition, with which he begins the discussion, and the examples cited to illustrate the definition, is that faith is more than a mere intellectual assent. It is a trust in God that will lead to unquestioning obedience to His will. Without obedience, there is no true faith. Even doing what God commands, without faith as the basis of conduct, is not accounted as being obedience.
Both faith, or trust, and obedience must work together. They are religious Siamese twins—neither can live without the other. Paul’s citations make that clear.
Let us note a few of them.
Abel “offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,” because he offered what God had commanded to be offered. Cain did not. He disregarded the Word of God.
In the case of Enoch, the Old Testament record says nothing of his “faith,” but approves his conduct—“he walked with God.” Paul hastens to assure us that his walking with God was the result of his faith, for “he pleased God,” and it is impossible to please Him without faith.
Noah’s example affords an almost perfect illustration of confidence in God keeping His word. For 120 years [Noah] warned his generation and worked on his ark. He had no basis for his belief that a flood would come except that God had said so. But he “believed” and “built,” to the salvation of himself and family.
Abraham’s faith is revealed in his leaving home “to receive an inheritance.” Inheritances are usually received at “home.” The location of the “inheritance” was not told him. He was to migrate, and at last he would find the promised reward. Notwithstanding the indefiniteness of his travel map, he went to the end of one road and waited for guidance on the next lap of his itinerary.
Abraham believed and traveled. His obedience was a demonstration of his faith that God had a place for him. It may never have dawned on him that the best part of his “inheritance” was to be found in the spiritual influence he was to exercise over followers of a descendant, born 1,900 years later, rather than in the “land of Canaan.”
Rationally viewed, there is no conflict between being “justified by faith” and being “justified by works.” It is faith in Christ that justifies. Justification is the reward of those who obey through faith. The true test of faith is in what it leads one to do.
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And then, working in tandem with Walker’s article, came this short editorial.
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The Test of Faith
September 24, 1949; p. 10; editorial
Brother W. R. Walker very wisely makes the closing chapter of his series on faith deal with “The True Test of Faith.” Much harm is being done by the preaching that insists that salvation is by faith “only.” This is not the teaching of the Scriptures and it is dangerous preaching. Not only in the Christian dispensation, but in every age of God’s dealing with men, faith has always been tested—and the acid test of faith is obedience.
Abel believed God, and sacrificed. Noah believed God, and built the ark and preached the divine warning. Abraham believed God, and left his home and went out to dwell in tents. He believed, and was ready to sacrifice his son, Isaac. And so goes the roll call of faith in Hebrews 11. The acid test of their faith was their implicit and explicit obedience to the Word of God.
This obedience included, but was not limited to, moral and ethical considerations. The faith that saves is the faith that obeys for no other reason than that God has spoken.
This is the point at which baptism becomes a matter of grave importance. It is the obedience of faith. It rests wholly on the authority of Jesus. There is no other reason for it except that the one whom we profess to hold as Lord of lords has commanded. This is not the only act of obedience, but it is the beginning act; it is not the final test of faith, but it is the first.
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Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard