Obedience After Salvation


(this post belongs to the ‘what we believe’ series and is aimed at communicating the doctrines [truth claims] our church teaches)

Does it matter how I live once I’m saved?

We talk a lot about grace, how we can’t save ourselves, and how we don’t ever do anything on our own to earn God’s favor.  And then we talk about the assurance that once a person has been saved by Christ there is nothing they can do or fail to do that would cause them to lose that salvation.  So it seems reasonable to ask whether it matters at all how we live once we’re saved.  Because once you’re in, you’re in, right?

Do we have to obey?  Is there a list of rules to follow?  And does anything happen if we don’t?

Well, it obviously does matter, otherwise we wouldn’t have Paul’s adamant response to a similar question in Romans 6:

[1] What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? [2] By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? [3] Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? [4] We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
(Romans 6:1-4 ESV)

Much of this confusion may be a result of a poor understanding and presentation of the gospel.  There may be some who feel they’ve been sold a bill of goods when they’re told they must obey Christ after salvation.  After all, they were told that God offers them a free gift of salvation…with no strings attached! But then immediately after their conversion experience they’re exhorted to start reading their Bibles and going to church and shaping up every area of their lives.  They’re left thinking, I knew there had to be a catch! And they can imagine all those evangelists passing fist-bumps and snickering in a huddle saying, “Ha!  We got another one!”

We know it matters how you live after salvation, but the real question is: WHY? The book of 2 Peter gives us 3 reasons why it matters how we live after salvation.  Here’s what he says in chapter 1:

[3] His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, [4] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. [5] For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, [6] and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, [7] and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. [8] For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. [9] For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. [10] Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. [11] For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(2 Peter 1:3-11 ESV)

1. We can escape the corruption of the world and partake of his divine nature (vv. 3-7).

Simply put, if we are saved, God has given us everything necessary for life and godliness.  It’s ours!  And we now have the freedom to become like Him.  The promises given to us in His Word continually and progressively convince us of Christ’s magnificence and the satisfaction found only in Him.  By knowing and delighting in Christ, the corruption of the world loses its grip on our desires, and we grow in our holiness.  Our perspective changes.  Our desires change.  And we know that this world has nothing for us, and our joy is in Jesus Christ.  So it no longer is a matter of menial obligation in that we have to obey, it becomes enriching and joyful delight in the freedom that we can obey!

2. Godliness keeps us from being ineffective and unfruitful (vv. 8-9).

There is progression in the Christian walk.  We are becoming more like Christ when increasing in godliness, and this guards against an unfruitful life.  What a goodness of God to allow His followers to grow and be fruitful and effective in ministry.  Obedience is not a catch in the offer of salvation, but the promise of being used by God and rewarded for faithfulness.  Who doesn’t want to see their lives being used to advance God’s kingdom?

3. It gives us assurance of God’s work in our lives and His promises for the future (vv. 10-11).

This is perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of our obedience to Christ.  Our godliness gives us assurance of our salvation.  When we are tempted to doubt our salvation, Scripture does not instruct us to pull out a decision card we made years ago or remember a prayer we spoke while kneeling at our bedside.  We should be reassured by just looking at our lives and seeing the evidence that God has been actively at work making us holy.  Our godliness is God’s work in us, giving us the assurance that, yes, He did call us and elect us for salvation and that someday we will enter into His eternal kingdom!

So it absolutely matters how you live after salvation because it proves salvation has and is taking place in your life.  Christian, we are dead to sin.  Grow in godliness and experience the joy of delighting in Christ and seeing Him use you for effective ministry.  See how He is changing you and rest assured that you are His.

If godliness is absent in your life, if there is no obedience to Christ, and the evidence of transformation simply isn’t there, then there is great cause for concern!  Don’t deceive yourself (1 John 1:6-10).  Believe in Jesus and then grow in your knowledge of Him.  You will escape the corruption of the world, He will use you for effective and fruitful ministry, He will richly provide for you an entrance into His eternal kingdom.

I’m reminding of the words to an old song I sung as a kid, “Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe…”