Question: When I read your magazine, I realize how deeply Jesus Christ wanted His followers to obey Him. But after years of prayer and Bible study, I find that I am not able to obey Him and grow spiritually as much as I would like to. There are some who say all I need to do is "believe"—and I do believe—so why do I find it so hard to obey Jesus' commands?
Answer: Certainly, belief is your essential first step in becoming a Christian. But what must you believe—and then do? Jesus said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). Notice that simply believing is not sufficient. We read: "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!" (James 2:19). ;Acting on your belief, by receiving baptism, is essential. But what must come before baptism? Notice that on the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter told the crowd, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
Before his baptism, the Apostle Paul thought he had been "blameless" in his fervent obedience to God's law (Philippians 3:5-6). Only after God struck him down on the road to Damascus did Paul begin to realize that he had been engaged in a futile effort to obtain salvation by his own works. But did Paul always find it easy to overcome the pulls of the flesh and to obey God? Notice what he wrote: "I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin" (Romans 7:21-25).
Yes, even after baptism Paul knew he had to use his human will, united with the Holy Spirit, to overcome the sinful tendencies he found in himself. Baptism is not some kind of "magic bullet" that makes us perfect, nor does it absolve us of the need to obey God. What it does do is give us God's help in obeying Him. It does this through His gift of the Holy Spirit, and through the forgiveness He gives when we repent sincerely of our disobedience. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
Jesus Christ, the Word of God (John 1:1-5), came to this earth to live in the flesh among mankind, demonstrating that we as human beings can obey our Creator's laws—not by our own power, but by the might of God living in us, as it did in Him. "Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered" (Hebrews 5:7-8). Yes, Christ suffered, learned obedience—and displayed faith!
What about works? We read that "faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith, and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:17-18).
Works—our demonstrated obedience to the demands of our faith—are not the means of our salvation. They are the results of our faith being lived, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
If God is calling you to true repentance and proper baptism, we encourage you to contact our regional office nearest you, listed on page 30 of this magazine. With God's help, you can obey Him and experience the joy and many blessings that come from living God's way!