A.W. Tozer said, “To escape the error of salvation by works, we have fallen into the opposite error of salvation without obedience.”
We have a knack for replacing one error with another. I’ve said that before and I will say it to my dying day. Christian people have done that with things like church attendance. There was a time when it seemed as if the evidence of some that they were Christians was that they went to church. That was an error. But the solution suggested by many Christians was also an error. The solution began like this: “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian…” That statement is true enough so far but the error came in with how they completed the thought (the three dots at the end of that statement indicate the statement didn’t stop there). Here is the whole statement containing the part that made it move from one error to another error: “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, so therefore you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” Consequently, that “solution” has picked up adherents over the past few decades leading people to think being part of a local church isn’t necessary to be in a right relationship with God. That idea is not taught in the New Testament. Christians of that time clearly saw their Christianity in community and not in isolation.
And Tozer, who preached and wrote mainly in the early part of the 20th century, was already identifying another way Christians replaced one error with another. The idea that we are saved by our good works was an error. We see some Christians (or self-proclaimed Christians) teaching this error still today. Some legalistic people act as if their good works are contributing to their salvation. To counteract this false idea in an effort to exalt the grace of God, some Christians live as though we can have salvation without obedience. But the teaching of the New Testament is that obedience will be the fruit or evidence of someone who is saved. We don’t obey TO BE saved but we obey because we ARE saved.
A saved person is striving to live an obedient life. Jesus said in Matthew 7:24, “whoever hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man…” In the context He was describing a saved person vs. a person whose life will end in destruction (judgment). John said in 1 John 3:6 “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him.” Then John said in vs. 9, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning.”
These verses are not very popular among those who believe we can have salvation without obedience.