When God creates, He does so with authority. He commands light to shine out of darkness, and it obeys. He commands the earth, and the mountains to stand forth, and they do so. It is the same with our new life in Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).
Now in the Federal Vision controversy, when we speak of living faith, eyebrows go up and our orthodoxy is challenged. This, despite Westminster’s insistence that saving faith is “no dead faith,” which sounds like living faith to me. But it is not enough to show that a doctrine is confessional — it has to flow out of Scripture, and make sense in that world first.
And so what do I mean by living faith? What do I mean by obedient faith? When God issues the imperative live!, the faith that comes into existence and lives in the manner commanded is being obedient. God says to live and it is doing so. That is the obedience rendered — simply being what God commanded it to be. It is obedient by virtue of the life within it.
By obedience in the phrase obedient faith, I am not referring to any of the doing that proceeds out of this being. I am treating obedient faith and living faith as synonymous. The subsequent actions performed by this obedient faith are genuine and sincere, but not perfectly so (because of our remaining sinfulness). Because they are not perfect, they cannot be the basis at all our our justification — our best works would condemn us in the worse way. Neither can the living faith that gives rise to all these actions be the ground of our justification. But it is obedient in its life, and in that living condition it is the instrument of our justification.