Behavior Is Better Than Belief

Today, I just have some points for you to consider:

  • After 300 years of church history, the Council of Nicea still found only a paragraph’s worth of doctrine important enough to encapsulate in a creed.
  • The foundation of God, according to Scripture, has to do with behavior, not belief (2 Tim. 2:19).
  • Jesus didn’t say, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only those who can accurately answer a question about the atonement” (Matt. 7:21).

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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9 Responses to Behavior Is Better Than Belief

  1. John Cullimore says:

    Here ya go Dossie!

    “The Father

    We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.

    The Son

    And [we believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of the Father.

    That is, of the substance of the Father; God of God and Light of light; true God of true God; begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.

    By [him] all things were made, both which are in heaven and on earth: who for the sake of us men, and on account of our salvation, descended, became incarnate, and was made man; suffered, arose again the third day, and ascended into the heavens, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

    The Holy Spirit

    [We] also [believe] in the Holy Spirit.


    But the holy, catholic [i.e., “universal,” not Roman Catholic], and apostolic church anathematizes those who say, “There was a time when he was not,” and “He was not before he was begotten,” and “He was made from that which did not exist,” and those who assert that he is of other substance or essence than the Father, that he was created, or is susceptible of change.”

  2. This is Dossie. Appreciate the dialogue of the comments. Where can we read the 122 words of the Nicene Creed?

  3. J says:

    You are absolutely correct about scripture’s emphasis upon works. It would seem half of every NT letter is on how we are to live. And the other half is on the gospel. You agree with much in my original comment, and that is good enough for me. I do not wish to draw daggers for the sake of drawing daggers, only to sharpen and correct where need be.

    If the texts gives a list of commands, then by all means preach the text and give the commands! It only seemed to me that your wording implied that there behavior is better than belief, when I’m not sure Scripture teaches that. Does it emphasize behavior w/o mentioning belief? Absolutely, and the converse is true. It doesn’t necessarily follow however that one is greater than the other. That is all I’m saying. I applaud your desire to see professing Christians live like real Christians.

    I’m not saying that you should not emphasize it or that you emphasize it too much. I think you misunderstood me. I’m only saying to pit behavior against belief is not scriptural, to say that one is better than the other. And if you want to fight antinomianism, then fight it by saying what Mr. Cullimore said, and what James said, “You say you believe? Then live like it.”

    That is all good sir!

    • Shammah says:

      I did forget to mention the part about the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed, as given by the Council of Nicea, is 122 words (depending on translation), if you don’t include the anathemas at the end. It’s a long paragraph, but it’s fair to say it’s a paragraph.

      My point is that if the Nicene Creed were really the basic, required theology, as it was for centuries, then most of the doctrines that denominations today divide over would disappear. That point is accurate.

      The point of faith is to produce obedience (e.g., 2 Tim. 3:16-17), not to produce staunchly held opinions about things most of us don’t understand well, anyway.

  4. J says:

    So it seems I’ve done a drive-by comment, which is not what I want to portray. I’ve perused your blog and read a few more posts, and it seems you and I would be in agreement over many things. Maybe our means of accomplishing our ends would be different. So please know that my previous comment was not meant as an attack or anything of that nature.

    Thank you Mr. Shammah

  5. J says:

    Hello Mr. Shammah,

    I hope you don’t mind me commenting on your post here. A quick browsing shows that you appear to be quite the prolific blogger, and an aspiring author/historian?

    I agree with the last point of your blog post. The first I think seems to negate the fact that God wrote a book close to a million words dealing with what we ought to believe about Him and consequently how we are to act (among other things.) And the same men that codified the truths of Nicaea had volumes and volumes of writings. The Nicene creed is more than a paragraph, covering the Trinity, hypostatic union, the mission of salvation, or the gospel, the church, and the return of Christ. Incredible fundamentals. Not to mention the truths found in the creed have been expounded on in millions and millions of words through the church prior too and after for hundreds of years. A cogent statement is not indicative of a simple statement. These are deep unfathomable truths that we can only taste, and not entirely digest.

    Though I understand why you said it, to back up the idea of ‘Deeds over creeds.’ And I understand why you want to say that, b/c I’m sure you think the church is inactive, going through the motions, etc. However, the answer is not to create a dichotomy in which one must be chosen over the other, which is what your emphasis in the post seems to be. Why can’t we accept both? I see nothing wrong with that. Is this not how God reveals Himself to us? Not only through His word, but through His actions recorded in His word and revealed to us today. Creeds and deeds yes?

    The passage of 2 Timothy is missing the fact that in Eph. we are told that the foundation is “the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone,” (Eph. 2:20). A building is only as good as its foundation, and that is only as good as its cornerstone.

    The foundation of God standing firm is His church, based upon Jesus Christ. The SEAL on the foundation “has to do with behavior, not belief.”

    Why in the world would God based his foundation on the behavior of fickle and weak human beings? Who seem to fudge everything up quite efficiently? Better to think the foundation is based upon Christ and His apostles especially equipped by the Holy Spirit for the establishment of the world-wide church.

    Your third point I think is wonderful, it reminds me of a magnificent story I heard once, the thief of the cross that pleads with Jesus to remember Him, and Jesus assuring Him of Paradise. The story continues that the man is before the portals of heaven, and is asked “What are you doing here?” And the man responds, “I don’t know, I’ve done terrible things and was hung on a cross for my crimes.”

    “Well who sent you here?”

    “Um, no one sent me here sir, I’m just here.”

    “Well, have you been justified by faith? Do you have peace with God?”

    “I don’t know.”

    “Well do you know anything?”


    “What do you know?”

    “The man on the middle cross said I could come here.”

    And that’s all the man needed to know, and as Alistair Begg has once said, “at its essence that’s all any of us need to know.”

    Oddly enough, this story is in general agreement with your third point, that knowledge of theology can be empty, it also at the same time seems to undercut your major point, that behavior is better than belief. The thief dies on the cross, he has not opportunity to help the poor, clothe the naked, share the gospel, learn the efficacy of prayer, etc. He has not behavior to accomplish, all he has is belief. Yet this belief is not some minor thing, the belief, the faith itself is not what saves him, Christ saves him. His belief/faith is the channel through which Christ works.

    It is akin to a very timid/fearful child, who is afraid to wade the river, but who in fact places his feeble trust in a very strong and able father who takes him across without travail. It is the not “belief” that ensures our safe passage, but the one in whom we believe. Our faith is weak, but He is strong.

    The man is accepted into Paradise based upon one incontrovertible fact: Christ said so, and not anything having to do with his behavior.

    Your citation of Matt. 7 also seems to ignore the fact that the people standing before him rely upon their behavior!! Their miracles, their prophecies, casting out demons are not enough to save them. Christ turns them away, why? Because of their lack of a certain behavior! Confusing? Not at all, there is a wonderful synthesis available. It seems though that you wish to not take advantage of it.

    James makes it clear that those who are real the deal act like it, live like it. True religion looks like true religion. The fight my friend/brother is not with ‘Creeds’, not with ‘behavior is better than belief’, but with Mr. John Cullimore hints at.

    That truth belief will result in right behavior. Right behavior is not possible without true belief. The two are bedmates and cannot be separated. Those that wish to claim belief without behavior then are not true believers. The converse is true also, those that behave without true belief are not believers either, only imposters with a very good mask.

    I like Mr. John Cullimore’s point, essentially that what we believe determines how we behave. In every moment that we live, such that when we do not live as we ought, then we are suffering a brief moment/period of insanity (assuming we are in fact children of light.) Those that have truly believed are children of light, those of light walk and live in the light. Do they experience periods of darkness? Yes, but their life pattern is one of light. That is where the fight is at my friend, with those who confess to be of the light and live as darkness, and those who think they live as light but are still darkness.

    • Shammah says:

      Your second comment, about the means of accomplishing the ends is, I agree, where our difference would lie, but that difference is important to me.

      You said a lot of things in your long comment that are true, but that I don’t think address what I said in my post. I would mostly answer your long post by saying, “I stand by everything I said in my post.”

      However, once you put up your shorter comment, I do have something to say. I believe that apart from Christ we can do nothing. I believe that true righteousness is to walk in what God has created for you to walk in, which can only be done as we walk in the Spirit. Nonetheless, the Scriptures give us commands and talk about morality as though it were entirely up to us, repeatedly.

      In the modern world, we avoid saying such things. We’ve turned works into a cuss word, and we’ve emphasized human weakness so much that we’ve almost eliminated responsibility for our own actions.

      I *sometimes* overemphasize works on purpose. I do that because the Scriptures *sometimes* overemphasize works. We ought to be like those who wrote the Scriptures. We ought to talk like them. Sometimes they just said things like “awake to righteousness and stop sinning” and “what sort of people ought we to be, looking for and hastening that day.”

      The man who thinks it’s all by works will soon find himself crying out to God for the faith that can produce works. The man who thinks that works will unnecessary will be deluded into thinking his ineffective faith is real and living when in fact it’s dead and he’s blind.

  6. John Cullimore says:

    I think we could go so far as to say that BEHAVIOR, is indicative of belief. What we do displays what we believe.

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