If you have not been feeling well and can’t seem to get better, you go to the doctor to get checked out. He then runs tests and discovers that you have a life-threatening disease. He calls in a prescription of the medicine you need that will save your life. You obtain the medication and what do you do? Do you take the medicine? If you have understood the doctor's instructions and you believed what the doctor has told you, you will take the medicine.
What you have just experienced is belief in action, better known as faith. What made animal sacrifice work in the Old Testament? It derived its power from the faith of the believers. The followers of God understood His instructions and they believed that killing the animal would remove their sins. So they acted and performed the animal sacrifice according to the instructions God had given them. One couldn't just believe in animal sacrifice any more than merely believing in medicine will make one well!
The origin of true faith is, and always has been by the instruction of God. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Additionally, sacrificing without understanding why, would have been useless. Sacrifice derived no power from superstition, tradition, or ignorant obedience. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). This defines genuine faith as having two elements – belief and action: without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Obedience from the heart is the type of faith that God has always desired.
Here are some Old Testament examples of this type of faith as seen in Hebrews 11:
• “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice” (v.4).
• “By faith Noah...moved with fear, prepared an ark” (v.7).
• “By faith Abraham...obeyed...and went out” (V.8).
• “By faith Abraham...offered up Isaac” (V.17).
We see clearly that the kind of faith required by God is action based upon belief. Saving faith has always required this belief-based action. James asks rhetorically: “can such faith (without action) save a man” (2:14)? James points out that even the demons themselves were believers! If belief alone saved, then the demons would be saved (James 2:14-26)! No stronger argument can be made against “belief alone.”
The action of obedient faith is not accomplishing some work that earns anything, but is doing what God has told us to do to accept His gift. True faith is made complete by action (obedience) from the heart (belief). God wants all of us to be saved and be with Him in heaven. However, only those who truly believe in Him and do His works of righteousness will be saved “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).