21. Saving Faith

Introduction

The importance of faith to the seeker of God is concisely stated by the Hebrew writer, ‘And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him,’ Hebrews 11:6.

We are told that ‘faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,’ Hebrews 11:1. To illustrate, no man has ever seen the glories of heaven, and yet by faith we are sure that there is such a place and hope that after death we will enjoy its blessings.

In one sense our whole lives rest upon some kind of faith. For example, the farmer who plants his crops in the spring is confident that in a few months he will reap a harvest. He plants by faith, not being able to prove that flood or frost will not destroy his efforts.

Yet because of experience he believes that his labours will shortly be rewarded. So, whether one believes in God or not, he cannot live without some kind of faith in something.

In the Greek New Testament, the words ‘faith’ and ‘believe’ have the same root. Although we may place a different English meaning on these words today, they have the same meaning in the New Testament. Thus, if one believes in God, he has faith in God and vice versa.

No man can have faith in Christ unless he has first heard God’s word by reading the Bible himself or by having its truths related to him by another, Romans 10:17.

DEGREES OF FAITH

There are many degrees of faith. Jesus rebuked His disciples saying, ‘You of little faith,’ Matthew 8:26. On the other hand, He commended a Canaanite woman, ‘Woman, you have great faith!’ Matthew 15:28.

To a centurion who asked that his servant be healed Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith,’ Matthew 8:10. Paul even mentions a faith that can remove mountains, 1 Corinthians 13:2, a faith so great that we do not possess it today.

We should ask ourselves if our faith is great enough to be saving faith. Faith in Christ is necessary for salvation since Jesus declared this, Mark 16:16. But not any kind of faith will bring salvation from sin. There were some who heard Jesus teach, believed in Him, and yet rejected Him, John 12:42.

Now Jesus teaches, ‘Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven,’ Matthew 10:32-33.

Those, who like the Jewish rulers have a measure of faith in Christ but will not confess Him, will be denied by Him in the judgment. Such faith is not saving.

SAVING FAITH

What, then, is saving faith? It is not that kind possessed by Satan and his co-workers, James 2:19. Since none will contend that the devils will be saved even though they believe we may ask, ‘What is lacking in their faith?’ The answer is trust and obedience.

The faith of the devils is limited to factual acceptance of Christ. They believe Christ but do not believe IN Him. They acknowledge His power, but will neither trust nor obey Him. Their faith is one of mind, but not of heart.

The faith that saves is the faith that trusts, the faith that obeys. The truthfulness of this fact is asserted by Paul who in Romans 16:26 speaks of ‘the obedience of faith.’

A faith that will not obey will not save. Hebrews 11 has been called the faith chapter of the Bible because it relates many things which were accomplished by faith.

We notice that the people described always obeyed God’s commands. Thus ‘Abel offered …’, ‘Noah prepared …’, and ‘Abraham obeyed …’ These great heroes of faith did something to demonstrate their faith. That something was to obey the divine commands.

They did what God told them to do without stopping to ask why. The man with saving faith will obey God without question.

BLESSINGS RESULTING FROM FAITH

Let us also notice that the divine blessings of forgiveness of sins and eternal life are only received when our faith has demonstrated itself in obedience. There are many Biblical examples of this principle.

Consider Naaman, captain of the Syrian army, 2 Kings 5, who as told by Elisha that his leprosy would be removed if he dipped himself seven times in the River Jordan.

At first Naaman did not believe the prophet. When he did finally believe, however, he dipped himself seven times and his leprosy was cured.

Notice – God did not cure Naaman the moment he changed his mind and believed. Rather He took away his leprosy when he demonstrated his faith by obedience. Naaman’s cure did not precede but resulted from his obedience.

Man is afflicted with the spiritual disease of sin which will cause us to be lost forever. God will cure that disease –save us from sin – if we believe in Him, but He will not forgive us until we have shown our faith by obeying His commands.

Man is not saved from sin the moment he believes in Christ. He is saved only when that faith causes him to obey and not before.

As proof of this fact Paul shows that faith leads us to obey Christ in baptism, Galatians 3:26-27. Baptism in turn puts us into Christ. It is only when we have gotten into Christ by being baptised that we may be said to be saved by faith. An illustration of this point is found in the Philippian jailor, Acts 16:30-31.

That this belief included more than mental acceptance of Jesus is shown in the further with the Philippians jailor, Acts 16:33-34. His faith, then, included repentance (as shown in his washing their stripes) and baptism.

Had he not repented and been baptised it could not be said that his faith was saving. God forgave his sins only when he showed that faith by repentance and baptism.

Thus, saving faith includes implicit trust in the Lord and full obedience to His commands. In our next lesson we will study the scriptural teaching regarding one of these commands, that of baptism.


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