You don’t have to be in Christian circles too long (hopefully) to realise that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone (Rom 3:22, Gal 3:10-14, Eph2:8). So does that mean we just have faith in Jesus and that’s it… we are are saved and are going to heaven? Or is there more to it then that?
Ok don’t worry. I am not about to say we need to work our way into God’s good books or that there is anything apart from faith that we are saved by God. However what we need to understand, as well as help others to understand, is what the Bible means when it teaches that salvation is through faith in Jesus. We must teach the full Gospel of Jesus Christ, and not the ‘feel good’, non-confronting substitute so many Churches seem to be. I fear if we don’t clearly articulate what saving faith is, or we leave it up to people to seek the world’s understanding of faith, then there may be those who think they are Christians when in reality, they are not.
This can turn into a complex discussion pretty quickly. A lot of the points I use to articulate this critical doctrine in this post I drew from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. I am sure there are other ways to help articulate this important teaching. I would value anyone’s insight.
The only definition of faith in the Bible comes in Hebrews 11:1. From this we see a certainty in faith, not a hopeful outcome. Faith is not about believing something that goes against all the facts. Faith needs to start with a knowledge of truth, acknowledging there are components that we will never fully understand. Part of having faith in Jesus is to know He is God and was raised from the dead. Jesus’ life, miracles, actions, teaching and ultimately His resurrection confirm that He is who He claimed to be – God. The historical evidence is overwhelming. There is no doubt that Jesus rose from the dead. Faith is only as valid as what it is grounded in.
Ok, to look closer at what saving faith is, let’s look at what it’s not:
- Knowledge – Having a knowledge of God and the Gospel is not enough. Knowing God’s decrees and Gospel message is a necessary start for our faith to blossom from (Rom 10:14), however it doesn’t mean one is a born again Christian. It requires more then just knowledge. Rom 1:32 speaks of those who ‘know’ God’s decrees yet willingly go against God and approve of others that do so. James 2:19 states that even the demons know God and the facts about Jesus, yet shudder!
- Approving that Jesus died for our sins alone isn’t enough. Although this is also is a component of saving faith, by itself it doesn’t lead to salvation. We can agree Jesus alone is sufficient to save us, yet reject it in how we live our lives.
To have a saving faith in Jesus includes three things:
- a knowledge of Jesus, what He proclaimed and the Gospel message
- approving and acknowledging it, AND
- having a personal trust in Him.
In fact one could use the word “trust” to help explain what faith means in scripture. Trusting in Jesus with our lives involves:
- turning from sin, and
- trusting that He can save us from the power and punishment of sin.
It’s critical to note here that saving faith causes a distinct change in one’s attitude and perspective in life. We can not allow both sin and Jesus to be the driving force of our life. We have to choose one or the other. It doesn’t mean we won’t struggle with sinful tendencies, however our main drive in life is to follow Christ. To turn from sin and follow Christ is called repentance. Wayne Grudem describes repentance as a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ. In fact one can deduce from reading the Scripture that repentance and faith are like two sides to the same coin. Both repentance (Luke 24:46-47, Acts 2:37-38, Acts 3:19, Acts 17:30, Rom 2:4, 2Cor 7:10) and faith (Rom3:21-24, 5:1-2, Gal 2:16, 3:7-9, 3:11-14) are linked to our salvation.
It’s clear in scripture that conversion, or being born again, involves both repentance and faith. This is also evident throughout our lives from the point we choose to trust in Christ. We need to trust in Jesus every day of our lives to enable us to turn from our sin and allow Him to empower us to follow Him. That’s why Christians need to continually draw close to what the Gospel message teaches. Although from God’s perspective our conversion happens at a distinct time, it’s this persevering evidence that confirms with ourselves and others that we are truly Christians (1 John 2:4-5, 3:6-10, 1Tim 4:6-10, John 14:15, 2 Thess 2:13, Rom 7:4-5). If there is no fruit or evidence of our conversion in our life, then one must ask whether they have truly trusted in Jesus. The works of our faith are a result of the conversion, NOT a means to being saved or converted. How can we have any assurance in our salvation if there is no fruit in our lives testifying to the new born again nature within. We must examine ourselves and ensure we truly have Jesus as Lord of our lives (2Cor13:5).
So where are you in your relationship with God? In light of what we have discussed above, do you have true saving faith, or are you unsure? Do you know of someone who may have the wrong idea of saving faith. It can be a complex teaching to get our heads around, however at the end of the day saving faith is simply about knowing, submitting and embracing our need of a Saviour in Christ due to the judgment that awaits us because of our sinful nature. We turn from sin, trusting in Jesus to save, liberate and empower us.
Thank God we don’t have to earn our salvation, but we can trust in Jesus who already has purchased it for us with his life!
May you know the peace of God that only comes through faith in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.