Two Talents

Faith-based expressions of a Christian.

What is saving faith?

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I receive a daily e-mail from the Berean Bible Society. Yesterday’s message was titled the same as this post, and it addresses the question of what saving faith is. Here is the content of the message I received:

“What saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness” (Rom.4:3).

The Apostle Paul uses the above quotation from Genesis 15:6 to prove that “to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom.4:5).

It is wonderful that God does not require — indeed, does not permit — human works for salvation, but only faith. But the question is: What is faith? What kind of believing saves?

There is no indication in Scripture that “the gospel of the grace of God” or “the preaching of the cross” was proclaimed to Abraham. We must go back to the passage which Paul quotes to see what Abraham believed. Genesis 15:5 says:

“And [God] took [Abraham] forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell [count] the stars, if thou be able to number [count] them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be.” It is this simple, wonderful promise about the multiplication of Abraham’s seed which is followed with the words: “And he believed in the Lord; and He counted [reckoned] it to him for righteousness” (Ver.6). We do not mean to imply that this was the first expression of Abraham’s faith, for in Hebrews 11:8 we read:

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”

This took place considerably before the Genesis 15 incident and we are specifically told that through his faith he “obtained a good report” (Heb.11:2).

From all this it is clear that Abraham believed what God told him and was counted righteous — as we now know, through a redemption still to be wrought by Christ. We, now, must believe what God tells us — and this is nothing less than the account of the all-sufficient finished work of Christ, wrought in our behalf, on Calvary’s cross.

“[He] was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom.4:25). {by Cornelius Stam}

The one part of that which stands out the most to me is this: “From all this it is clear that Abraham believed what God told him and was counted righteous”. Is this saving faith? Is saving faith a feeling of some sort, or the ability to speak in tongues? Is saving faith adhering to a certain doctrine, or being a member of a particular Church or sect?

I will be forever stupefied by those who maintain that theirs is the one, true Church of Jesus Christ. Or that some action on our part is necessary to complete the process of salvation. While I don’t intend to cast stones here I’ll offer two examples. The Roman Catholic Church maintained for centuries that salvation was only obtained by being part of it. Vatican II liberalized that message somewhat, though the Roman Church still maintains that salvation flows through it and outward to other peoples and religions (which, Vatican II said, can be saved outside of the RCC). Secondly are some factions of the Church of Christ, which maintain that without a proper baptism one cannot be saved. Never mind that you have believed God, you must be baptized and it must be a total immersion, else you remain condemned. I recall in a forum I used to visit one such adherent. He was asked if someone would be condemned if, for example, part of their knee did not go under the water during baptism. After trying to avoid answering the question directly a few times and being pressured to do so, he finally answered that the person was not saved and would be condemned.

Why do we hold such beliefs? What reason(s) cause us to believe that God is so legalistic that we would be required to belong to a particular Church, or have to undergo a ritual that is perfectly carried out? If salvation were possible through the Mosaic Law then Christ need not have died for our sins. If Christ did atone for our sins through His death then there is no need to turn to the Law for salvation. The two are mutually exclusive. So, if Christ died for our sins, and if He told us that salvation was apart from the Law (and He did), why do we humans keep trying to attach the Law (or something akin to it) onto His death, in order to be saved?

Faith is not as simple as one statement, but it can be fairly well summed up in one sentence: From all this it is clear that Abraham believed what God told him and was counted righteous.

The scriptures do not say that Abraham did anything other than believe God to be counted righteous. Yes, he complied with God’s instructions, but we are not told that this made him righteous, but that his belief did. Belief begets compliance, but we (like Abraham) are first justified, or declared righteous, through belief. So, what is saving faith? Believing what God says.

16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. {John 3:16-18}

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Written by Shawn

March 6, 2006 at 3:59 pm

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