Faith is central to Christianity. But we are not saved by our faith. The object of faith is the One that saves, and there is a constant call in the Scriptures to put our faith in Jesus Christ, the righteous One.
True faith bears good fruit (Matthew 7:21-23). There are those who call Jesus “Lord, Lord” who are not saved because they do not bear fruit of repentance. They are deceived no matter how much they claim to be true ones and will be judged in the last days. Yet, there are those who call Jesus “Lord” who are truly saved because they have true saving faith. Understanding this will save us from being false professors.
The nature of true faith
True faith has fruits, because God grants faith, springing from a heart changed by grace (Eze 36:26-27). There are Antinomians who believe that they can live however they want (without holiness) as long as they believe the right doctrine. But works are the necessary fruit of true faith.
Is the faith that you have bearing the fruit of good works? Remember that there is a kind of faith that is a mere belief (James 2:19) and fruitless (James 2:14).
What is saving faith?
- Living faith in Christ alone saves us. True faith takes hold of the sufficiency of Christ’s blood and righteousness for one’s salvation.
- Justification is by faith alone but that faith is never alone (Sproul).
- It is the instrumental cause of our justification.
Here are the most common formulas for Justification:
- Faith plus works (sacraments) = justification (Rome)
- Faith minus works = justification (Antinomians)
- Faith that works = justification (Biblical)
The Elements of true saving faith
For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God (i.e., notitia) which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of mere men (i.e., assensus), but as what it really is, the word of God, which also is at work in you who believe (i.e., fiducia).1 Thessalonians 2:13
By this faith a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word for the authority of God Himself, (i.e., notitia) and also apprehendeth an excellency therein above all other writings and all things in the world,5 as it bears forth the glory of God in His attributes, the excellency of Christ in His nature and offices, and the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit in His workings and operations: (i.e., assensus), and so is enabled to cast his soul upon the truth thus believed (i.e., fiducia).1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith chapter 14, par. 2
In the verse above, we can see the elements of faith that truly saves. The Scripture is clear that faith is dead apart from works (James 2:14). True faith is “fides viva” living faith according to Martin Luther. True saving faith believes God’s word, perceives the excellency of God’s word and trusts the truth of God’s word.
The background of this biblical truth is found in the exposition of true saving faith by Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s contemporary. In 1521, Melanchthon first published his work, “Loci Communes Theologici,” where the Protestant theology systematized and the three indispensable elements of saving faith notitia, assensus, and fiducia was defined. It is he that codified what the Scriptures had taught, and it was from Melanchthon’s work that these words first appeared in the context of faith (Israel, 2007, pg.233).
- Content (nōtitia)
An element of knowledge. This is the intellectual aspect of our faith. If knowledge is not based on truth, it is superstition. Our faith is not a blind faith. You cannot put your faith in whom you do not know. It must be founded on the right knowledge.
5 kinds of fake Jesus:
- Jesus who remains a child (Sto. Nino)
- Jesus who is still hanging on the cross
- Jesus is always angry and must be tamed by his mother, Mary. She pleads with the Son that men may be forgiven.
- Jesus in the coffin, whose feet are kissed by the devotee.
- Jesus is like Santa or a god-father. People come to him only when in need.
You won’t be saved by believing these false kinds of Jesus. You must believe the true One, the LORD and the God in the flesh.
In Romans 10, Paul deductively stated how one comes to have true saving faith. When one calls to the Lord, he will be saved (13). But he cannot call if he does not have faith (14). Yet again, he cannot have faith if he did not hear the true message of the gospel. No one can hear if there is no messenger who preaches the gospel and none can preach if none sent them (15). He ended with the foundation, which is the words of Christ (17).
Here it is,
Faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of Christ. This is the foundation. You need to believe aright. According to M.L. Jones, We know that we are forgiven because of the perfect, finished, and full work of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf.
You do not need to be a graduate theologian (though everyone’s a theologian) or bible scholar to have the right knowledge. You need to hear the bad news and the good news. You should know the essential doctrine of Christianity, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
But bare knowledge of the facts alone does not constitute saving faith.
- Conviction (assēnsus)
An element of persuasion or assent to the truth (Heb 11:13).
There must be a conviction that the content of faith is true. It is an agreement to the knowledge. How can you have faith if you do not agree? Islam studies Christ, they may know something about him but they do not agree.
You’ll say to yourself, “It is true that I am a sinner and I cannot be saved by works. I have a bad record and a bad heart. But Christ is willing to forgive me and by His life and shed blood on the cross, He able to save me.”
Paul, in 2 Tim 1:12 confessed that He not only knows what He believes but He is convinced and persuaded that God is able. It is also an intellectual affirmation that Christ is God in the flesh (John 5:18, 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Yet the true faith that stands has three legs. It includes trust.
- Confidence (fiducia)
An element of trust. Knowing and believing the content of the Christian faith is not enough
the gospel is the source of our confidence (Rom 1:16-17). “The righteousness of God” is not God’s righteous character, but “the righteousness that comes from God” as the substance of the gospel
According to John Murray, in his classic book Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, “Faith is knowledge passing into conviction, and it is conviction passing into confidence. Faith cannot stop short of self-commitment to Christ, a transference of reliance upon ourselves and all human resources to reliance upon Christ alone for salvation.” (p.111)
For example, a man who is able to cross the Niagara falls through a rope. The spectators believe him even with a wheelbarrow. But if he asks someone to volunteer and ride with him through the rope on a wheelbarrow, none will present himself. This is the element of trust. You are not only believing to believe that the man can cross Niagara falls but you are willing to cross it with him.
However, this is an imperfect analogy. When we talk about true saving faith, a sinner is bid to trust in Christ because knows that there is a problem of sin and Christ is the only remedy. Now, in our analogy, if there is an impending threat behind them and they see that it will take their lives, they will rush and ride with the man since that is the only way to escape that coming threat.
In the gospel, God provided the righteousness in Christ that we need in order to be justified before God. It is one thing to have a saving knowledge of Christ, it is another to put our trust in Him. It is when a soul clings to the Lord. You come to God as a helpless sinner and you know that He can save you.
Faith is a gift from God (Eph 2:8-9). So, those who have heard the good news are born anew by the Spirit who works with and by the Word.
We can never bring our own professed righteousness before God. We can never merit salvation. We can never pay for our debt. Our righteousness has no value before God. Our good works cannot contribute to our justification.
Since salvation cannot be merited by good works, we must preach the gospel! Men need perfect obedience and perfect sacrifice. All have disobeyed and our lives cannot pay for our sins. But Christ obeyed perfectly, offered his life and shed his blood for His people. Those who believe in Him will have His righteousness clothe upon them and His blood to cover their sins.
Faith takes hold of Christ. Once you are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, you will be declared righteous indeed.
We pray that you’ll see the danger of sin and that you will come to Christ for forgiveness. This is about your eternity. Trust in Him and you will be saved!
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
Note: This post is based on our pastor’s sermon during our midweek service at Bella Vista Outreach.