Saving Faith

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God..." (Eph. 2:8)

One doesn’t have to study their Bible much to be impressed with the necessity of faith in order to please God.: "For without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto God..." (Heb. 11:6). The manner of life that is Godward walks "by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). Many, however, don’t understand much about this most basic factor in our relationship with God.

HOW SAVING FAITH COMES. William Hendriksen, in his commentary on Ephesians, represents the Calvinistic position typically accepted by most denominations, as he comments on Ephesians 2:8. He says that faith here is "the gift of God", thus making faith something directly and miraculously given from God through the Holy Spirit. In his zeal to establish this, Hendriksen violates basic rules of grammar in the Greek (the language of the New Testament). Renown Greek scholar A. T. Robertson shows the phrase, "the gift of God" in Eph. 2:8 to describes salvation, not faith. Of this text, Robertson makes this truthful observance: "Grace is God’s part, faith ours" (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. IV, pg 525). Hendriksen suggests the solid rules of Greek grammar upon which Robertson’s comments rest be discarded and an "exception to the rule" be allowed (New Testament Commentary, Ephesians, pp 121-123). While the Calvinist labors to excuse man of free will in salvation, the scriptures clearly advocate man’s power of choice and responsibility to choose according to God’s truth (Josh. 24:15; Acts 2:37-38, 40).

The Bible affirms how faith comes: "So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17). Within God’s word is the necessary evidence to produce faith in the "honest and good heart" that seeks truth (John 20:30-31; Lk. 8:15). In Jesus’ prayer to the Father, He reveals how men would be made believers: "Neither for these only do I pray (the apostles, D.R.), but for them also that believe on me through their word (John 17:20, emphasis mine, D.R..). Through the apostle’s teaching (the gospel of Christ), faith comes. It is God’s power to save (Rom. 1:16).

WHAT SAVING FAITH IS AND DOES. Consider this quote: "Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort." (The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, The Articles of Religion, Article IX, p. 39). What is it that makes any belief a "most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort"? It’s not by wishful thinking, and it’s certainly not because it can be found in a denominational creed book. Only when we find it in God’s word - either directly stated or commanded, observed in a divinely approved example, or necessarily implied - can any belief be considered wholesome and comforting. Truthfully, you can search high and low in the scriptures, and you will not find one verse that teaches man is saved by "faith only". Such an idea comes from man, not God. When Martin Luther began the "Protestant" movement against Roman Catholicism’s unscriptural system of salvation by works only, he accepted an extreme position of faith only which is equally unscriptural. So tenaciously did he advocate his view of faith, that he came to reject the epistle of James as part of God’s word because of its teachings of justification by works (James 2:14-26). Incidentally, it is in James 2:24 that a clear reference is made to "faith only" and shown that it will not save.

As is often the case, God’s truth on this matter can be found by avoiding the human extremes of "works only" and "faith only". And, while we are aware of the many scriptures that teach salvation by faith (John 3:16; Rom. 5:1, etc.), no where does scripture affirm salvation by faith only. To the contrary, truth affirms that saving faith is trust in God demonstrated by works of obedience to what He commands (James 2:24; Eph. 2:10).

Saving faith is always associated with man’s response to obey God’s will, not merely the possession of a mental consent that acknowledges God and Christ. Scripture makes the distinction between those who merely "believed on" Jesus, but who did not live an obedient life (John 12:42-43). A study of the faithful examples in Hebrews 11, impresses the necessary connection of faith and works: "By faith" .... Abel offered, Noah prepared, Abraham obeyed, etc (Heb. 11:4, 7, 8). Furthermore, saving faith must work "through love" (Gal. 5:6). Those today who claim to have faith, but disobey the plain commands of God (like baptism for the forgiveness of sins, Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21), show neither a love for God, nor true, saving faith. Jesus said, "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).

WHERE SAVING FAITH LEADS. First, saving faith will lead to God’s forgiveness of our sins - we are "saved by grace through faith". When, through the gospel of Christ, one understands his condemnation because of sin (Rom. 3:23), and obeys the commands given for his salvation (faith, repentance, confession, and water baptism - John 8:24; Acts 17:30; Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 22:16), he will have the forgiveness of God.

Second, saving faith will lead to fellowship with God, Christ, and fellow-Christians. When one obeys the gospel, he must "walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). He is a new spiritual creation (2 Cor. 5:17), and is now ruled by a different standard - God’s truth. He will now "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7) and will maintain his fellowship as he "walks in the light" (1 John 1:3, 7-9).

Third, saving faith will lead to heaven. Peter speaks of heaven as the Christian’s inheritance, "...incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (1 Pet. 1:3). He later speaks of obtaining our heavenly reward as, "receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls" (vs. 9).

Do you have saving faith?

By Dan Richardson

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