Monday, July 2

Christianity 101- Part 5: Saving faith

Sometimes the word faith is used in the Bible to represent a body of doctrine such as Jude 3 that exhorts us to contend for the faith. Faith is also sometimes used to express a belief that God will answer prayers of a temporal nature. Often faith is expressed as a mere mental assent much like a belief in a historical fact. The Bible tells us that eternal life comes by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone and is a free gift of God. But what is the definition of the faith that saves?

Saving faith is that faith and trust a sinner puts in the atonement of Jesus Christ to pay his sin debt. Scripture tells us, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins? (1 John 4:10). Saving faith is the instrument or means by which a person gains access to eternal life that the atonement of Jesus Christ secures. This faith is a gift of God and will also be accompanied by the gift of repentance (Eph 2:8-9 & Acts 11:18). Scripture is clear that honoring God with lip service, and not from the heart, is not saving faith (Matthew 15:8, James 2:17). Therefore, a person that has been given the gift of saving faith has crossed from death unto life due to being regenerated (born again) with power by the Holy Spirit of God (John 3:3). By virtue of this power and their new God given nature, Christians will have a new attitude and a new focus that will result in a Christian walk according to the Spirit with minds that are set on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:4-5 & Eph. 10). Christians will also be very thankful to God for the mercy and salvation that has been given to them from God.

Therefore, the definition of a true Christian is a person that has saving faith as described above. Just as the photo above shows, being a disciple by following Jesus, performing good works, and Christian service flow from being a true Christian. However, performance of Christian service do not make one a true Christian as works and deeds cannot justify (save) a person. Justification (being saved) is by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone and it is the amazing grace of God.

Next in Part 6 we will look at the Christian discipleship that flows from the power of God’s grace.

9 comments:

donsands said...

Amen to that fine teaching.

jazzycat said...

Don,
Thank you.

Alan said...

You said ... deeds cannot justify (save) a person. Justification (being saved) is by faith alone in Jesus Christ...

James 2:24 proves you wrong here, I'm afraid.

jazzycat said...

Alan,
Thanks for the visit. Verse 24 is a continuation of the point James is making beginning in v. 14 where he talks about a person claiming to have faith, but showing no works from his claim. Such a faith is a false faith that does not save, since true faith will result in a Christian that is born again, has a new spirit and heart that will lead him into being a loving Christian that results in good works.

That is basically what James is pointing out to anyone that may think they can give lip service to faith, continue on unchanged and think they are saved. Again, people with true faith have been born again by the power of God which changes them. The result is good works. Justification is immediate at conversion and the works that follow are part of a persons sanctification not his justification.

To make them a part of justification would be to make the atonement of Jesus Christ insufficient for saving lost sinners. Jesus himself says that belief in him saves with John 3:16 being the most well known.

Alan said...

OK. No surprises in your response. Having preached the traditional evangelical gospel for many years I used to think this way. There are some awkward factors though - and I have now been forced to change my POV.

Just some pointers: "works" in Romans are usually the works of the Law. J3:16 was a private conversation. Jesus also indicated clearly (sheep/goats bit) that we are judged by what we DO and not by what we believe. Scriptures mentioning salvation can mean "from the World" or the tradional "from Hell" - that makes a big difference to the meaning of many scriptures.

I do not agree with your position even though it is the official position of my Church. Exactly what I think is not relevant - you need to find your own way through these points (and many others), and everybody's journey is different. I wish you well in yours ...

Prayerfully, Alan

jazzycat said...

Alan,
Thanks for your visit. I would urge you to reconsider the hallmark of the reformation, which is justification by faith alone. You mention that we need to find our own way and everybody’s journey is different. I disagree totally. Biblical truth is the truth that gives the way and it is the only way. It is not up to human beings to find “their way” but for them to find God’s way. God has revealed this way in the Bible and many passages make it clear that justification is by faith alone. We will certainly be judged on our works and anyone not found covered in the righteousness of Christ by faith will not pass the test. No one who chooses to ignore the atonement of Christ for the payment of his sin debt will be able to stand on his own righteousness.

Please check out my “Bad News/Good News photo devotionals” for more details.

Alan said...

Hi Jazzycat. You don't know my history - I have spent my whole life living, listening and debating this.

At the very least Faith in Christ is only one of many ways to get to heaven: consider the mentally handicapped; small children; those who never hear about Christ; those who's thinking is prejudiced by an upbringing in another religion; severe Asperger's syndrome; those who lived before Christ etc etc etc

You must concede that the vast majority who will be in heaven will not have been saved by Faith. They are clearly justified by Christ's saacrifice on the cross - granted, and not by anything they do themselves - granted. But Grace is the mechanism that outperforms Faith - yes?

I haven't reached my position trivially, or without deep knowledge also of all the things you stand for. And I am NOT ignoring the absolutely CENTRAL position of the crosswork of Christ.

Alan

jazzycat said...

We can agree that it is grace alone that saves. This grace is poured out on those God sovereignly chooses to regenerate (John 3:3, Eph. 2:4-5). Those whose hearts have been changed through the grace of regeneration are effectually called and respond in faith (Rom 8:30). Faith is the instrument that gains access to this grace. The infants and retarded that are saved have been regenerated even if they cannot express the normal means of faith. As Paul said……

Romans 9:15-16 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Notice in v. 16, he confirms that human will nor exertion (works) saves sinners. Jesus saves sinners and no one is saved by their good works or deeds as Paul states clearly in Rom. 3:20 and Gal. 2:16. In Galatians 2:21 Paul said, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Jesus told the disciples after the rich young ruler left that it was impossible for man to save himself. Works always result from those that have been regenerated (born again), but this is sanctification and not the justification that saves. Eph. 2:8-10 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Are you Catholic?

Alan said...

Hmmm, Jazzycat, I hadn't originally intended to set off on this trail - just to make you think ...

Do you really understand works? Think hard about 1 Thess 3:9-15. This passage tells us exactly what part of us is saved: it is described as our "work". But only that part of our work which survives the testing fire. And this "work" survives into heaven as gold/silver/precious stones.

But v15 shows that those who's work is worthless (wood/hay etc) sees it burnt up. And goes into heaven with nothing.

So your works are what is saved. No works - then you go in with nothing. "Store up for yourselves riches in heaven ..." etc

Matt 25:44-46 reinforces the central role of what you "do" in your salvation. "Whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me. These then will be sent off to eternal punishment ..."

And no - I am not a Catholic. I am a member of a Christian Brethren church in Scotland. And I can "trade scriptures" no problem - just it is too easy to be selective!