The Nature of Saving Faith

The National Registry informs us that many employers have abandoned or forgotten employee retirement account balances. These unclaimed funds belong to former employees, but they aren’t aware of it. Even if they are entitled to such unpaid retirement account money, it won’t benefit them if thy are not aware of it and if they don’t claim it.

There are much greater unclaimed benefits that most people have not discovered. These spiritual benefits include total forgiveness, deliverance on Judgment Day, and the gift of eternal life with God!

At sporting events and public gatherings sometimes an eager witness may hoist a sign with the message: John 3:16. The familiar Gospel verse says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

But many who have been acquainted with Christian church assume that head knowledge about the plan of salvation, praying a prayer, or signing a card is all there is to securing the benefit of salvation. The Bible warns, however: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble! (James 2:19). So, if merely assenting to the facts about Jesus is not all there is to it, what is the nature of saving faith? What kind of “belief” does John 3:16 require? Surely there is no more important question, for the Scripture warns, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…?”(Heb 2:3).

This question was framed by the Philippian jailer in Acts 16. After the earthquake opened the doors of the jail where Paul and Silas were imprisoned, he was about to commit suicide. Since the missionaries loved their enemy, Paul called out, “‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’ Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household'” (Acts 16:28-31). How wonderful that the jailer and his family believed! They gave evidence of their new faith by tending to the missionaries and being baptized.

Throughout the New Testament we learn that salvation is by grace through faith. The Gospel of John was expressly written to show the way of gaining eternal life. “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31; See also John 1:7,12,50,2:11,22,23,3:12,15,16,18,36).

So, what is the nature of saving faith? Notice how faith corresponds to three functions of your soul–the mind, the emotions, and the will.

1. How does your mind respond positively to the gospel? By believing the gospel is true. This good news is summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:3,4: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures”(See also 1 Pet. 3:18; Rom. 10:9,10).

2. How do your emotions respond positively to the gospel? By trusting in Jesus Christ alone. As Ephesians 2:8,9 declares, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (cf. Rom 4:5; 5:1). Religion says “do!”, but the gospel says “done!”

3. How does your will respond positively to the gospel? By committing yourself to Christ as personal Lord and Savior. Salvation is not just a pill we take or a doctrine we acknowledge; salvation is a personal relationship with God. Notice the role of your will: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). “For ‘ whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved'” (Rom. 10:13). We thereby accept the terms of the New Covenant (Matt. 26:28).

Since conversion is compared to marriage, the bride (a title for the believer) needs to say “I do” to the bridegroom (Jesus Christ – Eph. 5:32). Commitment is not promising our efforts to maintain salvation, but the glad surrender of ourselves to God’s safekeeping in Christ (2 Tim. 1:12). The life of discipleship summons us to cooperate with God’s purpose to conform us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28,29).

Belief, trust, and commitment comprise the threefold chord of saving faith.

There may be some readers who have assumed that they were a child of God because of being raised in a Christian family, belonging to a church, or acknowledging the facts of the gospel. Why not take time now to review the nature of saving faith. Be sure you have truly received Christ as your Lord and Savior. As the apostle Peter counseled, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:10). A living faith will have vital signs; the root will bear fruit (Rom. 6:22).

Salvation by grace through faith also invites us into a deeper experience of Christ as our source of daily living. Roy Hession wrote this about the foundational importance of salvation.

“My Calvary Road began. . ., as it does with all of us, when we first experienced the cross of Calvary as sinners. All the elements of later and fuller experience in the Christian life are implicit in that first experience of grace, ‘I am a sinner, but Jesus is my Saviour.’ Indeed, we may be suspicious of any emphasis, teaching or experience which is not at the bottom merely an extension of these simple truths. To go deeper in the Christian life is simply to realize that we are bigger sinners than we ever thought and that Jesus is a bigger Saviour than we ever conceived Him to be.” [1]

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Have you claimed the eternal benefits that Jesus Christ purchased for you? As God’s Spirit convicts you of your personal need, be sure that head knowledge of the gospel has reached your heart and brought you into new life.

Our awesome God, we examine ourselves in light of our responsibility to truly believe in the Lord Jesus. Convict any professing Christian who only has mental assent toward the gospel, yet has not repented and received Your Son. Thank You for paying our sin debt for us through Christ’s death and resurrection. We affirm and reaffirm our full trust in you as our Redeemer. In Christ’s name, amen.

[1] From Hession’s autobiography, My Calvary Road, p.18). He is also the author of The Calvary Road (which has blessed many believers around the world, being translated into forty languages).

When Hession speaks of being “sinners”, he refers to how we continue to fall short of God’s perfect holiness in our character and conduct (Rom. 3:23; James 4:8). The believer’s spiritual identity, however, is “saint.” See the Grace Note: “The Basis of Your identity”:

Copyright 1999 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint for non commercial use if credit is given to the author and Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

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