September 6, 2015 / No. 3792
Dear radio friends,
What is true saving faith in Jesus Christ?
We remember the familiar words of the Bible in John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” True saving faith is necessary if one is to be saved.
But what is true faith in Jesus Christ?
False faiths abound today. In fact, there is no religious topic about which people are so excited as the topic of faith. Everyone today is considered to be a person of faith. If one feels some fuzzy emotion and if he has some belief in ultimate good over evil, he is considered to be a person of faith.
But what about you? Do you call yourself a Christian? Do you have true saving faith?
For many, true saving faith as a Christian is simply a social thing. It is a lifestyle. It is a feeling. It involves a popular preacher or a popular worship center. It is where my friends go on Sunday. But it is not of the heart. It is not truly a sinner who has found salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Others in the Christian church believe that faith is a mere outward and intellectual attainment. It is to know or to have been taught certain correct and orthodox truths out of the Bible. But, again, there is no personal trust in Jesus Christ. One does not know Him, and Christ is not present in his life.
What is true faith? We want to look at that today—the gift of true saving faith.
What is it? The Bible teaches us that true saving faith is a gift of God whereby God has united you consciously and livingly to the Lord Jesus Christ. That living bond is faith. What is faith? Many in the Christian church would say, “Well, that’s the part that a person has to do. That’s your part. Christ did everything—all that He could—He earned salvation, and now He offers it to everybody. But you must, by the free will of your own nature, choose to accept Jesus Christ.” They would say that faith is a decision that you have made.
If that were true, if that were biblical, then we had better strike out all that the Bible has taught us about sin and the total depravity of our human nature. Ephesians 2:1: “And you hath he quickened [or made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins.” If faith proceeds from your will, then our need of the Lord Jesus Christ is not so desperate. We do not need to be resurrected from the dead. We need only to be persuaded. We need only to rethink. And then salvation is not by grace alone, but is by cooperation or by negotiation.
But the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace alone: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Faith is the gift of God. It is not of yourself, says the apostle. Faith does not proceed from you. It does not come from your will. It is not the product of the sinner’s will. Our will, as sinners, does produce many things: hate, jealousy, lust. But not faith in Jesus Christ. Faith is the gift of God.
In Acts 16:14 we read of a certain woman named Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened, that she might believe the things that were spoken by Paul. We read in Acts 11:17 of the apostle Peter giving an explanation to the Jewish Christians of why he had preached the gospel to Cornelius. He says, “Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” Faith is a gift of God.
That gift of faith is a union. It is a living bond to Jesus Christ the Savior. Faith is the work of God within the heart, within the new heart that God implants within us of uniting that heart to Christ, so that the risen life of the Lord Jesus flows into us and we are made one with Him. The gift of faith is union—conscious, living union—with Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul confesses in Galatians 2:20, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” By faith, says the apostle there, Christ lived in him and he in Christ.
You may compare faith to an umbilical cord. When a mother has the gift of human life, a child within her womb, a child is united to her—another person, a real person is united to her—and shares the life of the mother. The life of the mother flows into the life of her unborn child through the umbilical cord, so that the mother’s life and nutrients and oxygen enter the child and the child develops and grows. So the Christian is a newborn babe in Christ. We are united to Christ by the cord of faith, by the bond of faith. And all the life and blessings of Christ come to us through faith. No other way—through faith alone. So that we say, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” That is true faith.
And so our Lord, a wonderful teacher, makes it very plain as He teaches in John 15:1-8. There He likens faith to engrafting, to being engrafted into Him by a true and living faith. He says, “I am the vine, ye are the branches” (v. 5). And then He goes on to say, Abide in me, as a branch cannot bear fruit except it abide in the vine. There the Lord teaches us the figure that we of ourselves, in Adam and of our own nature, are dead. Dead branches. Dead branches from a sucker tree. Prickly pear cactus. We are dead and worthy only of the burning. But by grace, we are engrafted into Christ. The sap of the risen Lord now flows into us and blossoms in the fruit of tears over sin and joy and hope and love and peace, repentance and obedience in Jesus Christ. Faith is the precious gift of God whereby we are united in a saving way, in a living union, to Jesus Christ.
And it is precious. The Bible calls faith holy—the holy faith. It calls faith living—the living faith. But the Bible also calls faith precious. We read in II Peter 1:1: “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” The word precious was a favorite word for the apostle Peter. Peter, who had sinned so greatly and had come to know such a Savior, speaks of the precious blood of Christ, and of Jesus who is precious, and of the gift of precious faith. Faith is precious.
What makes something precious is first of all that it is rare. A Roman coin, a dinar, is valuable. If you sell it on E-bay, you will get lots of money. Not because of the metal but because there are so few of them. So faith is precious because it is rare. The Bible says that the whole world lieth in darkness. Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction; and many there are that go in thereat. Narrow is the way to life; and few there be that find it. True saving faith is not cheap. It is not to be found of the earth. It is not a common thing. It does not grow on trees. You do not deserve it. It does not arise from you. But it is a precious, exceedingly rare, gift of God. And when we look at faith in terms of the content, of what faith believes, true faith believes all the precious truths of God. Then that faith is rare and precious.
What is precious is also something that has been given to you by one whom you love. Perhaps you have a necklace. And it seems to be your favorite necklace. Someone asks you about it, and you say, “Oh, yes. It is my favorite. I’m glad that you noticed. It’s not really valuable. The jeweler said that maybe it’s worth $30 or $40. But, you see, my grandmother gave it to me shortly before she died. And it seems to be part of her.” Because your grandmother gave it to you, because of the memories of your love for her and her love for you, it has become precious. Your faith in Jesus Christ is precious because Christ gave it to you. He shed His own blood for that faith. He died so that we might believe in Him. Faith is not a ho-hum, common thing. But it is the precious gift of Christ.
This is very important. For we often ask, “How do I know that Jesus loved me? And how do I know that He loves me today, with all the troubles that I am facing?” Do you have true faith? Has He bound you to Himself? This is the precious gift of the love of Christ.
Still more. What is precious is intrinsically valuable. You cannot put a price upon it. The crown jewels of England, the Star of India, the gold bars in Fort Knox. And we might say, “Oh, how rich we would be if we had those precious things.” The Bible says, “Those are just stones and metal that are corruptible and that will fade away. They become pitted and they need to be shined. And if you had those things—the gold bars of Fort Knox—they would be a curse in your life. But the bond that is uniting you to Jesus Christ in this life and in eternity is valuable. You cannot form an accurate appraisal of true faith. It is to believe in the Lord of glory, to be united to the One who is the resurrection and the life, the One who paid the debt of your sin and secured your ransom, and who will ever abide faithful to you. Faith is precious, it is valuable. You cannot buy it. You cannot steal it. And having it, you have salvation and righteousness and life. Faith is the precious gift of God, uniting us to the living Savior Jesus Christ and all that He has.
But we might say, what does this faith do? What is the activity of this faith?
We may say two things in response. The Bible says that true faith is, first of all, a certain knowledge, so that we hold for truth everything that God has revealed in His Word. Faith knows from the heart everything that God has spoken in the Word. And, number two, faith is an assured confidence that the Holy Spirit works in my heart through the gospel that these things are true for me.
This is what the apostle Paul says in II Timothy 1:12: “for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” He says there that faith is a certain knowledge. “I know whom I have believed. I know Him! I know all about Him and everything that God has revealed in the Word.” Faith is knowledge. It is a knowledge that is present within the heart. It is the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.
The world laughs at this Christian faith. It dismisses it. It scorns it. The world says, “I believe what I hear on television. I believe what the neighbor says. I accept for truth that I have a right to do whatsoever I please. But what the Bible says? You believe that stuff?” says the world. And the church today goes along and says more and more, “Well, what do you want to hear? What do you want to believe? What do you want to get out of church? We promise not to be dogmatic about anything. We’ll give you to know only what you want to.” But true faith is a knowledge of what the Bible teaches us concerning God, concerning Christ, and concerning our salvation. It is a knowledge of God in all of His attributes, in all of His sovereign decrees from eternity, in all of His works. It is to say, “I know Him.”
Ignorance is the enemy of the Christian faith. In Hosea 4:6, the prophet says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” And then, positively, the apostle exhorts the Colossian Christians that they must be rooted and grounded in the faith (Col. 2:6, 7). Without the truth of faith in our hearts, without that living knowledge, we become ripe for every false teaching, and the mush and the ignorance and the arrogance of the thinking of the world lays claim to our minds.
This is exactly why Christian missionaries have always promoted literacy among those to whom they have brought the gospel and seen to it that the Bible is translated into different languages, so that adults and children might be taught to read and know the Scriptures. This is why true faith promotes good Christian schools and Christian education—that the youth and our children might be trained to think and to know God’s thoughts and to think them after Him. This is why, in the church, we must have catechism for our children. This is why we have Bible study groups in the church. This is why we must have family worship and allow nothing to interfere with it.
This faith is sure. It is a certain knowledge. What we know from the Bible is more sure than knowing our own name. The world will say, “I know this is true because it’s in the history book, or because science says so, or my favorite rock star believes it, or NBC news said it, or it’s on Facebook. The Bible,” they say, “oh, that’s dubious.” But the Christian says, “God has spoken in His Word. It is not to be doubted. There is no vacillating here.” The Christian knows.
The world then will say concerning the Christian faith: “It’s blind faith.” And we respond, “To reject it is blind unbelief.” II Corinthians 4:4: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” We say, “I once was blind, but now I see.” Faith is sight. Without faith you are blind. The world will say concerning the Christian faith, “Wishful thinking. You would like for that to be true. And we should find for you a padded cell.” And we respond, “Unbelief and atheism and skepticism are wishful thinking. We say of atheism: You are the opiate of the people. Unbelief denies reality, the reality of God who spoke the creation into existence. Unbelief denies the reality of the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. Unbelief will bring a person into the darkness and will bring him to perish. To be in unbelief is to live in wishful, carnal thinking.”
The world will say, concerning the Christian faith, “But your faith is a leap in the dark.” And we say of unbelief, “Unbelief is to stumble in the darkness. There is nothing sure for unbelief. Unbelief knows nothing. Nothing is certain or sure.”
The world seeks to manipulate things to make the gospel look bad and to make unbelief look good. But unbelief, in reality, is blind, wishful thinking, and a leap into the darkness.
Faith is certain knowledge, and then it is that wonderful confidence that the Holy Spirit works in our hearts, that all the things of the Scriptures—remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation—are freely given to us and are our own. The apostle says, “I know whom I have believed” (II Tim. 1:12), “and am persuaded.” Faith is confidence. Assurance comes from the gospel. It comes from the Word of God. The more you know of God and His Word, the more sure you shall be.
You have that opportunity today to grow in faith and in knowledge and in assurance. Do you open your Bible in your trials? Do you come to church on a regular basis, or is it very easy for you to miss? When you are in church, do you pay attention? Do you lay up for yourself, under the Bible and under good preaching, all the truths of God’s Word? Are you busy with the Word of God? Many assaults are going to come against your faith. There are going to be many temptations aimed at destroying you, and doubts will be flung against you. Take the shield of faith.
It is God’s will that you and I be sure, not proud, but sure. The apostle Paul says to his spiritual son Timothy, in II Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” The apostle Paul says, “Timothy, the confidence that is found in the Scriptures and in saving faith, that’s what I want you to have. I want you to have the confidence of the gospel of a sovereign grace of God who works salvation irresistibly within the hearts of His eternally chosen.” He says to Timothy in verse 9 of that chapter that God “hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” These are the things, Timothy, that I know. I know that I was before a blasphemer, says Paul. I was a persecutor. If anyone could not be saved, did not deserve to be saved, did not want to be saved, Timothy, it was I. But, Timothy, God showed me something. He showed me something about myself—that there has never been a sin invented that is not in me. And then He showed me something amazing: the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m sure of that, Timothy. I know that I have been saved by the wonderful grace of Jesus Christ.
That is true faith. God’s gift of a certain knowledge and an assured confidence of salvation. Do you possess this? Will your faith stand when you die? Will it keep you when doubts arise? Will it be blown away by the awful things that happen to you? Will the long trial that you are facing snuff it out? Will Satan succeed in getting you to renounce it? Will you give it up? As children of God, we answer, “No.” For this is God’s work, God’s precious work in the heart of everyone of His children: faith. “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” Do you know Him? Are you sure of Him, the Lord Jesus? Saving faith proclaims: “He saved me by His grace.”
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for the Word of God today. And we pray that it may be a blessing and an encouragement unto our hearts. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.