Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What is Faith?

Note: This is an outline from our current JPBC teaching series on Sunday evenings on the order of salvation.
What is Faith?
JPBC November 4, 2007
6:00 pm Worship
Jeff Riddle

Spurgeon’s Catechism:

Q 69: "What is faith in Jesus Christ?"
A 69: "Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive, and rest upon Him alone for salvation, as He is set forth in the gospel."

We have Biblical descriptions of the exercise of faith:

The Ethiopian Eunuch:

NKJ Acts 8:37 Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."

The Philippian Jailer:

NKJ Acts 16:30 And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31 So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."

The basic Christian Confession:

NKJ Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

The Greek words for "faith" are the noun pistis and the verb pisteuo. Alternative translations would be belief and to believe. With regard to the order of salvation we are talking about "saving faith."

Faith involves some basic knowledge of Jesus and the gospel facts (see 1 Cor 15:1-5). Paul says, "How will they believe in him of whom they have not heard? (Rom 10:14)."

But mere knowledge is not enough. See James 2:19: "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble."

We might also say that knowledge and approval are not enough. Grudem here sites Nicodemas (John 3:2) and Agrippa (Acts 26:27).

Saving faith requires a fundamental, personal trust in Jesus. Grudem: "Saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God" (p. 710). It is trust in one who has shown himself trustworthy.

Seven key observations about Biblical faith:

1. Regeneration precedes faith.

See the conversion of Lydia in Acts 16:14: "The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul." The new birth is essential for saving faith (John 3:3: "Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.").

2. Personal, conscious faith in Christ is essential for salvation.

NKJ John 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
Compare Acts 4:10:

NKJ Acts 4:12 "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

BFM 2000: "There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ."

Also note that its is possible for saving faith to be exercised in the OT, so that there are OT saints. See Romans 4:3 quoting Genesis 15:6:

NKJ Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."

Note that the Bible rejects both universalism (all are saved with conscious profession) and hyper-Calvinism (some are saved with conscious profession).

3. Saving faith is not irrational.

The Bible does not speak of taking "a blind leap of faith." It does not ask for an irrational commitment. Faith is reasonable. It has a real object in Jesus and the brute facts of the Gospel.
We are called to faith by hearing about the object of our faith: Christ (see Romans 10:17: "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God."

We do not ask for blind faith but faith in Christ, the object of Christian preaching from Scripture.

4. Faith is also described with other terms.

One would be "receiving Christ" as in John 1:12:

NKJ John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name

Another would be "coming" to Christ:

NKJ John 6:37 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

NKJ John 7:37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.

NKJ Matthew 11:28 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

But note the absence of decisionistic language.

5. Saving faith is accompanied by genuine repentance.

To gain hold of Christ, you must let go of the world.

BFM 2000: "Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace."

See Peter at Pentecost:

NKJ Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" 38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Grudem combines repentance and faith in the unifying concept of conversion: "Conversion is our willing response to the gospel call, in which we sincerely repent of sins and place our trust in Christ for salvation" (p. 709).

John Murray in Redemption Accomplished and Applied speaks of "penitent faith" and "believing repentance" (so Grudem, p. 714).

6. You cannot have Jesus as Savior and not also have him as Lord.

You cannot claim to believe in Jesus and see no change in your life.

An early view called Sandemanianism, after Scottish theologian Robert Sandeman (1718-1771), said that saving faith comes through intellectual assent alone. This view has influenced Campbellites and the easy-believism evangelism of much contemporary evangelicalism.

In recent years there was the so-called "Lordship salvation" debate between John MacArthur and Zane Hodges.

We cannot divorce faith from repentance.

Jesus said that false prophets were to be discerned by their lack of fruit: "Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matt 7:20).

Faith without works is dead (see James 2:17).

Good works are not the root of salvation but the fruit of salvation:

NKJ Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

7. Faith and repentance are to be continuously exercised.

Faith is listed along with hope and love as one of the three cardinal theological virtues (1 Cor 13:13).

Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

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