All of my life, I have heard from preaching grandma’s too small church preachers to the megachurch televangelist that we are saved by faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). And I want to jump in there with all of them to declare that salvation is by faith and faith alone. There is no other way to the Father than by faith. But faith in what? In whom? God? Jesus?
When we say that we believe in God or even that we believe in Jesus, do not even the demons believe in God (James 2:19)? So the faith that leads to salvation is not faith that God exists or that God is one as it says in James. Nope, that is not the right kind of faith. So what are we talking about??
Let’s look at some Scriptures:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. -John 3:16-17(NIV)
Faith for Salvation is the belief that Jesus is the Son of God
In this iconic passage, we must believe in Him and that He is the one and only Son of God. Faith that leads to salvation believes that Jesus is the Son of God. But Jesus also said that if we have seen the Son, we have seen the Father because He is one with the Father (John 14:9). So we must have faith not only that God exists, but that Jesus is God as the second person of the Trinity. Jesus also said that He had come to die in order to save the world. But save the world from what?
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” -Matthew 1:21(NIV)
Faith in Christ is to believe that we need to be saved from our sin
Jesus came to save us from our sins. To fully accept Jesus, we must accept that He came to for this reason-to save us from our sins. This means that we must also believe that sins are something that we need to be saved from. We must believe that sin will kill our spirit unless we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Ok, so then, how do you know if you believe that sins are something that you must be saved from otherwise die forever?
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord… -Acts 3:19 (NIV)
Faith in Christ is a faith that leads to repentance
If we truly believe that sin is a life-killer and that we need to be saved, then we will turn away from these things. We will repent the Bible says. We will turn from these things and start living according to the Word of God. Faith without repentance is not a faith that leads to salvation. I must believe that Jesus died for the forgiveness of my sin, but I also have to believe that behavior that goes against the desires of God is sin from which I need to be saved from. And I can’t be saved from something that I am holding on to. Faith in Christ gives me the ability to repent and give up my sins, to stop doing them. If I say I have faith in Christ but continue to sin, then I am not putting my faith in the man who was the Son of God who died for my sins.
So, is it by grace or is it by repentance or works. Is salvation coming to me because of something I have done? Well, the answer is a big fat no, and a little yes. It is a little yes because I must repent of my sin. I must turn myself to God. I must. I must. This is where it seems like I have to do something to be saved. But then, we have to ask ourselves about this sin from which we need to be saved. If I could have saved myself from them and stopped doing them on my own, then I could easily say that I have saved myself. But this is not the case. Before I can give up my sin, I must turn to God. He gives us the power to turn to Him. He gives us the power to look upon Him, to call upon His name, and to turn away from our sin. The only reason I can repent of my sin is that He has given me the power to do so.
Faith for salvation is to walk in the power of God to turn from sin and into Him
But He has given this power to the entire world (John 3:16-17). Anyone who desires this power must only believe?? But how do you know if they have believed?? Uh-ho, here we go again. We will know they believed when they turn from their sin to follow Christ. So then, did they do something or was it by grace. Well, God gave them the ability to turn from their sin as soon as they turned to God. They had faith, received power, then activated that power to turn from their sin and worship Him. It is by grace because the power to repent comes from God the moment we believe. I must choose to believe and when I have chosen, then to have faith I must continue to choose to give up my sin using the power God put into me when I first believed.
Salvation is by grace, the receiving of grace, then living by the power of grace. Our faith is released by grace and this same grace releases power to turn from our wicked ways. This is the sign of faith. If our life doesn’t change, moving away from sin and into the life Christ has prescribed, then my faith is no different from the demons who shudder.
Faith that leads to salvation learns to live by the power of Christ in us as He is perfecting us
This process of learning to live by the power of Christ given to us by grace is the lifelong process of Christ who is the perfecter of our faith. But we must continue to grow in this process. When we stop living by the power of Christ in us by grace, we will turn from the faith.
1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. -1 Timothy 4:1(NIV)
There is the faith of demons that leads to death and faith in Christ that leads to eternal life.
The Bible says the righteous will walk by faith (Hebrews 10:38). Walking by faith doesn’t mean that we walk around saying that we believe in God. It means our life should progress and move forward in faith and the proof is a life changed (James 2:17). It is not that we are perfect or have to be perfected to be saved. But to have faith is to walk in faith. It is a lifestyle where Christ is perfecting our faith. Christ is giving us the power, the encouragement, and the knowledge to turn from our sin and into Him. There is the faith of a demon that leads to death and there is the faith of the righteous that leads to eternal life and salvation. In which faith are you walking? Call me crazy, but I prefer to walk in the faith that is being continually perfected by Christ