Saving Faith (and the need to be right)

Religious people are often known for being pushy about their ideas, and being touchy when challenged. I’m certainly not claiming to be innocent of these characteristics – however, I am learning that such reactions are not part and package of true faith.

I believe that “saving faith” is frequently misunderstood. Perhaps if faith is correctly defined, we could avoid some of the pride that comes from this type of religion.

Some understand that faith is “something they believe” that saves them – neo-Gnosticism, salvation by knowledge.

Others understand “righteousness by faith” as a status of behaviour achieved by which they obtain favour and acceptance with God. This is perfectionism or salvation through works.

Biblical “saving faith” is not (only) knowledge, nor is it a human work. It is a gift from God (Romans 12:3). As a gift, it can not be boasted of, or be held as a token of God’s higher regard, as God gives the gift of faith without respect of persons, but based on his own Sovereign will, by grace alone.

And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. Romans 11:6

True faith is a gift from God, whereby we as sinners are enabled to trust in Jesus (his Person and redemptive work) for our salvation, and the realization that we have nothing in ourselves, but it all comes from above.

John answered and said, A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. John 3:27

As in God’s design for marriage, trust in your partner’s “person” (who they are) and “work” (the history of the things they have done to prove themselves) is the very essence of relationship.

So, in this gift of God, our “faith relationship” with Jesus, we find salvation. And we know that it is only in his redemptive work (his blood shed on the cross) we find acceptance (or are “made accepted”) with God.

To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:6-7

So then, in God’s way of salvation, we have nothing to boast. Nothing we have is our own, any virtue or true knowledge we may possess is only because God in his graciousness has opened our dark, sinful hearts to his glorious truth, and he has impressed his character there.

But a misunderstanding of biblical faith will often create the root of arrogance and pride. It can’t be genuine, as it is built on itself and its own virtue, and as such we feel that it must be defended to the end, because it forms our (idolatrous) identity.

True faith is built on the gift of God in his Son, who through one righteous act freely provided and gave us salvation, and trusting in God’s work is the complete opposite of the former – we cast our destiny completely on Him and his work. Thus I think “faith” is often better translated as “trust”.

Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Romans 5:18-19

Since this act of God is done outside of us and without our participation, and all we must do is trust in Christ and his work, there’s nothing for us to advertise or puff ourselves up about. It’s all about Christ, and casting ourselves completely on Him.

And when salvation is that simple, there’s not much to argue over. Everything else pales in importance, whether that may be eschatology, diet, dress, or anything else that competes for our allegiance.

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