Saving Faith - What Does It Include?
What Does It Include?
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-10)
"This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Galatians 3:2)
Individuals can not be saved until they realize, being convinced and convicted by God's Holy Spirit, that they need to be saved; that they are lost and without hope. Unbelievers are condemned already (See John 3:18, 19). It will not be at a future judgment that sinners will be condemned; they are already in a state of condemnation and doom, from which they need deliverance. They need deliverance before their mortal bodies die. Death cuts off all hope. Salvation can only be obtained during this life.
Man's (Mankind's) problem is sin. Man is a rebel against God and against His Holiness. Man is not merely a little crooked, needing to be straightened. No! Man is completely ruined. Sin is universally the problem of every human being born on this earth. The only sinless One ever born was our Lord Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; etc.), and it is His Righteousness against which ours is weighed and found wanting. When any man compares his own standard of righteousness with that of any other sinner, in hopes that God will accept him, he only proves the desperateness of his own condemnation. He goes about to establish his own righteousness, being ignorant of God's righteousness (See Romans 10:1-4; Luke 18:9-14; etc.).
Repentance. In reality, repentance and faith are inseparable. When Bible repentance takes place in salvation, faith occurs. When Bible faith is realized, repentance has been granted.
Repentance is often expressed as a pre-forsaking of particular sins. That is, sometimes unbelievers leave a preaching service with the impression that they must make themselves "save-able" by overcoming certain sins that they have been practicing, as a prerequisite to God accepting them. This is an idea in the mind of a sinner that he or she must raise his or her self to a certain level of holiness or separation before he or she can know eternal life. To think this way is self-righteousness.
Why do unbelievers tend to think this way? It is because they do not understand that the particular sins which they commit are just the fruits of the corrupt tree, the sin nature. It is the sin nature in man that must also be dealt with, not merely the outward manifestations-the fruits-the particular sins which the sin nature produces. Man's forsaking of particular sins can never purge his sin nature. Repenting of one sin or another can never justify a man or make him more "save-able." An Ethiopian can never change his skin, neither can a leopard change his spots. (See Jeremiah 13:23) A sinner is not one because he sins. A sinner sins because he has a sin nature. The sin nature is inherited from our first human father, Adam. If one forsakes any particular outward manifestations of that inherited nature, he is no less a sinner, regardless of how much people around him might appreciate his quitting those certain sins.
The proper understanding of sin and the correct estimation of its offense against a holy God is absolutely vital to salvation. The sinner must see himself as utterly lost and without hope. When he does look at his own manifested sins as they are in truth, offenses against God, he should indeed see them as the fruit of something far deeper and far worse within himself. The Holy Spirit must convict him that he is impotent to change the nature which produces his sins (see Romans 5:6 and Mark 7:21-23). The sinner, therefore, must not be taught to establish a self-obtained righteousness. The sinner must not have it implied to him that to merely forsake certain sins will clean up his corrupt nature and make God more pleased with him, or make him more "save-able."
Sin and the Sinner's Deserving. Not only is the sinner without Christ on his way to an eternal Hell of torments, but he or she deserves that Hell. Yes, deserving of Hell is every sinner born into this world. A man or woman who thinks that he or she may not really deserve to be cast into the Lake of Fire is a person on his or her way there yet. He or she is not converted to Christ. Honest admission before God of one's deserving is indispensable; there is no salvation without it.
A nine year old child, raised in a Christian home which guards him against the debaucheries of the outside world is absolutely no less in need of repentance than is the twenty-five year-old drug addict and thief, or a convicted murderer on death row.
The Correct Object of Faith. The correct Object of saving faith is the Sinless, Holy Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and His once-for-ever sufficient offering up of Himself as our Sin-Bearer. It was a Substitutionary Offering; in the sinner's place and for the sinner's deserving. Yes, the necessity and sufficiency of that sin offering must be accepted by the sinner as his or her only hope.
Let's get this straight. The twelve year-old boy in the Christian home who reads his Bible daily, attends a fundamentalist church, never watches TV, has never viewed a pornographic image, has never sipped an alcoholic drink or smoked a cigarette, will share the same Hell with any unsaved Mafia thug or dope pusher, if he has the capacity to understand sin (has reached the "age of accountability") but never accepts the necessity and sufficiency of the Sin Offering of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, for himself.
Let's look at this from the other direction. A serial murderer on death row who, by God's Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, is awakened to his desperately lost sinful condition, honestly confesses to God what he is by nature and what he deserves, and accepts the necessity and sufficiency of Christ's Blood-shedding Work on the Cross for him personally, will share the same Heaven as Dwight Moody, Billy Sunday and the Apostle Paul. In fact, he is placed in Christ, and, therefore, is as welcome in Heaven as Jesus is!
The truly repentant sinner turns away from self as having any hope whatsoever, and turns to the Lord Jesus Christ as his or her only Hope and only Remedy. (Study Philippians 3:8-10)
A Continuous Call. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (See Romans 10:13).
Just a one-time call? Look at 1 Corinthians 1:2 -"...to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:..."
The call of the repentant believing sinner is the result of faith in the correct Object, as described above. "How shall they call upon him (Jesus Christ) in whom they have not believed?" (See Romans 10:14). The obvious answer is that they cannot! That call is a continuous call of a believer, as a child calling out for his or her father. Believing the correct Message must come first. Calling upon God for salvation can not produce belief or faith. Thinking so is to get the cart before the horse. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
Religious people call upon God every day. Russian Orthodox people call upon God for salvation at every service. We have stood in Orthodox churches in the Russian Pacific Maritime Region and witnessed it with our own ears. Are they going to Heaven? No. Roman Catholics call upon God for salvation at every mass. Are they going to Heaven? No. And we are afraid that people even in fundamentalist churches call upon God for salvation, are baptized, and are placed on church rolls, who have never believed upon Christ according to the Scriptures (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Are they going to Heaven? No. Many call upon the name of the Lord for salvation who have never believed in the necessity and sufficiency of the sin offering of Christ at Calvary.
We often ask church members, "What is your hope of eternal life and why are you certain of being saved?" The answer is often, "Because I prayed the 'sinner's prayer'," or "Because I asked Jesus to come into my heart." These people testify of their own prayer or "call" upon God, but they never testify of the Person or sin-bearing Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. When questioned further about their "salvation experience" they often act confused, and sometimes feel offended.
Calling upon God, according to Romans 10:12-14, is the product of belief or faith, and that, in the correct Object. Something must be known, understood and believed of the truths of Romans chapters 3 through 5, before the sinner can effectually call upon the name of the Lord.
A New Birth or Regeneration. The Apostle John uses the phrase "born again." (See John 3:3-7; 1 John 2:29; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18.) The Apostle Peter also uses this expression. (See 1 Peter 1:23). And, too, the Apostle James (See James 1:18). The Apostle Paul uses the word "regenerated." (See Titus 3:5). Being born again or being regenerated is the work of God's Holy Spirit in the sinner who has the experience of "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 20:21)
There are many things which occur in the believing sinner, but one of those things is that he or she is made a new creature in Christ Jesus (See 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:15). Peter tells us that the believer is a partaker of the "divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4) It is the new nature, the "divine nature," along with the sealing and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, within the believing sinner, that is effectual in overcoming the consequences of the old sinful nature in daily Christian walk and experience. These things are also the work of God, not the work of the sinner, in grace, to produce a godly testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ here, before the child of God gets to Heaven.
Let's not misunderstand. God is not interested in a religious experience that produces nothing for His honor and glory in testimony before this wicked and rebellious world. Further, salvation is not a clean glove covering a dirty hand. Whom God saves, He cleanses every whit, and does a complete work, in grace, by His Spirit that deals with both aspects of sin: the sin nature, as well as the outward manifested sins produced by it. (See 1 John 1:7-9; etc.) The old nature is not eradicated or extinguished at the point of salvation. But God, inside the born-again one, is greater than the old nature. Now "the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world;..." (Titus 2:11, 12) We should and can live unto God because it was provided for in the work of Calvary as well as in the present work of God's Holy Spirit, as promised by the Lord Jesus Himself in John chapters 14 and 16. The believer is "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10) This is the work of God Himself.
Certainty. Certainty in salvation is the portion of every child of God. Reader, you should in no wise be satisfied with an experience that makes you tend toward religious duty but does not make you sure of eternal life and sonship with God. People who believe the Bible, that the work of salvation was and is 100% God's, and nothing of the sinner, have certainty. People who are still trying to work into the salvation equation any measure of their own works of righteousness can never be certain, and they have not been regenerated. Religious people, who believe that salvation can be gained but lost again, are those who are still attempting to satisfy God with a presupposed level of their own righteousness, and because they know they fail continually, never have certainty of Heaven. They are, in reality, yet without Christ.
The work of God: Christ died for our sins and paid sin's debt in full (See Romans 3:19-26). This is a certainty. The work of God: God raised up Christ from among the dead to guarantee the believer's justification and immortality (See Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:12-28; etc.). This is a certainty. The work of God: the circumcision made without hands (Colossians 2:9-11), which severed our eternal soul from the flesh and from the consequences of its sin. This is a certainty. The work of God: the sealing of our circumcised soul by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption, the Rapture of the Church (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). This is a certainty. The work of God: the indwelling presence of God within the temple of every child of God (Romans 8:9, 16; 1 John 5:9, 10; etc.). This is a certainty. Do you suppose Someone so great as the Holy Spirit of God can indwell an individual and that individual not know it? I think not.
Have you rested the eternal safety of your soul in the work of God? "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1)
A Continuous Working of God Within. As already seen, the work of God in regenerating a sinner is a work that continues until Jesus Christ shall come and the body also will be saved, so that man will be whole, body, soul and spirit. (See Romans 8:23-25; 2 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). The regenerated one, the believer, is now, by the indwelling Spirit, able to exercise ("work out") that salvation, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (See Philippians 2:12, 13) We can trust the continuing work of God in us as His children. We need to resign to it for His joy. We need not fear to make ourselves vulnerable to the workings and movings of His Spirit as we tread through this life waiting to see the Son of God in the heavenly places.
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