By Mike Riley
All religious groups recognize the importance of faith in relation to salvation. Yet, few understand what true biblical faith really is. The popular idea today is that one can simply “believe in his heart” and immediately he is saved. What does the Bible say about saving faith?
The Relationship of Faith to Salvation
There are many passages in the NT that show the relationship of faith to salvation and how necessary and important it is (Mark 16:16; John 3:16; Romans 1:16; Hebrews 11:6; 1 John 5:4-5). Even a casual Bible student can see that we are saved by an obedient faith (Gal. 5:6; Romans 6:14-18; James 2:17-26).
There are many different ideas about how we “get” faith (i.e. visions, direct operation of the Holy Spirit, unexplainable “feeling” or “experience”, etc.), but the Bible tells us the true source of faith is God’s Word (Matthew 11:28; Luke 8:12; John 6:29,45,63,68; John 20:30-31; Acts 4:4; Acts 11:14; Acts 15:7; Acts 18:18; Ephesians 1:13). Faith is not some “mystical” thing that “suddenly” comes upon us, but a result of “hearing” the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
What Kind of Faith?
What kind of faith are we talking about? The faith that comes from hearing the Word of God and is so essential to salvation – what does this involve? It is not mere “mental assent” (Matthew 7:21-23; John 8:31,44; John 12:42-43; Acts 26:27; James 2:19), but trusting in Christ to save (John 3:14-16; Romans 3:23-26; Romans 4:1-5,16,23; Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:8-10). We cannot save ourselves in the sense that we cannot provide an adequate atonement for our sins. We must, therefore, trust in another to save us.
We cannot earn or merit salvation, therefore, we must trust in the merit of another. Trusting faith must comply with Christ’s conditions or terms of salvation which include:
1) Repentance – Acts 2:37-38; Acts 11:17-18,21; Acts 15:7-11.
2) Confession— John 12:42-43; Acts 8:36-37; Romans 10:9-10.
3) Baptism —– Mark 16:16; Acts 8:12,36; Acts 18:8; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12; Gal. 3:26-27. These commands we must obey only express faith in God’s arrangement or plan to save. Repentance has been called the “decision of faith” because it is a change of heart, a turning from sin unto God and His teachings (2 Timothy 2:15). Confession has been called the “declaration of faith” because it is an acknowledgement of belief in Jesus as God’s Son. Baptism has been called the “demonstration of faith” because it is submitting to a burial in water in order that God may take our sins away (Acts 22:16).
What Kind of Works?
These are not works of merit, but “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26). In this sense we do “save ourselves” (Acts 2:40). The idea that one is saved the “moment” he believes in his heart is not found in the Scriptures! One has not fully trusted in Christ to save until he repents of sin confesses Jesus, and is baptized “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), effectively appropriating Christ’s shed blood (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7).
Faith in Christ will determine the eternal destiny of our souls! Don’t rely upon any “closet experience” or “strange happening”. If you “felt” you were saved at the point of belief and were later baptized for some other reason, you’ve never truly trusted in Christ to save! Let us determine to “search the scriptures” (John 5:39; Acts 17:11) that our “faith” might stand on that which lives and abides forever (Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:25).