What Is the Biblical Description of Saving Faith?
Several years ago, during a conversation about faith with a man I had never met before, he suddenly said, “Oh, so you are one of those advocates of Lordship salvation that John MacArthur teaches!” I replied, “Yes! Of course! What other kind is there?” At the time, I did not think to mention that I learned about “Lordship salvation” directly from the Bible – long before I had ever heard about John MacArthur. I did point out to him that the Word of God says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…” Acts 16:31 Let’s consider what the Word of God actually teaches about saving faith.
Doctrinal Dogma without Considering Context = Confusion
Perhaps the confusion about this subject comes from drawing conclusions about a portion of Scripture without carefully considering the context – sometimes in the same chapter of the Bible, and sometimes without looking at the broader context of what God teaches us in other portions of His Word about this subject. For example, Abraham is the father of the faithful, right? In Romans 4:2-5 the Word of God says: “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,’” (NKJV)
Obviously, many Evangelicals believe and teach that those who claim to believe in Jesus and indicate such belief by raising a hand, walking an aisle, or bowing their heads and repeating a prayer are therefore saved forever – no matter whether there is any change in lifestyle or any hint of genuine repentance! They also tend to strongly assert to such “converts” that they are to be confident in their salvation and resist anyone who questions this as being an emissary of Satan. Oh, really? Is the Apostle Paul an emissary of Satan? By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote to the Corinthian church: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NKJV)
Now let’s look further into the context of Romans 4 about the faith of Abraham, and let’s dig deeper into the broader context of Scripture about the description of saving faith! What else did Paul write about the faith of Abraham? “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” Romans 4:19-22 (NKJV) This is God’s description of saving faith!
The essence of saving faith is confidence in the truth of God! This is what the Apostle Paul is teaching us in Romans 4! God saw that confident faith in Abraham before he manifested his faith by his actions, and He accounted it to him as righteousness. Just as God sees the tiny unborn child in the womb of his or her mother, so also He sees true faith in the heart of a repentant believer!
The evidence of saving faith is obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ! Jesus said to His followers, “If you love Me – keep my commandments!” He also clarified to them that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength! Have you noticed what Jesus said to Nicodemus shortly after the famous John 3:16 verse? John 3:36 says: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (ESV) (Note: The ESV is among the several most accurate translations of this verse, and many other Scriptures back up this truth about obedience. For example: “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,” Hebrews 5:8-9 NKJV) Trust and obey Him, for there is no other way! Saving faith is faith that obeys our Lord Jesus Christ!
This gives us the Biblical background to understand what James wrote by inspiration in James 2:21-24 (so that we don’t reject his epistle like Martin Luther did when he labeled it “a right strawy epistle”). Here is the passage: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” (NKJV) God saw Abraham’s faith before he acted by faith! James is telling us that we (human beings) see the evidence of faith by what a believer does. No evidence indicates – and eventually proves – no genuine faith!
What Evidences Can We Expect to See from Saving Faith?
Repentance is faith turning a believer’s heart from the darkness (evil) of sin to the light (glory) of Jesus Christ as Lord (Master)! “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,” Acts 3:19-20a (ESV)
Confession is faith turning a believer’s mouth from using the name of Jesus as an expletive to admitting and acknowledging that Jesus is our Savior and Master of our lives. It is confessing that we are unworthy sinners and He is deserving of being honored above all else and everyone else! Jesus said: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33 (ESV) Paul wrote: “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. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10 (NKJV)
Baptism is not a work of righteousness but is faith submitting to the Lordship of Jesus! Baptism demonstrates our willingness to portray our death to sin and self, be buried with Christ in the likeness of His death, and raised to new life in Christ in the likeness of His resurrection. In Acts 2:38, Peter replied to those who cried out, “What shall we do?” when their hearts were cut to the quick: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is a command that we submit to in humble obedience to please our Lord Jesus. Someone else does the work of pushing us under water and raising us up again in the likeness of Jesus’ own death, burial, and resurrection. It is the portrayal of the gospel to all of those who observe. I am not aware of anywhere in Scripture where baptism is labeled a “work” that we perform. Are you?
Saving faith is liberating and transforming faith! “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (ESV)
Saving faith is enduring faith! “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 (See also Hebrews 10:23; Revelation 2:7, 10-11; 3:5-6.)
Of course, the only way that saving faith (enduring faith) is possible for any of us former alien, rebel sinners is through the power of the Holy Spirit Who convicts us of sin, righteousness and judgement, plants in us the seed of the gospel (the Word of God), brings us to new birth, then comes to live inside our hearts to transform us, empower us to victory over sin, Satan, and temptation, and shapes us more and more into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Therefore, when we truly understand the Biblical description/definition of faith, all the supposed contradictions vanish like the morning mist in sunshine, and we see the beauty, harmony, and joy of our salvation by grace through faith in our Loving Lord! “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:4-10 (NKJV)
In Paul’s discourse on justification by grace through faith to the confused Galatian believers, he included what is probably the epitome of his confession of trust in Jesus! “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Galatians 2:19-21 (ESV)
Saving faith in our Lord Jesus is both a personal choice and a gift from God. How can I comprehend that it is both? I can’t fully comprehend it, but there is also much more of the depth of God’s truth and wisdom that I can’t understand completely. I do believe the inspired declaration of Paul: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” Romans 11:33 (NKJV) He wants to give you the gift of saving faith! Here is His invitation: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17 (NKJV)
The Lordship of Jesus and the Great Commission
Isn’t the Lordship of Jesus the foundation for His Great Commission? “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
The Logic of the Logos
When the apostle John began his account of the gospel, he did not begin with the birth of Jesus, but rather, he paralleled the Book of Genesis by beginning with the beginning! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1:1-3 (NKJV) Did you notice that he speaks of “the Word” three times in the first verse? What is he talking about? He does not leave us wondering, for in verse 14, he wrote: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” and in verse 17, he wrote: “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The Word is Jesus Christ Himself! He is God! He is the Creator of all things, which means He is all-knowing and the final authority over everything and everyone! John’s gospel is in Greek because it was the international language of the first century. The word “Word” in Greek is logos, which is also the word for logic. What is the point? Just this – just as authority begins and ends with Jesus (He will be our final Judge), so logic begins and ends with Jesus!
Therefore, if we find some things in the Word of God difficult to understand, we should not be surprised or confused. He has infinite knowledge – we have very limited knowledge and understanding. So, if He allows trials in our lives that we can’t understand, is it smart to argue with Him or accuse Him? Isn’t it the epitome of stupidity for us human beings to believe that we can out-argue the One Who knows all and is the Founder and Foundation of logic? Wouldn’t it be wise for us to apply this insight to questions like, “How can saving faith be both a personal choice and a gift from God?” 😊 What seems to be a contradiction is, in reality, simply the inability of finite minds to be able to comprehend the Infinite!
Foundational Principles of Logic
- The Law of Non-Contradiction
- The Law of Cause & Effect
- The Reliability of Our Sense Perceptions
- Analogical use of language (as in “sunrise” or “sunset”)
These are non-negotiable! Yet R.C. Sproul assigned his apologetics students to read the writings of the most famous atheists and take note of how they all argued against one or more of these foundational principles. What about: Woke Mentality; Death Mentality; Entitlement Mentality; Sodom Mentality and Mutilation Mentality? All of them violate the laws of logic! Aristotle did not invent the laws of logic – he simply recognized them! Logic originated with God Himself. In the beginning was the Word (Logos)! Columbus did not invent America! Neither did Aristotle invent the laws of logic! God is the author of the laws of logic!
Who Is Jesus?
When we truly realize Who Jesus is as God revealed in human flesh, as risen Lord and Master in His majesty and glory, we will spontaneously bow to Him in worship and stand for Him as the Way, The Truth, The Life!
Clarity About Sorrow and Joy
I remember wonderful friends, supporters, prayer partners who love Jesus and His gospel. I view the beautiful pictures of Della and our family in our living room and on our fridge and feel the waves of gratitude washing my soul of the craziness of griping and ingratitude. Besides, we are not even having to deal with the aftermath of tornadoes, blizzards, floods, or fires! I now feel like the richest man on earth! I have the riches of God’s amazing grace and favor! I need to remember: “We give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way!”
I also need to remember these pertinent passages: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:28-29 (NKJV) “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” 1 John 5:11-15 (NKJV) I also need to remember: “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus! Life’s trials will seem so small, when we see Christ!”
“For those who do not believe in God, sorrow is fundamental, and joy is superficial; for the Christian, joy is fundamental, and sorrow is superficial.”G.K. Chesterton – Joni Eareckson Tada testified that these ten words from a friend changed her life when she was so depressed that she wanted to die: “God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves!”
Do you remember this: “If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy – let Jesus come into your heart! Your sin He’ll take away – His peace He’ll give to stay – let Jesus come into your heart!”?
From Our Mailbox
The Odessa Mission Newsletter (January 2023)
We support several ministries via our joint project with Mercy Partners called “Love for Ukrainians” (LFU) and while most operate within Ukraine, one, on the other hand, is spearheaded by two American couples in Germany and that’ll be our focus in this update. Don and Cindy Roehrkasse pioneered the work in Hildesheim before Kyle and Susan Bratcher joined their team back in 1993. Included here are personal notes to us from select Ukrainians living there that we’ve found particularly inspirational. Your continued prayers for them all are greatly appreciated…
Svetlana Babrokova from Kharkiv, Ukraine (December 2022)
“My name is Svetlana, I’m 50 years old, and by God’s providential hand I’m now living here with my daughter Maria, her husband Vladimir, their twelve-year old daughter Anya, and seven-year-old son Timur. We’d never even heard of this city before let alone the dear people here, Don, Cindy, Kyle, and Susan, whom we’ve come to know and love. Throughout this ordeal nothing’s gone as we’d originally planned but God clearly chose to bless our lives through these four individuals and the congregation they serve.
The night of our arrival in Germany, April 4th, 2022, was cold and rainy. We didn’t know a soul, didn’t speak the language, and all we had was the clothes on our backs when Kyle and Susan met us with big smiles and promises that everything would be okay. At once they moved us into a warm and cozy room, prepared a delicious meal for us, and made sure we had everything we needed to start our new lives there. It literally felt like we were visiting close family members and I can’t even put into words how comforting that was. Understandably, since our hometown had undergone heavy shelling forcing us to cower in frigid underground bunkers for lengthy periods of time prior to our escape, we were severely traumatized at that point. Moreover, we ourselves had to evade artillery fire during the evacuation process not to mention the sheer horror of witnessing our beloved city going up in flames around us. We indeed shed many a tear as we came to terms with the harsh reality of it all. The one thought keeping us afloat, though, was our assurance that God would neither leave nor forsake us and thankfully He did not.
Registering as refugees wasn’t something we needed to worry about because the church handled all of that for us. Furthermore, Don, Cindy, Kyle, and Susan went the extra mile to make sure we didn’t get bored. They gave us tours of the city, explained the history to us, and invited us into their homes for meals. It was just wonderful. They also showed great interest in our culture and were in constant prayer for both our nation and people.
We’d later approach Susan about the prospect of helping our relatives flee some of the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, to which she graciously agreed, and today I’m overjoyed that they’re all living safely among us. In fact, what the church did for us it also did for them. There are now 27 Ukrainian refugees here. While all of them attend Sunday worship services not all believe in Jesus, which is why Susan started a women’s Bible study for us during the week. Besides that we also have various outings together like bike rides, meals, game nights, campfire times, and the like. Most refugees are placed on extended waiting lists before they can begin their state-subsidized German classes whereas our church itself is teaching us German.
Many of our people’s outlooks on life have changed dramatically because for the first time ever they’re truly experiencing the love of Christ. That’s what people need most of all. Many thanks to Don, his wife Cindy, Kyle, and his wife Susan for every minute of their undivided attention, their care, and their love. Though the future’s uncertain one thing is for sure and that’s the fact that I will never forget what they’ve done for me and my family. They are forever in my thoughts and prayers.”
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Good morning, Bob & Geri (a response to what came in our Mailbox), thank you again for the CDs you send me. Last Tuesday on my way to our ECC prayer meeting (and return trip), I listened to both programs with Ken Hovind debating three evolutionist professors. Later it reminded me of a famous old song: “Three Coins in a Fountain” – but with just a little imagination, it became “Three Fools with a Fountain of Lies Against One Creation Scientist with a Bastion of Truth”! 😊 May the resurrected Lord Jesus be always your joy, your hope, your comfort, your strength and victory! May you come to know Him deeper, love Him dearer and follow Him nearer! “Now may the God of hope fill you with all peace and joy as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 – Respectfully yours & His, Rick
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“Dear Rick, I am very impressed with your ministry. Thank you for following up on the information you sent. I am so glad that you are engaged in speaking the truth to as many as possible. Keep up the good work and I hope that we can collaborate. God bless you, Anne Schlafly Cori” (Eagle Forum)
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“Rick and Della, it truly is a joy each time I go to the mailbox and find some communication from you folk – whether a monthly newsletter or some sermon CDs or whatever. Thank you for your often repeated kindnesses. The sermon recordings from the Eagle church are always a blessing. And the Issues in Education recordings deal with important issues from a Biblical perspective. And how desperately that Biblical perspective – a genuine turning to the Word of God – is in our world which all too often seems totally out of touch with reality – in our nation which continues to stray so far from the God fearing, Biblical basis upon which it was founded. Thank you. I hope that this finds you both well. I am thankful as our God is bringing us closer to spring. May my Dear Lord Jesus Christ continue to bless you as you faithfully serve Him. Please use the extra $20 for needs concerning Ukraine. Thank you. Ken”
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“Dear Rick: Happy New Year! Thank you for writing. It was good to hear from you once more. Please accept my apology for the delay in responding. We were pleased that you sent your Christmas card with your prayer concerning Dr. Dobson and your words of encouragement. In addition, we appreciated you sending the enclosures including Randy Alcorn’s “Expect Great Things of God, and Leave the Results to Him,” Whitney Hopler’s “How to Find Hope in Any Situation,” Anne Schlafly Cori’s Eagle Forum letter reminding readers of America’s identity as a constitutional republic, and your own thoughts about “Fellowship in the Body of Christ.” Beyond that, those matters about which you’ve been wondering indeed are cause for prayer. As you are aware, the effects of the corrupting influence of Marxist ideology on college campuses over the last several decades have become more evident in recent years. Appallingly, there has been a growing acceptance of this pernicious philosophy, and its corrosive and undermining effects are increasingly being felt – even though it has failed, wreaking havoc, wherever it has been implemented (but why let facts get in the way of a useful narrative?!) Apart from God’s gracious intervention, we may continue our slide in this direction – and the farther along this path we go, the much less liberty we will know. May He change our trajectory (as we are in crucial need of a course correction)!
With regard to the article concerning fellowship, it is apparent that you’ve given serious thought to this topic. Naturally, it seems that believers would want to rally together around sound doctrine. For instance, according to Jude’s exhortation in verse 3 that his readers “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints,” it appears that this involves some objective content – doctrinal matters that could be denied or abandoned (e.g., “Notes on Jude,” “Compelled to Contend”). After all, there must be something about those beliefs that make them distinctively Christian, which some have identified as “essentials” of the faith. (Without an attempt to be exhaustive, they would include such matters as the existence and nature of God, His creation of the heavens and the earth, the virgin birth, Jesus’ sinless life, His sacrificial death, His bodily resurrection, His future return, receiving the gift of salvation by grace through faith, and the inspiration of the Scriptures.) On the other hand, doctrinal variations can occur in the “non-essential” category (e.g., millennial view, forms of church government, the “gray areas” of Romans 14).
Of course, this calls for the need for careful, contextual study (e.g., grammatical, historical/cultural) of the Bible. Even so, scholars disagree when it comes to interpretation. I heard Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason speaking about related concepts a few years ago. As best I recall, his comments indicated that he makes a concerted effort to closely study the Biblical text, which leads him to draw certain conclusions about its meaning. On that basis, he teaches with the good-faith mindset that what he is teaching is correct. At the same time, acknowledging the possibility of inaccurate interpretation or incomplete understanding, he is open to correction. He struck me as having a humble posture and balanced perspective. He teaches what he believes to be true based on his study of the Scriptures, but he recognizes that there may be “blind spots” in the mix.
On a broader scale, it is interesting that well-meaning, truth-seeking students of Scripture can differ when it comes to the results of their study. This would seem to imply at least a couple of things: 1) none of us has complete or perfect understanding of all things Biblical, and 2) the study of Scripture is a lifelong undertaking. 😊 As an observation, it hardly seems like an expression of Christlike love for believers who faithfully study yet arrive at differing positions not to be able to enjoy fellowship with one another. Who knows? Cordially discussing those very differences might even serve an iron-sharpening-iron function in one another’s lives. (Side note: I once heard a preacher say something to this effect in one of his sermons: “I hope that, when the Lord returns and we all rise to meet Him in the air, He gives me the grace to resist the temptation to turn to my fellow clergymen and say, “I told you so!” – and this from a Presbyterian! 😊) Again, thanks for getting in touch with us. If we ever can assist you in any way, please let us know. May the Lord richly bless you and your family, and may you and Della know His comforting, healing, guiding touch throughout the year ahead! Sincerely, David Harleyson (Correspondent for Dr. James Dobson Family Institute)
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“Men have forgotten God”
“In his Templeton address in 1983, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “…if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” Not surprisingly, the state-mandated school curriculum in the Soviet Union had evolutionary teaching as the core ideology.
The teaching of evolution is now destroying ‘the West’ (once strongly Christian nations). The atheist Daniel Dennett, in his book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, described evolution as the universal acid that “eats through virtually every traditional concept”. Indeed so. According to deep time thinking—as per evolution—death, suffering, and disease characterised the world since its beginning, thus the sin of man did not cause it. If the first Adam did not usher in death and suffering, then the significance of the suffering and death of the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:21,22,45) is undermined right there. The Gospel implodes. This also brings into question the goodness of God, the reliability of the Bible, and much more.” ~ Dr. Don Batten, CMI Creation Update, Feb. 2023
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The Grace of Giving
“The story is told of a missionary who had served faithfully for years in a remote Indonesian village. Early one morning, on the young evangelist’s birthday, a villager stopped by to give him a present. ‘This seashell is beautiful, Rabu,’ said the missionary. ‘But the ocean is more than five miles away. This must have cost you a great amount of time.’ Rabu dipped his head gracefully, smiled, and said, ‘Long walk part of gift.’” ~ Shared by Pastor Paul Sheppard
- Praise: we praise God for all of you who pray for us, for Ukraine, for our confused world in turmoil, and who practice the grace of giving! And praise for all those coming to Christ!
- Prayer: Please continue to pray for massive spiritual awakening to continue in Ukraine, USA, and worldwide!