Sunday, August 31, 2008

An Odd Look at Saving Faith

Faith is a term we use daily. We talk about it constantly. We base just about everything in our Christian lives on it. Christian faith is the second most essential thing we can possess (for the most important, see 1 Corinthians 13:13).

The New Testament (KJV) uses the word ‘faith’ a total of 229 times. By contrast, the Old Testament uses the word a mere two times, one of which, Deuteronomy 32:20, is a negative usage.

Let's look at four outrageous statements about faith:

Our faith is our (second) greatest treasure.
It is our faith that keeps us from day to day.
Our faith will bring us salvation and eternal life.
Our faith is the center of our entire life, as a Christian, and everything else in our life is centered around our faith.

Why outrageous? Because every one of those statements is WRONG. They all refer to OUR faith, or we could just as easily substitute MY faith.

The fact is, that faith is not ours. It is not mine. Ephesians 2:8 tells us plainly that the faith that saves us has nothing to do with us. It is the gift of God alone. I thank God that it is His, and not mine. My weaknesses are too great to be entrusted with using my own. That verse demands to be carefully read and fully understood. We are saved by grace – God’s grace, God’s unmerited favor. We are saved by that grace through faith – saving faith, trust, confidence, sure and certain belief. That faith does not originate with us, nor can we attain it by any effort on our part; it is the free gift of God. Verse 9 goes on to say: “Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Faith is substance.
Substance is assurance.
Assurance is a guarantee or pledge.
A guarantee is a promise, beyond simple assurance.
A guarantee is not given by one to oneself.
It is given by a second party; otherwise it is not a guarantee or promise.

Therefore, faith does not originate with man, but is instead given to him by someone else; and the measure of a man’s faith is totally dependent on the generosity of the giver. The one to whom it is given can request more, but he has no control over the quantity given. Consider what Paul says in Romans 12:3: “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

If I were gifted with a mind superior to all the world’s greatest thinkers and scientists (I am not), if I had the wealth of all the knowledge of the ages at my fingertips, I would still be possessed of a fallible, limited, incomplete, human mind. My faith, conversely, is not my own. It is God’s, and therefore infallible. I no longer have to take shelter in what I can see and experience with my limited human senses.

In the old hymn, we sing, “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.” The power of God is the victory, and faith is only the instrument through which that power works. It is God, through His Son, who saves us, then sanctifies us. It is God who gives us the faith that makes that possible. It is God who then overcomes the world on our behalf, because He is pleased with us, because of that faith. God is the source, God is the middle, God is the end. God does it all, and we have no greater duty than to accept His saving grace, and no greater calling than to praise Him and thank Him for his sovereignty, majesty, glory, power, love, and holiness.

Larry Teal

Teaching Elder, Pigeon River Baptist Church

Vanderbilt, MI