by Rev. Robert L. Brush
Salvation by Faith

Now faith is the substance [ground or confidence] of things hoped for, the evidence [proof or test] of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report [had witness borne to them; had the witness in themselves (1 John 5:10); or a good testimony] (Hebrews 11:1-2).

We can readily see that the genuine faith spoken of here is the means by which the believers received the witness or testimony that what God had promised was certainly true, even though unseen at the time. Since this faith is confidence or substance, as if salvation was already possessed, it would have to be a gift from God and would necessarily be mixed with divine evidence. What is the nature of that true, scriptural faith that saves?

According to the Scriptures a true living faith in Christ is inseparable from a sense of pardon for all past and freedom from all present sin. Many think they are saved by their presumption or declaration of the fact. Much of what is called faith today is not faith at all but a logical conclusion of our own thinking. Yet this faith which saves is a free gift of God. He will surely bestow it upon every soul who earnestly and perseveringly seeks it by godly sorrow and repentance.

Being convinced of this truth, many sinners have sought and found saving faith as a gift from God. This gift comes by first renouncing all dependence in part or in whole upon their own works or righteousness which many trust in for most of their lives. By continual prayer for this justifying, saving grace and a full reliance on the blood of Christ as our sole justification, sanctification, and redemption, they have been happy finders and receive full and free forgiveness which makes them a real Christian.

John Wesley sought God in this manner after he had been preaching for seven years, thinking he was a true Christian. In the process of seeking after God he found himself listening to Luther's Preface to the Epistles of the Romans. Wesley stated, "I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that God had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death." Thus was this saving faith exhibited in Wesley's own experience, which resulted in him being a brand plucked from the burning to spread revival fire throughout England.

I. The Degrees of Faith

Grace is the source of salvation, while faith is the condition. It will help us by reviewing the various degrees of faith and the corresponding states of grace.

  1. Saving faith is not merely the faith of a heathen. God requires a pagan to believe there is a God and that He can be found. This God is the Creator of all things and should be given thanks for all things. We should be careful to practice moral virtues such as justice, mercy, and truthfulness. All mankind can and should have this much faith and none are without excuse (Rom 1:19-20). However, this is not the evangelical faith which saves the soul.

  2. Saving faith is not the faith of a demon, although this faith is more profound than that of a pagan. In Acts 16:17 we find a demon-possessed girl saying, "These men are servants of the Most High God who proclaim unto you the way of salvation."

    The devil not only believes there is a God who is just to punish evil and reward good, but also that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. In Luke 4:34 we find a demon crying out to Jesus, "I know who you are the Holy One of God." Many people who do not believe in the deity of Christ still believe they are saved, when they do not have as much faith as a demon!

    The demons believe that there is one God and tremble because they believe his Word, given by divine inspiration, promises that all His enemies will be trodden under His feet.

  3. Saving faith is not merely the faith which the apostles themselves had while Christ was on the earth walking and talking with them. Even though they had left all to follow Him, even though they had power to work miracles, heal all type of sickness, authority over demons, and were sent out to preach the Kingdom of God, when then returned from doing these mighty works, Jesus himself termed them "a faithless generation." When they prayed "increase our faith," Jesus replied that they had none. They could not trust in the atoning work of Christ until it was completed. Under the new covenant saving faith acknowledges the necessity and merit of Christ's death and the power of His resurrection.

  4. Saving faith has Christ as its object and it produces spiritual life. It is not merely the belief of a pagan. Such faith is bare speculation, a cold, lifeless consent to a logical train of thought. With the heart man believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom 10:9-10).

    This love of God, shed abroad in our hearts, which regenerates, is more than the apostles' faith before Pentecost. This faith acknowledges the necessity and merit of Christ's death as the only sufficient means of redeeming mankind from eternal death. It acknowledges the power of His resurrection as the restoration of all who believe to life and immortality. As Romans 4:24-25 teaches, saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ our Lord who was delivered for our sins and raised again for our justification.

    This true Christian faith, then, is not only an assent to the whole Gospel of Christ, but also a full reliance on the blood of Christ. It is a trust in the merits of His life, death, and resurrection. It is a repose in Him as our atonement and our life, as given for us and living in us. It is a sure confidence which a man has in God, that through the merits of Christ, his sins are forgiven and he is reconciled to the favor of God.
[to be continued in the next issue]