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Saved By Faith
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3: 16)
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. (Ephesians 2: 8, 9)
These beautiful verses are certainly among the very foundation stones of Christianity. Many have read and reread these verses for the comfort and strength they afford. But who has understood them? You be the judge.
Make no mistake the Scriptures affirm that salvation is by faith, but what do they mean? Are we saved by faith alone? Is obedience excluded from the salvation process? Are there stages or steps in coming to faith?
What are the stages of faith?
We would suggest that the Scriptures indicate that there are several stages in faith. Keep your mind open for a few minutes and see if you agree or disagree.
1. Assenting faith
2. Developing faith
3. Perfected faith
What is assenting faith?
Assenting faith is the initial faith that assents or agrees to the proposition that there is a God and that Jesus is the Son who died for our sins.
Can you cite some examples from the Scriptures of assenting faith?
Many of the rulers of the Jews believed in Jesus but because of fear of being cast out of the synagogue did not confess Him. (John 12: 42, 43)
The demons believe and shudder. (James 2: 19)
Nicodemus came to Jesus saying, “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher.” (John 3: 2)
Those that believe in His name are given the right to become children of God. (John 1: 12, 13)
What is developing faith?
Developing faith is simply the faith between assenting faith and perfected faith. In my own life I was taught from a young child to believe in God but did not experience perfected faith until I through faith obeyed God in baptism at twelve years of age. My father believed in God and Jesus from his youth but his faith was not perfected until he was an older man. On the other hand developing faith may be of very short duration.
The Apostle Peter gives us an example of developing faith. In Luke 9: 20 Peter acknowledges that Jesus was the Christ of God yet shortly before the crucifixion of Christ Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus told Peter that He had prayed that his faith would not fail and that when he was turned again he should strengthen his brethren. (Luke 22: 31- 34)
Luke gives another example in Acts 19. Paul found some disciples at Ephesus who believed but knew nothing of the Holy Spirit. They only had knowledge of John the Baptist’s baptism. Paul explained that John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Christ who would come after him. With this additional knowledge they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and received the Holy Spirit when Paul laid hands on them. When their faith was perfected they obeyed.
The Apostle Paul is another example of developing faith. After seeing the vision of the Lord Jesus he obviously believed because he went into Damascus as instructed. He was there for three days without sight, neither eating or drinking and praying to God. Praying to God, as many suggest today, did not save him. Ananias came to him and said, “And now why do you delay? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” Paul obeyed and was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 22, 16; 9: 17)
What is perfected faith?
Simply put, perfected faith is obedient faith. James gives us the clearest description of perfected faith. James states that faith, which does not work or obey, is dead and useless and does not save. He makes clear by using Abraham and Rahab as examples that he is speaking of justification not sanctification. He also makes clear that righteousness was imputed to Abraham upon his obedience of offering up Isaac as a sacrifice. (James 2: 14- 26)
Luke alludes to this perfected faith when he states, “a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith”. (Acts 6: 7)
Twice in the Romans letter Paul states that the goal of his apostleship was to bring about the obedience of faith, allusions to perfected faith. (Romans 1: 5; 16: 26)
In Galatians 5: 6 Paul states that that which avails in Christ is faith working through love. In Galatians 3: 26, 27 he states that those who through faith have been baptized into Christ are children of God and have clothed themselves with Christ and His righteousness.
But doesn’t Paul’s statement “not by works” exclude obedience as being essential to salvation?
Of course not! People who make that statement are confusing “obedience” with “works”. A “work” is a response of man that does not proceed from faith in God and is not motivated by love. A “work” proceeds from faith in man (Luke 18: 9) or in their heritage. (Philippians 3: 4- 6) A “work” is motivated by pride or fear, not love.
Paul specifically states that those who do not obey the gospel will suffer the penalty of eternal destruction. (2 Thessalonians 1: 8, 9)
Peter speaks of those who do not obey the gospel (1 Peter 4: 17) and those who have purified their souls in obedience to the truth and love for the brethren. (1 Peter 1: 22)
The Hebrews writer says that Christ, even though He was a Son, became obedient and is to all that obey Him the source of eternal salvation. Hebrews 5: 8, 9)
Is faith of us?
We should understand that faith is both a response of man and a gift from God. You cannot read the four Gospels and the book of Acts without concluding that man is an active participant in coming to faith. (Acts 16: 31) Faith is something we do and it comes from hearing and reading the word of God. But by the same token we also know that faith is the work of God (John 6: 29) and that we believe by the grace of God. (Acts 18: 27) No one can come to the Father unless granted by God. (John 6: 65)
The Scriptures state that we are saved by grace through faith. This “saving faith” is a perfected faith, an obedient faith, a faith motivated by love. Salvation is by the grace of God through faith, which obeys in love.
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Last Update 09/26/12