“Faith in Christ is all that is needed for salvation,” wrote one of our readers in response to a recent post.
The doctrine of “faith only” is not a new theological idea. Issues surrounding faith and works have been debated for centuries. And various religious groups give differering answers to the question, “What must I do to be saved?”
It is important, however, for us to ask, “What does the Bible say?”
The word “faith” by definition means “a firm persuasion, a conviction based upon hearing.” It involves trust and fidelity. Paul uses “faith” in this sense to speak of the nature of his preaching when he wrote “that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2:5).
However, “faith” is used by metonymy to refer to the contents of what is believed. 39 times the New Testament uses the expression “the faith” to speak of the gospel, the revealed Word of God. The book of Acts records those who “were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). Paul said some had made shipwreck of “the faith” (1 Timothy 1:19). And Jude appealed for us to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to all the saints” (Jude 3).
It is also worth noting that the Bible never speaks of many faiths. In Paul’s platform for Christian unity, he affirmed there is “one faith” (Eph 4:4). In other words, there is one gospel.
In Romans 5:1-2 “faith” is used in both ways. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
It is our faith in “the faith” that brings us into a right relationship with God. Thus, it is important regarding the question of salvation, “What does “the faith” lead us to believe? And to do?
First of all, none of us could be saved apart from God’s grace. Paul penned, “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” (Eph 2:8-9).
By God’s grace Jesus came into the world to “seek and save the lost.” It is in Him alone that we can receive salvation (Ax. 4:12). Through his vicarious death on the cross and the shedding of his sinless blood, we are justified–made right before God. The Bible says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom 5:8-9).
So, how do we come in contact with the saving blood of Jesus? And when do we experience a relationship with Him?
To Saul of Tarsus, the preacher Ananias proclaimed the gospel message and concluded with this challenge: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’” (Ax 22:16). This reminds me of the old hymn that asks, “What can wash away my sins?” And it answers, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus!” This is in harmony with John’s statement that Jesus has “washed us from our sins in His own blood”(Rev. 1:5).
Later Saul who became the great apostle Paul would write about our relationship with the Lord saying, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal.3:26-27).
My faith in the faith calls for me to preach the commission of Christ and obey His command: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:15-16).
Of course, salvation not obtained by merely observing some religious rituals. There must be a genuine change of heart. A sincere desire to serve God. That’s why Jesus demanded repentance (Lk. 13:3-5). And the apostle Peter in the first sermon on Pentecost when the crowd asked what they must do be saved, responded, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins” (Ax 2:38).
Faith works. It really does. But the work it does is not “the works of man’s righteousness.” But the “works of God’s righteousness.” (Titus 3:5; Ax 10:35).
Faith is not just a mental ascent. Nor a canned liturgical recitation. It is confidently trusting God with our whole heart (Prov. 3:5). Truly being “obedient to the faith” (Ax 6:7) And daily “walking by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman