Summary: What does it mean to "have faith", and what does it mean to be saved by faith?
FAITH UNTO SALVATION
Mark 16:15-18, "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
God’s Church is a church of Faith. The OT only uses the word faith twice, and one of those times it is used in the sense of “faithfulness.” The NT uses the word “faith” over 200 times. The word “believe” is used only 17 times in the OT, and over 100 in the NT. The OT clearly was a message of “works”, while the NT is based squarely on Faith. Jesus stressed the importance of faith throughout his ministry. No wonder the people marvelled at his teachings in contrast to the legalist formalism of the Scribes and Pharisees! Jesus intended His church to be a church of Faith. Six times John records Jesus’ words; “He that believeth on me…”
· John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
· John 6:47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
· John 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
· John 12:44 Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.
· John 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
· John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
The apostles continued in Faith. Their preaching and teaching was centered in Faith. Paul went to great lenghts to explain salvation in terms of faith. Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” No wonder Jude was so adamant that we hold to the concept of faith. Jude 3 “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” No doubt faith was being replaced with other means even as early as the end of the first century. It is always easier for man to follow rules than to trust God! Perhaps that is why Jesus asked the question; Luke 18:8 “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”
A church empowered by faith was quickly reduced to a church relying on works. “The Spirit became more and more confined to ‘the Church’ until in all but name ‘the Church’ stood above the Spirit. To all intents and purposes the Spirit became the property of the Church, with the gift of the spirit tied to a ritual act, and authority to bestow the spirit confined to the bishop” (Dunn). The reformation succeeded in lifiting the darkness from the Word of God and shifted the focus of salvation from sacrements back to faith. However, the “faith” of the reformation was “essentially an affirmation of Biblical propositions.” To most Protestants-even today-the bible is their only religion and conversion is justification by faith (mental assent) alone. They consider anyone who requires “works”-such as repentance, baptism, or holiness to be legalists. Their view fails to grasp the true meaning of faith! Their doctrine consist only in the idea that if you believe the truth of the Bible, and confess you sins you have been saved. The problem is, they do not understand true faith. I pray that by the time this message is done, we will understand what true faith is-faith that brings salvation!
First of all, we must understand that Faith requires action. We can believe many things, but if we never act on that belief, it profits us nothing. I can believe that flipping the light switch will cause the room to be illuminated, but if I don’t put some action with my belief I will remain in darkness. Faith ALWAYS demands a response. James wrote; James 2:19-20, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" Notice the context. James is not so much trying to state a doctrinal conception of the Godhead as he is trying to make us understand true faith. If believing were enough, the devils would be saved! The problem is, the devils don’t put that belief into action, therefore they have no faith! True faith understands there is one sovereign God, but then goes on to submit to the will of that God! That the difference between believing and faith!