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Summary: We examine the three aspects of true faith (knowledge, assent and trust), before seeing the distinctive features of a saving faith.

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"What Does It Mean to Believe?"

(Acts 16:31)

I. Introduction.

A. Orientation.

1. We talk a lot about faith in connection with salvation, and no wonder: Paul tells us it's something we must have in order to be saved, as we see from our passage. But what does it mean to believe?

a. In Protestant circles, we believe that we are saved by grace - by God's unmerited favor - through faith alone.

b. It's important for us to say this because we want to make a distinction between what we believe and what the Roman church believes.

(i) They believe that they are saved by the grace of God alone.

(ii) But the way they believe they receive that grace is not by faith alone, but through the sacraments given to them by a consecrated priest, and through their cooperation with the grace they receive, they receive more grace.

(iii) But if the "salvation" they receive is not by faith alone, can it really be by grace alone? And if it isn't by grace alone, do they really receive God's salvation?

2. Even within Protestant circles, we differ as to what that faith is that brings salvation.

a. Faith is so often defined as a prayer we pray, or something we do that is so pleasing to God, He actually counts our faith as the righteousness that saves us.

b. But can our faith itself be a work we do to make us acceptable to God? If it is, what happens to grace?

c. Whenever we add works to grace, we destroy grace. Grace, by definition, excludes works. If salvation is to be by grace alone, it must be by faith alone, apart from works, as Paul writes, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).

d. We need to avoid this error as much as Rome's, since they both add up to the same thing: that somehow our works earn or add to our salvation.

3. How should we understand faith so that we don't turn it into a work?

a. Faith is looking to someone else to save us, to the only One who can save us: to Christ.

b. It is looking away from our own works to His, from our so-called "merits" to His infinite merit, and receiving in Him our right standing before God.

B. Preview.

1. We know this is true, but how often do we struggle to understand what this means? When you consider how important this particular teaching is to yourself, to your children, and to those you might try to lead to Christ, then you realize this is one area in which you can't afford to be wrong.

2. That's why we're going to spend this evening looking at saving faith - both to make sure we have it, as well as to equip ourselves to help others find their way to Christ.

a. First, we'll look at the different parts of faith, but only briefly.

b. Then we'll seek to understand what it means to believe savingly.

II. Sermon.

A. First, we know that faith has different parts.

1. First, there's knowledge.

a. It's important - if we're going to be saved - to hear and understand the Gospel.

b. The Bible says, "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17).


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