Summary: We examine the three aspects of true faith (knowledge, assent and trust), before seeing the distinctive features of a saving faith.
"What Does It Mean to Believe?"
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.
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.
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).
c. What is it we have to hear? The Gospel. "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16).
d. We not only need to hear it, but we need to understand it. Jesus said, "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road" (Matt. 13:19).
e. But this by itself is not enough.
2. It's also essential that we believe what we hear.
a. So many today don't believe what the Bible says.
(i) They think it's some kind of fairy tale for people looking for a crutch to shore up their lives.
(ii) The "experts" can't be wrong - and the experts say that we all evolved.
(iii) But what they don't realize is that the "experts" don't know evolution took place, they just choose to believe it did, and that against all the evidence.
b. If you are to be saved, you have to believe the Bible is true - that you really are a sinner, that Christ really is the only Savior - otherwise, you will never be able to "believe" and be saved.