Larry M. Arrowood
We must not think of faith only in terms of a miracle of healing, protection, or provision: all these though wonderful, have to do with the physical man: therefore, they are temporal. The most important aspect of faith is the role it plays in salvation: this has to do with the spiritual man, therefore, it is eternal. It is impossible to be saved without faith. Even God’s awesome grace does not save us unless appropriated by a personal response of faith.
Salvation is by the grace of God. By grace, we mean the plan of salvation was conceived solely by God and presented to man for his acceptance or rejection. Grace originated not from merit, it is the gift of God. Man was spiritually dead, but God offered to him life again. We were servants of Satan and sin. God offered us deliverance from both. Our sin had separated us from God’s fellowship; nonetheless, God invited us back into His presence. We were under the curse of eternal damnation; still, God offered to reverse the curse to a blessing of eternal life. All of the above benefits man could not do. No amount of personal effort could accomplish even one of these, yet, God made them available by His grace.
This is where faith enters the picture. This marvelous grace of God is appropriated in our lives by our personal faith in God. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Faith in Jesus Christ is essential for salvation; otherwise, the grace of God is not appropriated in one’s individual life. Does this not suggest that man is “earning” salvation by the “act” of believing? No! Man’s faith is, like grace, a gift of God. God placed within every human an element of faith to enact the gift of grace. God’s grace is a gift. The faith to appropriate grace is also a gift from God. This makes salvation totally unearned by man; instead, it is God’s gift to man. We activate faith in our hearts by our own will, likewise, we can destroy the faith God has given to us by our own will.
“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God path dealt to every man the measure of faith” [Romans 12:3].
Within each of our lives is a “measure of faith,” more for some and less for others, but enough to allow us to believe in Jesus Christ. This belief in Jesus Christ starts the process of salvation in our lives. Yet, to believe on Jesus Christ is not only for a single moment, otherwise, grace would be abandoned as our faith ceased. . . many have done so. Saving faith is that singularly moment that brings grace into our lives; moreover, it is an attitude that continues with us throughout life, causing us to “…grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” [II Peter 3:18]. Our faith in Jesus Christ must continue.
There exists however, both a saving faith (of which we have been reading), and what has been termed “acknowledging faith.” It is acknowledging faith which many ignorantly misinterpret as being sufficient for salvation, but it is not. Let me explain.
We can all agree that Satan is not saved; yet, Satan believes in God.
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” [James 2:19].
Satan has faith that there is a God: Satan has even experienced God [Ezekiel 28:14-15]. Yet Satan’s faith does not save him, on the contrary, it condemns him. For Satan’s faith is what we term “acknowledging faith.” Acknowledging faith is simply this: we acknowledge or affirm that we believe in God, that is, that God exists. But this faith does not appropriate grace. For it does not produce a response to trust God, nor actively seek God. It does not prompt obedience nor cause one to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Acknowledging faith does not, within itself, draw us near to God. Rather, we simply acknowledge that we believe in God.
Saving faith is different than acknowledging faith in that saving faith causes us to respond in a positive way toward God. Saving faith is an active faith: we cannot earn the grace of God but we act upon the grace of God extended to us. This faith causes us to reach out our hand to the extended hand of God’s grace. This faith exceeds an acknowledging about God, or even a “profession of faith in Christ;” instead, saving faith, on impulse, causes us to respond to the God in whom we believe.
Saving faith is evidenced by a submission of Lordship to Jesus Christ and a turning from sin and Satan to God and righteousness. This process is the new birth experience. The examples of this experience include repentance, water baptism in Jesus’ name, and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Once we have completed this initial experience of salvation, there develops a love for God’s Word and a tremendous desire to live a transformed life of continual love for and devotion to Jesus Christ. This is what New Testament saving faith is all about: a living of one’s faith instead of a talking about one’s faith. Saving faith causes us, like the first disciples of Christ, to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:1-4]. Saving faith prompts us, like the believers in the first century church, to submit to baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ [Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, 8:12, 14-16; 9:17-18; 10:44-48; 16:15, 33; 19:1-6]. In fact, saving faith and obedience to God’s Word grow together inseparably. The measure of faith in our hearts is activated by obedience to Jesus Christ. We have a will, or choice, and we can choose to follow Christ or reject Christ. Rejection of Christ can ultimately lead to total loss of faith; consequently, once faith is lost, we cannot appropriate the grace of God in our lives, thus we are eternally damned, but this is of our own choosing. God’s grace was sufficient, however, we never appropriated that grace by activating the measure of faith (the God-given means to salvation, God’s gift).
To say that faith is the only requirement for salvation is both true and misleading. It is of course true from the reading of scriptures, for a host of scriptures link together faith and salvation; yet, it is misleading in that our interpretation of such scriptures often overlook the insurmountable evidence of scriptures that teach us what faith is. Our faith must go beyond acknowledging that we believe in God. We must enter into a saving faith. How do we know we have saving faith? Can we “know” we have “saving faith”? Yes. There is criteria for saving faith recorded in the Holy scripture. For this cause Jesus said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” [John 5:39]. The Jewish religious leaders had their own set of guidelines for establishing “who’s who” in religion. Jesus challenged, “Search the scriptures,” for the Bible is God’s only acceptable guideline for religious criteria.
First, saving faith will produce the New Birth experience (as before mentioned) in our lives. To be born again, we must have died, not physically, but spiritually. The old man, controlled by the carnal spirit is now under the control of God’s Spirit. Once we have experienced the New Birth, as we continue to live in this realm of saving faith, our lives will begin to take on the criteria that qualifies whether or not we are continuing to walk in saving faith [Mark 16:17-18]. This is not earning salvation, for salvation is the gift of God, but it is defining saving faith and determining if we are living under grace. Saving faith, as defined by scripture, is more than words: it is based upon the truth of God’s Word, thus it is obedience to God’s Word [John 7:38-39].
Saving faith is more than a feeling, in that saving faith causes us to change our lifestyles from the works of the flesh to the works of the Holy Spirit (people will notice a change of the fruit we bear), thus, it is an action. Saving faith, if present, like the presence of wind, though perceived as invisible, will produce signs of its presence, thus making it seem visible. Saving faith is more than a thought about God; rather, it is an attitude that links us up with God. Such faith is a heart response; that is, we express how we inwardly feel about Christ by a personal outward devotion and loyalty to Him. It is one thing to say I have saving faith, it is another thing to live a life that is the result of saving faith active within our hearts. For this cause, the Apostle Paul wrote: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves . .” [H Corinthians 13:5]. It becomes the responsibility of all professing Christians to continually examine their faith, to see if it is in harmony with the scriptural definition of saving faith; for faith can be lost. To lose our faith is to nullify the grace of God in our lives; and consequently be lost [II Corinthians 6:1; Hebrews 12:15; II Peter 2:20-21].
The grace of God in our lives is contingent upon both an initial response of saving faith on our part and in continuing to live in an attitude constituting saving faith until Jesus calls us home [Colossians 1:21-23; James 1:25]. If we drop out of the race (terms used by Paul to describe the Christian walk constitute action: fight, warfare, wrestle), it is not because God’s grace is insufficient; rather, our failure lies within our refusal to maintain an attitude of saving faith. Somewhere along the way we chose not to walk in saving faith: obedience to Christ’s Word, a changed lifestyle, active seeking after the Holy Spirit’s will, an attitude of personal devotion and loyalty to Christ. Sometimes we drift back into an acknowledging faith only, thus the absence of saving faith conforms us to this world and all its ways; on the contrary, saving faith transforms us into a life well pleasing unto Jesus Christ.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God, For 11 say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” [Romans 12: 1 -3].
The above article, “Saving Faith,” is written by Larry M. Arrowood. The article was excerpted from the ninth chapter of Arrowood’s book Grace Faith Works: Finding the Biblical Balance.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.