The Faith that Saves
If we start at the very beginning, we must ask, “What is faith?” Let’s consider two major misunderstandings of biblical faith –
- “Faith is a blind leap in the dark.” Actually, faith is based on credible evidence. Design in the universe points to a cosmic Designer. Fulfilled prophecy points to Someone who knows the future and records in specific details what will happen hundreds or thousands of years in advance. Credible eyewitnesses testify that Jesus lived, died, and was raised from the dead. They risked their lives to proclaim these facts.
- “Faith is a denominational opinion.” We hear religious people speak of “my faith” in ways that are optional and unbiblical. They believe that people may embrace a faith that is very different from their own, and yet each will be saved. They promote salvation by “faith alone” – despite the fact that the only time this phrase occurs in the New Testament, it denies its ability to save (James 2:24).
True faith is . . .
(1) conviction, Romans 10:17 - So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
(2) trust, 2 Corinthians 4:13 - But since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke…”
(3) obedience, 2 Corinthians 5:7 - For we walk by faith, not by sight.
What does the New Testament say about faith?
- Faith works. “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” – James 2:14-17.
Faith without works (action) is feeding the poor with pretty words. This faith cannot save (v.14). James warns three times that this faith is dead (see verses 17, 20, 26).
Faith itself is a work. “Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” –John 6:26-29. Jesus certainly does not mean that faith is a work of merit, but of obedience. If faith does not work, it is dead (James 2:17).
- Faith works anything God says. “ But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?” (James 2:20-21).
James refers to God’s command to Abraham in Genesis 22. God commands Abraham to slay his son Isaac. Abraham assumes that God will raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19). Since God always opposed child sacrifice, killing Isaac not only goes against God’s nature, but also against His promise to bless the world through Isaac. Abraham’s faith is so great, however, that Isaac is as good as dead. Abraham does not pit God’s command against God’s promise. He simply does what God says. This is why it is faith. It rests upon the word of God, not human wisdom, emotion, or speculation.
When disobedient Israelites are bitten by snakes, God’s word instructs those who want to be cured to look at a brazen snake on a pole (Numbers 21). When Naaman seeks a cure from leprosy, God’s prophet instructs him to dip seven times in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5). True faith will do anything God’s word commands, even if it sees no logical connection between the command and the promise (Romans 10:17).
- Faith works everything God says. “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God ” (James 2:22-23).
Throughout his life, Abraham believed God. According to James 2, the faith that justifies him before God is completed by works. Faith is useless without works. Verse 23 summarizes all of Abraham’s works with one expression, “Abraham believed God.” Verse 24 applies this same principle to you and me: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”
- Faith works exactly as God says. “Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” (James 2:25).
Rahab, a Gentile harlot, demonstrates more faith than many religious people. To be saved from the destruction of Jericho, she must put a scarlet cord in her window, bring her family into her house, remain inside, and not reveal Israel’s plans. If she fails in just one of these instructions, she will die with the others in Jericho.
James describes Rahab’s deeds as “works”; the Hebrew writer says she did these deeds “by faith” (11:31).
A person of faith does exactly what God says. Everything else is unbelief.
- Rick Duggin
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