Faith and Salvation

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Last weekend, at the Ft Worth Children’s Museum, I saw a quote attributed to Albert Einstein, “Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere.”  As with most things I read these days, I immediately put a theology twist to it.  So I am thinking,  “Logic will get you from A to B, theologically speaking, but faith will take you everywhere.”  So many of our theology systems, while built on Scripture, are carried to the nth degree by human logic and when they are, misunderstanding ensues.

I am afraid that in our rush to fit everything biblical into a neat theological system, we have made knowledge and logic the ultimate goal in the Christian life.  But knowledge by itself produces arrogance (II Cor 8:1), and knowledge without love is useless (I Cor 13:2), and knowledge without faith has no saving value (James 2:19).

There is a popular system of theology that takes principles of Scripture like grace, election, atonement, and depravity, and adds adjectives to them based on human logic.  It produces something that, in my opinion, is not found in Scripture.  And one of its dangerous by-products is to minimize the value of faith.

A theology with a hyper-focus on God’s blueprint design, including our salvation, falls short of the full teaching of Scripture.  From Genesis to Revelation, it is clear that our faith matters.  It is clear that your faith makes a difference.  All the way from your salvation to changing the outcome of a situation, your faith matters.  Let me explain.

“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” (Eph 2:8,9).  Your salvation was pure gift.  Your salvation was by grace.  Your salvation was not based on works of the law.  But it was also through faith.  Your faith mattered.  There was a requirement for you to exercise faith in order to embrace the gospel message.

But many teachers today imply that if you believe your faith somehow contributed to your new birth, you are treating it as a “work” and, as such, are relying on “works” to save you.  At best, this view is confusing.  At worst, it implies that you are believing a different gospel and may in fact not be saved.  As hair-splitting as it seems, I have heard it preached this way, and it puts an unnecessary and disturbingly oppressive pressure and guilt on our believing brothers and sisters.  God is not the author of confusion.  So what does God require?

There is a “work” required for you to be saved.  But it is not a work of the law, it is the work of faith.  In John chapter 6, the crowd asked Jesus, ” ‘What shall we do, so 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 who He has sent’ ” (Jn 6:28,29).  Believing in Jesus, embracing His message, is the only work required for you to be saved.

In Romans chapter 4 and Galatians chapter 3, Paul reveals that Abraham was made righteous based on his faith.  His belief was not a work of the law – by which no one is saved – but was a work of faith.  “Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.  Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham” (Gal 3:6,7).  Our exercise of faith makes us spiritual descendants of Abraham and children of God.  “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26).  Your sonship came about through faith.

The balance between God’s choice and our faith in the matter of salvation may seem like just a theoretical discussion, but I think it has powerful life-giving applications.  When we combine our faith making a difference with God’s promise to never desert us, we have a powerful assurance of salvation.  Because I have exercised my faith and have said “I believe”, I have no doubt that I am in God’s family based on the promise of Jesus about those who believe.  Without knowing that my faith was rewarded with the gift of eternal life, I might spend my life doubtful, discouraged, and wondering if I am in; if I am included in God’s choice.

Likewise, because I believe in God’s choice, my salvation is secure.  I never have to wonder if my faith was or is strong enough.  When my faith wavers, I never have to worry about being outside His secure hand.  I know I am secure in God’s hand.  He promised that (Jn 10:28-29).  What I am saying is that my faith had something to do with getting into His hand.  And knowing I got there by faith is part of my assurance of salvation.

Now, not only is our salvation influenced by faith, but our daily walk as well.  We will talk about that subject next time.