In our last entry we carefully laid out what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ – to come to embrace the Christian faith sincerely in your heart. We particularly looked at the three essential elements of saving faith historically known by those three Latin terms notitia, assensus, and fiducia. Theologians have used these to express the knowledge, assent, and trust involved in faith. We also considered the simple promises of God in Scripture which show how uncomplicated it is to come to faith in Jesus and thus become a true Christian.
Since it is vital for you to embrace the Christian faith in order to know the truth and to be saved, in this post we will expand upon some of the points made in the previous post. I hope to make it even more plain to you by giving a series of biblical descriptions of the Christian faith. As you read each description think about yourself and whether these are true of your faith! I have underlined the key concept in each description.
Description #1: Faith must first have the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus. To be saved people must particularly know and understand the work of Jesus on the cross and his bodily resurrection from the dead. They must understand Jesus came into the world as the God-man to save sinners by dying on the cross and breaking the power of death through His resurrection. This gospel information or fact must be explained to someone before faith can emerge. Knowledge of the gospel cannot be bypassed. Knowledge is the foundation of the building of faith.
Description #2: Faith must agree the historical facts of the gospel of Jesus are literally true. The person listening to the gospel presentation must agree it is not some fairytale but is historically and objectively true. The person must assent to the truths and no longer be a skeptic. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 explains that faith is in the truth. God never asks us to trust or have faith in a lie or a myth. Agreement that the Bible and the gospel is the truth is the next essential component of saving faith. Assent is the structure of the building of faith built upon the foundation of knowledge.
Description #3: Faith must have need of the gospel. Faith may not merely listen to and agree to the gospel. It must know one has need of the gospel due to personal sin and the reality of God’s pending judgment. The person who believes in Jesus must see in the gospel the only way of salvation. He must perceive his personal need of forgiveness before a holy God. He must sense that he is guilty of breaking the moral law of God. He must know his sin places himself in eternal danger before a holy God. The gospel seen this way becomes something he runs to due to great need. He knows he needs rescuing. Faith is born out of his need. It is no casual acceptance of truth but an earnest embracing of something desperately needed.
Description #4: Next faith must become more than a feeling of the need for forgiveness. It must turn into an actually trust in Jesus Christ personally. A person could recognize their need of the gospel, but still decide to remain in the realm of destruction. So faith is born of need, but a mere recognition of need is not yet faith. There must be a decision to trust Jesus Christ to save you from your sin. Faith is a decision of the will to place full trust in Jesus Christ as one’s all sufficient Savior from God’s judgment. Since faith requires this volitional step, faith is decisional. If there is no decision made, there is no real trust or faith. The decision is made in the mind and heart within each person who contemplates his personal need. Without this step of personal trust in Jesus nothing before this is true saving faith. The decision to trust Christ is the roof of the building which rests upon the structure of assent and need which in turn rests on the foundation of knowledge.
Description #5: Once personal trust in Jesus is exercised and the decision is made, the faith thus placed in Jesus Christ becomes its own assurance. Faith by definition is belief, and belief is equated with a measure of confidence. Remember Hebrews 11:1 faith is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” One does not believe/trust in Christ if there is no level of confidence that Christ will indeed deliver from peril and destruction. There can be no trust without a measure of confidence. If one is unsure, waffling, or restless in their so-called faith, they haven’t actually come to faith in Jesus. Though the believer does not have perfect confidence, and still may retain a measure of doubt, nevertheless he also has some confidence that the One he has trusted will deliver him.
Description #6: By the nature of faith, faith cannot have full sight or total proof to qualify as faith. Full investigative powers with exhaustive knowledge of the situation is impossible. God has presented evidence, adequate evidence, but He always leaves a measure of unseen things which are not affirmable or open to human investigation. Evidence and facts only go so far. Then faith must travel the rest of the distance. The Puritan Thomas Watson wrote, “Where reason cannot wade there faith may swim.” So your faith is given in place of sight. Very few Christians, even in Bible times, got to see Jesus. Peter even proclaimed this in Acts 10:41-43. He said Jesus appeared after His resurrection, “not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us, who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.” Only a chosen few got to see Jesus’ bodily resurrection.
Description #7: Another byproduct of faith besides assurance is more understanding. Once someone comes to faith in Jesus his eyes are opened to even more understanding of God and spiritual truths. Jesus rewards our trust in Him by opening up the mind to perceive things one could never perceive before faith. This is exciting and freeing. In John 8:32 Jesus said to those who would believe in Him, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” The connection is that faith leads to truth and truth to freedom. Once you come to faith your eyes are opened to more spiritual realities around you. This in turn helps you see the logic of faith and deepen your faith even more. This is one of the blessings of faith. There is so much to learn, so much you had wished you understood before faith. Once faith comes, the understanding increases exponentially.
Description #8: Faith, if genuine, is life-changing. Faith in Jesus Christ is not casual or inconsequential. Faith in Jesus reroutes your entire life. It changes your motivation. It alters your goals in life. It affects your mind and thoughts on a range of issues. Faith is followed by a new direction in life. Indeed that life itself is called new life in Christ.
Pulling all the descriptive factors together, here is a full statement of what it means to have Christian faith. Faith is a wise and genuine trust in Jesus Christ as the Risen Savior, involving an intellectual agreement with all the facts of the gospel, even without obtaining full evidence, arising out of true need, accompanied with an exercise of the volition to commit to Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior, resulting in assurance one is saved, a growing knowledge of God, and a radical alteration of life.
Is this the faith you possess? If it is, welcome to God’s family in Christ! You are a believer in Jesus the Son of God and have been guaranteed everlasting life, forgiveness of all your sins, the resurrection of your body, and a home in God’s kingdom forever. You now have the traveling companion of true and wise faith for all of your life! Nothing could be a better choice!