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Definitions of Doctrine
by C. D. Cole
Volume II- SIN, SALVATION, SERVICE
PART 2-THE BIBLE DOCTRINE OF SALVATION
CHAPTER 10-Saving Faith
All is not gold that glitters; all is not silver that shines; every cow that moos does not fill the pail; neither will all who profess faith, and say “Lord, Lord” reach heaven. When we speak of saving faith the implication is, that there is a faith that does not save. We preach salvation by faith without any works of human merit, and in this we are right on safe ground. It is the uniform teaching of Scripture that the sinner is saved by faith only: “It is of faith that it might be by grace,” (Rom. 4:16). If the sinner does anything beyond faith for salvation, he frustrates the grace of God. But we have reckon with counterfeits in the matter of faith, as in other things. There are many counterfeits in the realm of religion. Satan is the master counterfeiter. If God has a Son named the Lord Jesus Christ, then Satan also has a son who is called the son of perdition: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” (2 Thess. 2:3). If God has His ministers, then Satan has his ministers who transform themselves into ministers of righteousness to deceive; “Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works,” (2 Cor. 11:15). If God has a gospel, then Satan has his gospel, which Paul calls another gospel, which is not the true gospel; “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed,” (Gal. 1:8). If Christ has His church, then Satan has his synagogue; “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee,” (Rev. 3:9). If there is a faith called the faith of God’s elect, then Satan counterfeits this faith: “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul,” (Heb. 10:39). Counterfeit money passes through many hands without being detected, and many counterfeit Christians pass as true believers. It appears that Judas was not detected as a false professor by the other disciples, for no finger was pointed at him when Christ predicted that one of them would betray Him. This is a challenge to every professor, including the writer, to make sure he possesses saving grace and saving faith. Let us now consider:
SOME SUBSTITUTES FOR SAVING FAITH
1. There is what might be termed historical or theoretical faith.
This is a mere assent of the mind to the revealed truth. This is without any emotional or devotional element. The truth does not reach the inward parts, and the heart is not in it. It is lacking in love and trust. It is to believe about Christ as one might believe about Washington or Lincoln.
2. There may be a natural and temporary faith.
This finds illustration in the parable of the sower. The stony ground hearer received the word at once with joy, but not having the root of the matter in him, he endured only for a while, and under testing lost interest in what he had professed. Everything was on the surface, and therefore, was hasty and unreal; nothing more than fleshly emotion. It was not of God and therefore not abiding. In a real experience of grace, the word does not at first make glad. The Holy Spirit drives the truth through the bowels of self-esteem and the sinner feels bad. It is the Spirit’s way to expose the sinner to himself before He reveals to him Christ as Saviour. It is the conscious sinner who looks to Christ for salvation.
3. There is what the Scriptures call vain faith.
In showing the necessity of the resurrection of Christ, Paul says, “And if Christ be not raised your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins,” (1 Cor. 15:17). The apostle is saying that faith in a dead Christ would be in vain. Here he was not thinking of the nature of faith, but of the object of faith. Vain faith is to trust that which does not have power to save. Weak faith may be saving faith, while strong faith may be vain faith. Strong faith in a dead Christ could not save, while weak faith in the living Christ is saving faith. This makes the object of faith of supreme importance. If the sinner trusts the wrong object, his faith will be vain. The only object of saving faith is the crucified and living Christ; the strongest faith in any other object will be worthless. All of us ought to have greater faith in Christ; however, it is not the strength of our faith that saves, but the strength of the saviour. Isaiah describes the idolator who makes his god from the same tree with which he warms himself and cooks his food. His strange conduct is explained thus: “A deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isa. 44:20). Spiritual insanity of the human race is amply revealed in the things people trust for salvation. Only those taught by God trust in Jesus Christ: “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me,” (John 6:45).
4. Feelings may be substituted for faith.
Much preaching is calculated to produce feelings rather than faith. Preachers should beware of telling sob stories and getting sinners to act on their emotions when they have been given no saving object to trust. The true order in an experience of grace is:
Fact; Faith; Feeling.
4a) The fact of the gospel of Christ and Him crucified;
4b) Faith in that fact—faith in what Christ did as Saviour;
4c) Feelings as the natural result of our reliance upon Christ as Saviour. We are not saved by our feelings, but if we trust Christ for salvation, we will have a sense of peace in our souls and a feeling of safety as we ponder what the Scriptures say about the power of His blood to save. And now may we consider more directly:
THE NATURE OF SAVING FAITH
There are two senses in which the word “faith” is used in the Bible. Sometimes—most of the time—the word means the act of believing, and a few times it means what one believes: his creed. In Jude 3 where we are exhorted to, “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” the obvious meaning is that we are to contend for the body of truth given in the Scriptures. And Jesus appears to use the word in the same way when he says, “Thou believest that there is one God,” (Jam. 2:19). This was the orthodox creed of the Jew according to “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:” (Deut. 6:4). But to have an orthodox creed concerning God is not the act of saving faith.
Saving faith as an act is a compound of belief and trust: belief in God’s testimony about His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and trust in Christ as the Saviour. To believe God on the question of salvation is to trust His Son as Saviour. John tells us that God has testified that there is eternal life in His Son and that to refuse to trust His Son is to make God a liar. “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life,” (1 John 5:9-12).
Saving faith is accompanied by works; otherwise faith is a dead thing and has no value. We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith which is alone. In the new birth there are three graces implanted in the human soul; faith, hope and love, and these three are inseparable. Hope presupposes faith, for we could not hope for the fulfillment of the promise if we did not believe the thing promised would be received. Faith is joined to love and works by love: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love,” (Gal. 5:6). Paul preached faith without works as any part of the procuring cause of justification. He also preached works as the fruit or evidence of faith. Paul and James were agreed on the nature of saving faith. James preached justification by works as evidence of real faith. He wrote about justification of profession. He insisted that a real living faith could only be shown by works. “Show me,” was the challenge of James.
DEFINITION AND ILLUSTRATIONS
The eleventh chapter of Hebrews tells us what faith is and what it does. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report,” (Heb. 11:1-2). Faith operates with respect to the future, things looked forward to with hope or expectation; and it also operates with respect to things which cannot be observed, things beyond scientific demonstration. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. The word for substance literally means, “That which stands under.” So faith is that which stands under hope to support it, to keep it from dying while waiting for what is promised. What is hoped for is not yet possessed, but faith is the assurance that it will be possessed. The word of God is the objective ground on which hope rests; one hopes for something because God has promised it. Faith furnishes a subjective ground for hope, for faith is the inward assurance that what is hoped for will be received. It is like this. God makes a promise in His word, hope begins to look forward to its fulfillment, and faith is the confidence or assurance that the thing promised will be forthcoming. Now saving faith is the assurance that all the blessings God has promised in Christ will be received. Some of these blessings, such as personal perfection, and a home in heaven, lie out in the future as matters of hope. If I did not believe that I would ultimately reach heaven and be conformed to the image of Christ, then I would be without hope as I face the future.
Faith is also the evidence of things not seen. Faith is the inward conviction that what God says is true, even though it is beyond reasons and scientific demonstration. This twofold definition of faith is followed by illustrations in the realm of the future and of the unseen. We have space for only two of these illustrations.
THE FAITH OF ABEL
“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts,” (Heb. 11:4). Abel hoped for acceptance with God, and this hope was founded upon God’s promise. God had spoken to both Cain and Abel about the way of approach to Him, and acceptance by Him. Faith presupposes a divine revelation, for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” (Rom. 10:17). The way God prescribed indicated that men are sinners, and can only be accepted on the ground of blood, for “without the shedding of blood is no remission,” (Heb. 9:22). Both Cain and Abel were told what to bring as an offering to God. Cain, like the Pharisees of Christ’s day, rejected God’s counsel or verdict against himself, denied that he was a sinner, refused to bring the bloody offering God demanded and brought a mere thank-offering of the fruit of the ground. He thus acted in unbelief, and he and his offering were rejected. Abel acted by faith and brought the kind of sacrifice prescribed. He took the place of a sinner and brought a slain lamb. Both Cain and Abel offered in hope of being accepted, but Cain’s hope did not rest on faith in God’s word and ended in disappointment and despair. Abel’s hope was realized, and he obtained witness of acceptance with God on the ground of the gifts he brought. We have heard it said that if Cain had brought his fruit of the ground by faith, he too would have been accepted. The reply to this is that if Cain had brought an offering by faith, he would not have brought fruit, but the same kind of sacrifice brought by Abel. We are told that Abel brought a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which we are not to understand that it was a greater intrinsic worth, but it was more excellent as a confession of sin and a type of the promised bruiser of the serpent’s head.
THE FAITH OF NOAH
“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house,” (Heb. 11:7). “Faith cometh by hearing,” so Noah had a revelation from God about a coming flood and how to escape destruction in it. This was something never seen and something beyond scientific proof. All that Noah had to act upon was what God said. Noah believed God. He was not interested in scientific proof of the possibilities of a flood. One never believes God as long as he tries to ascertain whether what God says is reasonable or possible. One never believes God when he puts what God says in the crucible of human reason and judgment.
SOME METAPHORS OF SAVING FAITH
Saving faith is represented under a variety of metaphors, some of which we will now consider:
1. Faith is committing the soul to Christ.
Paul speaks thus in 2 Timothy 1:12: “For I know whom I have believed (margin, trusted), and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” Paul had deposited his soul with Christ for eternal safekeeping with the assurance that it would be safely kept.
2. Faith is coming to Christ.
Christ says, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out,” (John 6:37). And again, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” (Matt. 11:28).
3. Faith is receiving Christ.
Of Christ it is written: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on his name,” (John 1:11-12). Faith is the empty hand receiving Christ as the one mighty to save. Faith has nothing to give as the price of salvation. Faith says, “Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling.”
4. Faith is feeding on Christ.
In the great discourse on the bread of life our Lord uses the words believing, coming, and eating interchangeably. See John 6:32-58. Believing on Christ is the same as coming to Him, and both are the same as eating His flesh and drinking His blood. How absurd it is to take the words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood in the gross and carnal sense! These are figures of speech to represent the soul as appropriating the benefits of Christ’s death. Christ was offered for sin once, and nobody has His material body and blood, nor can it be manufactured by anybody. We feed upon His body and blood spiritually by faith and not with carnal mouths. There is nothing which can be put into our fleshly bodies or applied to them outwardly that will effect our salvation.
5. Faith is fleeing to Christ.
Under the Old Testament economy there were cities of refuge to which the manslayer might flee for safety. “And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither: and to them ye shall add forty and two cities. So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eight cities: them shall ye give with their suburbs. And the cities which ye shall give shall be of the possession of the children of Israel: from them that have many ye shall give many; but from them that have few ye shall give few: every one shall give of his cities unto the Levites according to his inheritance which he inheriteth. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan; Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares. And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment,” (Num. 35:6-12). And so Christ is the sinner’s refuge from the danger of sin. We have two immutable things: God’s word and His oath so that “we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us,” (Heb. 6:18).
6. Faith is looking unto Christ.
“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else,” (Isa. 45:22). “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith,” (Heb. 12:2). Truly, there is life for a look at the crucified One.
7. Faith is calling upon Christ.
“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” (Rom. 10:12-13). Those who will not call upon Christ in this day of salvation will call upon the mountains to fall on them and hide them from His face in the day of His wrath. But none who call now by faith shall call in vain, for Christ is a willing and able Saviour.
All the elements in saving faith may be brought out by the use of an old illustration. The thoughts, feelings, and action of a person who stands by a boat upon a small island which is threatened by rising waters, will represent the whole of saving faith. The person first regards the boat from a purely intellectual point of view. He believes the boat actually exists, just as the sinner believes there is a God and that there is a Saviour. As the stream rises and swells, the man will look at the boat with some sense of emotion and feeling of interest. And so the sinner under conviction of sin has a feeling of concern for his safety. When the man sees the rushing tide is about to sweep him into the raging waters, he gets into the boat as the only way of escape. Getting into the boat is what actually saves him, and he cannot be said to have trusted the boat until he gets into it. And so the sinner may believe that Christ is the Saviour, but he is not saved until he gets into Him by faith—not saved until He relies upon Him for salvation. The very essence of faith is reliance or trust. Every believer gladly confesses: “I broke God’s law, Christ came between; I’m depending on Him to save.”
“Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity joined with power;
He is able, He is willing doubt no more.
“Come ye weary heavy laden,
Bruised and broken by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all;
No the righteous—sinners, Jesus
came to call.
“Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him;
his He gives you; ‘Tis the Spirit’s
—Joseph Hart, 1712-1768
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