By: Gary L. Hutchens
What is faith? People talk about faith, claim to have faith, state that faith is a very important, sustaining force in their lives. But many of those do not live a life that demonstrates much faith. Many teach salvation by faith, but what exactly does that means. Ask ten different people, and you can get ten variations of their concept of faith. So, back to our initial question: what is faith
The most common word used to explain faith is belief. Many would say that having faith is believing in God as our Heavenly Father and in Christ as God’s Son and our Savior. Believing in God is essential. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). Jesus stated, “…for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (Jn. 8:24). Without question, we must believe in God and Christ if we want to be saved.
But Jesus said many believers will not be in Heaven. They believed enough to call Jesus “Lord, Lord,” to have supposedly “prophesied” in His name, “cast out demons” in His name and “done many wonders” in His name. Yet, because they did not do the will of God, Jesus will “declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matt. 7:21-23). James states, “Even the demons believe,” so much that they “tremble!” (Jas. 2:19). So, just believing is obviously not real faith.
Still, many insist that salvation is by faith alone. But the only verse of scripture in the entire New Testament that has the phrase “faith only” (NKJV) or “faith alone” (KJV) is found in Jas. 2:24, and those two words are preceded by two other very important and instructive words- “not by.” The verse reads, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” James goes on to say, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (Jas. 2:26). Faith alone is not the gospel plan of salvation that Jesus taught.
During His ministry Jesus warned, “…unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Lk. 13:3). On Pentecost, when asked what they “must” do, the first thing Peter told the crowd was to repent (Acts 2:38). Repentance, then, is a central feature of the plan of salvation.
Jesus said confessing faith in Him is required if we want Him to confess us before God. “…whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in Heaven.” (Matt. 10:32). Paul connected faith with confessing Christ. “…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:9). Confessing our faith, then, is also necessary in order to be saved.
In sending the apostles to teach the gospel throughout the world, Jesus connected faith with baptism. “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’” (Mk. 16:15-16). Clearly, it is upon believing and being baptized that Jesus said a person will be saved. Peter instructed those who asked what they “must” do to “repent…and be baptized…for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). There can be no salvation without forgiveness (Rom. 6:23). Peter clearly stated that forgiveness is received at the point of being baptized. Ananias told Saul of Tarsus the same thing (Acts 22:16).
There is no salvation outside of Christ (Rom. 8:1). The only two verses that have the phrase “into Christ” preceded by the means of coming “into Christ” both say “baptized into Christ.” (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27). Clearly, one must be baptized in order to be forgiven of his sins and to come into Christ and be saved.
So, what is faith? Real faith is belief put into action through obedience. Real faith includes all of these acts of obedience that lead to salvation. Repentance, confession of faith in Christ and baptism for the remission of sins and salvation are all elements of real faith…
Gary L. Hutchens