Friday, February 12, 2016

Saving Faith

Jas 2:17  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 
Jas 2:18  But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 
Jas 2:19  You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder! 
Jas 2:20  Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 
Jas 2:21  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?

The following is an excerpt from last week's sermon:

We need to understand how this faith which is saving faith is different from the natural faith that all men have.  There is a natural faith and a most unnatural faith.  It is impossible for us to lead normal lives without faith.  We trust people will keep our appointments, travel (you trust the pilot), buying a ticket shows you believe they will schedule it when they say, etc.  Phobias are a result of not trusting people or things to do what they are supposed to do.  There are so many phobias today because so few people know a sovereign God.  Think about it, if you are afraid of leaving your house, will you be willing to die for Christ?  Do you not fear some physical danger more than you fear and love God and want to serve him?  But as we think about this natural faith it is clearly built on experience is it not? 

As we see people stepping off a plane, we are convinced that the pilot and airplane will do what it promises.  I see other long-term workers going about their jobs so I believe that I will get a paycheck at the end of the week if I get hired there.  Faith is the most natural thing in the world and if we will believe men it is the most natural thing that we would believe God who cannot lie and can do all he promises. 

But there is a big difference; natural faith is based on experience, saving faith is not.  In human terms saving faith is quite unreasonable for it calls us to do what our experience has taught us cannot work.  It calls us to quit trusting in all that this life has taught us to trust in and work for.  Saving faith is not unreasonable of course, but it is not going to come naturally.  It comes as God reveals himself to us spiritually.  Not by doing physical acts to convince us or Israel would have believed.  It comes as we see by faith in the Word a sovereign God who created and sustains all things and thus is able to do all that he says.  Then it becomes the most rational thing in the world to believe on him.  Of course, this happens only after he has broken our rebellion through regeneration.

I hope that this is the God you know for if it is then I know you will follow him.  There is another who tries to get us to follow him and he uses experience to call us.  He says, "God helps those that help themselves, your duty is to provide for yourself in this life anyway you can".  Or he might be saying to you, “God will never do anything to you that hurts, he is too merciful for that”, and so you are unprepared for real life.  He might tell you the Bible is a nice book but somewhat out of step with the times and cannot be taken literally.  

It is deceivingly like Jesus’ words, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest".  One kind of faith is based on what we see with our eyes; the other is concerned with things as they really are.  Saving faith then is a gift from God.  Not that he imparts the ability to believe to us but reveals to us what in the flesh we cannot see; the glory of God.  Naturally we have faith it is just directed at everything but God.  You cannot believe in what you don’t understand.  All hear, but few trust in who they hear about.  So when God gives us the ability to believe, it is to cause us to stop trusting in things that can’t help and trust in the One who alone can save.

This is why we preach a sovereign God.  How can faith grow unless we grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?  Abram’s life is not pie in the sky theology; it is a faithful account of saving faith.  It begins and grows according to how big our God is in our hearts.


  1. Although I hear what you are saying about "saving faith" and "natural faith", and I agree with your distinction, I really hate to put any adjective in front of the word "faith". The adjectives usually used by every dern commentator are "genuine", "authentic" and yes "saving".

    They do this as they try to parse the admittedly difficult passage. I parse it totally differently and really jump all over those added adjectives that are NOT in the scripture here OR ANYWHERE ELSE. Faith, to the best of my knowledge, NEVER has a clarifying, dinstinctive adjective in front of it.

    What say ye, buddy?

    Kenny B

  2. Hi Kenny, I am all for sticking with biblical terms when we can but obviously we can't always, such as "Trinity". Distinguishing between a real and a false faith is important since many places in Scripture tell us to make our calling and election sure. So the attempt to define the difference seems to be biblical. James does it in chapter 2, so it seems we have biblical precedent to do so. Maybe if it is common among commentators, we can trust it is good to do so, just saying.


  3. Yep,I'm out on a limb by saying all the commentators are blowing it.

    The real "killer" verse that seems to start all the non-sensical parsing by the commmentators is v. 24--"You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone."

    So to help out, here comes the "genuine faith" parsing. Preachers buy into it go on and on about having a genuine/authentic faith. But there really is NOTHING in scripture here or anywhere else about having a authentic faith or not having an inauthentic faith.

    Everywhere in the Bible, you either have faith, or you don't have faith.

    Paul's climaxing point (v.26) is that faith without works is DEAD. D-E-A-D, dead. In other words, it is NOT faith. It does not exist. It is people saying they have faith, when in actuality, they do not have faith.

    They do not have an inauthentic faith, they have no faith. They do not need a genuine faith, they need faith.

    I'm just a real stickler on this one. I just hate adding that modifier. I think it clouds things up.

    I have no problem with Trinity. Tertullian was grasping for a succinct wording to descibe the sui-generis concept we now call in English, "The Trinity". He wasn't adding to the Bible. He was giving us a vocabulary on a Biblical concept.

    Kenny B

  4. There is a sense in which I totally agree in that you are either a believer or not. But I think that when we are told that it is possible to be fooled into thinking you are a believer when you are not, then we can't let it go just as "either you have faith or you don't. That is why I use the term "saving" faith or a false faith. I don't think it is too difficult to show it. What about all the "religious" lost people who believe in God? Many, for instance, are trusting in works or the mass or something for their salvation. If that isn't to be called a misdirected faith then how should we term it?

    If the demons believe and shudder, what do we call that?

    1. I see your point regarding "fooled" and "religious" people.

      Not sure anybody has ever invented a term for the demons' belief in God. Of course, they kinda "see" God, so it doesn't take any faith. Neither the good angels, nor the bad demons have faith of anykind. They just choose which side to be on.

      But, broadening out here: Fast becoming one of the most overused, and perhaps abused word in Christianity is "authentic". I have visited a couple thousand websites whilst promoting my song, and the growing trendy word is "authentic". "Authentic worship" is the key term used by the hip modern contemporary churches to describe their song service. Unfortunately, in my opinion, "authentic" is losing its real meaning, and becoming an overused amplifier.

      While whipping around on my own churches website recently, I noticed that my own church has "authentic and passionate worship". And today, I notice that my Sunday School, which used to be called Sunday School, till it was called Adult Bible Fellowship, till just a couple of weeks ago is now called Community Groups, that the Community Groups are supposed to "connect believers with Authentic Community" (yep, capital "A") and one of a zillion core competencies of the Community Groups is "Authentic Faith".

      "Authentic" is just being driven into the ground.

      I just care a lot about word usage.

      Kenny B

    2. I hear what you are saying. And then when we need to use such terms we can't because of all the confusion. Plus, it seems rather self-serving to state that you have figured out what authentic worship is. I kid one of my pastor friends when he calls his morning service the "Worship Service" and his Sunday night service just the "Sunday night service" or Bible study, etc. How are we worshiping differently in the morning than at night? Yes, getting our terms clearly defined is very important.