Hey, it’s Justin. Today I am answering the question, “What does it mean to have saving faith?”
To begin to answer this question, let’s consider two words that the Bible uses when it comes to our salvation. One word is faith and the other word that we often see is repentance. I think that we tend to look at those two things as though they are different things and separate from one another as though you can have faith without repentance or repentance without faith, and biblically speaking, that’s just not true. They go together. Repentance and faith are essentially two sides of the same coin. What is repentance? The biblical word for it is metanoia. It means a change of mind. Well, a change of mind about what? It’s a change of mind about God, who he is, and what he requires, a change of mind about ourselves, our standing before the Lord, and what we need, and a change of mind about the way of salvation and about Christ in particular as that way of salvation for sinners such as us.
It’s important that we understand that repentance is not something that we produce in ourselves, but it is something that God grants to us. So, we don’t repent ourselves. God repents us. When it comes to the faith piece, I think the 1689 London Baptist Confession words it better than I could in thinking about what the real marrow of saving faith is. What is it at its heart? The confession says the principle acts of saving faith focus directly on Christ- accepting, receiving, and resting upon him alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life by virtue of the covenant of grace.
We’ve already thought about how repentance is something that God does for us. He repents us. We see here that faith is by virtue of the covenant of grace. It is grounded in the unconditional promise of God to save his people. Faith is also something that is a gift from him that we could never produce. It is given to us, grounded in the grace of God. Faith focuses directly on Christ. Let’s not miss that part, that it’s about Jesus. We are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone.
We are not resting upon anything or trusting in anything that we do, or that we might do, or that we refrain from doing. We are trusting in Christ for our justification, meaning we’re trusting that he has atoned for our sin, he has satisfied the wrath of God for our sin, and he has provided us with all the righteousness that we’ll ever need, and so we are declared righteous in the sight of God by faith in Christ.
We are trusting in Jesus for our sanctification, our ongoing growth in righteousness and holiness throughout the course of our Christian lives. We don’t understand that we’re doing that, but that Christ is the one who will accomplish our sanctification by the work of his Spirit in us, and we are trusting Jesus for eternal life, that we will forever be with God on the basis of Christ’s work and his merits, not our own work or our own merits.
It is important for us to understand that it is not the quality of our faith that saves us or the sincerity of our faith that saves us. If someone were to ask how much faith is required, the answer to that question is, well, any! Any amount of faith is enough because you couldn’t produce any of it in the first place. It came from God and it’s important for us to realize that the quality of our faith doesn’t save us. The object of our faith saves us.
So it’s not that faith in and of itself saves anyone. Jesus saves. The work of Christ, the merits of Christ, and the righteousness of Christ are applied to us through the mechanism of faith.
I hope that answer is helpful to you.