A lot of people talk about having faith, but there is a big difference between faith and saving faith. A coach might say to his star athlete, “I’ve got faith in you. I know you can do it.” Everyone has faith in something, but not everyone has saving faith. So, what is saving faith?
Saving faith is what you must have in order to be saved from your sins. Paul and Silas told the Philippian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” They told the jailer to have saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Obviously there is something about this kind of faith that goes beyond only believing that Jesus is real. The Apostle James says that even the devils believe, but their faith is not saving faith. Saving faith requires three components: something in the head, something in the heart, and something in the will.
First, there are certain facts that you must know to have saving faith —biblical data that you must understand intellectually. For example, if you believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers, as the Mormons teach, or if you deny that Jesus literally rose from the dead, you do not understand biblical facts. There is a body of doctrine that you must be aware of in order to have saving faith. Jude calls it “the faith [or the body of doctrine] which was once delivered unto the saints.”
Second, this doctrine in the head must eventually make its way to the heart. Someone once said that many people miss heaven by eighteen inches — the distance from the head to the heart. You must go from simply knowing a biblical fact to actually believing that fact to be true, giving assent to the validity or truthfulness of the content.
The third aspect of saving faith involves the will – the seat of desire and decision through which believers surrender to the Lord. Sinners must not only know facts and believe them to be true, but rest upon them for their own personal salvation. This act separates true believers from demons. Demons know all the facts and know that they are all true, but they do not trust in them. A chair analogy helps to illustrate this point. Imagine seeing a chair sitting in the middle of a room. Do you believe the chair is real? Do you believe that if you sat in that chair it would hold you up? What is keeping you from being held up by the chair? The obvious answer is that you are not sitting in it. You are not resting in the chair.
The comparison with the chair and saving faith is striking. Many believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and many believe that He is able to save men and women from their sins. The problem is that they have never trusted Christ personally. They have never rested in Him alone for salvation. Standing beside the chair is not the same thing as sitting in it and allowing it to hold your full weight. For this reason, God calls men to receive the Lord Jesus personally. No one can claim to be saved who merely believes the facts about Christ without actually receiving Him. To receive Christ by faith, you must take Him at His Word, and rest on His promise to give you full and free salvation.
After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, the apostles preached the same good news that Jesus saves. Consider what Peter said, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). That’s you, friend. Have you ever called on the name of the Lord, believing in His power and grace to save your soul? You are not beyond His reach because “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him” (Hebrews 7:25). Through this kind of faith, by calling on the Lord Jesus Christ to save your soul today, you can have absolute assurance that you are saved forever.
Rev. Derrick Bowman is associate minister of Grace FPC, in Winston Salem, NC.