Faith alone. Faith is similar to trust. When I say I trust my wife, Radene, that means I believe she will do what she says she’ll do. And that belief isn’t simply based on what she says, but it is built upon the combination of her actions and her words. Her actions and her words match. There is no inconsistency between the two. Therefore, I trust her. Now extend that to Jesus. I trust Jesus because there is no inconsistency between what he says and what he does. But that isn’t enough. Trust is based on what we can witness, what we can measure. I trust someone or something because there is a record of consistent integrity. Faith takes trust a step further. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Let’s break this down.
Faith is assurance of things hoped for and a conviction of things we cannot see. I said that faith and trust are similar, but they are not the same. Trust is measurable. Faith extends into realms we cannot measure. However, faith is not blind. Radene has proven herself trustworthy through the consistent integrity of her actions and her words. Based on that, I have faith that she will continue to be a trustworthy individual. How do I know that? I don’t. I cannot see our future together. But based on what I know about her, I have faith that she will continue to be a woman that loves Jesus, loves me, and loves her children. Faith is not blind acceptance of the unproven. I am assured of the hope I have for my wife because of how she has proven herself time and time again. I have a conviction within that Radene will become a deeper, more godly woman I cannot see yet because she has grown consistently in the past.
Jesus has proven himself to us. He has fulfilled prophecies. He has worked miracles. He died on the cross, rose from the grave, and ascended into heaven. All of these are measurable, trustworthy markers that show his actions and words to be consistent. Now the question is do I have faith to believe what I cannot see? Do I have faith to believe what the writer of Hebrews says that he lives, even at this moment, to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25)? Do I have faith to believe that his death is sufficient to atone for my sins (1 Peter 3:18)? Do I have faith to believe that he will return one day the same way he left (Acts 1:11)? This is what Hebrew 11:1 is talking about. Many unsaved people trust that Jesus was reliable, full of integrity, full of compassion and wisdom. Faith kicks in on those things that we cannot measure or see. Is he the Son of God? Will he return one day? Faith is all about the unseen, but its roots are in the trust we place in what has been seen already. Based on what I see about Jesus in Scripture, and in how I see him working in other people’s lives, I have faith that the things I cannot see are true and will gloriously come to pass!
Faith alone. It is only this kind of faith that can receive God’s grace. When I wrote about grace in my previous blog, I referenced Ephesians 2:8, but only the first part of it. Here’s a little more: “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” Through faith, we receive God’s grace and are saved. At the risk of repeating myself, there are many other beliefs out there about how we receive God’s grace. When the sixteenth century Reformers protested the Roman Catholic Church, this was one of their protests. At the time (and still today) Roman Catholics taught that God’s grace was received through the sacraments of the Church. In other words, you received God’s grace through baptism, which is why they baptize infants. You also receive fresh infusions of God’s grace through receiving Communion. In the sixteenth century, the Roman Catholic church would sell something called indulgences which were a way to receive God’s grace through the giving of alms. The Reformers protested this declaring, Sola Fide, which is Latin for by faith alone. Ephesians 2:8 teaches clearly that God’s grace can be received only by faith alone.
Sadly, as I mentioned in my previous blog, there are many people who try to receive God’s grace through works, whether they be social activism or religious observances. But even if you believe that only faith can receive God’s grace, many Christians teach that after that, works will keep you in God’s grace. But this too is heresy. Paul deals directly with this false teaching in Galatians 3:2-3: “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” The Galatians had believed the lie that faith may save, but works are what keep us saved. Lie, lie, lie. If you are saved by grace through faith, how can your salvation be sustained by anything short of what started it? Faith alone allows us to receive God’s grace, and it keeps us in God’s grace.
Ephesians 2:8 tells us one more thing about the kind of faith that can receive God’s grace. It does not come from us. Read all of verse 8 and verse 9 together: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The faith we place in Jesus when we are born again is faith that is given to us. Let me say it again. The kind of faith that can receive God’s grace is a gift given to us by God. Paul writes, “And this [faith] is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Why? Paul continues, “not a result of works [faith we can muster on our own], so that no one may boast.” God’s gift to us is his grace to us through faith he gives us. Salvation is a work of God from beginning to end so that He will get all the glory, and we get absolutely none – no reason to boast. We won’t even be able to boast that we had enough faith. God gave us the faith we needed to receive grace. That keeps the glory squarely in God’s possession.
Faith alone – Sola Fide. It is more than trust. It is assurance of things hoped for, things not seen yet, based on, enforced by what we can know about Jesus Christ from Scripture. Only this kind of faith can receive God’s grace. And this kind of faith only comes as a gift from God. Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone comes completely from God alone. We are not passive in this. We still make a choice to believe. But we can’t even hope to make that choice until the gift of faith is imparted to us. Need more proof than Paul? Jesus says the same thing in John 6:44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” God the Father must initiate in salvation, and he does so by granting faith to everyone he draws so that we might believe and receive his grace.
How can we know that these truths about grace and faith are reliable and trustworthy? How can we know for certain that there isn’t more to it than what we see in the Scripture? That’ll be for next time.