What Is Saving Faith?

Garreth L. Clair


This tract, I hope and pray to God, may in some small way clear some misconceptions that have arisen over the place of faith in God's plan for man's redemption.

It is my sincere desire that each and every human being that reads this tract may read and study it with the same spirit of study and reverence I have had in writing it. This subject is one of the most controversial in the religious world today. Of course, I expect the usual amount of criticism from those who prefer to neglect the passages of scripture as revealed by the apostle Paul (I Tim. 4: 1-5), and others in the condition as described in Paul's exhortation to Timothy (2 Tim. 3:5-"Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof"). Paul informs us from these to turn away. I do not expect any earth-shaking results from this writing, but I do expect those of honest and sincere hearts to study this tract. I sincerely hope it is of some benefit to those who do not fully understand this issue. -G.L.C.

What Is Saving Faith?

It is rather strange that men should be divided over the subject of salvation. Did Christ suffer so much to redeem men, then make it so complicated as to cause men to divide over it? No! We can't make ourselves believe God has ever made a mistake. To make mistakes is human, not divine.

Many people from all walks of life contend that salvation is offered on no certain terms. Every phase of Christianity is in complete harmony, every part is related and not separate as some sectarians would have us believe. It is thought that God could, after giving His only begotten Son as an atonement for man's sins, condition salvation upon any idea or principle or upon none at all. But this idea is absurd. This idea is the result of a superficial or incomplete and erroneous study of the Bible. The main reason for so many conflicting doctrines of salvation is that many peoples have not ceased inheriting their religion.

It is my desire in preparing this tract to show a definite connection and a definite principle of salvation. First, I intend to prepare a foundation for my plan of procedure. There must be some definite principle of salvation; what is this principle? Lastly, how is it determined?

There is of necessity only one principle of salvation. But where shall our search for it begin? The universally accepted facts of Christianity are the DEATH, BURIAL, and RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ. First, this doctrine must be accepted as concrete fact. The fact that Christ is the atonement for our sins is our start in finding the principle of salvation. Many educated people do not understand this, but a person can be a Bible scholar and still misunderstand Christianity. A person may even preach a doctrine that makes void the grace of God.

We shall cover seven points in this tract dealing with saving faith:

(1) Where There Has Been No Sacrifice For Sins.

(2) Where The Sacrifices Offered For Sins Are Animals.

(3) Where Christ Is The Sacrifice For Our Sins.

(4) An Introduction To Faith.

(5) Repentance In Relation To Faith.

(6) Confession In Relation To Faith.

(7) Baptism In Relation To Faith.

(1) No Sacrifices For Sins

Now let us suppose no sacrifice of any kind has been made for the sins of men. Salvation under these conditions is utterly impossible; man could not be saved. How would he try? There is no principle upon which he could rely, he could not appeal to God through a mediator for there would be none.

Where there is no sacrifice for man he must rely upon himself; he must please God in everything or make atonement for, his own sins. Since it is impossible for man to be perfect (Rom. 3:23, 5:12), it is just as impossible for man to make atonement for his own sins. It is, clear then that without a sacrifice for sins, man is eternally lost.

But, just for the sake of discussion, suppose man tries to save himself. What principle must he follow? It must be on the principle of works or self-righteousness. If he is saved he must merit salvation, and salvation in such a case would be given as a matter, of debt, much as an employer pays his employees their wages at the end of their work period. He who earns his pay does not receive it by grace (Rom. 4:4). This much I hope is clear, that when man seeks salvation apart from a sacrifice for sins, he must seek it upon the principle of works.

(2) Animal Sacrifices For, Sins

Under the law of Moses, animal sacrifices were offered to remove sins, but what is the principle of salvation under this law? We must first find out what qualities these sacrifices have as far as the forgiving of sins is concerned. The inspired writer of Hebrews wrote: "For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins" (Heb. 10:4). In other words, under the New Testament dispensation, no animal sacrifices can take away sins. When man seeks salvation under such a system, under what principle does he seek it? We have already seen that with no sacrifice, man must seek salvation by works. So what would be the difference between the principle of seeking salvation with no sacrifice and a sacrifice which cannot take away sins? What would be the difference between a man who had no gun and a man who had a gun that wouldn't shoot?

The same situation arises with the man who seeks to be justified by works apart from a sacrifice; when the sacrifice does not take away sins, he must seek to be justified by works. But, Israel, following after a law of righteousness, did not arrive at the law. Why? Because they sought it not by faith, but by works (Rom. 9:31-32). "For Moses writeth that the man that doeth the righteousness which is of the law shall live therein" (Rom. 10:5). Referring to the works of the law, the apostle Paul wrote: "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident; for the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith, but the man that doeth them shall live in them" (Gal. 3:11-12). From these, and other passages, it is evident that the Jews tried to be saved under the law of Moses upon the principle of works (sacrifices unacceptable to God force men to seek salvation by works). Thi3 doctrine was the greatest enemy of the early church. Paul fought it in the book of Galations (Gal. 2:7, 14; 1:6). Today this is still a problem to the spreading of Christianity.

(3) Christ Sacrificed For Sins

The blood of Christ is an acceptable sacrifice; it can take away sins, and it alone. Nothing else man may present as a sacrifice for sins will be acceptable to God almighty (I Pet. 1:18-19). Therefore, we see that there is no other sacrifice that can be offered. No, not money, or even powerful positions; nothing but the blood of Jesus. A few verses of scripture which will clarify this point are revealed upon the pages of inspiration as written by the apostle Paul (see Rom. 3:24-25, 5:9, Eph. 1:7, 2:13, Col. 1:14).

Now upon what principle shall man seek salvation under Christ? To this point we have already seen that where there is no sacrifice, and where the sacrifices offered are not acceptable to God, salvation must be pursued through works. Now, we have an acceptable sacrifice (JESUS CHRIST), must we still seek salvation by works? If this be the case, of what benefit is, Christ's blood? If it is still necessary for man to seek salvation by works, we have an atonement in Christ that does not atone. Thus, to make salvation a debt bestowed upon the principle of works makes void the blood of Christ. We find in Gal. 2:21 that the apostle Paul refers to this very thing, saying: "I do not make void the grace of God: for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for naught." If man seeks salvation by works, he ignores the blood of Jesus Christ. If man ignores the blood of Christ, God will surely ignore him. Nothing could kindle God's anger quicker than to ignore His only begotten Son (see Eph. 2:8-9, Titus 3:5, Romans 4). Therefore, Christ's blood being the sacrifice for man's sins, and it alone, man must not seek salvation by works under Christ. Upon what principle must he seek it? Now, the sacrifice of Christ is meritorious (i.e.: the Blood of Christ can take away sins). This, and this alone, is an acceptable sacrifice before God. The sinner seeking salvation, thus, must rely upon it, and it alone. Shall we call this reliance upon the blood of Christ works? God forbid. The Bible calls it faith, and faith it has, to be. Any other principle is absurd with a meritorious sacrifice such as the blood of Christ. In consequence of this, Paul correctly states it, "by grace, through faith." It is impossible for it to be anything but faith. A system of works cannot be built upon the foundation of a meritorious sacrifice, so we repeat, What communion hath grace and works? In Rom. 11:6, Paul states, "But if it is by grace, it is no more of works." In other words, grace is no more grace; grace conditioned upon works ceases to be grace. Note: "Now to him that worketh the reward is not reckoned as of grace, but as of debt" (Rom. 4:4). Therefore, when the reward is of grace, the condition cannot be works.

If you receive a gift from someone, then have to pay for it, it is no longer a gift but a purchase. But salvation is a gift from God (Rom. 6:23). The summary is evident. Gifts can be received only by accepting them. I Pet. 1:9 says: "Receiving the end (PURPOSE) of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." Grace is spoken of as something received (Rom. 5:15-16). Grace in this particular case means the unmerited favor of God toward man.

(4) An Introduction To Faith

That our salvation must be by faith, has, in my opinion, been sufficiently proven. Now let us examine faith, and see what it is. In Heb. 11:1, the writer states: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith is having the quality of receiving or containing. One of the best New Testament Greek lexicons (Arndt and Gingrich, p. 669) translates the passage as follows: "The assurance of what we hoped for, the receiving of (or a conviction about) what we cannot see." (For a good discussion of this passage sees R. Milligan's New Testament Commentary on Hebrews, p. 299-300.)

Faith must consist of three natural elements: (1) Intellectual, (2) Emotional, (3) Volitional. Intellectual faith is the belief of things or statements as fact (e.g., "George Washington was our first president." None of us in this particular period of history have seen him, yet we know he was truly our first president). Most everyone accepts the fact that God does exist, yet they don't serve or love Him, but they still agree He does exist. This is intellectual faith, but this type of faith cannot save man. "The devils believed in God, and trembled" (Jas. 2:19), but who would say that these devils who merely believed in His existence were saved. Such a belief as this is absurd.

Now, to the intellectual faith should be added love, the emotional element. We must believe in more than His existence; we must also love Him. Paul states in Gal. 5:6 that faith that avails is faith working through love. Jesus Christ preaching to the Jews, definitely states as one of the requirements of faith a love for God (Jn. 5:42). (See Jas. 1:12, 2:5 for further study). Thus, acceptance as fact the existence of God apart from love is not genuine faith.

Faith that saves is the acceptance of truth combined with love for God, and giving of one's self entirely to God. Therefore intellectual faith unaccompanied can avail nothing. Faith working through love is not mixing faith and works (Rom. 11:6); love is not a work, it follows. Now, will faith only save man, or must it be expressed? Faith remains faith-whether expressed or unexpressed. If God does not require an expression of faith, then man would be blessed upon faith only. But, if an expression of faith is required, man receives no blessing until such stipulations have been met. Some examples to substantiate this: see John 9:1-7. Jesus, after anointing the blind man's eyes with clay, gave a stipulation: "Go wash in the pool of Silome." He did this, and came seeing. In this instance, God required an expression of faith. But in complete contrast, in Matt. 9:27, Jesus asked the blind men, "Believe ye that I am able to do this?" They said, "Yea, Lord." Then he touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith be it done unto you." In this case, Christ required no expression. But were these men healed upon different principles of faith? No. God's Son has the authority to require an expression of faith. But, faith is what God wants. Thus, faith remains faith. One more example will be sufficient: Note that by faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been compassed about seven days (Heb. 11:30). This marching cannot, as such, harm stone walls; but this marching revealed the faith of the Israelites in God. So God, after seeing this faith, felled the walls.

Here two lessons are learned: (1) Faith expressed remains faith. It is not, therefore, converted into works "by faith the walls fell." (2) Expression of faith does not invalidate faith. If the Israelites had refused to march around the wall, this would have proven their lack of faith, just as their marching exhibited their faith. Now, let us move on to our fifth point.

(5) Repentance And Faith

If a sinner does not repent, 'he cannot be saved, but we have already stated salvation is by faith. In that case, repentance must in some way be related to faith. Now repentance must not oppose faith, yet it must be related to it. Therefore, repentance may be defined as faith ceasing to do evil and determined to do right. These are mental acts; faith and repentance are not to be separated. Of course, men may have faith, but still be lost. The devils had this faith, but remained devils. Luke informs us, "I tell ye nay, but except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3)., Therefore, faith is not only belief of facts, but the turning of one's self away from the world and sin unto God and righteousness. Faith includes repentance.

(6) Faith And Confession

Now, what about confession? Confession is faith expressed in words. How so? "Because if thou shall confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord and shall believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Rom. 10:9). Confession is not to be considered as independent of faith. Confession of the mouth puts into words the faith of the heart. In Rom. 10:9-10, faith and confession are spoken of separately as though they might be different altogether, but verse 11 shows them to be the same thing viewed from two standpoints. After naming both faith"and confession as conditions of salvation, as though they might be two distinct things, Paul proceeds to say, "For the scripture saith whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame." Believeth of verse 11 includes the confession of verses 9-10, or else Paul contradicts himself. If he indicates salvation upon two different things, and then conditions salvation upon one of them, how can he agree with his own line of thinking? The fact is confession is faith spoken.

Now, we are about to enter upon the last point of our study. In my opinion, this is the most controversial subject in the religious world today. Baptism-what is it? How is it related to salvation? What does it consist of?

(7) Baptism And Faith

Is baptism a condition of salvation through faith? If so, then they must in some way be related, and related in such a way as not to oppose each other. Now as confession is faith expressed in words, so baptism is faith expressed in deed. Faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins is faith that saves. What does baptism have to do with this faith? It pictures it; one believes that Jesus was buried, the immersion of baptism pictures this faith (as Jesus was buried in the sepulchre), so a person submerged in water is the like picture. Baptism therefore cannot mean to sprinkle or pour; if so, then this does not picture the death of Christ. One must also believe Christ arose from the dead; this baptism pictures in likeness of this rising. As Jesus was buried and arose the third day in his immortal state, so man arising from the watery grave is also a new creature in Christ Jesus. Paul says, "We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we might also walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). So here we see baptism was selected by the Lord as an accompaniment of faith in order to picture it. Therefore, baptism apart from faith has no meaning. Hence, this should definitely prove that infant baptism has no place in religion today, or at any time, past or future. An example that shows baptism is to be thought of as an expression of faith can be found in Gal. 3:26-27, "For ye are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." When we see someone being baptized we know, if he is sincere, he believes Jesus Christ died, was buried, and arose for his salvation.

We cannot be sure of one's faith in Christ who does all manner of good, such as visiting the sick, giving generously, and doing all manner of benevolent activity. These are acts by Christians also, but these acts do not picture a death, burial, and resurrection. This view of baptism, as proven by the scripture, makes baptism a very essential part of man's salvation, through faith, and not, as some would have us believe, as an unnecessary part of salvation. This being true, it is unscriptural to separate faith, repentance, confession, and baptism. Now we have all the steps necessary to salvation. Let us summarize what we have thus far studied in this tract:

The fact is repentance, confession, and baptism are each faith viewed from different angles. As stated, they are not to be separated. The state of man between faith and repentance is not defined by the inspired writers. They are to be considered together. Now, let us combine all our study and see what we have. In Rom. 10:10, we find belief unto righteousness, and confession unto salvation. You will notice unto used in these passages as moving forward. As a man climbs a set of steps, the first step is unto, and every step thereafter until he steps into the room; the same principal is used here:

1. Believe . . . unto . . . Rom. 10:10

2. Repent . . . unto . . . Acts 11-18

3. Confession . . . unto . . . Rom. 10:10

4. Baptism . . . into . . . Rom. 6:3

Baptism is the last expression of faith required for salvation by God (see also I Pet. 3:21-"The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us-not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God-by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.")

Therefore we see the first principles of salvation are by faith. This faith, of course, includes repentance, confession, and baptism. For a clearer picture of this matter compare 2 Pet. 1. Peter informs us (v. 5), that we should, "Besides this giving all diligence, add to our faith"-this faith Peter refers to is not merely accepting the fact that God does exist, as was true of the faith the devils possessed (Jas. 2:19). This faith in 2 Peter includes repentance, confession and baptism. Then Peter goes on to tell us what we should add to this faith. Thus we see that accepting the first principles apart from works is impossible as far as attaining eternal salvation at the end of our life on this earth.

We are informed by inspired writers that there is more to salvation than the first principles. In James 2:14 we see that, "Though a man say he hath faith and hath not works, can faith save him?" And again 2:17, James says, "Even so, faith if it hath not works is dead." For more insight into this subject see the entire second chapter of James' second epistle. Notice Phil. 2:2, where Paul states: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (cf. Heb. 6:1). We see here that those Christians at Philippi had not, by accepting, the first principles, finished their course of obedience to God's laws. In I Pet. 1:9 we see that salvation will be realized only at the end of our faith.

I pray that this will clear the air as to any doubts one may have as far as faith is concerned.

Truth Magazine V:1, pp. 20-23
October 1960