What Is Faith?

By H.E. Phillips

The religious world today relies greatly upon what it pleases to call “saving faith” to produce salvation and eternal life. I believe there is such a thing as saving faith, but I do not accept the definition given to it by denominationalism. Such expressions as “accepting Christ as your personal Savior,” “believing in the Lord Jesus,” and “getting saving faith” are frequently used by the sectarian preachers. But what does the Bible say about the faith that saves?

Especially in the epistles written to the Romans and Galatians the contrast is drawn between “faith” and “works of the law of Moses.” “This only would I learn of you, Receive ye the Spirit by the works of law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3.2).

While the works of the law will not justify, the work of obedience to the faith is essential to the faith which saves. “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). In contrast to this we read: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). The answer to this alleged conflict between these two passages is easily understood if we learn that the same kind of “works” is not under consider-ation in both passages. One is the works of the law of Moses whereby the Jews sought salvation, and the other is the obedience to the faith whereby the obedient believer is saved from past sins.

1. Faith is a mental act. It is the act of the mind in accepting as true the testimony given. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). In Romans 10:10 we learn that the heart is man’s instrument of belief. “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” The gospel, therefore, is addressed to the hearing of man: to his heart, for this is the part that believes. But is this mental act all that is involved in the idea of the faith that saves? Is that what the Spirit meant when he said Abraham was justified by faith? Was it just a mental act and nothing more?

2. Faith is spoken of as that body of truth delivered by the Holy Spirit which produces belief in the heart. John said: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30, 31). Again, “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith (revelation) of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe” (the mental act of receiving the truth  Rom. 10:17; Gal. 3:22). The next verse says: “But before faith (revelation of Christ) came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should after-wards be revealed.” Now verse 25: “But after that faith (the rev-elation of Christ: the gospel) is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (the law of Moses). Jude 3 says: ” . . . it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith (revelation of Christ) which was once delivered unto the saints.”

3. Faith also includes the response to any and all requirements that the body of truth delivered by Christ contains. No one can claim to have the faith that saves until and unless he responds to those requirements the faith demands.

Hebrews 11 contains a list of men who were blessed by faith and in each case the blessing came at the point of response to what truth demanded. Notice these statements:”By faith Noah . . . moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (v. 7). “By faith Abraham . . . obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (v. 8). “By faith Abraham, when he was tried offered up Isaac …” (v. 17). “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land . . .” (v. 29). “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days” (v. 30).

The faith that saves is that state of mind that accepts the revelation of Christ and responds to whatever requirements are found in it to receive the promised blessing. If one should hear the word, believe the word  mentally accept it as true  but will not obey the requirements contained in it, he will no more be saved than the devils who believe in this way (James 2:19). This is the true doctrine of “faith only” or “salvation at the point of faith.”

Following are some passages that prove that faith must be obeyed before it blesses. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven! but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). “. . . and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was de-livered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). One must obey the faith (truth) to be saved by faith.

Guardian of Truth XL: No. 17, p. 9-10
September 5, 1996