Saving Faith is so called because eternal life is inseparably joined to it. Saving faith must begin in the heart, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). This means that the person believes and is totally persuaded that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour and that His blood alone is sufficient for his salvation. This also means that he must accept that the Scriptures / the Gospel is absolute truth.
Saving faith cannot rely upon personal merits, goodness, or religious background, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6), but simply repents and calls upon the Lord for salvation. The following Scripture texts confirm this; “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13), “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37-38).
The work of saving faith in a persons heart can be outlines as:
a) Rebuke: There is a conviction that salvation is needed. This initial conviction is actually the Holy Spirit working upon that person’s life. He is convicted of his sin and understands that he can do nothing to free himself of sin or make himself right with God, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
b) Repentance: There is a desire to receive salvation. Out of the deep conviction of his heart there should be the cry “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). In reality such conviction and desire can only be there is the Word of God has been faithfully preached to that person.
c) Reliance: In answer to the heartfelt question “What must I do to be saved?” there is no reliance upon self, morality, religion, good works or any other man-made approach to God. Instead there is a turning to the saving (and finished) work of Jesus Christ on the cross. They realise that only Christ is the answer; “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
d) Result: The result is that there is a confidence that God has done the work in his heart. This means that he believes that he is now a child of God, for “as many as received him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
Salvation comes as a free gift of God’s grace as the He enlightens the mind to the reality of sin, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44), but it can only be received by faith, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16). Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only requirement for salvation (though such faith must include repentance of sin), “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). Saving faith is not a theological understanding but a response of the heart to the message preached (or read). This faith motivates the person to seek Christ as Saviour, and follows Him faithfully all of his life. Saving faith is not a momentary experience but a lifelong commitment to God.
The word Justification (Gk. dikaioo) as used in the Scriptures has the meaning of being made right with God or having a right relationship with Him. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19). Justification is a legal term for the judicial act of God in declaring a sinner that repents, even though he is guilty and worthy of eternal punishment, righteous in His eyes. This justification comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul reveals important truths about justification and how it is accomplished in a persons heart:
a) God makes a person right with Himself as a free gift, “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
b) It is accomplished through the blood of Jesus Christ for He paid the price demanded by God for our justification (Romans 3:24).
c) As a person puts his faith solely in Christ God declares him to be justified, “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24). “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:3-5).
d) Justification includes the fact that our sins have been forgiven, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (Romans 4:7). Such justification is a result of Christ’s atoning death and His resurrection, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God … Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification … Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 3:25, 4:25, 5:9-10).
e) We have been justified because we have been crucified with Christ, “16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:16-20). The idea behind this part of justification is our lives have been transformed by Christ.
Justification cannot be separated from the redemptive work of Christ for us. The repentant sinner is imputed with Christ’s righteousness and so is therefore made righteous in God’s sight.
Regeneration refers to the New Birth. Jesus discussed this very issue with Nicodemus, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:3-7). The new birth is fundamental to the Christian faith, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).
Regeneration is a re-creating and transforming of a sinner into a child of God, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6); “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Through this act eternal life is imparted to the sinner who has repented, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16); “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4); “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11). He is transformed from being a lost sinner under the dominion of Satan into a saved child of that belongs to the Kingdom of Christ, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Colossians 1:13), “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17), “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).
Regeneration is necessary for all men if they are to enter into the Kingdom of God. Without it we are incapable of serving God, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8). It is only available to those who repent and turn to God in faith.
Regeneration can be defined as the life-changing work of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s heart. It is the passing from death into life, “we have passed from death unto life” (1 John 3:14). It is through the quickening power of Christ, “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins … Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved) ” (Ephesians 2:1,5). It is a resurrection from the dead, “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).
God’s wrath is upon all unsaved persons because they are all guilty of breaking all of God’s laws.
Paul reveals that Christ’s death on the cross was a propitiation. The word can be translated as “the mercy seat”. This refers us back to the Mercy Seat that covered the Ark of the Covenant on which the blood of animals was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement for the sins of Israel (Leviticus 16). God’s righteousness meant that sin could not go unpunished unless their was shedding of sacrificial blood. This was the only way for His righteous demands to be met. In the same way Christ’s blood on the cross satisfied those same righteous requirements regarding the punishment of sin. The New Testament (and the book of Isaiah) teaches us that Jesus Christ took the wrath of God upon Himself as our substitute.
In this sense Jesus became our Mercy Seat (propitiation). He is the propitiation for all who will believe, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world … Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2; 4:10). This propitiation reconciles us to God, “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation [Gk. means propitiation here] for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). Therefore the term includes the idea of satisfaction. It is directed towards God and His righteousness. If Christ did not shed His blood for the sins of the world the wrath of God would remain upon us and there would be nothing that we could do to satisfy God.
We may say that propitiation is part of Christ’s atoning death on the cross as payment directed to God, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Romans 3:25). God’s holiness is thus vindicated and satisfied by the death of His Son.
Reconciliation, as the word implies, concerns the change that takes place when a sinner accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, “And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Ephesians 2:10). It is a positional change in respects to his relationship with God. Before accepting Christ a person is the enemy of God (this should be seen as mutual enmity) because of his sin. But as soon as repentance takes place he is changed into God’s child and friend, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Roman 5:6-11)
Before reconciliation takes place we are considered to be:
a) Helpless (:6)
b) Unrighteous (:7)
c) Sinful (:8)
d) Enemies of God (:10) Also see Colossians 1:21, “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled”.
e) We had no desire to be reconciled to God, “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:10-11).
Reconciliation is man-ward – God initiates the work and man receives it as he responds to the Gospel (Romans 5:11). It can only be received on an individual basis. This work of reconciliation continues in this present age while there are sinners willing to repent, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).