What is Faith and Why is it Required for Salvation?

What is faith? Is it believing intellectually that Jesus Christ really existed… that He lived a life without sin, died for the sins of the world and rose again three days later? Or is there more to it? The answer is “Yes” and “Yes.” Yes, faith in Jesus Christ is believing that he lived, died and rose again. And yes, there is more to it.

faithJohn 3:16, Ephesians 2:8, Romans 3:22, Romans 3:26, Romans 3:28, Romans 5:1 and many other verses in God’s Word make it clear that aside from faith in Jesus Christ, there is no hope for salvation. John 3:18 states “he that believeth not is condemned already.” In short, God’s Word states that those who do not have faith in Jesus Christ, will die an eternal death, which is to be eternally separated from God, in Hell.

There are two types of faith in the Scriptures that lead to salvation: an intellectual faith and a trusting faith (heart faith).

In John 4:46-53 we see a clear illustration of these two types of faith. In verse 47 the man exercised historical faith when he heard that Jesus had come into Galilee, and he went to Him. When Jesus told him “go thy way, thy son liveth,” he exercised trusting faith, when he believed Jesus’ words and “went his way” (verse 50). In verse 53, when he knew that his son became well at the exact hour that Jesus said “thy son liveth,” he also exercised a trusting faith. He continued to believe and the rest of his household did as well.

I remember when I was lost, before I had ever cared to read God’s Word, thinking “It’s ridiculous to think that God decides who will go to heaven and who will go to hell, based on whether they believe someone existed or not.” I thought that because I had a false understanding of the Biblical definition of faith, I wasn’t yet convicted of my sin, so I wasn’t concerned about Bible faith or real saving faith (heart faith).

Vines defines “faith” primarily as, “firm persuasion,” a conviction based upon hearing (akin to peitho, “to persuade”), is used in the NT always of “faith in God or Christ, or things spiritual.”

Notice the bold text above. Faith is “a conviction based upon hearing!” That conviction is not just a settled mental decision, although that is part of it. It is a full and settled conviction of the heart! So, while believing that Jesus Christ came to earth, fully man and fully God, died for our sins and rose again three days later, is a type of faith, that intellectual faith does not fully encompass the requirement of “faith” that saves, as mentioned in the verses above. Afterall, Satan and his demons have that same faith (James 2:19)!

In Matthew 19:16-22, the Lord Jesus talks with a rich, young ruler who asked Him how he could inherit eternal life. After he tells the Lord that he has kept the law, The Lord Jesus says “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” This young ruler was looking for a key. He was looking for the perfect recipe. He was looking for a how-to guide. Our Lord was saying (if I may paraphrase) “I want your heart, not just your legal obedience! I want you to really believe in me. I want to be first in your life. Follow Me because I am everything that is Good and Right and True. If you give me your heart, obedience will follow. But if you give me legal obedience without your heart, it is worthless to me.”

In Romans 10:9-10 Paul says “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.” He is saying that confessing Jesus Christ with your mouth is a result of both types of faith, which really equals faith of the heart (not just head). He didn’t say “and shalt believe in thine head.” He said “and shalt believe in thine heart.”

This, and so many other passages in Scripture, point to a faith of the heart. This is believing that Jesus Christ not only stands for, but IS in His very nature and being the Son of God and is ALL THAT IS GOOD!

If you believe in your heart:

1. That Jesus Christ not only stands for, but IS in His very nature and being, the Son of God and ALL THAT IS GOOD.

2. That God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

3. That He paid for all of your sins with His blood atonement and death on the cross as your substitute.

Then:

1. You will want to cry out to Him, the only living Lord and Savior, to save you.

2. You will want to put the faith of your heart into words.

3. You will want to give your heart, life and soul over into His hands, to save you once and for all eternity.

4. You will repent of your sins and trust indeed only in the merits of His shed blood, by the undeserved GRACE of God to save your soul.

5. You will then know, and delight to confess to all, that Jesus Christ is now your own LORD (Master, Ruler, Owner, Controller, Boss) and all-sufficient Savior.

In John 14:6 the Lord Jesus said “I am the way , the truth, and the life.” So God’s requirement of faith in Jesus Christ for salvation is far more than just believing He walked the earth. It is believing in your head and heart that the things which Jesus Christ said are wrong (defined in Scripture), really are wrong. It is believing that the things which Jesus Christ said are right (defined in Scripture), really are right. It is surrendering your life to Him with full trust. Then you will be desiring to do those good things and desiring not to do those bad things, (even though you know you will often miss the target). Then you will be desiring what is right BECAUSE what is right IS right, and you will be turning away from what is wrong BECAUSE what is wrong IS wrong. Heart Faith is believing that He paid it all, for you and is fully capable of taking care of your soul for eternity! It makes one “a new Creature” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

All of this encompasses and embraces who Jesus Christ is. So in these things, you believe. And because Jesus Christ came to earth as the Son of Man and the Son of God and legally paid the penalty that we deserve to pay ourselves, our heart faith in Him is counted unto us for righteousness (Romans 10:9-11)!

That is what faith is.

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