Biblical faith is a part of the conversion experience of every believer. The Scriptures have much to say regarding faith; and so it is important that the Christian understand this central concept as taught by the Lord. This article will discuss faith as the instrument of God’s grace; faith as God’s gift; and the elements of faith.
Faith as the Instrument of God’s Grace
It is not uncommon to hear modern evangelicals teaching that God saves people on the basis of their faith. However, when the Scriptures are considered, it becomes evident that this “gospel” is not the good news at all; it is only another form of works righteousness. Ephesians 2 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Many use this often-quoted verse to validate the teaching that Christians are justified on the basis of their faith. However, as the verse is studied, one must come to a different conclusion. The teaching of the Scriptures is that Christians are saved on the basis of grace alone. There is no basis for salvation other than the atoning work of the Lord Christ Himself upon Calvary’s cross.
Throughout history, alternatives to the grace of God as the basis of salvation have been offered. Many have denied the teaching of the Scriptures and have taught that man is saved on the basis of his own works, which the Lord accepts and afterward grants salvation. This outright rejection of the grace of God has been thoroughly disproven by those who are Protestant in their faith. But a more subtle form of the same doctrine is still tenaciously held to. These “evangelicals” claim that salvation is granted on the basis of faith, which is often described as self-generated. This is saying, in essence, that salvation is based upon the work of man, instead of the grace of God. The fundamental problem is the failure to understand that God grants salvation on the basis of grace alone, through faith alone. Faith is described as the instrument through which the Lord conveys grace, not the basis of it. Faith does not save; Jesus Christ saves through the means of faith.
Faith as God’s Gift
The fact that faith is the instrument through which God conveys grace does not take away from the importance of faith. Faith is an essential part of salvation, without which no one can be saved. A question, then, naturally arises concerning the origin of faith. Is faith something that man is capable of producing on his own, or is it something that is given to man by God. The Scriptures declare, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8). The Lord gives faith to the elect freely. Regarding the origin of faith, this verse teaches: 1.) it is not a work of man; 2.) it is a gift freely given by God; and 3.) this gift is given by the good pleasure of God, not on the basis of any work or worth of man. Philippians 1:29 likewise says, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Here Paul says by the Spirit that the ability to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is something that is granted to the Christian and not something that is self-generated or earned. This aspect of faith as being a gift from God is vital to our understanding of the nature of our salvation on the basis of grace alone.
The Elements of Faith
The origin of the instrument of grace is itself part of the gracious gift of our merciful Father. However, various definitions of faith have been suggested throughout the history of the Christian church. Some of the definitions are directly opposed to sound theology, so it is important to understand the concepts contained in the term “faith.” There are three essential elements of faith: knowledge, assent, and trust. Faith contains the concept of knowledge. This is the intelligible aspect of faith. In the Scriptures, when an individual is described as having faith, it is always faith in something. Faith contains the concept of assent. This is the emotional aspect of faith. Assent is the acknowledgment of the individual that the fact or knowledge of faith is true. Finally, faith contains the concept of trust. This is the volitional aspect of faith. Trust is the dispositional change within the heart of the individual who places his confidence in the object of faith. It is noteworthy to mention again that each of the three is essential to the Biblical definition of faith. Without knowledge, there would be nothing intelligible to have “faith” in. Without assent that the knowledge is true, trust is impossible. Without trust or confidence in the object of faith, there is no salvation.