It was one of the most celebrated times in the Jewish calendar. It was the Passover(See Exodus 12:1-13). Jews would all gather together in Jerusalem to celebrate this feast. Now on one of these occasions Jesus appears on the scene. And what does he do? Miraculous signs. The beloved disciple states very clearly the purpose of these miraculous signs was so that people may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God(John 20:30-31). People saw these miraculous signs, John writes, that Jesus did at the Passover Feast and many believed in His name(John 2:23). What was Jesus’ response?

“But Jesus on His part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”

John 2:24-25

It ought to shock you that the verse does not begin with the term “therefore” or “so”. That would signify there was something positive in Jesus’ response, such as, “So Jesus on His part entrusted Himself to them”. But that is not what it says. Instead, the verse begins with a contrasting term, namely “but”. Why did Jesus not entrust Himself to them? The text of Scripture is clear. Because of Christ’s omniscience. He is all-knowing. Specifically it mentions twice that Christ “knew” what was in man.

Christ knew that this was not saving faith, but superficial faith. As the God-Man He knew that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick”(Jeremiah 17:9). This kind of spurious faith was throughout Christ’s ministry. On another occasion the crowds were asking Jesus to show them a sign so that they may see and believe(John 6:30). Earlier Jesus exposed their false motives for coming to Him(John 6:26). It was these same people who later on were proven to be apostate(John 6:66).

Furthermore, James says that even the demons believe and that belief is orthodox(James 2:19), yet it is not saving faith. So what is the nature of true saving faith? Let’s look at 6 elements that will help us not jump to immediate conclusions that whoever says that they believe in Jesus or that has grown up believing in Jesus is automatically saved.

1) Saving faith is a commitment.

Systematic theology recognizes three elements of genuine faith, notitia, assensus and fiducia.

knowledge assent trust
intellectual element emotional element volitional element
mind emotions will

Notitia is a recognition and understanding of the truth that Christ saves. Assensus is the settled confidence and affirmation that Christ’s salvation is applicable to one’s soul. And fiduciaries the personal commitment to and appropriation of Christ as the only hope for eternal salvation.

Note that faith is not just mental assent as many would have you falsely think. Just give mental acquiescence and you are saved. NO! Though faith is an acknowledgement of the historical facts of the Gospel(i.e. Jesus died on a real tree), it goes beyond that. It is a personal commitment.

“We cannot be said to believe that which we distrust too much to commit ourselves to it.”

B.B. Warfield

“Saving faith, then, is the whole of my being embracing all of Christ. Faith cannot be divorced from commitment.”

John MacArthur(Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles, p. 45)

2) Saving faith is a gift of God.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,”

Eph. 2:8

What is an antecedent? I know you’re thinking:  “What is this, English 101 or School House Rock? The antecedent is the noun closest in proximity that a pronoun refers to. In this case, the antecedent to the pronouns “this” and “it” is “faith”. Of course the whole of salvation is all of God, but here Paul is specifically stressing that faith is not our own doing because faith itself is the gift of God.

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,”

Phil. 1:29

The term granted comes from the same Greek word from which we get the term grace. Here Paul is saying that faith to believe in Him is granted by the grace of God.

3) Saving faith is a command to be obeyed in response to the Gospel.

While in jail, Paul and Silas were praising God. Then God sent an earthquake to release them from prison. In fear the Phillipian jailer fell down before them.

“And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Acts 16:30-31

Their answer to his question was a command, believe. Jesus said that if you do not believe you stand condemned already(John 3:18) and you will die in your sins(John 8:24). After all, without faith it is impossible to please God(Hebrews 11:6).

4) Saving faith has Christ as its object.

The references to Christ as the only object of faith are so many that I suppose the world would not contain them all(See John 21:25;   John 3:16; John 8:24; John 20:31; Acts 16:31; Acts 20:21; Romans 3:22, 26). Saving faith must be in the person and work of Christ.

You must believe in His person, who He is, namely…

…the only Savior(Acts 4:12)

…Lord(Romans 10:9a)

…Man – the incarnation, His humanity(1 John 4:2-3; cf. 1 John 1:1-3)

…God – Hs Deity(1 John 5:20)

You must believe in His work, what He has done, namely…

…His substitutionary atonement(John 10:11, 15; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 5:25; Titus 2:14)

…His resurrection(Romans 10:9b; Acts 2:24-29; Acts 13:30-37)

5) Saving faith is manifested by the fruit of good works.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:10

Note that we are not saved by works(Ephesians 2:9), but we are saved unto works(Ephesians 2:10). We are His workmanship. We are created in Christ for good works. And it it these good works which God prepared beforehand for us to walk in.

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?”

James 2:14

In his argument in this section of his epistle(James 2:14-26), James’ main thrust comes forth like a neon highlighter from the very outset in this verse. He is contrasting a said faith vs. a saving faith. If someone has a said faith devoid of works, James asks if that faith can save him? A rhetorical question with the loud and clear answer, “But of course not.” or “Perish such a ludicrous thought.”

Good works are the natural consequence of faith so much so that Jesus “gave himself for us…to purify for Himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”(Titus 2:14). We are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone!

6) Saving faith perseveres through trials.

This is Hebrews 11. The Hall of Faith. This cloud of witnesses that is listed here is for our endurance(Hebrews 12:1) because they persisted in the face of trials…by faith… by faith…by faith. Trials are God’s ordinary means that He uses to test the genuineness and authenticity of faith(1 Peter 1:6-7). True saving faith is persevering faith!

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