What is Saving Faith?
No Salvation Without Faith
A person becomes a Christian by faith. “For by grace are ye saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). When the Philippian jailor was troubled about his salvation, he was exhorted to exercise belief, the verb expression of faith. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts. 16:31). When Nicodemus failed to understand how he could enter into a relationship with God, Jesus said, “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). Apart from faith, personal salvation is impossible.
Personal salvation is experienced by the inner person. Since humans are composed of intellect, emotion, and will, faith comes through a proper exercise of these three aspects of personality.
Our faith must be grounded on correct knowledge. A person cannot put his trust in something he does not know about, nor can he honestly trust something that is proven false to him. A person must first know the gospel, which means he has an intellectual knowledge of salvation. But knowledge alone will not save him.
The Bible seems to make a distinction between “believe that” and “believe in.” In the first place, one can believe that his team will win or believe that a job is superior. This belief is opinion, but is not deep conviction, i.e., based on the object of his faith-Jesus Christ. When a person “believes in,” the belief is based on a careful weighing of the evidence. When we say “believe in” we are speaking of a moral expression or a moral experience.
The Gospel of John uses the word “believe” ninety-eight times and ties faith to the object of belief. We are exhorted to ‘believe in Jesus Christ.’ As a result, the important aspect of belief is what you believe, not just the measure of your belief. Therefore, to have saving faith, a person must believe that God exists. He must believe that he himself is a sinner (Rom. 3:23). He must believe that God will punish sin (Rom. 6:23), and that Christ has made a provision for his salvation (Rom. 5:8). A person must believe these truths, which means he accepts them intellectually, but mere intellectual assent to biblical truth is not enough to save.
Our faith will have an emotional expression. Knowledge about God is the foundation of saving faith, but such faith will extend to the individual’s emotional responses as well. Solomon wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). Jesus repeated this truth, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37). This means that intellectual belief is not enough. A person cannot trust his own understanding about God. Although emotions are involved in faith, faith is more than emotional feeling. Our emotional response to the gospel must be founded upon an intellectual understanding of the Scripture.
Your faith must be a volitional response. A third aspect of saving faith is an expression of volitional faith. A person is saved as a result of an act of his will whereby he relies on Christ as proclaimed in the gospel. Paul told the Roman Christians, “Ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Rom. 6:17). When a person accepts Jesus Christ as his Savior (John 1:12), it is a conscious act whereby he invites him into his heart (Eph. 3:16).