Incredible but true! Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness: The faith of a man in God’s words is treated as equivalent to righteousness! Is this only because of his faith or because of God’s grace and mercy? Because of both: “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed…” (Ro.4:16 AV). God’s procedure is simple and clear: When God sees that the heart of someone turns toward Christ in faith, He forgives his sins, credits his faith as righteousness, adopts him as His child and saves him from eternal condemnation. Then, He empowers him to live a new and holy life and renders him able to resist sin, Satan and the lusts of his flesh. In addition, He helps him to get rid from the power of sin, his bad habits and his passions… “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; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Tit.3.5‑7). Grace and only grace! So, Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross is the only ground for man’s reconciliation with God! To God be the glory!
Let us see this “theme” of faith from another point of view: Adam and Eve did not believe in God’s love and veracity; thus, they committed an injustice because they dishonoured God. “… he that does not believe God (that is in His words) has made him a liar…”. Abraham, on the contrary, believed in God’s promise, did an act of justice by honouring God, believing in his words and in his love. “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” (Ge.15:6). Unbelief to God is equal to injustice and faith or trust to Him is equal to justice. We also do justice by speaking the truth in our heart (Ps.15:2) about our sins and our sinful nature (Ro.3:4). Consequently, the expression “who believes on Him” means that he has faith in God’s love, His wisdom, His omniscience, His omnipotence, His sovereignty etc.
The expression in question means, actually, that he that believes in God’s Word and trusts His character, considers all His statements and His promises entirely worthy to be received and solid to lean and rest upon them. An attitude of trust to God Who sent His Son Jesus Christ. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1Tim.1:15). A confidence that implies Christ’s acceptance as Saviour AND as Lord. A confidence that incites to obedience by love and to the accomplishment of good works. When faith is combined with fruits worthy of repentance (Mt.3:8), then salvation is the outcome. God’s Word confirms it:
· “…as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:” (Joh.1:12);
· “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.” (1Joh.5:1);
· “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (Jas.2:26).
To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ means that you accept the fact that you are a sinner and that as a sinner you deserve the sin penalty; you believe also that Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary by the action of the Holy Spirit, died on the cross, was buried, and arose again on the third day to pay your debt. It means that you completely trust Christ to keep you and that you will depend on Him alone. The Holy Spirit will help you in everything in order to live a holy life and to serve the Lord Jesus and His plans.
The meaning of the terms of “justice”, “mercy” and “grace”
We must understand the meaning of the terms of “justice”, “mercy” and “grace”:
· If God had made justice to us, we would have gotten what we deserved. And what we deserved was to die on a cross. Jesus died on the cross in our place!
· God, however, in His mercy has not given us what we deserved, that is, the cross and eternal death. On the contrary, He has forgiven our sins and has cast them into the depths of the sea (Mic.7:19). We received the remission of our sins! (Ezr.9:13 and Ps.103:10-11)
· He has, in his grace, justified us and has given us a lot of blessings that we did not deserve. His grace is immeasurable! So He has not only removed our sins but has also added a lot of virtues and blessings. Blessings upon blessings!
Faith includes repentance
In John’s Gospel as well as in his epistles the word repentance does not exist. Yet, it is included in the word “faith”. A faith worthy of its name obliges the one that has it to a confession of his sins, to a complete abandonment of every sin and to an absolute surrender to God and His will… Consequently, as faith or better still trust in God is an act of justice so repentance is also an act of justice because it recognizes that God is just and that man is sinful and guilty. When I say to God: “Yes, Lord, I have sinned, what I did was not just etc.”, I make an act of justice. God, on the basis of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross considers me righteous!
The reading of the epistle of James or of the first epistle of John suffices to understand that Biblical faith does not exist without repentance, without the spirit of mourning for one’s sins. To make this truth more explicit, I would like to mention 1Jo.1:9 that says: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This word was addressed by John to believers, who are already members of God’s family but the principle is also valid for non believers who sincerely confess their sins, invoke the name of the Lord Jesus and who are justified and God becomes their Father. All spiritual blessings are under condition and it is for this reason that more than 1.500 “IF” exist in the Bible. All is under condition! The only thing that is unconditional is God’s love towards us. HE loves us as we are and in spite of what we are.
Faith is an activity of the whole soul bringing into movement the intellect, the emotions and the will. Anything less than this is not Biblical faith. By repentance a man abhors his sins and himself, by faith he goes out of himself and grasps God’s grace. What saves is faith, but the faith that saves is always combined with repentance. Faith and works are like the light and heat of a candle; they cannot be separated. Faith justifies the person and works prove his faith. Saving faith produces obedience and brings about a new way of life. Saving faith is a living faith in a living Saviour. Faith that does not sincerely love and obey Christ, which does not show a real concern for the work of God’s kingdom, and does not actively resist sin and the world, cannot qualify as saving faith. He who wants to be saved must cleave and follow Jesus as the Lord of his life. True faith produces committal!
Faith, repentance and good conscience
The Word of God says:
· “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” (1Jo.3.20-22);
· “having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck” (1Ti.1:19)
We conclude, therefore, that our faith cannot function well and obtain God’s blessings when our conscience is “infected” by sins of “the flesh and of the mind” (Eph.2:3), by despair etc. In other words, when our conscience condemns us of a non confessed and rejected sin! On the contrary, when faith goes together with a heart sprinkled from an evil conscience which seeks the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all kinds of blessings are added to the believer.
God’s part in salvation and man’s part in salvation
We must at this point notice the following truths concerning faith and salvation:
· No man can forgive his own sins, regenerate his own heart and declare himself justified and clean. God commands us: “…Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mrk.1:15). Christ cannot repent for our own account. Adultery or lying or anger or hypocrisy, for example, is an act of man for which he must accept full responsibility. He who has truly repented does not continue and cannot continue his sin or his passion (2Co.7:10; 1Jo.3:9; Gal.5:22-25; Héb.7:25). The true Christian is not perfect but does not lead an “up and down” life: He gets rid progressively of his sins, bad habits and passions. Many so-called Christians try to believe without having repented. They try to have faith without having the intention to do God’s will.
· God cannot believe for us so that we may be saved and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2Pet.3:18). It is our responsibility to believe the Word of God and trust Him. It is our responsibility to appropriate by faith God’s offered salvation. Everything depends on the choices of our heart. (Pr.4:23)
Dear friend! What are you going to do? Will you honour God by your faith? Will you do justice by telling the truth concerning yourself and God? Will you accept his saving grace and mercy for your salvation and for your spiritual growth in grace? (2Ti.2:1). Amen.