Salvation - Is Your Faith High Enough? (Article 20-5)
According to the PEW Research Center, there’s a steady decline in the number of Protestant (down 7% since 2009) and Catholic (down 3% since 2009) believers in the United States with a rise in the agnostic and atheist population. However, I have another concern. Of those who profess to be “believers” how many are really saved? Why do I ask this question? It is my view that if people claiming to be Christians are saved by way of “saving faith,” things would be much, much different in our country by way of what we value, how we behave, and how we express our love for one another. Anything other than "saving faith" is not genuine, thus being "superficial" in nature.
Superficial versus Saving Faith. Let's examine scripture to better understand the differences between "saving" and "superficial" faith.
Jesus and The Passover Feast. John provides an example of saving faith, in John 2: 23-25, where he states, “23 Now while he (Jesus) was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.” In the above scripture, note that although the people who witnessed Christ’s miraculous works “believed” in His name, that being they believed that He was who He said He was, but they didn’t believe (or understand) that He was the only way to salvation. Knowing that what was in their heart was not "saving faith," Christ would not entrust Himself to them. This scripture provides an important distinction between one having faith (confidence) in Christ’s name, and “saving faith”: To have faith in knowing Christ is our only path to salvation, or in other words, our only source of light and life. See, Christ knows our real hearts, and because He knows our hearts, He knows what dwells in our hearts. If what dwells in our hearts (our intent) is not that of “saving faith,” He will not “entrust” Himself to us. Anything short of “saving faith” is “superficial faith.”
Jesus and the Multitudes. Let’s look at another example in scripture the aids in understanding the differences between saving and superficial faith. We read that after Christ fed the multitudes (John 6:14) John states, “Therefore when the people saw the sign which He (Christ) had performed, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet (meaning Messiah per Deu. 18:15) who is to come into the world.” The disciples were likely to have exclaimed “Great! These people see Christ as the Messiah! However, note that Jesus knowing their hearts, knew the people were going to take Him by force to make Him king. As a result, Christ withdrew from them, for their faith was not one of salvation, but rather superficial in nature. Although they believed in “who” He was, they did not understand “what” He was relative to salvation. Therefore, Jesus didn’t “entrust” Himself to them, and departed.
Jesus and Nicodemus. Another example of superficial faith is Christ’s encounter with the Jewish Pharisee named Nicodemus (John 3:1-11). Nicodemus came to believe in Christ’s name. In fact, he referred to Christ as “Rabbi.” However, Nicodemus did not understand what Christ was as it pertained to salvation. I suspect as a man of God, Nicodemus, saw himself worthy of salvation, for as a Pharisee we can assume he followed the commandments (the Law), thus being obedient to God, and with His obedience, performed “good works.” However, Nicodemus didn’t understand “what” Christ was by way of salvation. This is why Christ explained to Nicodemus “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” Not understanding what Christ meant, Nicodemus asked Jesus, how can this be? How is it possible for one be born again in their mother’s womb? Of course, Nicodemus was without knowledge of Christ’s works to be performed on the Cross, and with it, the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection as it pertained to salvation. So, until Nicodemus recognized what Christ was, in lieu of who He was, Nicodemus' salvation could not be achieved.
Simon and the Sorcerer. Finally, let’s look at Acts 8:9-20 (Simon and the Sorcerer). Simon was a sorcerer who had established a large following of people in Samaria, by way of performing magic, and claiming himself to be great (Acts 8:9). When Simon witnessed God’s miracles being performed through Philip, he became a believer and was baptized. Then, when Peter and John came on the scene and prayed for the people to receive the Holy Spirit, Simon offered money so he could obtain the same powers. In response, Peter chastised Simon saying in, “May your silver perish with you because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore, repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” Clearly, Simon’s faith was superficial in nature, that being his intent for being baptized was wrong. His intent needed to be one of saving faith, and not with the intent to receive a supernatural gift he could use for his own purpose.
God Knows Our Hearts. As stated earlier, God knows our true hearts, and Jesus said that we can know a tree by its fruit (Luke 6:43-44). As such, should we not be able to spot a Christian by his godly behavior and lifestyle stemming from his salvation? As James points out, saving (genuine) faith leads to good works (James 2:14-26), and 1 John 2:3 states, “By this, we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments (are obedient to Him).” These verses are not saying that Christians never sin (see 1 John 1:9; 2:1), but rather we are committed, by way of the Holy Spirit’s power, to be transformed by way of our having "saving faith." So, let us examine our hearts to know that at the core of our faith is knowing "what" Christ is to us, and not "who" He is to us. To know "what" Christ is to us is to know He is the light and life and the only way to our Father in Heaven.