GENUINE SAVING FAITH
By Curtis Pugh
Published in the Berea Baptist Banner February 5, 1990.
“But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to god must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6).
Our Scripture text is clear—if a person would please God, he or she must have faith. However, let us ask some questions: (1) Is all faith the same? (2) Are there more kinds of faith than one? (3) Do all ‘believers’ have the same kind of faith? (4) Will just any kind of faith please God? (5) What is the source of true faith?
Now the word ‘faith’ in our Bibles can refer to doc-trine— what we call objective faith—the things most surely believed among us. The word ‘faith’ can and does some-times refer to confidence or trust—what we call subjec-tive faith—that belief in the Person of the Son of God.
Our text refers to the second usage of the word and it is of this subjective ‘faith’ or confidence and trust in the Person of Christ that I wish to speak. A careful study of the Bible indicates clearly that not every one who ‘believed’ on the Lord Jesus was saved, though all the saved do genuinely believe on Him. For instance, in John 2:23-25 we find that “many believed in his name when they saw the miracles which he did.” However, we are told that “Jesus did not com-mit himself unto them” since He knew their true con-dition— that is, that they were not truly regenerate ones. Their interest in Christ was a miracle worker, a King who could heal their bodies, relieve their suffering, res-urrect their dead and keep them well fed. They thought they had found a spiritual gravy train—welfare state where they would be always cared for. These folk be-lieved the popular, but unbiblical prosperity doctrine before Kenneth and Kenneth and their brother Orval ever preached it!
Similarly, in John 8:30-59 we find “many believed on him” (v. 30), and yet our Lord told the same crowd “ye seek to kill me” twice (v. 37 & 40) and further told them “ye believe me not.” Finally we read of these same “many” who “believed on him” taking up stones with which to kill Him (v. 59). Had He not worked a miracle and gone through the midst of them, )or simi-larly demonstrated His power) no doubt they would have murdered Him. (Note that the miracle of escape which He worked did not make believers of them!)
I conclude then that ‘there are belieers and there are believers.’ If one tries to argue that these were true be-lievers who fell away into unbelief and though they were once saved, finally lost their salvation, I answer that this is a poor argument and not substained by the context at all, especially in as much as the portion in John 2 indi-cates that these were never saved at all, even though they “believed.”
Christ does point out in John 8:31 that the kind of faith possessed by the regnerate is not a ‘once upon a time faith,’ but rather a ‘once for all time’ kind of faith. Many would base their salvation on a long-past moment of faith who have no faith today. On the authority of the Word of God, I say that if you have no faith in Christ today, you had no moment of faith in the past.
Whatever may have happened to you, whatever you “got” 40 years ago, or 4 years ago, or 4 months ago, if you have not continued in confidence and trust in Christ until the present moment, you didn’t ‘get it!’ (Now the grammer may be lacking in that and the terms may sound Arminian, but Jesus said, “. . .If ye continue in my work, then are ye my disciples indeed” ( John 8:31).
As one old preacher said, If you can quit, quit!
Evidently not everyone who believes, “believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:39). The Bible teaches and Baptists believe that those whom the Holy Ghost regenerates persevere to the end!
While there may be more than these, let us consider four views popular in our day concerning faith. I be-lieve these are representative of the views held by vari-ous groups claiming to be Christians, some of them even claiming to be Baptists!
1. The Universal View:
This is the view which says that faith is resident in all men, saved and unsaved alike. Frankly, I had never heard anyone espouse this view until a few years ago when I heard a Baptist (?) preacher preach this from Romans 12:3. His proof was the phrase “as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” He failed to see, or refused to see that the “every man” of the phrase “as God hath dealt to every man” is the same “every man” as in the phrase “to every man that is among you.” [What the verse teaches is that God has dealt faith to every true Christian!] He maintained that every child of Adam possessed faith. His reasoning seemed to be something akin to this: All men have faith. Whether you are saved or not depends on whether you place your (natural, inborn) faith in Christ or whether you trust in yourself, your works, your riches, your reli-gion, your own goodness, etc.
This message was preached before about a thousand people, many of whom were Baptist preachers, or so they said. It seems that I was the only person there up-set about such nonsense. I gave the fellow who preached this message a Scripture: II Thess. 3:2, “. . .for all men have not faith.” He never answered me.
2. The Miracle View:
This view teaches that saving faith is produced by seeing or experiencing miracles. Pentecostals and Charismatics often hold this new. They maintain that miracles are yet present among the Lord’s people and that these miracles are necessary to produce faith so that folk can be saved. So we have stories circulated about a man blind in one eye, whose eyeball had been removed, but who could miraculously read with that “eye,” either with or without his glass eye inserted in its socket. Or they tell us about an airplane pilot who crashed his small plane in the Artic and who knew he would freeze un-less God did a miracle as his legs were broken. Sure enough, he awoke the next morning quite warm, but feeling a heaviness upon him. Soon a large polar bear raised himself off the pilot and went and fetched him a sack lunch containing a roast beef sandwich—not a hot roast beef sandwich, but a sandwich nevertheless. (Now even though I live in the Yukon, I haven’t learned much about polar bears yet, but I believe in the above situa-tion, the bear would be more likely to have lunch rather than to bring it!)
I hope you have never had the ‘privilege’ of being in a preaching meeting or watching T.V. when such sto-ries as these are told. They are genuine—genuine stories that is—and were told by folks who believe that miracles produce faith. Those who repeat such stories may or may not have good intentions, but their goal is to cause people to have faith in God and they think to do it by telling of the miracles (?)
The “certain rich man” in Luke 16:19-31 held to this view and after he found out that nothing could be done to ease his torment in the flames of everlasting punishment, asked that Lazarus the beggar be sent to his brethren saying that “if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent” (v. 30). He was informed that if men have not faith to believe the Bible, “neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (v. 31). GOD’S WORD TEACHES THAT MIRACLES DO NOT PRODUCE FAITH!
3. The Word-Only view:
This is the view of the “easy believe-ism” crowd. All we need do, according to those who espouse this view, is preach the Word powerfully, positively and attrac-tively enough and people will believe, walk the aisle and be saved. What we need is a “dynamic young evan-gelist” or an “ex-dope addict” or an “ex-gangster” or an “ex-stripper” who has “found Christ” and they can “reach the lost.”
Among the more intellecutal (?) current fad of ‘Bible teachers’ this is expressed as being able to “effectively communicate the gospel” or some other such high-sounding expressions. (Usually these fellows are ‘Dr. So and So and have a radio\TV counseling ministry.’)
Of course this crowd is into the numbers game quite heavily. They boast and publish in their papers etc., the number of ‘nickels and noses’ they have corralled. The preacher with the biggest Sunday school, the most im- mersions, etc., is the biggest success according to their way of thinking. They are completely “success oriented” and if they are not getting the prescribed number to sign the card or shake the preacher’s hand, or walk the aisle, or invite Jesus into their heart, or whatever their current requirement for salvation happens to be, the fault, they think, must be with the preacher. Get a bet-ter preacher or get a better method!
Preachers beware! What you win ‘em with is what it will take to keep ‘em. If you win folks with the Word of God, the Word will keep them. If you win them with Hollywood methods, it will take Hollywood methods to keep them, and you cannot compete with Hollywood. (All it takes is for a bigger ‘Hollywooder’ than you to come down the pike and guess where your folk will be!) At first this view would seem to magnify the Word, but as I have pointed out, since not all who hear the preached Word are saved, in reality the power is in the person preaching the Word. This is why schools and conferences to improve methods and maintain enthusi-asm are necessary.
I have devoted considerable time and space to this view as it is quite popular among some who are labeled Baptists. Let it be seen that the Word alone will not con-vert the sinner—will not produce faith!
4. The Scriptural View
The correct view, I believe, is that for genuine re-pentance and faith to be produced, not only must the Word be preached, but the Holy Ghost must operate in regeneration.
The old New Hampshire Baptist Confession says un-der the heading “VII. Grace In Regeneration,” that “We believe that in order to be saved, sinners must be re-generated, or born again. . .that it is effected in a man-ner above our comprehension by the power of the Holy Ghost in connection with divine truth, . . .”
Romans 10:17 is sometimes used to try and refute this truth since it says, “So then faith cometh by hear-ing, and hearing by the word of God.” However, the context (verses 18-20 especially) sets forth the truth that God worked in some by the Holy Ghost and was “found of them that sought me not”—the Gentiles. God elects some and works in them, regenerates them, and they hear the Word and believe!
Thus in Acts 3:16 such faith is said to be “the faith which is by him.” In Acts 14:27 God is said to have “opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.” Galatians 5:22 states that faith is a part of the truth of the Spirit. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that (faith) is the gift of God” (brackets mine). Thus Hebrews 4:2 says that the Word “preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.”
Peter addressed his second letter (II Peter 1:1) “to them THAT HAVE OBTAINED like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” The kind of faith required to please God MUST BE OBTAINED—it cannot be ‘home-made,’ Genuine faith is the product of God. The Scripture says that Christ “hath brought life and im-mortality to light through the gospel” (II Tim. 1:10). The preached gospel, when believed, brings to light what God has done within the sinner!
A well known leader in the Christian education move-ment, though himself admittedly a “Christian human-ist” once said, “men believe what they are predisposed to believe.” I doubt that he knew what he was saying, but he was exactly right. The unsaved man acts accord-ing to his depraved unregenerate intellect, emotions and will and therefore rejects the gospel of Christ. The elect of God, being predisposed by the workings of the Holy Ghost in regeneration, believes the gospel and trusts savingly in Christ.
Why even the God-called, properly authorized, Bap-tist Church ordained preacher is shut up to this fact: pray all he will, live clean all he may, study all he can, and preach his hardest and best, weeping inwardly and even outwardly, yet if God be not pleased to regenerate his hearers, they will not savingly believe! The greatest preacher alive cannot produce faith to save himself and he cannot produce it in others either!
Christian, humbly worship and thankfully praise God that He has worked faith in you! Had He not chosen to do so you would be as unbelieving as Judas Iscariot! Oh, how these truths should cause us to admire and adore our Lord for His grace and electing love.
Lost friend, do you see that you too, as the old preach-ers used to say, are shut up to Holy Ghost regenera-tion? As much as you might like the preacher and want to please others, you cannot believe savingly until God enables you by sovereignly regenerating you. You are cast upon Him to do it if He will!
Do you see it then? There is nothing, NOTHING AT ALL that you can DO to save yourself! Your works cannot save you for the best of them are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). Your prayers cannot save you, for “How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?” (Rom. 10:14) and you are not a believer. Only Christ can save you!
This is the delight of Christ, for He said that He came “not to call the righteous, but sinners to repen-tance” (Mark 2:17). See yourself as helpless and hope-less unless Christ saves you! See that you deserve Hell and that God would be perfectly righteous to send you there at whatever time He chooses!
Sinner, do you, can you, see yourself thus lost? That is the lack today. Everyone wants to ‘be saved and go to Heaven,’ but no one is lost! If you are lost there is hope for you, for Christ saves lost sinners. Seek Him!