Faith Does Not Save You…Christ Jesus Does
We have a Savior (Lk 2:11; Phil 3:20), and His name is not “faith.” Far too often in the Arminian aftermath, we hear preachers tell us, “your faith saves you.” Are we not just hearing preachers quote John 7:50, “And He (Jesus) said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you, go in peace’”? How is what Jesus said different than what is spoken by preachers, today? What do we do with Peter writing, “…baptism now saves you…(1 Pet 3:21)”? We must discern, “Does Christ Jesus save you? Faith save you? or Baptism save you?”
This confusion is rooted in the Reformation debate, in which the Protestant Reformers delineated “faith” from “works.” One problem with Roman Catholicism is its deviation from Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, which plainly instructed the church that justification is by faith, not works (Rom 3:28; 4:5; 5:1). There is, of course, nothing wrong with placing emphasis on “faith,” or “baptism;” but it is important for us to be clear in our proposition. Christ saves His people, employing faith and baptism. Faith and baptism are not the cause of salvation; rather, they are evidences of Christ’s salvific work.
Arminianism rejected the Roman Catholic teaching of salvation by works plus Christ. What it then did was made faith a work. One must believe in Christ, as a cause of salvation in the Arminian scheme. Arminianism is difficult to detect. It is a little off the mark, whereas Roman Catholicism is way off.
Arminianism is also far too common in Protestant churches, today. Unless one is firmly rooted in the Scriptures, he might not be able to discern this subtle difference. Its subtlety is what potentially makes Arminianism more dangerous. Trusting in works plus Christ for salvation is an error. Trusting in faith for salvation is also an error. One error is obvious, and the other error is slight.
Jesus Christ came to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21). Jesus’ name means, “Yahweh saves.” Christ is the Savior (Tit 2:13). He is the One who actually saves (Tit 3:5). There is no other Savior (Jn 14:6), and there is nothing else that saves, except Him.
The confusion over whether Jesus is the Savior, or these imposters, faith, and baptism, is also found in Ephesians 2:8–9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”
Salvation from sin, death, and the devil is the subject of the apostle Paul’s statement. Salvation belongs to God (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; 19:1). It is His act of mercy toward undeserving sinners (Rom 9:15–16). God predestined to adoption, His elect ones before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4–5). He sent Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, into the world to do what was necessary to save God’s elect (Jn 3:16). He then sent the Holy Spirit to the elect in every nation and across time to regenerate them (Jn 14:26; 15:26; Acts 2:38; 5:31; Rev 5:9).
With this spiritual re-birth (Jn 3), caused by the Holy Spirit (1 Pet 1:3), the new man is given the grace to know Jesus Christ, who is his salvation. This act of God in the heart of a person is called, “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” When this spiritual baptism occurs, faith is granted (Phil 1:29), even as the baptized one is positioned into the church (1 Cor 12:13). The soul, dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1), is made alive, spiritually (1 Cor 2:15; Eph 2:5; Col 2:13).
The Word is equated with seed planted (Mt 13:20–23; Lk 8:11; 1 Pet 1:23). When the Spirit of God plants the Word of God in the good soil of a human heart (Jas 1:21), then the life of faith shoots up like a fresh sprout. One cannot see the root, but the stem appears. The Word is the root, and faith is the stem. The cause is the Word, and faith is the effect (Rom 10:17). Faith is a product of grace.
So, when Jesus made His statement, “your faith has saved you,” He was following up His previous statement, “your sins are forgiven.” The sinful woman of Luke 7, who anointed Jesus’ head and feet with perfume, was drawn by irresistible grace to serve, honor, and worship Jesus. She heard the Word of forgiveness from Jesus, and she believed the Word spoken to her. Where did her faith come from? Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17). His word gave her faith, and her salvation was then affirmed by her Savior.
Faith is not self-conceived in the manner spoken, today, “your faith saves you…so get to work and believe Jesus.” This is not a debate over semantics. It is a debate over entire systems of soteriology (see Synod of Dordt A.D. 1618–19).
Not everyone was drawn to Jesus in the manner of this sinful woman. God had already been working the grace of repentance in her heart. Grace called her to come into the Savior’s presence, and her reward was to hear the Savior say, “The faith I have given you to believe your sins are forgiven is sufficient for you…go in the peace of knowing I have done for you what you could never do yourself.”
How different was her faith response from those who despised Jesus for positioning Himself as God, who alone can forgive sins (Mk 2:7; Lk 5:21). Why the difference between this sinful woman and the religious leaders? The reason is grace. Her faith was God-granted. Their faith was non-existent because God had not granted them faith. There was no way for them to self-generate faith in Jesus. They were not His sheep (Jn 10:26) and were not of God (Jn 8:47).
Grace is a sovereign work of our Sovereign God (Ps 115:3; 135:6). Grace wrote the names of the elect in the Lamb’s book of life before Creation (Rev 13:8; 17:8). Grace sent Jesus Christ at the fullness of time (Gal 4:4). Grace sent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings grace with His indwelling presence and regeneration (Rom 8:9, 11). Grace continues in the Spirit’s work of sanctification (Rom 15:16; Phil 2:13; 1 Thess 5:13; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2).
All of these grace actions pertain to salvation. They are pieces to a whole puzzle. There are many more pieces than I have listed here, but this is salvation by grace. Salvation is a done deal from heaven’s eternal perspective, “For you have been saved by grace; and faith is part of that grace, and thus, your faith, being a gift of God, has saved you.”
Christians observe salvation in stages of revelation, but it is all about what God has already done. We grow in grace, and grace is like the rising sun shining in our hearts (2 Cor 4:6). Grace, like the sun, is always operational and always emanating, and we are becoming more and more aware of it because we are being more and more illumined by it. Salvation is a process of more revelation, more knowledge, more sanctification, leading to more obedience and conformity to Christ (Rom 8:29). Salvation is finished when the saint dies and is glorified in the presence of the Almighty in heaven (Phil 1:23).
We have been saved through faith and by grace (Eph 2:8–9). Grace extends faith to us. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word preached to us (Rom 10:17). God opens the ears of the spiritually deaf. That is grace. When the spiritually deaf actually hear, it is faith. The sinner hears Christ and receives faith in Him (Phil 1:29; 2 Pet 1:1). If God wills, then the Spirit and the Word effectually call the sinner to repent and believe (Jn 1:12–13; 6:63).
Repentance comes by grace, and faith comes by grace. All of salvation is by grace. Grace transfers the sinner from the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col 1:13). Repentance and faith are the two sides of the coin known as “conversion.” Faith is evidence of the gift of God — salvation — has been received by someone. Grace ensures faith is given, and grace ensures faith is received (2 Pet 1:1). Faith itself is part of the gift.
In contrast, the Arminian believes faith is self-generated by the spiritually dead individual (1 Cor 2:14; Eph 2:1). The Arminian believes faith is an action initiated by the free will of the person, identified in Scripture as a slave of sin (Rom 6:6). It is natural for the Arminian to then say, “your faith saves you.” Salvation becomes an act of the person, not an act of God. Faith is no longer a gift of God’s grace, but it becomes a work to attain right standing with God. It becomes the will of man, not the will of God. Arminianism is a man-made, man-centered theology, akin to the Pelagian heresy of the 5th century A.D.
Arminianism naturally wrests salvation from God’s eternal decree and providence and gives it to sinful men. Faith becomes the Savior in place of Jesus Christ. Salvation becomes a work attained by man, exercising faith and choosing Christ through his own free will. Thus, we see the difference between Jesus’ statement to the sinful woman, and the statement made by modern preachers. They use the same words, but the meaning is very different.
Arminianism limits grace, twists the meaning of faith, devalues Christ, demotes the Spirit, and turns the gift of God into a work of man. Still, we acknowledge this erroneous scheme is predominant in evangelical churches in America. Many Calvinists have confessed to having been an Arminian in the past. I have only met one Arminian who claimed to be a former Calvinist.
As a Christian’s theology matures, the high view of God eventually prevails. He or she finally sees salvation is all of God from beginning to end. Once understood, he will never return to man-centered, Arminian thinking. He happily adheres to Paul’s statement, “it is not of yourselves.” Grace is not of us. Faith is not of us. The gift of God given and received is not of us. It is all God.
The gift of God is God Himself. He gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to whom He chooses. The Holy Spirit brings grace for repentance and grace for faith when He opens the heart of an elect person (Acts 16:14). Whereas the Word of God made no sense to a person before regeneration and conversion, now she is growing in grace and growing in knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18). Why the difference?
It is Christ the Savior in her, as evidenced by her demonstration of faith. There was no faith in her before…because there was no Holy Spirit in her before. After the Holy Spirit comes, faith is evident. It is as if she were to say, “I was spiritually blind, but now I can spiritually see!” What is the catalyst for sight? Jesus is the catalyst. He gives sight to the blind. Not faith, nor baptism; but Christ baptizing and Christ giving faith.
Works do not save a person from sin, death, hell, and the devil. Faith does not save a person from sin, death, hell, and the devil. Christ Jesus saves God’s chosen people. He extends grace. He gives faith when He sends His Spirit to an elect soul. It is not by the blood relations or the will of man; rather, those who believe in His name (Jn 1:12) were appointed to believe (Acts 13:48), by the will of God (Jn 1:13).
At the appointed time in God’s providence, the Holy Spirit moves like the wind to the heart of a chosen soul (2 Thess 2:13). The Word is providentially preached. Hearing God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit gives faith when the heart is opened by the Spirit, to respond to God’s call for repentance and faith (Acts 16:14). God gives the sinner what He requires. He requires faith (Heb 11:6), and He gives faith (Gal 3:22; 5:22; Phil 1:29), according to His own allotted measure (Rom 12:3).
Finally, God’s design in salvation shows us Christ is our Savior, not faith or baptism, for a reason. Paul stated the reason, “so that no one can boast.” When men think they generate their own faith, they inveigle others to climb up to the status they have achieved. Pride has entered the scenario. “Look at me. Look at what I have done. I have decided to follow Jesus,” is pride. When Christ is acknowledged as Savior, the saved are humbled. When faith is ascribed as Savior, the one who boasts is puffed up.
In summary, we have observed a subtle shift in the Christian message of salvation. The shift has made faith our Savior, instead of Jesus Christ. We have also considered the source of the deficient teaching, born of bad interpretation.
In conclusion, we must be more sensitive to what we hear and what we say when salvation is presented. We must wholeheartedly reject faith as a means of salvation. We must embrace the biblical teaching of Christ, as the one and only Savior of sinners. If we are to boast of how great a salvation, then we must boast in what God alone has done. As for me and my house, we will boast in the Lord Jesus, the only name under heaven, given among men, where a man must be saved (Acts 4:12); and if He is to be saved, it will be God in Christ alone who will save Him.
Spokane Valley, Washington
February 4, 2021