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What Does It Mean to Believe?

What Does It Mean to Believe?

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Published by: Grace Church Modesto on Apr 09, 2010
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\u201cWhat Does It Mean to Believe?\u201d
(Acts 16:31)
I. Introduction.
A. Orientation.

1. We talk a lot about faith in connection with salvation, and no wonder: Paul tells
us it\u2019s something we must have in order to be saved, as we see from our passage.
But what does it mean to believe?
a. In Protestant circles, we believe that we are saved by grace \u2013 by God\u2019s

unmerited favor \u2013 throughfaith alone.

b. It\u2019s important for us to say this because we want to make a distinction
between what we believe and what the Roman church believes.
(i) They believe that they are saved by the grace of God alone.

(ii) But the way they believe they receive that grace is not by faith alone, but
through the sacraments given to them by a consecrated priest, and through
their cooperation with the grace they receive, they receive more grace.
(iii) But if the \u201csalvation\u201d they receive is not by faith alone, can it really be
by grace alone? And if it isn\u2019t by grace alone, do they really receive

God\u2019s salvation?

2. Even within Protestant circles, we differ as to what that faith is that brings
salvation.
a. Faith is so often defined as a prayer we pray, or something we do that is so

pleasing to God, He actually counts our faith as the righteousness that saves
us.
b. But can our faith itself be a work we do to make us acceptable to God? If it
is, what happens to grace?

c. Whenever we add works to grace, we destroy grace. Grace, by definition,
excludes works. If salvation is to be by grace alone, it must be by faith alone,
apart from works, as Paul writes, \u201cFor by grace you have been saved through
faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works,
so that no one may boast\u201d (Eph. 2:8-9).

d. We need to avoid this error as much as Rome\u2019s, since they both add up to the
same thing: that somehow our works earn or add to our salvation.
3. How should we understand faith so that we don\u2019t turn it into a work?
a. Faith is looking to someone else to save us, to the only One who can save us:
to Christ.
b. It is looking away from our own works to His, from our so-called \u201cmerits\u201d to
His infinite merit, and receiving in Him our right standing before God.
B. Preview.
1. We know this is true, but how often do we struggle to understand what this
means? When you consider how important this particular teaching is to
2
yourself, to your children, and to those you might try to lead to Christ, then you
realize this is one area in which you can\u2019t afford to be wrong.

2. That\u2019s why we\u2019re going to spend this evening looking at saving faith \u2013 both to
make surew e have it, as well as to equip ourselves to help others find their way
to Christ.
a. First, we\u2019ll look at the different parts of faith, but only briefly.
b. Then we\u2019ll seek to understand what it means to believe savingly.

II. Sermon.
A. First, we know that faith has different parts.
1. First, there\u2019s knowledge.
a. It\u2019s important \u2013 if we\u2019re going to be saved \u2013 to hear and understand the
Gospel.
b. The Bible says, \u201cFaith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of
Christ\u201d (Rom. 10:17).

c. What is it we have to hear? The Gospel. \u201cFor I am not ashamed of the
Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes\u201d
(Rom. 1:16).

d. We not only need to hear it, but we need to understand it. Jesus said, \u201cWhen
anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil
one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the
one on whom seed was sown beside the road\u201d (Matt. 13:19).
e. But this by itself is not enough.
2. It\u2019s also essential that we believe what we hear.
a. So many today don\u2019t believe what the Bible says.
(i) They think it\u2019s some kind of fairy tale for people looking for a crutch to

shore up their lives.
(ii) The \u201cexperts\u201d can\u2019t be wrong \u2013 and the experts say that we all evolved.
(iii) But what they don\u2019t realize is that the \u201cexperts\u201d don\u2019tknow evolution

took place, they just choose tobel i eve it did, and that against all the
evidence.

b. If you are to be saved, you have to believe the Bible is true \u2013 that you really are a sinner, that Christ really is the only Savior \u2013 otherwise, you will never be able to \u201cbelieve\u201d and be saved.

3. But there is one more thing:
a. Knowing and believing isn\u2019t enough: You must alsotrust in the Lord.
b. You must place your whole hope of heaven on Christ and on Him alone.

B. This is what we need to understand: what does it mean to trust in the Lord?
1. This takes faith to a saving level, beyond what an unconverted person will ever
experience.
3
a. You must act on what you know to be true; you must receive the One you
know to be real; you must trust His death and His obedience to save you;y ou
must receive Christ as your righteousness and your only hope of heaven.
b. This is what Paul meant when he told the Philippian jailer, \u201cBelieve on the
Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved\u201d (Acts 16:31).

c. We might wonder how the Philippian jailer ever figured this out. He just
happened to understand the Greek language, since that\u2019s what he spoke, and
knew what Paul was saying: he knew he needed to place his whole hope of
heaven on Jesus Christ.

2. Since we don\u2019t understand this as well as he did, let\u2019s look at a couple of
explanations to get a clearer picture of this in our own minds:
a. First, let\u2019s consider what William Gurnall, the Puritan author of that great

book on spiritual warfare The Christian in Complete Armor, had to say.

(i) \u201cEveryone that assents to the truth of [i.e., believes to be true] what the
Scriptures says of Christ does not believe on Christ. No, this believing on
Christ implies a union of the soul to Christ, and fiduciary recumbency on
Christ [a leaning on Christ by faith]. Therefore we are bid to take hold of
Christ (Isa. 27:5), who is . . . called God\u2019s strength, as elsewhere His arm,
\u2018that we may make peace with God, and we shall make peace with Him.\u2019
It is not the sight of a man\u2019s arm stretched out to a man in the water [that]
will save him from drowning, but the taking hold of it\u201d (Gurnall; italics
added).

(ii) \u201cJudas knew the Scriptures, and without doubt did assent to the truth of
them, when he was so zealous a preacher of the Gospel; but he never had
so much as one drachm [mite] of justifying faith in his soul. \u2018There are
some of you which believe not, for Jesus knew from the beginning who
they were that believed not, and who should betray Him.\u2019 Yes, Judas\u2019s
master, the devil himself, one far enough (I suppose) from justifying faith,
yet he assents to the truth of the Word. He goes against his conscience
when he denies them: when he tempted Christ he did not dispute against
the Scripture but from the Scripture, drawing his arrows out of this quiver
(Matt. 4:6). And at another time he makes as full a confession of Christ
(for the matter) as Peter himself did (Matt. 8:22, cf. 16:17). Assent to the
truth of the Word is but an act of the understanding, which reprobates and
devils may exercise. But justifying faith is a compounded habit [is made
up of two parts], and has its seat both in the understanding and will: and,
therefore, [it is] called a \u2018believing with the heart\u2019 (Rom. 10:10), yes, a
\u2018believing with all the heart\u2019 (Acts 8:37). It takes in all the powers of the
soul. There is a double object in the promise; one proper to the
understanding, to move that: another to the will, to excite and work upon
that. As the promise is true, so it calls for an act of assent from the
understanding; and as it is good as well as true, so it calls for an act of the

will to embrace and receive it. Therefore he which only notionally knows
the promise, and speculatively assents to the truth of it, without clinging to
it, and embracing of it, does not believe savingly, and can have no more

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