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Those who hold such a faith, while sincere, do not understand faith from a scriptural point of view. Faith is all too often defined as "what I believe." There is more to saving faith than just believing in Jesus, believing he is the Son of God. If faith alone, defined as what one believes, could save by itself then even the demons could be saved for James says, "even the demons believe--and tremble!" (James 2:19 NKJV) What they believed was that there was one God but by studying the gospel accounts one also knows they believed in Jesus for they often confessed him. One such example is Mark 3:11, "And whenever the unclean spirits beheld Him, they would fall down before Him and cry out, saying, 'You are the Son of God!'" (NAS) Another example is found in Luke 4:33-34 (NAS), "And there was a man in the synagogue possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 'Ha! What do we have to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are -- the Holy One of God!'" Yet another example is Luke 5:41 (NAS), "And demons also were coming out of many, crying out and saying, 'You are the Son of God!' And rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ." But, it is not just demons who have faith that has not availed. In Mark 10:17-23 we have the account of the man who is generally referred to as the rich young ruler. It is too long to quote in its entirety so I quote only the relevant verses. (Mark 10:17 NAS), "And as He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and began asking Him, 'Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?'" And then (Mark 10:21-23 NAS), "And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him, and said to him, 'One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.' But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, 'How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!'" Here was a man Jesus loved and a man who certainly believed in Jesus. Did his faith save him? His faith failed when he was asked to act upon it. There is a message in that and yet he did believe Jesus was the answer. John 12:42 proves beyond doubt there is a faith that destroys rather than saves. "Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God." (NAS) Would you say these believers were saved?
In the late chapters of the book of Acts we find Paul being examined by one official after another on his way to Rome after being put in custody in Jerusalem. One of the first of these was Felix the Governor. It is said of Felix that he had "a more exact knowledge about the Way", a reference to Christianity, (Acts 24:22 NAS). Then in verses 23 - 26, "And he gave orders to the centurion for him to be kept in custody and yet have some freedom, and not to prevent any of his friends from ministering to him. But some days later, Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul, and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he was discussing righteousness, selfcontrol and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, 'Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you.'" Paul preached faith in Christ Jesus and things that are entailed in that. If Felix did not believe why was he frightened? Are you afraid of what you do not believe? Did the faith of Felix save him? In the Parable of the Sower you find 2 of the 4 types of men who hear the word that believe and yet end up being condemned. Luke 8:13-14 (NAS), "And those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. And the seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. In verse 13 Jesus says specifically that these men believe. Are they saved? How about that class of believers represented by the seed that fell in the thorns? Are they saved? The Bible clearly teaches men can be believers and yet remain unsaved. Other examples could easily be given of men who believe but will be condemned for they have the faith that destroys and not the faith that saves. There are many passages that teach we are saved by faith and yet it is certain many believers have been lost. How do we explain lost believers? How do we explain those many passages that specifically say that believers are saved and yet find believers that are not? There are two answers to this troubling question. (1) The word "faith" and its synonyms can be and are used from time to time as a figure of speech called a synecdoche. What is a synecdoche? It is where one puts the part to represent the whole. In speaking of salvation when it is said one is saved by faith and nothing else is mentioned then it is understood that faith is used in an all inclusive sense to include everything that naturally follows from the belief. In his book entitled Hermeneutics, D. R. Dungan says, in discussing synecdoches, "This is many times the case with the salvation of sinners. The whole number of conditions are indicated by the use of one. Generally the first one is mentioned-that of faith-because without it nothing else could follow." (Page 305)
Faith is the basis of Christianity. Surely, a man lacking faith in Jesus will not be concerned with obeying Jesus or keeping any commandments so why proceed with anything else? There is no reason to until faith is first established. But, when faith alone is mentioned as the saving factor it is a use of the word as a synecdoche. It includes everything that flows from a living faith. (2) There are two types of faith - the kind that leads a person to take action on his beliefs (a living faith) versus the kind that is merely mental assent (a dead faith). The latter kind can never save. James says, "But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?" (James 2:20 NAS) Later he says "faith without works is dead." (James 2:26 NAS) Thus James confirms what we have said all along in this paper - there is a kind of faith that leads to destruction. When the Bible talks about being saved by faith it is talking about the kind of faith that has works (works of obedience), the kind of faith where the word is used to stand for and represent everything that Christ requires of us (the word faith used as a synecdoche). It is the kind of faith where if God told you to go out and offer your only begotten son as a sacrifice, as he did Abraham, you would do it. It is the kind of faith where if you were told to go build an ark for there would be a worldwide flood you would believe it enough to do it. It is not the kind of faith that questions God and tries to reason out ways to disobey and yet remain justified while doing so. Many want to be saved by their faith and good works all the while disobeying God in refusing to accept clear statements of scripture. They may do many good works in the community (and this is fine and good) and think they have the book of James covered by the good works which they do. The trouble is they will not take God at his word. They cannot accept that Jesus and the Holy Spirit said what they meant and meant what they said. Forget baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21). They do not believe the words out of Jesus' own mouth, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned." (Mark 16:16 NAS) They make it read, "He who has believed and has not been baptized shall be saved." Paul says in Ephesians 5:23, "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, he himself being the Savior of the body." And, then again, (1 Cor. 12:13 NAS), "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." One gets into the body of Christ, into the church, of which Jesus is the Savior, at baptism. The body is the church (Eph. 1:22-23). The kind of faith many have who call themselves Christians is the kind of faith that says "yes, I know that is what it says but I don't believe it" and that even when the words are directly spoken out of the mouth of Jesus. I ask you do I truly believe in a man when I will not believe what he says?
As another example how about women preachers? Paul, by inspiration says, "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression." (1 Tim. 2:12-14 NAS) Paul gives his reasons for this prohibition - that which happened back in the time of Adam and Eve. Can we rewrite history? Have those reasons changed? If not why have we changed on this subject unless it be we lack the faith that believes and obeys? One needs to understand that every word spoken in the New Testament, every word written, is from Jesus. Speaking of the Holy Spirit that the apostles were to receive Jesus said, "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for he will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you." (John 16:13-14 NKJV) In John 14:16-17 Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit coming to the apostles and how he will dwell within them and then he says in the very next verse, verse 18, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." Jesus was coming to them via means of the Holy Spirit. See also John 16:25. The Holy Spirit spoke the words of Jesus. There are those who do not like that for they want to lay the cause of their troubles on Paul just being a man kind of out of step with the times. The words Paul spoke were not his own. There is a faith that will save. It is that faith where if the Lord speaks (he does so today through his word) we will believe it and obey it even if it causes us problems. When Abraham was commanded to go out and offer his son Isaac as a burnt sacrifice that caused Abraham problems. When Paul was constrained to preach the word it often caused him serious problems. It is not faith alone as mental assent that saves us, that alone in fact destroys us, but it is faith that obeys God while not seeking a way out to keep from obeying. Jesus is "the author of eternal salvation of all who obey Him." (Heb. 5:9 NKJV) "If you love Me, keep My commandments." (John 14:15 NKJV) "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me." (John 14:21 NKJV) "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word." (John 14:23 NKJV) "He who does not love Me does not keep My words." (John 14:24 NKJV) Can a man have faith and yet not love Jesus and go to heaven? "If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed. Maranatha." (1 Cor. 16:22 NAS) That does not sound like such a man is saved to me. Every person that teaches or believes that one can go to heaven all the while denying what Jesus said to do about baptism is simply fooling himself. How can he reconcile what he is doing based on passages that have just been quoted? The faith that saves goes far beyond obedience to just one or two commandments. The faith that saves is willing to do whatever Jesus says no matter how tough that might be.
We live in a type of Christian environment today, if you want to call it that, that has rationalized every sin away. They can tell you why this passage no longer applies to us today, why that one does not, and so on. Their faith is of the mental assent kind. Obedience will have nothing to do with their salvation - so they think. We are suppose to be "slaves of righteousness." (Rom. 6:18 NKJV) Righteousness means right doing and that is determined by God's word. The Psalmist says, Psalm 119:172, "all Your commandments are righteousness." (NKJV) Can a man be saved by faith that does not work righteousness? Paul, in Romans 2:8-9 (NKJV) says, "but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness - indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil." I wonder if one was to be baptized for the remission of sins (see the wording of Acts 2:38) would that be obeying the truth, would it be obeying Jesus, would it be working righteousness, or would it be obeying unrighteousness? Many act and talk as though it would be an act of unrighteousness. One who claims he will be saved by faith alone or just by faith and grace will not be saved by either. Why not? Because he has no faith in what Jesus said about other matters related to salvation and counts them as but wasteful words. When you have no real faith in what a man says you have no faith in the man that said those things. The faith that saves is not a smorgasbord where you can go in and pick this or that, as you choose, to believe and obey. One must believe and obey all that Jesus taught directly or through the word of inspiration as found in the New Testament scriptures. One can be easily deceived by the faith that destroys. I hope you are not. I hope that you develop the kind of faith that if there was another Hebrews 11 to be written you might be included and it would be said of you that you believed and did this or that, whatever was required. It is really our own choice. We can follow the herd mindlessly that discounts the faith that obeys, that trusts in mental assent, or we can follow the examples of those who believed and obeyed - faith leading to obedience. It is a personal choice. Abraham and Noah had choices to make. So do we.
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