The Nature of Saving Faith (cont’d)
In our last study we began to consider the nature of saving faith. In this study we want to examine the difference between the Lordship and the non-Lordship teaching on this important subject.
The Reality of Spurious Faith
The Non-lordship teachers seem to ignore the fact that the Bible teaches that there is a spurious faith that does not save.
Now, it is certainly true that Christians do sometimes stumble, fall, make many crooked steps, and may even backslide grievously. Why is this? Because they still have remaining sin in them. There are as many degrees of sanctification as there are Christian.
Zane Hodge maintains that the Bible says nothing concerning two kinds of faith. He refuses to distinguish between what might be called a mere “mental faith” and a true saving faith. Yet, the Scriptures give clear illustrations of false faith which does not save.
A very vivid example of spurious faith is seen the case of Simon Magus. Of him it is written, “Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip” (Acts 8:13). He expressed such faith that Philip took him to be a genuine Christian and admitted him to Christian privileges. Yet Peter later told Simon that he would perish with his money, warning him, “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God…1 perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:20-23).
A man may believe all the truth contained in Scripture, so far as he is acquainted with it, and yet remain unconverted. Indeed, he may be familiar with far more truth that many genuine Christians. And as his knowledge may be more extensive, so his faith may be more comprehensive. He may go even as far as Paul did. Although Paul believed all the Scripture before his conversion, his faith was not saving faith. Note also Agrippa’s case: “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest” (Acts 26:27). But this faith did not save him.
James speaks of dead faith (1:17, 26)-mere mental assent to certain historical facts. He speaks of devils’ faith (2:19)-mere religious appropriation of certain facts. The demons have a sound confession. They believe in the person (“Jesus, thou Son of God”) and the power (“art thou come to torment us?”) of Christ (Matt. 8:29). Surely neither dead faith nor devils’ faith saves.
It is indeed a searching and solemn discovery to realize how much the Bible speaks of unsaved people who have “faith” in the lord. Though it seems incredible, there are those who are willing to have Christ as their Savior, yet who are not willing to submit to Him as their Lord. They are reluctant to be at His command and to be governed by His laws. More shocking still is the realization that there are unregenerate persons who profess Christ as lord, and yet are not in possession of saving faith. The scriptural proof of this assertion is found in Matt. 7:22,23: “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name cast out demons? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then l will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” Here is a large class (“many”) who profess Christ as Lord, who do many mighty works in His name, and thus can even show you their faith by their works, and yet, theirs is not saving faith. “Depart from Me,” they will hear Jesus say.
It is impossible to know exactly how far non-saving faith may go, or how closely it may resemble true saving faith. Saving faith has Christ as its object; so has spurious faith, “Many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men” (John 2:23, 24). Saving faith is wrought by the Holy Spirit; so also spurious faith has an apparent spirituality and may even partake to some degree of illuminating grace (Heb. 6:4). Saving faith is a receiving of the Word of God; so also is spurious faith. “He that receiveth the seed into stony places heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while” (Matt. 13:20, 21). Saving faith will cause a man to prepare for the coming of the lord; so will spurious faith. Both the foolish and the wise virgins had the lamp of profession-they all trimmed their lamps and said, “Lord, Lord”-but half heard the answer, “I know you not” (Matt. 25:1-13). Saving faith is accompanied with joy; so is spurious faith. “They on the rock receive the word with joy who believe for a while but in the time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13).
The Seriousness of Spurious Faith
When we realize how far spurious faith can go in its counterfeits, we are prone to say, “All this is very unsettling and confusing.” Yes, it is distressing! But, if you value your soul or care for the souls of others, you will not dismiss this subject lightly. Since the Bible teaches that there is a faith in Christ which does not save and that it is easy to be deceived, you must earnestly seek the help of the Spirit. The Spirit Himself cautions us at this very point. “A deceived heart hath turned him aside” (Isa. 44:20). “The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee” (Obad. 3). “Take heed that ye be not deceived” (Luke 28:8).
Failure to recognize the Bible’s teaching on counterfeit faith has led to other errors. There is a tendency to regard spurious believers as being saved but not consecrated or not filled with the Spirit The folly is often compounded by regarding those who give no biblical evidence of possessing saving faith as carnal Christians, since they do not act like Christians (I will address this error later). The solution to this unbiblical dilemma is sought in some kind of second experience or second work of grace. Thus, there is constant appeal to the carnal Christian (who in most cases is a spurious believer) to surrender fully to Christ’s Lordship, and to be filled with the Spirit.
Spurious Faith Has Long Been Recognized
The great theologians of the past recognized that the Bible distinguishes between spurious faith and saving faith. Charles Hodge, that great Princetonian, speaks of historical (or speculative) faith, temporary faith, and saving faith (Systematic Theology 3:67-68). James P. Boyce, one of the greatest Southern Baptist theologians and the principal founder of our first seminary, speaks of implicit faith, historic faith, temporary, (or Delusive) faith, and saving faith (Abstract of Systematic Theology, pp.389-94). Robert Dabney, a great southern Presbyterian theologian, differentiates temporary faith, historical faith, miraculous faith, and saving faith. This is foreign language to the non-lordship teachers. With these great men of God, we hold tenaciously to that great hopeful and liberating truth of the Bible-justification by faith alone. I hope you would allow your head to roll down the street in the dust for that liberating truth. But we also recognize with those same men that faith which is alone is not the kind of faith which justifies.
The Acting of Saving Faith
True, justifying faith is, in the Lord’s deep wisdom and condescension, variously expressed in Scripture according to its different actings toward God and its outgoings after Him.
True faith is sometimes spoken of as a desire for union with God in Christ-as a willing. “And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Rev. 2:17). Scripture also speaks of looking to Him. “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth” (Isa. 45:2) this text was used of God in Spurgeon’s conversion). This may be the weakest act of faith.
True faith is also expressed as “hungering and thirsting after righteousness” (Matt. 5:6).
True faith embraces Christ in whatever way the Scriptures hold Him out to poor sinners. To the naked soul, destitute of a covering to keep it from the storm of God’s wrath, Christ is fine raiment (Rom.
To the soul that is hungry and thirsty for something that will everlastingly satisfy, Christ Jesus is “milk, wine, water, the bread of life, and the true manna” (Isa. 55:1, 2; John 6:48,51). True faith will “go, buy, eat and drink abundantly” (Isa. 55:1; John 6:53,57). To the soul that is pursued for guilt and is not able to withstand the charge, Christ Jesus is the city of refuge. The poor guilty man exercises true faith by fleeing to Christ for refuge, laying hold of the hope set before him (Heb. 6:18).
In a word, whatever way Christ may benefit poor sinners, He declares Himself able to do. True faith desires Christ in whatever way He holds Himself out in the Scriptures. If He is held out as a Bridegroom, true faith goes out to Him as a Bride. If He is held out as a Father (Isa. 9:6), true faith takes the place of a child. If He is held out as a Shepherd, true faith takes the place of a sheep. If He is set forth as Lord, true faith acknowledges Him to be the Sovereign. True faith desires Christ and aspires to be conformed to His image.
It is important to remember, in considering the actings of true saving faith, that every true believer does not manifest all these various actings and exercises of faith, for their condition does not require them to do so. Not everyone in the New Testament is told to sell his possessions (Mk. 10:21). Surely, not everyone dares say, “though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15). Many would not have pursued Christ like the woman of Canaan (Matt. 15:22-28), but in discouragement would have given up.
There is, however, one thing common to all who possesses true saving faith; namely, a heart-satisfaction with God’s plan of salvation by Christ. When one is pleased with God’s method of satisfying His justice through Christ’s person and work, and when the soul and heart embrace that plan, then one is believing unto salvation.
Saving faith is not a difficult, mysterious, hardly attainable thing. We must first acknowledge it to be God’s gift, above the power of flesh and blood. God must draw men to Christ. “No man can come to me, except the Father which sent me draw him” (John 6:44). “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ… to believe on him” (Phil. 1:29).
Shall that which consists much in desire be judged a mysterious, difficult thing? If men have but a true appetite, they have a mark of true saving faith. They are pronounced “blessed” who “hunger after righteousness” (Matt. 5:5). If you will come, you are welcome (Rev. 22:17). Is it a matter so intricate and difficult earnestly to look to the exalted Savior (Isa. 45:22)? Is it mysterious or difficult to receive that which is sincerely offered and declared to be mine if I will but accept it? “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Ps. 81:10). Such is justifying faith.
Lordship salvation sees true faith as coming by grace alone. Faith and faith alone is the means of salvation. But such saving faith has certain characteristics and certain things that accompany it. The character of saving faith is more that an inward conviction of the truth content of the gospel. It is a conviction which involves or will result in actions which reflect an inward change. “Therefore if a man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Saving Faith Recognizes Who Jesus Is
Non-Lordship and Lordship teachers differ in their estimation of who Jesus is. Now, this obviously is not some secondary matter or a theological hobby. Everyone must be right on this question or he will not go to heaven.
A successful leader is not someone who is always right. Everyone is wrong some of the time. Everyone makes mistakes. However, a successful leader is some one who is right more times than he is wrong. More importantly, he is right about the big things-the important matters. No Christian is perfect, neither in his life nor in his doctrine (though some seem to think they are 100% right 100% of the time!). A man does not have to be perfect in his doctrine, or in his practice to be a Christian, however, there are some things about which every single person, young or old, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, must be right in order to be a Christian. And chief among these issues is the question of WHO JESUS IS.
Matthew Henry, the great Bible commentator, said, in the Introduction to the New Testament, “All the grace contained in this book is owing to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior; and unless we consent to Him as our Lord, we cannot expect any benefit by Him as our Savior.”
Who is Jesus? He is the Lord of Glory–right now. Where is Jesus? He has been exalted to a throne, and He is on that throne right now (Acts 2:30).
The non-Lordship teachers do not teach these truths. They teach that His kingship is postponed and that only later will He sit on His throne. The non-Lordship teachers teach that you can have Christ as Savior and not Lord.
The Lordship teachers teach that there is only one mediator–Lord Jesus Christ, and as a mediator He holds three offices–Prophet, Priest, and King of His church. And when we have Him we have Him as He is offered in the gospel, that is, as Prophet, Priest and King. We have Him in all His offices or not at all.
The non-Lordship teachers ignore this and teach that we can be saved by one of His offices: Priest. They teach that His Prophetic and Kingly offices are optional. But the Bible says, “He that has the Son has life.” It does not say, “He that has one of the offices has life.” When we have Him we have Him in all of His offices.
There are 1000 Christs on the religious market today:
Jehovah Witnesses have a Christ, but not the Christ of the Bible.
Mormons have a Christ, but not the Christ of the Bible.
Christian Scientists have a Christ but not the Christ of the Bible.
Unitarians have a Christ, but not the Christ of the Bible.
Liberals have a Christ, but not the Christ of the Bible.
The Non-Lordship teachers have a Christ, but not the Christ who is Prophet, Priest and King of His church. They separate, or delete, the Prophet and King from the Priest-by implication if not by expressed statements.
The non-Lordship teachers have a Savior (Priest) who is a kind of a hell insurance policy and whose lordship is optional.
It is beyond doubt and dispute that the fundamental confession of Apostolic Christianity was, “Jesus is Lord.”
- Lordship was the central confession of the whole Christian Community:
“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7). ‘To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints1 with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Cor. 1:2).
- Lordship was the central confession of the New Testament:
“Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (Rom. 14:9). “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).
- Lordship was the personal confession of the New Testament:
“And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and My God!”‘ (John 20:28). “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).
- Lordship was a key part of presenting the gospel:
“For so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior J Christ” (2 Peter 1:11). “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the: and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning” (2 Peter 2:20). “That you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord Savior…” (2 Peter 3:2).
One of the greatest soul winners that ever lived, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, warned young preachers in his school about this perversion that we see in much evangelism today. He said,
If the professed convert distinctly and deliberately declares he knows the Lord’s will, but does not mean to attend to ii are not to pamper his presumptions, but it is your duty to a him that he is not saved. Do not suppose that the Gospel is magnified or God glorified by going to the worldlings and telling them that they may be saved at this moment by simply “accepting Christ” as their Savior, while they are wedded to idols, and their hearts are still in love with sin. If I do so I tell them a lie, pervert the Gospel, insult Christ, and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness. It is interesting to notice that the Apostles preached the Lordship of Christ. The word “Savior” occurs only twice in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 5:31, 13:2). On the other hand it is amazing to notice the title “Lord” is mentioned 92 times; “lord Jesus” 13 times; and “The Lord Christ” 6 times in the same book. The Gospel is “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
The following New Testament statistics should settle the question. Jesus is referred to as “Lord” 822 times; “Lord Jesus,” 22 and “Lord Jesus Christ,” 81 times.
The word “Savior” is only used 24 times (8 of which refer to God the Father as our Savior).
If it were the only text in the Bible, Rom. 14:9 should settle question as to who Jesus is and why He died and rose: “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be LORD both of the dead and living.”
When He says, “Come unto me,” He does it as the LORD. And when He says, “Depart from Me you accursed,” He does it as the LORD.
You can see why the champions of non-lordship gospel say that Lordship preachers preach another gospel. It is true-they differ as to who Jesus is. The religious leaders of His day looked Him over very carefully but would not bow to His Kingship and they did not find salvation, nor will any one else.