Faith to Save

Sometimes people have trouble understanding that we are justified before God by faith, and not by how good we are. Some people are offended at the thought that God would justify everyone only on the basis of faith, and not on the basis of an inventory of their good works; they feel that ‘good people’ should be acceptable to God, and He should open wide the doors to His presence to all those who are ‘good’. These latter often raise the argument of the injustice of ‘horrible people’ who will get into heaven because they have faith, and therefore God is ‘unfair’. Most of this misunderstanding is rooted in the failure to understand  the key words “faith” and “justice”. 

The word ‘justice’ refers to receiving what is deserved by our actions. When we do wrong, we should suffer commensurate and relevant negative consequences, potentially including punishment, and when we do right, we should enjoy positive consequences. 

“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 

“Faith” means to have placed one’s trust in the object of that faith, in such a manner as to affect how we live our lives and engage the reality in which we find ourselves. To have faith in God is to believe that He is, and what He says to the degree of trusting that, since what He says is true, our very selves must conform to what He says. He speaks, we listen. Exercised faith is obedience. Action without faith is not true obedience, because obedience by definition is responsive to someone – we are not obeying one in Whom we do not believe, regardless of how we behave. 

Eve heard God, but listened instead to the devil (the adversary). She exercised unbelief and became like the adversary – adverse to God. 

Adam heard God, but listened to his wife, exercising unfaithfulness towards God through disobedience. In choosing to listen to his wife rather than God, Adam separated himself from God, incurring condemnation and death. Most of their children followed suit; they all heard God, yet most of them chose to follow other influences, exercising unbelief in Who God is and what He said. Other than Abel, who was killed by a jealous brother because of his faith toward God, only Enoch was mentioned to have “walked with God” until Noah’s day, when Noah alone was counted righteous in his generation. Noah listened to God rather than the ‘violent’ and ‘corrupt’ masses among whom he lived. His faith in God resulted in obedience, saving him and his family from judgement and death. 

Adam’s sin of unbelief leading to disobedience introduced death into the world, affecting all his children. 

Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness. Abraham hadn’t “done everything right”, but when he met God and believed Him, Abraham changed. As his life progressed, and his personal knowledge of God increased, Abraham continually became more trustful and obedient, and his character conformed increasingly to a godly man. God worked in Abraham to develop God’s righteousness in him. 

Our root problem is sin. We all sin. Justice demands punishment equally to all offenders. God must be just. It is not just to simply ignore anyone’s sin, nor to overlook the sins of a man who is “better” now while holding another man’s against him because he is still “bad”. Until man pays, justice has not been served. Even unrighteous men protest at the thought of a murderer who, upon accepting Christ as Lord and Saviour, becomes acceptable to God and inheritor of eternal life. Most people angrily demand ‘justice’ upon that man, that he should pay now and eternally with his life for the life he took. 

In order to be just, God must exact the penalty for sin. “For the wages of sin is death….” Rom 6:23. But in punishing all men for sin, all men must die. So God took upon Himself the responsibility of the penalty on behalf of whoever would come to Him in faith. He would pay our debt, commuted to us based upon our acceptance of Him and His word. 

Until man pays, justice has not been served. God created a human body for Himself to inhabit; it was His own life and not someone else’s. As a man, God in the person of Christ willingly endured a criminal’s execution on behalf of every man for every man’s sin, covering all sins including the most heinous. As an innocent and completely righteous man with no debt of His own, Christ served the sentence upon all men’s sin so that each individual who would receive it would have their debt covered by His death. The condition for receipt of this mercy is faith in Him – to believe Who He is and trust what He says. To reject Him is to refuse His offer to cover one’s sin, leaving the person under judgement and death. 

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life … he who believes (literally ‘has faith’) is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not trusted in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Jn 3:16,18 

“He came to his own, and his own received him not. But to as many as received Him gave He power to become the sons of God, to them who believe on His name.” John 1:11-12