I still use the expression saving faith occasionally since it saves a lot of space. By saving faith, I mean faith in the saving object, the gift of God (everlasting life, John 4:10, 14; Eph 2:8) given by the Messiah Giver Jesus (John 4:25-26; 6:47).
But what is faith? It probably is no surprise to you that most Evangelicals today do not believe that faith is persuasion. Indeed, many ridicule the idea that saving faith is merely being convinced of the saving truth.
Please take a moment and put down on paper in 25 words or less what faith is.
Here is what most Evangelicals today say.
One leading pastor and theologian defines faith in this way: “Receiving Christ as your supreme Treasure is what faith is,” and “An essential element of saving faith is treasuring Christ above all things,” and “Faith includes the embrace of Jesus as our all-satisfying Treasure.”i
A President of a theological school defines saving faith more theologically and philosophically: “…faith is more than intellectual assent.”ii He said it includes a mental aspect, “comprehending the claims of Christ,” an emotional aspect, “[having] confidence in the claims of Christ,” and a willful aspect, “committing to the claims of Christ.”iii What are the claims of Christ that one is to comprehend, commit to, and have confidence in? And what precisely does that mean?
A leading pastor, theologian, and radio personality said on his daily radio show,
…the Bible does not present faith as simply “mental assent to the facts of the gospel.” True saving faith involves repentance from one’s sin and a complete trust in the work of Christ to save from sin and make one righteous. The Reformers spoke of three aspects of faith: recognition of the truth claims of the gospel, acknowledgment of their truthfulness and exact correspondence to man’s spiritual need, and a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ who, by virtue of His death, provides the only sufficient sacrifice for one’s personal sin. Any one of these three aspects of faith, taken by themselves, is insufficient to meet the biblical definition of saving faith. However, the presence of all three components together results in saving faith. In other words, saving faith consists of mental, emotional, and volitional elements. Saving faith involves both the mind and the will.iv
Is it any wonder that people are confused about what they need to do in order to be born again? If faith in Christ is not simply believing in Him, but includes some sort of emotional and volitional responses, then no one can be sure that he is born again. That is why so many Evangelicals look to their works as evidence that they have had the proper emotional and volitional responses to the claims of the gospel, whatever those are.
So, how did you define faith?
Here is my definition of faith and of saving faith:
Faith is being convinced that some proposition is true (8 words). Saving faith is being persuaded that the saving proposition is true (10 words).
In other words, saving faith is being convinced that Jesus guarantees everlasting life to all who are persuaded that by faith in Him they have that irrevocable life. To believe in Jesus for everlasting life is like believing in President Biden for stimulus checks. We did not need an emotional response or a volitional commitment in order to believe that stimulus money was coming. Indeed, if you file your taxes electronically, then the stimulus money was directly deposited into your bank account.v
“He who lives and believes in Me shall never die [spiritually]” (John 11:26a). Simple. Easy to understand. The question is, “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26b). If you do, then you know that you have everlasting life.
i John Piper at https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/why-does-john-piper-complicate-saving-faith.
ii David R. Anderson, A Defense of Free Grace Theology, ed. by Fred Chay, p. 69. He says that I am the only person he knows who believes that faith is mere intellectual assent (p. 69).
iii Ibid., p. 71.
iv John MacArthur, “What is the nature of true saving faith?” at https://www.gty.org/library/questions/QA164/what-is-the-nature-of-true-saving-faith.
v Of course, the illustration is not airtight since you did not have to believe that the President was sending out stimulus checks in order to receive them. You did not need to do anything. You simply had to be a U.S. citizen. But if the government had the ability to know who believed, they would send a check, and the government could limit those who receive the money to those who believe in the President for the money.