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Faith alone in Christ alone

From a recent comment:

How does Christ's work and our faith relate?

What we don’t want to say is that Christ’s sacrifice brings 99 units of salvific merit and my faith brings 1 unit of salvific merit and between His contribution and mine I have accumulated the necessary 100 units.

Even if we say the blood of Christ is 999,999 units and ours is only 1 we have put our faith up where it doesn’t belong. We have made our faith into a work – a contribution towards salvation.

To say “faith alone” is another way of saying “Christ alone” – it is to say our salvation lies entirely outside of us (and therefore outside of our ‘works’). Instead salvation lies entirely in Christ.  A ‘faith alone’ person rests in the fact that the blood of Jesus has done everything.  But of course we’re not resting in the blood of Jesus alone if we have added our faith into the salvific equation.  In that case we would be trusting in “Christ plus our trust.” We then become (to some degree) the objects of our saving faith and not Christ alone!

Let me reiterate. Faith is absolutely essential. A person is not saved if they are not resting in Jesus.  But this ‘faith’, this ‘resting in Jesus’ is not our contribution to the equation.  It’s a description of what happens when Jesus ’sweeps you off your feet.’  It’s falling in love.  It’s being conquered by the gospel.

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0 thoughts on “Faith alone in Christ alone

  1. Hiram

    "...this ‘faith’, this ‘resting in Jesus’ is not our contribution to the equation. It’s a description of what happens when Jesus ’sweeps you off your feet.’ It’s falling in love. It’s being conquered by the gospel."

    :)

    -h.

  2. Marc Lloyd

    Yes. So salvation is in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. Faith is an instrument through which we receive Christ / the means by which we rest in him. Christ is the meritorious ground of our salvation. Faith is the instrumental means of receiving salvation. Or something like that? I'm sure some lovely old Scholastic must have all this worked out and nicely expressed somewhere?

  3. Paul Huxley

    I tend to avoid saying that we are saved by faith alone for this exact reason. I say more like:

    We are saved in Christ alone, by grace alone. Faith is what happens in us when this salvation happens to us (eg. when the Holy Spirit works in us) and is the means by which God connects us to his gospel promises. Good works happen in us as a consequence, as our old desires are replaced by those of Christ who we are united to, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

    I think this makes sense and is Biblical (if a bit wordy).

  4. Bror Erickson

    Blen, I just have to say I think your doing a bangup job here. I'm enjoying it. And you are right, on this faith thing. We dare not make faith a work, something we contribute. It is a work, but not ours. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. Though I wouldn't go all emotional about it either. There is a danger in comparing it to falling in love. I've done that a couple times with a few different gals in my life. Jesus is just a bit more faithful then all that.

  5. Glen

    Hey Bror, welcome to the blog. Yeah the 'falling in love' bit was meant to pick out the 'falling' more than the 'love'. As Will has also said, it's not about the lovingness of my heart at all. I probably just should have stuck with Nygren's phrase ( a Lutheran!) 'faith is being conquered by the gospel.'

  6. Hiram

    I just wrote about this today, sorta...

    shameless plug, I know. lol

    Seriously, though, Mark 2 is a wonderfully concrete example of this :)

    -h.

  7. kc

    Would you say that this believing is something we must "do" to be saved or something done to/in/for us to be saved or do you have another perspective?

  8. Marc Lloyd

    Or is it both? We must do it (though not as any sort of meritorious good work by which we earn, merit or deserve salvation). And we can only do it if God does it in us. Left to ourselves we are entirely dead, enslaved, condemned etc.

    The old human responsibility, God's grace thing.

    ?

  9. Glen

    Hi KC, I see what you're doing ;-)

    Bottom line - faith is receiving. It's not a spiritual muscle we flex it's receiving Christ. So we must receive Christ to be saved.

    Ephesians 2:8 is interesting:

    "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God."

    First it says 'by grace you are saved through faith.' It doesn't say 'by faith you are saved through grace.' Paul is not saying 'faith is a thing' and then saying 'but that thing is sovereignly given to you.' Paul is saying grace is the "thing" here and the receiving of it brings you the reality.

    Second it should be noted that the "it" here is a neuter and not a feminine - so the 'gift' can't simply refer to 'faith'. Instead it refers to the whole salvation complex of grace-through-faith. The whole thing is given to you as a package deal. Christ is offered for the taking. There is nothing left for you to do (hence the whole rejection of works from v9). But if we are not to turn 'faith' into a work then we say that faith is receiving the gift of salvation.

    If someone asked me "What must I do to be saved?" I might say "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ" as Paul does (Acts 16:31), but only if I'd already *given* them Christ in the gospel (which I'm assuming they did in prison - otherwise who's this Jesus guy?). In that sense I'd be saying to them - He's yours for the taking, take Him.

    Does that float your boat?

  10. kc

    Well of course! ;-)

    I especially appreciate your understanding of Eph. 2:8 though I think I would say the “it” is salvation/Christ and is received by believing. I totally agree on the necessity of the Gospel preached.

    Marc thanks for taking this up. What would you say God does in us before we can believe?

  11. Si

    Faith is the 'letterbox' through which the blessings of God come to us. It's the way we are given things by God. (To put a different spin on it than Glen).

  12. kc

    Si, wouldn’t that require that faith be a “thing” rather than being the act of receiving Christ?

    Marc, thanks for your thoughts.

    I would say the Holy Spirit reveals Christ in our heart through the preaching of the Gospel but I would understand that until/unless we believe on (receive) Him we are not “saved”.

  13. Marc Lloyd

    Kc,

    Thanks. Did you think I was implying otherwsie?

    Even if in Eph 2 it (the gift) is salvation etc, faith would be included, the whole thing being a gift of God, would it not?

  14. kc

    Marc,

    I don't perceive the ability to believe to be part of the gift. IOW I don't find that we are divinely "enabled" to believe, however I would say that Him in whom we are required to believe is divinely revealed in us.

  15. kc

    I think even simple-minded folk like myself are naturally able to form a belief ;-) but I don’t think anyone is naturally able to perceive Jesus as Christ. I don't find that we are given any new or special ability in order to be saved but rather we are divinely shown the Savior.

  16. Marc Lloyd

    Well, doesn't it rather mean what we mean by believe in? If you mean "have a congnitive belief about", sure! Satan believes that Jesus is the Christ! If we mean love, trust, savingly depend on etc. Doesn't the Bible teach that we are spiritually dead and blind and that left to ourselves by nature we hate Christ and would run from him rather than to him for mercy etc.?

  17. Si

    kc is a hole a thing? A letterbox is an opening, a hole, not a thing. We receive things through it, and stuff is given to us through it. It's a limited analogy, but it's not an awful one.

  18. Glen

    Just to clarify - when I say 'faith is not a thing' I don't mean to say that faith is 'personal' as opposed to 'impersonal'. That's not the distinction I'm trying to make here. I just mean that it is no contribution whatsoever to the salvific equation. Not a brownie point.

    So the saying "I'm saved by faith plus nothing" is really misleading - as though faith *is* a something. "I'm saved by *Christ* plus nothing" is true. And since it's true then faith is one of those things that do not enter into the equation - it's all of Christ.

    I just say this because maybe KC thought the letterbox analogy was "thingifying" faith because it was impersonal? Or maybe I've just muddied waters even further in my attempt to clarify...

    On the letterbox thing, definitely not an awful analogy. I think it captures well the instrumentality of faith. But as you say, it's limited. It still leaves you asking "Great, but what actually *is* this faith that is the conduit of every blessing." And at that stage the door is still open to misunderstandings. E.g. someone could say "Faith is the letterbox for all God's blessings to you. And *this* is what faith is, screwing up your stomach muscles really hard, clicking your heals together and saying "I believe, I believe, I believe."

    Know what I mean?

    Oh, and I like how KC's been tying the sovereign work of the Spirit to His revealing Word. One problem in these discussions is that people often divorce Word and Spirit - as though God's sovereign action is one thing and the saving gospel is something quite different. No the Spirit works precisely in the proclaimed Word.

  19. kc

    Marc, please forgive my delay.

    Are you saying that God enables us to love, trust and savingly depend on Jesus prior to having any cognitive belief about Him? While I agree with your thoughts on our nature I am assured by Christ promise to draw all men to Himself.

    Si, I apologize to you as well for my delay.

    I do think a hole is a thing but I suspect the analogy fits your perspective well. I guess I would disagree that belief in Christ is a receptacle.

  20. kc

    Thanks Marc, me too.

    To be honest I don’t think we can love God apart from Him either. I think our love for Him is impossible in the flesh and is only realized by the new creature in Christ.

  21. kc

    Si, upon second read my last comment seems unintentionally terse.

    I think where I disagree is in my perspective of “coming” to Christ through faith, having been “drawn” to Him. This seems more active to me than passive but to reiterate Glen’s position, it is by no means a labor or meritorious at all.

  22. Will

    I think remembering that "whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13) is very helpful for understanding what faith is.

    The Spirit gives us a cognitive understanding of who Jesus is and of our situation before him. He also gives us a cognitive belief that Jesus is willing and able to save. us

    Then we call upon him to do it. In my view this step is also sovereignly enabled by the spirit, but I know others will disagree on that.

    The cognitive belief part can't be a "something" - even the devil has that, as Marc says.

    As to whether the calling part is a "something", I think the Spurgeon quote Glen has just posted is very helpful. If the person doing is asking is a wicked and ungodly sinner, completely dead in sin and unable to do anything to save themselves, then surely the asking couldn't be a "something" either.

  23. Heather

    I've come to view "faith" in a similar vein as "fellowship".

    It is a quality that either exists or does not.

    It can be acted upon by us but actually exists as an extension of God's gracious offer of reconciliation instead of being something we can dredge up out of the deadness of our own sinful hearts.

    Maybe I'm confused. This sort of thing confuses me.

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