Faith As Commitment
Having discussed the intellectual faith which leads us to salvation, we now turn our attention to saving faith. Intellectual faith is a matter of mental deduction, whereas saving faith concerns volitional action. This is why saving faith is represented as a virtue in the Bible. A man is not saved simply because he comes to a mental deduction of some sort. There is no indication whatsoever in the scriptures that a man can simply acknowledge or believe something and get to heaven. Saving faith, as we shall see, has more to it than that.
Interestingly enough, the word which is often rendered faith in the New Testament (pistis) is also rendered commit. Saving faith is represented in the scripture s as a full committal of will to the fact that a holy God sent His Son Jesus to earth where He willingly sacrificed His life so that we might receive forgiveness Wall past sin and guilt. It is a full recognition that in all the boundless reaches of the universe there is no other solution to our desperate situation.
We have probably all seen the little buttons some Christians are currently wearing on their pockets with the glib inscription, “Try Jesus.” The idea conveyed to the unsaved passerby is that if he Will just poke his head into Christianity, he will be positively enchanted with Christ and ultimately want to believe in Him. This solicitation to “try before you buy,” as if salvation were a commodity to be tossed experimentally in one’s spiritual shopping cart, is absolutely inadequate. It’s not so much the fact that people have put out an advertisement for God that is disturbing, although in the end this sort of nonsensical behavior will undoubtedly be revealed for the trite foolishness it is, but the idea that Jesus can be “tried” contains hellish deception. An individual isn’t saved by “Trying Jesus”, but by being “thoroughly persuaded” and then acting upon the data. The Bible teaches-that salvation is a matter of:
It is impossible to give a piece of your heart to God on a trial basis.
Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slave’s of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. —Romans 6:16-18 (NASB)
It is highly unlikely that one can come to Jesus without being enslaved to Him. “Christianity is preeminently the religion of slaves,” Simone Weil once said. “Slaves cannot help belonging to it.” Simone Weil, quoted in Jesus the Man Who Lives (Fontana), p. 46. The death of Christ shatters the hold of sin on our lives and frees us to become love slaves. The whole process is, in effect, a “changing of masters.”
And He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. —2 Corinthians 5:15 (NASB)
Those initiated to Christ on a trial basis become yo-yo Christians who fling themselves on God in apparent committal, but the reins of whose lives are carefully wrapped around their fingers so when the heat is on they can quickly recall their “commitment.” This is the very antithesis of biblical commitment. The New Testament word pistis mentioned earlier means “to trust or confide in,” while the Hebrew equivalent gagal means “to roll.” How suggestive this word is! There is no room for yo-yo commitment in this definition, for everything leaves the hand. What has left your hands is no longer under your control everything belongs to Him.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. —1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NASB)
Paul reminds us of the costly grace which was later to be so eloquently explained by German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner… Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price/ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life… costly grace is the incarnation of God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (Macmillan), pp. 47,48.
The man or woman who comes to Christ in saving faith must be absolutely convinced that the sufferings of Jesus were accomplished for them as the only remedy for their sin. The Holy Spirit will then lay open the cross of Jesus explicitly to our minds, until the revelation of our sin and God’s love breaks down our will that it may be yielded completely. it is this giving of our will, this commitment of heart, which constitutes saving faith.
Faith is not embracing what one doesn’t understand that is magic. Saving faith is a willful embrace of what is understood. It must be said, however, that saving faith is a joint effort between man and the Holy Spirit. When one is willing to believe, the Spirit of God will give the ability to believe.