Friday, March 2, 2012

Saving Faith in Slow Motion

Romans 10:6-7 "But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), 7or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).”

The Moment of saving faith in slow motion
Yesterday we noted the three elements that compose saving faith: the contents or essential doctrines (notitia), mental agreement or ascent to those truths (ascensus) and then the gifting of faith whereby one believes on the basis of the first two (fiducia).  Today we want to take saving faith and look at the otherwise instantaneous moment of saving faith in slow motion. 

What must a person be convinced of in order to become a Christian?
So what fundamental contents are essential to ascend to as I by grace through faith believe on the Lord in salvation?  Romans 10:6-7 gives us the first essential truth that I must be persuaded of in order to become a Christian: The inability to provide there own salvation. 

1. One's Own Sinfulness before a Holy God
The Bible is pretty clear that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God".  (Romans 3:23).  The Bible also says that it is not from performance of good deeds that we earn favor with God, but rather by grace through faith in the deeds of another - Jesus Christ.

When saving faith is occuring in one's heart, the testimony of the Spirit Himself is brought to the person regarding their own sinful condition.  A person who is being convicted by the Holy Spirit will be persuaded that even if they could "go up into Heaven itself" and attempt achievement of salvation, it would be futile, since Christ has already done it for them.  Likewise, the sinner at the moment of saving faith is convinced that even if they were to "descend to the abyss" and attempt all sorts of suffering for their own sin, it would be a waste of time, for Christ has done that for them.

To refuse the work of Christ spelled out in the Gospel is favor of one's own perceived ability to save themselves is evidence of unbelief.  Sin at its root derives from the pride exhibited by Adam and Eve in the Garden, wherein they chose to hide and "figure it out" rather than run into the arms of God who alone can save them.

2. The words that God says in the Bible about you are true
When a sinner hears the Gospel from the scriptures, is there a genuine agreement and persuasion that what is said is true - even if it hurts?  A true believer in Jesus Christ will readily say that everything the Bible says is true, because the words of that book are God's words.  The Holy Spirit says in Romans 10:8 - "But what does it say? 'THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART'—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching."  Saving faith readily agrees with the fundamental truth that the words of the Bible are God's words (i.e God's Word).  Thus, when a sinner hears the gospel, and faith is present in their heart, they can say that God is literally speaking to them to believe on Him. 

Distinguishing between "knowing" and "comprehending"
For now we will note that in order to become a Christian, a person must "know" that: they are a sinner and that what God says in the Bible about them is true.  It is often the case that people of varying ages and ability will "comprehend" these essential "notitia" or contents at varying levels.  Thus a child may simply say that they know that their sins are bad because of their offending God, whereas an adult may articulate that truth in more specific detail.

Knowing something means I understand, I recognize the essential properties of the truth.  To comprehend means that I have a full understanding and recognize the full properties of the truth.  Knowing the essentials of the gospel is something that the Spirit brings at salvation.  Comprehension is an ongoing process that continues on after salvation.  We will look at other essential truths that one must agree with and be persuade of in saving faith in order to become a Christian.  

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