Believing that I am saved will not save me––just as believing that I am healthy does not make me healthy. The assumption made is that salvation depends on believing something about myself (that I am saved) but this is not faith according to God. God never calls me to believe anything about myself (if you say I must believe that I am a sinner before I can be saved that is true but it does not require faith but simply the exercise of a God–given conscience). Faith, true Scriptural faith, always looks to God - never self. In Heb. 6: 19 the writer speaks of the “anchor of the soul”. Now an anchor dropped within the ship does nothing for the ship––the anchor is always dropped outside the ship. Hence faith always looks outside oneself to God. Faith also involves acceptance of that which I am not able to verify by any other means except that God has said it. Thus the writer in Heb. 11 begins the chapter with creation (see v3). I cannot prove creation - I was not there - there is only one ground that I can believe in it, and that is that God says so. In 1 Cor. 15: 3-5 Paul spells out the elements of the Gospel. It is important to see what the Gospel is not in order to appreciate what it is. Thus the fact of my acceptance of my sins (“our sins”––v3) is not the Gospel. Indeed the fact of sin is awful in the sight of God. There are no glad tidings in that! As already said, it is not within the realm of faith. There is more than one on the pages of the Bible who confessed “I have sinned” and yet were lost (for example, Pharaoh in Ex. 9: 27; 10: 16, and Balaam in Num. 22: 34). I do not need faith for such a confession - an exercised conscience can do it for me. Again, the truth that “Christ died” (1 Cor. 15: 3) is not the Gospel. The death of Christ is history’s most terrible fact. There are no glad tidings in that as such. The fact of the death of Christ can be verified from writings outside the pages of the Bible––it does not require faith to believe that Christ died. However, when you link your sins with His death then you have that to which conscience has no voice and which history can never verify. Faith alone can accept the fact that “Christ died for our sins” and that on the singular ground that God says so. It is in that, that you find salvation.
You can believe what you like about yourself - you may be right, you may be wrong, but you will never be certain. However, if you believe what God has said, not only will you will be right, but you will also be absolutely certain because God “cannot lie” (Tit. 1: 2).
Saving Faith - What is it?
One of the most celebrated high wire walkers of all time crossed the Niagara Falls on a high wire to the applause of the watching crowds. He repeated the crossing pushing a wheel barrow before him. On arriving at the other side he asked the spell–bound crowd if they thought he could make the crossing yet again, only this time pushing the barrow with someone in it. “Yes”, said a man in the crowd, “I believe you could”. “Then get in the barrow” replied Blondin, but the man would not. This incident serves to illustrate just what faith is, and what it is not.
Faith is not just a passive belief in someone or something; it involves a commitment on the part of the person exercising it. “Upon God alone, O my soul, rest peacefully; for my expectation is from him” (Ps. 62: 5). It was one thing to watch Blondin risk his life on the high wire of Niagara, with one’s feet firmly planted on solid ground, and to state that he could do it again. It cost nothing. But to commit oneself entirely into his care for a safe crossing over the thundering falls was another matter entirely. You would be putting yourself without any reservation whatsoever into his hands. Faith involves me actively.
I read in 1 Cor. 15: 3 “that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures”. Paul is addressing saints about the Gospel, which, if accepted in faith, saves. Now the Gospel is not that Christ died. I do not need faith to believe that! It is history, and can be proved to any reasonable person on historical grounds. The belief that accepts the death of Christ merely as a historical fact, is not saving faith. Again, the fact that I am a sinner requires no faith. My past history proves it to be so and I have a conscience that tells me it is so, but put the two together so that Christ died for sinners, and then you have the Gospel. History does not tell you that Christ died for sinners, conscience does not tell it to you either. It is something that no scientist can prove or disprove; it is something that only faith can accept. Further to this, it is not just believing that Christ died for sinners in some abstract way, it is when I put myself into the picture. Faith reasons thus: Christ died for sinners, and I am a sinner. If Christ died for sinners and I am a sinner, therefore Christ died for me. I am now in the picture and that is the faith that saves.