Sunday, May 19, 2013

Preserving the Truth of the Gospel—Part IV: Confessing With Our Mouth…

Much has been discussed and written about “belief”—and what belief really is all about.  For the true Christian, belief is much more than merely acknowledging something.  What matters is “saving faith”.  What do we mean when we talk about “saving faith”?

Well, when Jesus was dining at the home of one of the Pharisees named Simon [Luke 7], a “woman of the city”—a prostitute—ministered to him by washing his feet with her tears, drying them with her hair, and anointing him with very expensive oil.  Of course, Simon and the others were freaked out because Jesus allowed such a woman to touch him.  Jesus took it a step further, and, after teaching Simon and the others with a parable:

And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:48-50, ESV)

Yikes!  This really blew their minds!  They were thinking, “Who does this guy think he is, forgiving sin?”

Then, in Luke 18, Jesus healed the blind beggar as he was nearing Jericho.  The man asked Jesus to restore his sight:

42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.”    Luke 18:42

Interestingly, the word translated “saved” in Luke 7:50, and the word translated “well” in Luke 18:42 is the same word.  The word is sesōken, and it means to save, deliver, restore to health, or rescue.  The tense of the verb tells us that this has to do with something accomplished at a specific point in time in the past with the results continuing into the present.  So, what that means for us is that these two—the prostitute and the blind man—were given the gift of salvation at the point in the past when they believed, as a result of the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  They—and us—have been rescued from the penalty of our sin, again, because of what Jesus accomplished.  Our salvation is based only on what Jesus did and not on anything that we have done or will ever do.  Our works do not—no, they cannot—have any impact on our possession of, or our retention of salvation.  Based on our saving belief in Jesus, we have been saved forever.

Further, the way the verb is used conveys to us that “being saved” is a fact, it is an absolutely certainty.

Now, one may argue that what Jesus said to the beggar had to do with his physical condition only, but that would be missing the point of what he actually said:

42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.”    Luke 18:42

The beggar’s physical condition was made whole when Jesus said, “Recover your sight”.  Jesus addressed his spiritual condition when he said, “your faith has made you well”. 

That brings us to a major problem afflicting the evangelical church today.  There are many today who will argue that “all one has to do to be saved is to say they believe, and they will be saved”.  These folks will sincerely cite passages such as:

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”           Acts 16:30-31

What these well meaning folks miss are things like:

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.                  Acts 2:38

The problem with this view—that all one must do is believe—was well stated by James:

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!   James 2:19

Matthew, in reporting the account of Jesus casting out demons from a man, said:

And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.”                Matthew 8:31

So even the demons believe in Jesus…what does that say about those today who “believe” in Jesus?

The Apostle’s Creed is a statement of beliefs, a confession of beliefs, put together by the early church to address what they believed to be the most important facts about God.  The three main creeds were authored to refute some aberrant doctrine advanced at the time by false teachers.  It begins, “I believe…”   This creed is to be believed.  The problem is that many who testify to the truths advanced in the Apostle’s Creed merely believe.  There is no “saving faith” that Jesus addressed in Luke (see above). 

The Apostle’s Creed is sufficient for salvation if it is truly believed as originally written—only if the Holy Spirit enables us to believe it correctly.  What do we mean by “correctly”?  What believing correctly means is believing without distorting the content of the Creed.  What kinds of distortions are in view here?  They are many.

One that comes to mind quickly is believing in the Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory.  This is nothing more or less than Christ dishonoring.  To believe that one can “atone” for one’s sins in a place between this world and heaven is heresy.  The doctrine of Purgatory is illegitimate because it rejects the Biblical teaching that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  The Roman doctrine of Purgatory rejects the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work on the cross, rejects his finished work of Christ on the cross [John 19:30], and places the burden of salvation on the individual.  This is nothing less than trust in self, as opposed to trust in Christ.  Unfortunately, man tends to try to place that burden upon himself, believing that what one does earns favor with God.  Nothing could be further from the Biblical truth!

I was greatly encouraged recently by a discussion I had with a good friend who is Roman Catholic, who believes that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  He believes that anything added to that formula is false. 

John Samson wrote about this very thing:

The content of the Apostles Creed is certainly a great start since we must unhesitatingly affirm all of those truths if we are to be Christians, but consider there are some things that the creed does not mention but that are necessary for salvation -­-­ There must be a Spirit-wrought change in the heart as a person encounters the Word of God, such that their self-complacency (is) shattered and their self-righteousness (is) renounced.  The Holy Spirit must also convict that person of their woeful, guilty, and lost condition; that they justly deserve the wrath of God, save in Christ's mercy alone. Likewise, the Spirit must reveal to them and persuade their heart of the goodness, beauty, loveliness and sufficiency of Christ ALONE to meet their desperate case and by a divinely wrought faith will cause them to lay hold of and rest upon Christ as their only hope. That all other hopes are vanity.[1]

Let us hold to the truth of the Scripture, that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

[1] John Samson, Reformation Theology: If One Confesses the Apostles' Creed, is this Authentic Faith?, January 23, 2008 [accessed 4/30/2013]

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