The Plain Truth About Saving Faith, Part 2

In Part 1, I discussed the kind of belief necessary for salvation. Salvation is a process, and it begins with the knowledge and belief that Christ died so that we might be saved from death. It also includes repentance, changing from the way we have been living to obeying God’s law. Once we have repented and believed, we must be baptized to receive God’s Holy Spirit. This Spirit enables us to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). But what does it mean to walk in newness of life?

Christ in Us

Let’s examine the Apostle Paul’s writings to understand further.

In Galatians 2:16, Paul writes, “Know­ing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith OF Jesus Christ, even we have believed IN Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith OF Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” People might argue, “See, the law has been done away with.” But notice: Paul talks specifically about two kinds of faith—faith IN Christ and the faith OF Christ. It is only by the faith of Christ that we can be saved. That’s what saving faith is! (Note: Many modern translations render “the faith OF Christ” inaccurately as “faith in Christ.” The King James Version is the correct translation in these instances.)

But Paul ex­plains further, just in case the Galatians misinterpreted his statements to be anti-law. “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid” (verse 17). In other words, after accepting the blood of Jesus Christ, if we then say the law is void and we are already saved, we are mak­ing Christ out to be a minister of sin! Why? Because after receiving the Holy Spirit, Christ is then living in us and Christ is not going to live His life contrary to God’s law! How plain these verses are! Now it should be clear why we are saved by Christ’s life and not His death.

Paul continues, “For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor [or sinner]” (verse 18). What was destroyed? Remember, the old man was buried or crucified with Christ. That old, carnal man, prone to sin, was destroyed. If we allow that old man to be built up again, we are found to be transgres­sors—or sinners!

Verse 20: “I am crucified with Christ [the old man dies]: nevertheless I live [in ‘newness of life’]; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith OF the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Before He gives us the Holy Spirit, God leads us to repent and accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. Accepting Jesus Christ is outwardly manifested by the baptismal ceremony. It is true that we will not be saved without these two vital steps. But neither will we be saved without the faith OF Christ, which we can only receive after God gives us His Holy Spirit. It is through that power that we actually attain the faith OF Christ. And it is by that faith that we will go on and receive salvation if we endure unto the end.

Christ Is Our Example

1 Peter 2:21 says, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” Some argue that we cannot possibly imitate Christ! But this verse means exactly what it says. Christ left us an example so we could follow it!

But why? What does this have to do with Jesus Christ living in us?

Hebrews 2:10 says that Christ is the captain of our salvation. The word “captain” could be translated “pioneer.” Jesus Christ was first. He was the firstborn among many breth­ren (Romans 8:29).

In Hebrews 4:15, Paul said Jesus Christ “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” He was tempted to sin—to break God’s law. But He didn’t. He kept God’s com­mandments perfectly (John 15:10).

Yet Christ did not do it Himself. In fact, He said, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30). That’s right! Jesus Christ had absolutely no faith in Himself! Now, as we have seen, we are to have faith IN Christ—faith in His shed blood (Romans 3:25). But after that, mere faith IN Christ is not enough!

So how did Christ do it? He was the perfect sacrifice—the Lamb with­out spot or blemish (compare Exodus 12:5 with 1 Peter 1:19). God gave Christ the same Spirit that He gives new converts after baptism—with the exception that Christ was given God’s Holy Spirit from birth. It was by that Spirit—the power of God—that Christ had perfect faith and perfect obedience.

Let’s again ask, what does Christ’s perfect example have to do with Him living in us? If Christ left us a perfect example, and if He is to be living in us today, then we are to look to His example to see how we should be living! Jesus Christ had perfect faith in the power of God. He had no faith in Himself. He plainly said so. As Christians—true followers of Christ—we are to come to totally rely on our Father for literally everything. That is the example Jesus Christ left us.

Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” If Christ is the same today as He was 2,000 years ago, and He is living in us by the power of the Holy Spirit, how could we possibly reason that this time around He wouldn’t be keeping God’s law? If we understand the perfect example Christ set for us and the fact that He is the same today, then it is easy to prove how He will be living in us today: the same way He did 2,000 years ago!

We Can Keep the Law

There is no place for abolishing God’s law in true Christianity. The Apostle John wrote, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his com­mandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4). All the talk about Christ does not prove that you actually know Him. But keeping His commandments does!

Jesus said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words [or commands, as recorded in the Bible]: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). We cannot possibly love Jesus Christ without obeying His commands.

In Matthew 19, a man approached Jesus Christ with a question concern­ing salvation: “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (verses 16-17). What a contradiction this verse poses to many teachings in today’s religions!

Those who say, “All you have to do is believe,” cannot explain the many other verses saying that we must keep the commandments! As we have seen, we do have to believe in Jesus Christ and His shed blood. But belief requires that we not only believe on Him, but that we also believe Him! That means believing what He said and following in His steps. If accepting His blood was all that was necessary, then God wouldn’t have given us the gift of His Holy Spirit—the power by which we live by the faith of Jesus Christ.

Let’s go back to Matthew 19. The young man questioning Jesus asked Him which commandments He was talking about. Jesus responded, “Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (verses 18-19). Is there any doubt about which law Jesus was referring to? The Ten Commandments, of course!

The young man thought he was keeping the law, but Jesus quickly showed him where he was falling short by asking him to give up all that he had. The young man “went away sorrowful” (verse 22). Notice verse 25: “When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?” Some might ask the very same question today: “If we have to keep the law, how can anyone be saved?” Notice Christ’s answer: “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Jesus Christ must be living in us in order for us to keep God’s law! We must have the same faith Christ had. God gives us that faith by the power of His Holy Spirit.

Faith does not do away with the law. Paul never taught that. “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31). How does our faith establish the law? By keeping God’s law, our faith is made per­fect! That is how we know if Jesus Christ is truly living in us.

With all this in mind, it now becomes plain how we can keep God’s law. If Christ is living in us by the power of the Holy Spirit, it will not seem so difficult to obey God’s law. If we are studying our Bibles for correc­tion daily and then going to God on our knees asking for His power to work in our lives, then we will find we can love God more than ourselves; that we can love our neighbors as our­selves; that we can refrain from even the thought of hating, lusting or lying; that we can and will honor our parents. Without Christ living in us by the power of God’s Spirit, keeping God’s law is impossible. “But with God,” as Paul wrote, “all things are possible.” It takes faith in God’s power to be able to obey God’s law!

Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in What Kind of Faith Is Re­quired for Salva­tion?, “But—here’s the blessed truth—with God, it is possible, even to keep His com­mandments. Do you begin to see? It takes faith! Faith in the power of God! And just as your own diligent effort coupled with faith makes faith perfect, so faith coupled with your effort makes perfect obedience! The two go hand in hand. And you cannot have the one without the other! A living faith—the only kind that will save—is an active faith—one that trusts God to make it possible to obey Him—to live the true Christian life—to keep His blessed commandments!”

Belief In Christ Is Not Enough

In the first century, multiple thousands of people believed in Jesus Christ. Even Nicodemus, speaking for many of the Jewish scholars, said, “[W]e know that thou art a teacher come from God” (John 3:2). In fact, Jesus was very well liked! He attracted great multitudes virtually everywhere He went. Yet after His death, only 120 disciples remained faithful to what He taught (Acts 1:15). This amazing statistic—120 people—is proof alone that believ­ing in Jesus Christ is not enough!

Today, multiple millions believe in Jesus Christ—while only a small fraction actually believe what He taught! Notice what Jesus said in Mark 7:7-9: “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men …. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”

Jesus reveals that it is possible to worship Him while doing it all in vain. And notice, worshiping Him in vain revolves around rejecting the commandments of God!

The Apostle James wrote, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works” (James 2:17-18). In other words, just believing is not enough.

James continues, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (verses 19-20). Even demons believe! But that belief must be coupled with works which will give you living, active faith. That is where the Holy Spirit comes in—the very power by which Jesus Christ is alive today in all truly begotten children of God! (Romans 8:14).

Mr. Armstrong wrote, “We are saved by faith! But faith wrought with our works and by works our faith is made perfect! That is living faith” (ibid).

Believe Christ

A mere faith in Christ alone will not save one soul. How could we possibly justify believing on the Messenger of the New Covenant with­out believing the message?

Man has said all we have to do is believe in Christ because He died for us. Christ inspired Paul to write that we are saved by His life, not His death. Man has said the law was nailed to the cross. Christ said, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the command­ments.” Man has said all we need is faith—works aren’t necessary. Christ inspired James to reveal that “faith without works is dead.” Saving faith requires that we believe what Christ saidnot men!

Let’s conclude with one last quote from Mr. Armstrong’s booklet What Kind of Faith Is Required for Salva­tion?: “God’s purpose in salvation is to rescue men from sin and its result­ing unhappiness, misery and death! To repent of sin is the first step! Then the blood of Christ, upon acceptance and faith, cleanses of all past sins. And by faith we are kept from sin in the future. Thus the resulting righteousness is of faith—the righteousness imparted from God.”