What Is Saving Faith?

The "Great Blondin" earned his title with amazing feats of tightrope walking across Niagara Falls while demonstrating his own unique brand of showmanship.

He astonished people by carrying a small table, chair and stove to the halfway point of the wire stretched across the raging river, where he cooked a meal and ate. He also demonstrated his ability to push a wheel barrow across the wire while blindfolded and then offered to push a volunteer across in the wheel barrow.

Upon making this offer a person in the crowd was overheard asking another if he believed Blondin could make it across the wire blindfolded with someone in the wheel barrow.

Without realizing that Blondin was listening to their conversation the man said, "Sure, there's no doubt in my mind." "In that case," shouted Blondin, "come get in the wheel barrow." The startled man quickly shook his head, indicating no, and in embarrassment ran from the crowd.

Clearly, this man thought he had "faith" or "belief" in Blondin's ability, so much so, that he tried to convince his friend. However, when pressed, he really did not believe in Blondin at all.

What this man had was knowledge of Blondin and even agreement that Blondin could do what he said, but he was not willing to trust Blondin. Therefore, he did not have real faith or belief in Blondin because true faith in anything always requires:

(1) Knowledge-because we cannot believe what we do not know.
(2) Mental agreement that the facts are true.
(3) Trust or reliance on that knowledge and agreement.

Likewise, saving faith in Jesus Christ also requires these three elements to be genuine. It is not enough to know about Jesus, nor is it sufficient to agree that He is the Savior. One must rely on Him to do what He said, to have saving faith. Jesus said in John 11:25, "I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live."

This brings us to another point: Saving faith also requires an object of faith that is capable of performing the desired result.

I remember watching a film in school about the evolution of flight, featuring a number of contraptions that people invented while trying to fly. One was a bicycle with a set of bird-like wings attached. Pedaling the bike caused the tires to roll while a series of gears, chains and levers moved the wings in a flapping motion.

The rider was shown heading full speed toward the edge of a cliff with his wings flapping. His momentum carried him off the edge and allowed him to "fly" about three feet through the air before he headed down to crash in a heap.

Now, it can be truly said that this man believed his machine would fly. His willingness to ride it off a cliff proves his faith in it and while we cannot doubt his sincerity, we must question the object of his faith. No amount of faith in that silly flying machine would make it fly. It was simply the wrong object of faith for flying.

Likewise, many people who think they have saving faith really have faith in the wrong object. They are sincerely convinced that they are good enough to earn heaven, or that they will gain entrance because they were water baptized, took sacraments, asked Jesus to "come in their heart," prayed a certain prayer, spoke in "tongues" or joined a church.

As the man on the flying machine, these folks very sincerely believe. The problem is not their faith. The problem is their object of faith.

The Bible tells us in Galatians 3 that the works of the law are worthless objects of saving faith and Isaiah 64:6 says, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.

The only true object of saving faith is Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one comes unto the Father, but by me."

So what is saving faith? It is trust or reliance on the facts that Jesus Christ died in your place, to pay the penalty for your sins and then came back to life after three days.

Dwight L. Moody told of the young man who did not want to serve in Napoleon Bonaparte's army. When he was drafted, a friend volunteered to go in his place. The substitution was made, and some time later the surrogate was killed in battle.

The same young man was, through a clerical error, drafted again. "You can't take me" he told the startled officers. "I'm dead. I died on the battlefield." They argued that they could see him standing right in front of them, but he insisted they look on the roll to find the record of his death. Sure enough, there on the roll was the man's name, with another name written beside it.

The case finally went to the emperor himself. After examining the evidence, Napoleon said, "Through a surrogate, this man has not only fought, but has died in his country's service. No man can die more than once, therefore the law has no claim on him."

Some two thousand years ago, Jesus went to a cross to bear the penalty that rightly belonged to us. He died in our place and through Him, our names are written in the Book of Life.

Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile."

The Gospel (or good news) of Christ is that He died for your sins and rose from the dead. To have saving faith in this you must turn from reliance on yourself, your religion, or anything else, to Christ, trusting His death and resurrection to pay your penalty for sins.