Updated: May 3
The New Testament book of James has something quite startling to say about faith:
You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
James reminds us that mere belief that God exists is not saving faith.
Nor, for that matter, is belief that there is just one God “saving faith”.
So, what exactly is saving faith?
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.” (John 6:28-29)
The apostle Paul wrote frequently about saving faith. Here are just two examples:
“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your hearts that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:8b-10)
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.... (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
As was the case with the apostle Paul, Luther had quite a bit to say about saving faith:
Faith is an unceasing and constant looking which turns the eyes upon nothing but Christ, the victor over sin and death and the giver of righteousness, salvation, and life eternal. This is why Paul, in his epistles, sets Jesus Christ before us and teaches about Him in almost every single verse. But he sets Him before us through the Word, for in no other way can He be grasped except by faith in the Word.
You must stay with the Person of Christ. When you have Him, you have all; but you have also lost all when you lose Him.
Whoever wants to know God, love God, worship God, and serve God should learn to know Christ aright, should love Christ, should worship Christ and serve Him. To know, love, worship and serve God without Christ is impossible.
Christianity is nothing but the constant practicing of this passage, namely, being convinced that you have no sin although you have sinned, that your sins rest on Christ, who is the eternal savior from sin, death and hell.
The Gospel cannot be preached and heard enough, for it cannot be grasped well enough. We preach nothing new; but we are forever and incessantly preaching about the man called Jesus Christ, true God and man, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead for our justification. But although we are forever preaching and repeating this message, we shall never be able to grasp it sufficiently.
What is saving faith?
As I think about this, I recall two very personal answers to the question.
The first involves our sixteenth president. Here a link to what one historian wrote:
Then there is Reinhold Niebuhr? Was he a Christian?
Here is a link to what a pastor/professor had to say:
The death of God for the life of the world.