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Saving faith

Discussion in 'Semper Reformanda' started by dms1972, Oct 24, 2021.

  1. dms1972

    dms1972 Well-Known Member Supporter

    I was very aware of the "faith alone" sola growing up, less so the other solas. But because my attention was focused on that and not on Christ I struggled. One issue in particular vexed me when I would try to exercise faith, namely did saving faith contain a seed of love? I think I erred at times in my understanding of this matter, and any time I was very consciously trying to believe I struggled. So I want to ask others here (and if you can help me by saying where some of the main theologians of the Reformation stood on the matter - that would be great)

    My experience as a christian I have always felt was lacking in something - it was more a case of appreciating God's patience with me through periods of backsliding, which I would return from with new determination, but at a level I could not sustain.

    What is the connection of faith and love: does saving faith contain a seed of love (for God), is faith accompanied with love, or does love follow immediately from faith? That is three ways of stating it that come to mind, and I am not even sure that they differ very much, or whether the differences are important? Did any of the Reformers discuss this and can you point me to the right place to read about it.
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  2. Mark Quayle

    Mark Quayle Well-Known Member Supporter

    United States
    What do you think saving faith is, and where it's from?
  3. truthisfreedom2019

    truthisfreedom2019 New Member

    I don't know much about the belief of the theologians of the reformation on this matter but your question on the connection of faith and love may be answered by these verses:

    If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the Law as violators. For whoever keeps the whole Law, yet stumbles in one point, has become guilty of all. For He who said, “DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,” also said, “DO NOT MURDER.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do murder, you have become a violator of the Law. So speak, and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. What use is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? In the same way, faith also, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to acknowledge, you foolish person, that faith without works is useless? Was our father Abraham not justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was Rahab the prostitute not justified by works also when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. James 2:8-26

    Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. John 14:23-24

    Those who are born again because of what God has done will not keep on sinning. God's very nature remains in them. They can't go on sinning. They have been born again because of what God has done.
    1 John 3:9 NIRV
  4. d taylor

    d taylor Well-Known Member

    United States
    Faith or as many like to call it saving faith, does contain love on the behalf of God.

    For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

    The only condition given to receive Eternal Life is to believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah and trust in The Messiah for God's free gift of Eternal Life.
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  5. Mark Quayle

    Mark Quayle Well-Known Member Supporter

    United States
    Very good, and thank you for the answer. Elsewhere in Scripture, we learn that salvific faith is by the Spirit of God within the redeemed, and not of the will of man. The result of the Spirit of God giving us New Birth necessarily causes works, and love for God. THUS, "the love of God compels us". "We love him because he first loved us."

    And the writings of the Reformers are replete with this principle, even if not expressed the way I put it, nor the way you expected it.

    The thinking of most Christians seems to be that we respond to God's demonstrated love with mental assent and its resultant gratitude toward God. While I don't deny both of those, our works, like salvific faith, are the necessary result of the Spirit of God, having taken up residence within us, change God has made within us, whether intellectually and/or emotionally propelled or not. He will not let us default.

    And no, in spite of the outcry against Calvinism (Reformed Theology) this does not imply that anything is automatic. Our changed hearts need us to obey, and we need to pursue Christ. And we will do so, even as James said.

    So read some more: I recommend anything by John Owen, and many other well-know old Puritans and several current teachers. Even in the more structured writings, most of what may sound like dry formulaic teaching assumes the love of God from first to last, but does not emphasize it except in light of its results, including very creation, and the reason for creation.

    The focus is not love, except because the focus is Christ. Our notion of love doesn't begin to do it justice.
  6. dms1972

    dms1972 Well-Known Member Supporter

    I think there is faith involved in believing one or other of the historic christian creeds, and this is something one uses as a reminder of the core doctrines of Christianity. I think there is faith that is more like a gift of God, but I don't think God does the believing for us, so it also involves cognitive acts, acknowledgement. I think there is a sort of faith which is trust in God and his goodness and wisdom when we experience difficult times in our lives. I don't think that means resignation. If I found I had a medical condition I would seek medical advice, and see if there was something I could take, or change in my diet or lifestyle maybe that might help. As I have suffered from clinical depression and anxiety, I know there are sometimes things that help and other times it doesn't seem to shift.

    But I am more interested in the relationship of faith and love, and the relation of faith as a gift and faith as a human act.
  7. Mark Quayle

    Mark Quayle Well-Known Member Supporter

    United States
    This relationship has everything to do with unity with Christ. This is the job of, and indeed, the fact of, the inhabiting of the believer by the Spirit of God.

    Far be it from me to claim the mind and heart are not involved in every decision by a human. I don't know how to make that more clear. But what the Spirit of God does within us is not by our will, but affects our will —and that, to the extreme, (in case you haven't noticed your desire for Christ, lol.)

    One of the fights between Arminian-leaning believers and Reformed believers centers around the notion by the Arminian-leaning, that if the human is not alone the one to choose between options, the choice is not real. To the Reformed, such choices (made alone by the human, apart from Christ), are necessarily weak, silly, ignorant, lacking in resolve, self-important, presumptive, unreliable, and so on. (When a lost person chooses, by their own will, uncaused by God, to yield to God, it will not be a sure thing, since it depends on so many things that person lacks. But when the Spirit of God changes the person, the person desires the things of God.) The integrity of (reality of) the choices of the believer, according to the Reformed, is the integrity of the Holy Spirit (it is he who makes our choices real). THIS requires the unity with God we acknowledge and desire. That unity is love for (and from) God. Only the Holy Spirit possesses that kind of love, understanding and will. Thus we love, because of who resides in us, and so we are changed.

    Therefore, until we are changed, we do not want enough, know enough even what it is to want Christ, we do not understand the Gospel well enough, nor the other things of God, we don't know what we are doing when we receive Christ. But the Spirit knows completely, wants completely, and loves completely, and has the power to bring to pass, the will of God. Our hearts, minds and will follow, according to the measure of grace he gives. We DO decide, and he is why. That is love. If it is not love, it is not faith by the Spirit of God. And whatsoever is not of faith, is sin.
  8. The Righterzpen

    The Righterzpen Jesus is my Shield in any Desert or Storm

    United States
    The word "faith" and "belief" in the New Testament are the same Greek word. (Not sure if they are in the Hebrew; been a while since I looked at that.) In both the Old and New Testaments though; to "have faith" means to trust God. And trusting God covers a lot of ground.

    Scripture says that faith is a gift of God: (Keep in mind here that other Scripture translations more accurately state "faith of Christ" and not "faith in Christ".
    1 Samuel 26:23, Romans 12:3, Galatians 2:16, Galatians 2:20, Galatians 3:2, Galatians 3:5, Galatians 3:22, Ephesians 3:12, Philippians 3:9, Colossians 2:12, Jude 3, 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (faith is a work) 2 Thessalonians 1:11

    Now the instilling of faith in a human being happens because of the love of God. And in response to the love of God; a human reciprocates that love to God (and also other things God has created = other people, animals, even plants. I.E. some people are just gifted at training animals, farming or gardening. That's their "gig" in life.)

    Yes. Love toward God is demonstrated in obedience to Him. And I would say that it also demonstrates an emotional "attachment" to God. Now how "emotional attachment" demonstrates itself in the life of any person does vary. Some people are far more "mushy" than others. But because Jesus demonstrated emotional affection toward people; I find as evidence that God created humans with that capacity as some reflection of His own nature.

    Humans though aren't the only living things that have what we'd classify as "emotions". There is fondness, affection, friendship, and care between humans and animals and even among animals with each other. And as strange as this may sound; there is a form of this among plants. House plants grow better and respond better in homes where there's "positive sound waves" than homes where there's a lot of yelling, fighting and strife. Plants also like to be around other plants and do better in groups.

    And so all of this, I think is a demonstration of an aspect of the nature of God in what is called "life".

    Not sure if I understand your question, or even if a "yes" or "no" answer matters. It's like fire needs a fuel to burn, heat and oxygen. If any of those are missing, there's no fire. Faith and love are kind of like two legs of the three legs of the manifestation of regeneration. The third leg I would say is obedience. And this is why I think James says "faith without works is dead".

    Faith is more than an intellectual ascent to an idea though. A lot of people understand and will acknowledge that the doctrines of grace are true. Yet they don't obey God. Their disobedience could be in a variety of things. They may be immoral. They may be hateful. They may say that yes they know X, Y, or Z truths are true; but they are just going to ignore them because they refuse to bow to a lifestyle change.

    So yes, intellectual recognition of truth is "a step in the right direction" but that doesn't necessarily constitute genuine saving faith.

    Being regenerated by the Spirit of God is what causes one to trust Him. They believe as a consequence of His action; yet that belief is still manifest in them and is "their belief". Now how much "cognitive acts" or "acknowledgement" that manifests as can be difficult to determine because of what the individual may or may not be able to intellectually grasp, explain or express.

    I've known several developmentally disabled people who would not be able to explain basic Christianity; but they both trusted and professed that trust in Christ. That was evidenced by the way they lived their lives. Not that they were perfectly faithful or perfectly obedient. In many respects they were much like dealing with children, particularly in their lack of ability to control their frustration. Some of them also had other neurological issues going on, but they trusted God. They couldn't give you an in-depth theological dissertation on what the death burial and resurrection meant; but they lived by the belief that Jesus rose from the dead and His "job" was to redeem sinners.

    I agree with you here. Faith is not fatalism, although there are times we acknowledge that "only one who's able to get me out of this is God". I had one such experience when I was in a catastrophic car accident. I knew when they loaded me onto the helicopter, that if I was going to survive; it was going to be on the power and will of God; because I had pretty much been rendered helpless and I knew that.

    Well, we already covered that the origin of faith and love comes from God. The "gift of faith as a human act" though is a real thing. If someone has genuine faith, that will manifest in their material life in obedience to God.

    And this doesn't just mean "covering the basics of moral obedience". I was faced at one point in my marriage with the question of wether or not I was going to stand in defense of my son's safety even if it ended my marriage? I chose to defend the child because that was morally right. It was up to his father to grow up enough to learn how to be a non abusive father. And if calling the police to protect the kid made my husband hate me; well than, the consequence of the end of the marriage was of my husband's own moral failing not mine. I did what God required of me; despite the fact that it personally cost me a lot.

    So yes, "faith as a human act" is a real thing that has material world consequences.

    Mark makes some good points here. The paradox between what arminians accuse of reformed theology, does not mean that human action is of no consequence, or that it's "micro managed" by God. Part of what it means to be omnipotent is that God has the wisdom and power to act "in real time" to influence and direct the outcomes for both His elect as well as the actions of the condemned.

    For the unredeemed, all God has to do for them to manifest how corrupt they can absolutely be, is to remove His hand of restraint. "The law" (which can only condemn men of sin) will decide the extent of their punishment dependent on what their own decisions are, as to how far they are willing to take their own wicked intentions. Unlike fallen angels, humans (and animals actually) still retain a decision making process of to what extent they will disobey God. (Fallen angels are depraved totally. That is part of what they knew would happen to them upon their decision to disobey God. This is why there is no redemption plan for angels.)

    Humans though (and in particular apart from animals) having the law of God written on their conscience; are not void of the ability of their own volition to violate (or not violate) their conscience. (This is the manifestation of what it means to be created in God's image and why humans are accountable for their sin, when animals aren't.) Humans suffer from "total depravity"; but not that we exercise our own volition by acting depraved totally. That's what "the wages of sin" is about. Those wages are earned based on choices humans make, that they deliberately conclude to violate the conscience they know is instituted by God. This is why they are "without excuse" as Romans says.

    Now in contrast; the redeemed are "cleaved" upon by the Holy Spirit; which has brought them from their state of death to a state of life. That is an "added factor" that works apart from how the law interacts with the conscience. The law that condemns based on deliberate violation of the conscience is wha the "Old Testament moral law" is made up of. This remains "in tact" for those who are "under the law" despite that the ceremonial aspect of it has been fulfilled.

    But yes, just because God is the agent of regeneration; this does not negate that evidence is made in the life of a believer that regeneration has happened.

    AMEN! - Well said bro!