Faith and the Gospel (Part 1)

Horatius Bonar (The prince of Scottish hymn writers)

For ease of reading, I have divided this article into 3 parts. Please see further on this blog Parts 2 and 3. – Grant Swart


For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
Being justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1).

Scripture presents faith to us in more aspects than one. It is sometimes called hearing, sometimes knowing, sometimes believing, or receiving, or trusting. Strictly speaking, it is simply the belief of the truth, yet it is referred to throughout Scripture under these different names. These may be said to be its different stages, and it is useful oftentimes to lay hold of it at each of these and contemplate it under each of these views. They are not in reality the same thing, yet they illustrate the same thing, they point to one object. The things we hear, the truth we know, the tidings we believe, the gift we receive, the Being we trust may be different in one sense — yet in another they are the same.

Some adopt one aspect exclusively, some another, so that the object itself is lost sight of. Some particular definition is fastened on and elevated to such prominence as to become little better than a party watchword (furnishing much matter for self-righteous pride and confidence).

One person glories in what he calls his simple views of faith, spurning every other idea of it but what he calls “the bare belief of the bare truth.” Ask such, “Where is your childlike confidence in God, where is the resting of your soul upon Jesus Himself as the resting place? You are making a savior of your faith, an idol of the truth. You are just as self-righteous and proud in your ‘simple views of faith’ as is the mystic whose religion you profess to shun. Your God seems to be a mere bundle of abstract propositions; your savior a mere collection of evangelical phrases, which you use as the shibboleth of a sect.”

Another goes to the opposite extreme overlooking the simplicity of faith. He undervalues the truth. He is wholly occupied with some mystical actions of his own mind, trying to exert himself to put forth some indescribable efforts which he calls “receiving and resting on Christ.” Say to such, “You are on the road to mysticism. You are occupied with your own self, with your own actions and feelings. You are making a savior of them. You certainly need more simple views of true faith. You need to be called down from self-righteous perplexities about your own acts, to the precious word of truth which you are despising, as if it contained no comfort for you unless you are conscious of connecting certain acts of your own to it.”

From this you will see how it is quite possible to admit the full meaning of those words in Scripture which speak of confidence, and trust, and rest, etc.; while, at the same time, we rejoice in those other expressions which represent faith as an “acknowledgment of the truth,” and the salvation of the sinner as the result of his “coming to the knowledge of the truth.” It is quite consistent with Scripture to represent peace as flowing from confidence in God through Christ, and yet as rising from “believing the record which God has given of His Son.”

Without attempting to give a definition of faith, let me say in a few words that any faith which goes no farther than the intellect can neither save nor sanctify. It is no faith at all. It is unbelief. No faith is saving except that which links us to the Person of a loving Savior. Whatever falls short of this is not faith in Christ. So, while salvation is described sometimes in Scripture as a “coming to the knowledge of the truth,” it is more commonly represented as a “coming to Christ Himself.” “Ye will not come to Me that ye might have life”; “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”

(continued in Parts 2 and 3 elsewhere on this blog)

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