In these weekend devotionals for 2014 I have been stating the biblical answers to these two ultimate questions: (1) What must I do to be saved? and (2) How can I be sure that I am saved?
The Bible’s answer to the first question is unmistakably clear and uniformly consistent. According to passages such as Acts 20:21, if we would experience God’s salvation, we must experience Spirit-wrought “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We are now examining the scriptural teaching concerning the necessity, nature, and fruit of what Paul calls “the faith of God’s elect” in Titus 1:1. Our Lord Jesus Christ in His threefold office as prophet, priest, and king is set before us as the object of saving faith. The faith of God’s elect involves the whole man (mind, affections, and will) embracing the whole Christ (prophet, priest, and king) in order to obtain a whole salvation (deliverance from the guilt and power of sin, issuing in growing conformity to Christ and culminating in glorification). In this way, the Lord Jesus fulfills the prophecy made concerning Him that “he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Faith is given such a prominent place because it unites us to Christ, and through union with Christ we are made partakers of the salvation procured by Him. According to the Scriptures, union with Christ is the most all-embracing blessing of God’s salvation because all other saving benefits (for example, justification and sanctification) depend on union with Christ.
Although every Christian was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) and was also in Christ as our federal head and representative when He died and rose again (Rom. 6:1–14; Col. 2:12; 3:1–2), we do not enter into a saving union with Him until we believe. According to 1 Corinthians 1:9, we are brought into this vital union with Christ when we are effectually called and embrace Christ by faith. Only then does 1 Corinthians 1:30 become true of us: “and because of him you are in Christ Jesus.”
Think of our union with Christ as a coin with two sides. From the divine side, our union with Christ is secured by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who is the bond of that union (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13–14). From the human side, the bond of our union with Christ is the Spirit-granted faith that embraces Him as He is offered to us in the gospel (Acts 5:14; Rom. 16:7b).
The power (the Spirit) to believe comes from God; but the act (faith) is our act, though it is guaranteed by the Lord for His elect. Until we believe, we are outside of Christ, and we must believe to enjoy the full benefits of salvation that He has purchased for His elect.
Saving faith is not the act of a moment, but it is the entrance into a life-encompassing relationship with Christ. Next month we will address some aspects of that relationship.