Wednesday, March 15, 2006

BY GRACE (through faith)

"Remember this; or you may fall into error by fixing your minds so much upon the faith which is the channel of salvation as to forget the grace which is the fountain and source even of faith itself. Faith is the work of God's grace in us. 'No man comes to Me,' says Jesus, 'except the Father who sent Me draws him.' ... Grace is the first and last moving cause of salvation; and faith, essential as it is, is only an important part of the machinery which grace employs. We are saved 'through faith,' but salvation is 'by grace.'" - Charles H. Spurgeon

I came across this quote today at one of my favorite websites,, and all things came into a bit sharper focus concerning some of the ills that plague my life (and surely many others' lives as well). As an undergrad I remember feeling both awed and challenged by the "Faith Hall of Fame" in Hebrews 11. And I will not dare in the least to reduce the validity of all God-breathed Scripture as it stands. But who among us has not read this chapter or heard a sermon at church about some great act of faith or mighty women and men who knew their God and performed miracles and, as a result, felt inadequate or even began to question whether or not he really has 'enough' faith? Or if, as I believe the Bible teaches, we see earthly sanctification through faith in God and his promises,* then isn't our sin showing us we don't have enough faith? And if it's faith that saves, then are we even saved? We get weak in the knees and sick to our stomachs, suddenly finding ourselves fretting over our standing before God.

But faith doesn't save; Jesus Christ does. And it was never meant to turn us into perfectly holy heroes. As Spurgeon accurately states, "Grace is the first and last moving cause of salvation ... [faith] is only an important part of the machinery which grace employs." Jesus Christ, "full of grace" (John 1:14), is the Alpha and the Omega in our salvation. Such grace makes possible our gift of repentant faith and the perseverance thereof. Jesus will not break a bruised reed, those whose faith falters and wobbles when buffeted by the firest of life (Isaiah 42:3: 43:2; 46:4). Honestly, this year has seen a dear teammate and, to perhaps a lesser degree, me really wrestle with the reality of the presence and redeeming work of God. If a self-generated and -sustained faith and resultant acrobatic performances in piety and evangelism were necessary to 'see God in the land of the living,' we'd both have shipwrecked long ago. But to know that it is the pure covenant GRACE of a faithful God is the best of all promises. "For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14).

"It was never a desirable tendency to exalt faith into an ontic and central concept, displacing the real object of theology," writes Karl Barth, "as though faith were the theme and true event of salvation." ** Barth writes that the one true object of theology is the God of the Gospel, the new man, Jesus Christ. And the gospel is certainly no euangelion to me, no splendid news, if my own great faith and strength of conviction and resultant obedience are the foundation upon which all my hope rests.

*For an in-depth look at this, please refer to John Piper, The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in FUTURE GRACE (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah, 1996).
** Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1963), 99.


Ryan P.T. said...

The empty hand that receives the blessings of salvation Christ secured through the cross. No WONDER we've been talking past each other--we had different definitions of faith!

Drew said...