Friday, July 10, 2015

FAITH + NOTHING = A HALF TRUTH

Not True
As humans, we are given to packaging concepts neatly into compact little statements.

This is especially true with Christians trying to present biblical truths such as the one at left.


This has become much more prevalent with changeable signs in front of church buildings.

Yes, the truth presented by most is designed to capture the thought of the unsaved passerby; and in that place, I shouldn't be too critical.

However, too often, these supposedly pithy quips bypass the mind of the pre-believer, and land securely within the mind of the believer, leaving him or her with only a half-truth. A half-truth is generally a one-sided story.

Such is the case with the idea that Faith + Nothing = Salvation.

This thought came about mainly as a criticism against salvation by doing good works as taught by some denominations. John 3:16 and Romans 10:11 both say very plainly that all that is necessary is belief.

I get that.
But, that is not the whole truth.

The main problem arises in our lack of understanding the meaning of belief. Most of us cannot make the distinction between belief and mental assent. (For a quick introduction into the difference, read "Mental Assent, the Enemy of Faith.)

We have probably all heard something along the lines of, "It's in your head, but it needs to drop 18 inches into your heart." This is an effort to make the distinction between mental assent and true biblical faith.

As the Apostle Paul wrote,
"For with the heart man believes unto righteousness;..." (Rom. 10:10)
Rather than trying to reconcile James' writings on works with Paul's writings on faith, it is much easier to go to a very plain passage of scripture that stands alone in its clarity--
Hebrews 3:18-19: 

"And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?
"So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief." (ESV)
The passage, of course is referring to the Israelites not being able to enter Canaan upon their deliverance from Egypt.

Look at the last word in each sentence/verse. (KJV does not bring out the distinction in words as clearly as other translations.)

They represent two distinctly different words in the original manuscript. Consider this explanation taken from Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words.
"Peitho and pisteuo" 'to trust,' are closely related etymologically; the difference in meaning is that the former implies the obedience that is produced by the latter, cp. Hbr 3:1819, where the disobedience of the Israelites is said to be the evidence of their unbelief. Faith is of the heart, invisible to men; obedience is of the conduct and may be observed. When a man obeys God he gives the only possible evidence that in his heart he believes God. Of course it is persuasion of the truth that results in faith (we believe because we are persuaded that the thing is true, a thing does not become true because it is believed), but peitho, in NT suggests an actual and outward result of the inward persuasion and consequent faith." *
[* From Notes on Thessalonians, by Hogg and Vine, pp. 254, 255.]
When a man obeys God he gives the only possible evidence that in his heart he believes God. (click to tweet this)

This brings us to the beginning of our consideration of Peter's statement in his second letter--"add to your faith..." (2 Pet. 2:5)

If, as many claim, faith plus nothing equals salvation, then why did Peter write such a thing?

It is only as we begin to understand the biblical teaching of salvation that we can possibly begin to make sense of this idea of "adding to faith."

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