What Does Faith in Christ Mean?

by Greg Koukl

The three aspects of faith – knowledge, assent, and trust – are all necessary for saving faith.

This issue has gotten me a little bit worked up, to be honest with you. It’s one thing when you’re dealing with a somewhat academic issue and you’re talking about something that is important, but merely factual, as opposed to something that hits at the heart of who you are and also relationships that are close to you. I’ve been trying to sharpen my thinking (bring it into clearer focus) on this issue of salvation and lordship. The ironic thing is that characteristically I have argued against the idea of repentance/lordship in relationship to salvation on the air. The reason is that it just seems to me that it is not a prerequisite for a person who is not a Christian to somehow surrender their lives and turn from their sins as a condition to receive salvation. My view is that Jesus catches his fish first and then cleans them. So, I’ve kind of been resistant to that, but at the same time I’ve been very serious about the issue of obedience and holy living and having your life make a difference, and not just getting fire insurance by saying some magical prayer that never ultimately influences your life.

But recently I found myself in two conversations with family members that forced me to do some more work on this issue. I found myself sounding like I was arguing on both sides of this issue. By the way, it’s no one here in Southern California so no one here knows them. But I want you to know they’re family so you know that this was not merely an academic exercise.

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One claimed she was a Christian because at some point, as I recall it was about eighteen years ago, she “received” Christ. When I questioned her she believed that Jesus died for her sins. That sounds like she’s in. She’s got the right answers on that issue. But I’ll tell you quite frankly, from a practical point of view, she is living the life of an atheist. I asked her at one point, how would I know by looking at your life that you’re a Christian? She said that she doesn’t use the Lord’s name in vain too often. I said, that sounds to me like you trying to convince me that you love your husband because you only call him an S.O.B. once a week. That to me is not a compelling argument that either you love your husband or you love Christ. She asked me if I thought she was a Christian and I said no. Now, I don’t know what’s in her heart. I don’t know what God thinks about it. I’ve got to judge based on what I see, and except for this somewhat banal confession of faith, there is nothing that indicates to me that there is any more dimension to her Christian life than that one statement.

Now, another person in my family is leading a very thorough-going Christian life but he heard a tape in which John MacArthur was very exercised on this issue of lordship/salvation and he began doubting his faith. Now, how do I make sense out of this? Actually, my encouragement to both was quite different.

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