[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Friday, October 20, 2006

John 20:29 and the Passive Nature of Saving Faith

From the dusty archives of Matthew's blog

Many Evangelicals have a tendency to complicate saving faith. They frequently assert that saving faith is more than simple 'intellectual assent'.

An important text on the subject of saving faith is John 20:29

John 20:29
'Jesus saith unto him, Thomas because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believed.'


In this verse we have the belief of Thomas who saw with his senses and this is equated with that of all believers.

Thomas' belief was simply a passive recognition of what his eyes told him, and what his hands would have told him if he touched Jesus. Was this a cold intellectual faith? Of course not, because that distinction is irrelevant here. Thomas' belief was simply the passive apprehension of truth.

What is truth except a fact, a proposition? Truth is not a theory, it is not an ideal, it is not a whim, a wish or a hope.

The passage goes on to say:

'But these things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.'

If I read this and believe that it (that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God) is the truth, that this is a fact, then I shall be saved.

Does the passage explain how to believe it? No. Believing is as simple as my looking out the window and seeing that I am still in Worcester. I see with my eyes and believe this to be the truth, just as Thomas looked at His Lord and saw that He had risen.

Does it require me to search my consciousness to find out whether I am believing it in my soul or my emotions or only in my mind? No. I simply believe that this is the truth. If I believe, then I will be indwellt with the Holy Spirit who will deal with my emotions, provided I surrender them to the Lord. My salvation is in believing.

Thomas looked with His eyes and saw His risen Lord. I look with my eyes at the pages of God's Word and see that my Lord is risen, and thus I can know that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, the one who has granted me eternal life.

23 Comments:

  • Faith is assent to understood propositions. Is there a way that the terms (“Jesus,” “the Christ,” “the Son of God”) in the proposition (“Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”) must necessarily be understood in order to constitute saving faith. If so, an explanation of the defining propositions (i.e., how the terms must necessarily be understood) would be appreciated.

    By Blogger Solifidian, at Friday, October 20, 2006 11:09:00 AM  

  • Checking if I done my homework?

    John 11:25-27 indicates that the key soteriological proposition of Jesus being Christ and Son of God is His being the Resurrection and the Life, that is the provider of eternal life.

    Jesus asks Martha if she believes that He provides eternal life to the believer. Her response, in the affirmative, is that He is the Christ, the Son of God.

    Thus, anyone who affirms that Jesus is the provider of eternal life believes that Jesus is the Son of God who came into the world.

    A point I had not fully appreciated when I wrote the post.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Friday, October 20, 2006 12:53:00 PM  

  • DF,

    You wrote,

    “Thus, anyone who affirms that Jesus is the provider of eternal life believes that Jesus is the Son of God who came into the world.”

    Okay. So the expression “the Christ, the Son of God” is to be necessarily understood as “the Provider of eternal life.”

    Let’s plug that definition into your original proposition:

    The proposition “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” is to be necessarily understood as “Jesus is the Provider of eternal life.”

    The new proposition says nothing about to whom Jesus provides eternal life. Is that essential?

    Pardon the elementary line of questioning, but I think I’m trying to go somewhere with this.

    By Blogger Solifidian, at Friday, October 20, 2006 2:30:00 PM  

  • DF... check a few verses earlier in the context. Jesus answered the question before you asked it.

    By Anonymous Bud, at Friday, October 20, 2006 8:07:00 PM  

  • He is the provider of eternal life to the person who believes (v 25).

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Saturday, October 21, 2006 4:07:00 AM  

  • So... one could have all the facts straight, but not trust those facts? IOW not apply them to his or her life right?

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at Saturday, October 21, 2006 4:30:00 AM  

  • If a person believes the fact that Christ's work has given her eternal life, in what sense is she not trusting our Lord?

    She believes in the sufficency of Christ to give her eternal life and she believes that she posesses it.

    What more does she need to do?

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Saturday, October 21, 2006 7:29:00 AM  

  • Oh, I hope Solifidian will go where it was he was going. We all already beat this horse, didn't we?

    By Blogger Rose~, at Saturday, October 21, 2006 9:36:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Solifidian, at Sunday, October 22, 2006 11:57:00 AM  

  • DF,

    Okay, so the proposition you are suggesting is the content of saving faith has now become two propositions:

    1. Jesus is the Provider of eternal life.

    2. The believer is the recipient of eternal life.

    A new term has been introduced into the discussion of the content of saving faith--"believer." That term must be understood in a specific way.

    A believer is obviously someone who understands and assents to certain proposition(s). What are those propositions(s)?

    By Blogger Solifidian, at Sunday, October 22, 2006 12:26:00 PM  

  • The believer affirms the proposition that Christt is the provider of eternal life.

    Believing is the act of receiving or appropriation of the gift of eternal life.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Monday, October 23, 2006 1:45:00 AM  

  • DF,

    Okay. So if I understand you correctly, the propositions that must be understood and believed as the content of saving faith thus far are:

    1. The Jesus of the Bible is the provider of eternal life.
    2. The Jesus of the Bible is the provider of eternal life simply to those who are persuaded that He is the provider of eternal life.

    I have seen you in other threads specify that the Jesus being referred to is necessarily the Jesus of the Bible so I have added that qualification to the propositions.

    If one is persuaded that both propositions 1 and 2 are true, then one would necessarily conclude a third proposition:

    3. The Jesus of the Bible is the provider of my eternal life.

    So is the content of saving faith proposition 1, proposition 2, proposition 3, some combination thereof, or perhaps other propositions as well? The second proposition seems to suggest that the content of saving faith is only the first proposition.

    By Blogger Solifidian, at Monday, October 23, 2006 7:57:00 AM  

  • I suppose proposition 3 would be the essential proposition on the basis of 1 & 2.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Monday, October 23, 2006 9:45:00 AM  

  • The specific proposition is where I differ slightly with Free Grace advocates. I do not find the scripture to teach that the knowledge of eternal life and how it is appropriated is even required in order to receive it as a gift from God. I actually find much evidence to the contrary. What I do find is that the Holy Spirit’s testimony of Jesus’ divinity and election as Savior are the only propositions that must be determined true. The specific means and the degree to which Jesus saves is and was very uncertain to many believers. I see clear evidence that both John and Paul found it necessary to instruct believers in the divine relationship of Christ as well as in the very fact of eternal life. Where you find Martha being instructed I see that she affirmed a full understanding of her salvation. Salvation is not conceived by grace through faith in our understanding of what Jesus does but through belief in His name, who He is. 1st John 5 begins with this proposition and verse 13 declares that those who believe this can know they have eternal life. If eternal life were secured through faith in the knowledge of it then these who could then know they had it, wouldn’t have. ;-)

    By Blogger Kc, at Monday, October 23, 2006 10:05:00 AM  

  • Kc
    Believing that Jesus is the Christ is to affirm that He is the one who guarantees eternal life to the believer. It is faith in what He has done as much as who He is.

    With regard to 1 John 5:13, believing is the ground for knowing one has eternal life. We must not forget John's purpose in aiding the faith of those who had been shaken by false teachers.


    "Salvation is not conceived by grace through faith in our understanding of what Jesus does but through belief in His name, who He is."

    How complete an understanding of who is Christ is does one need to have to be saved? What Scriptures would you use in determining such criteria?

    Is salvation is by grace, why does one need to acknowledge who Christ is? Do you not think such knowledge would be a kind of de facto righteousness?

    Would you agree with the statement-

    "One can reject the Gospel and be saved"?

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Monday, October 23, 2006 12:09:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Solifidian, at Monday, October 23, 2006 1:09:00 PM  

  • DF,

    Here are three propositions:

    1. The Jesus of the Bible is the provider of eternal life.

    2. The Jesus of the Bible is the provider of eternal life to those who are persuaded that He is the provider of eternal life.

    3. The Jesus of the Bible is the provider of eternal life to me.

    Proposition 1 and proposition 3 are not necessarily the same proposition, i.e., they do not necessarily convey the same meaning. A person can believe proposition 1 without believing proposition 3. A person cannot, however, believe proposition 3 without believing proposition 1.

    Proposition 2 is either true or false. If a person must believe proposition 3 to appropriate eternal life, then proposition 2 would be false if the content of saving faith is understood in any other way than it is expressed in proposition 3.

    Would the content of saving faith be more accurately conveyed if the proposition were expressed as:

    1. The Jesus of the Bible is the provider of eternal life to me.

    By Blogger Solifidian, at Monday, October 23, 2006 1:26:00 PM  

  • Matthew,

    I would agree that believing is ground for knowing that one has eternal life but would not agree that belief in that fact is the ground. The gift of God is free to us who believe in the giver. John 3:16 states that whosoever believes on Him shall have everlasting life. This is quite different from the statement that whoever believes that God will give everlasting life through Jesus will have everlasting life though I would say that also is true. I do not dispute that many may have hope of eternal life at the moment they believe but I am certain that many are oblivious to eternal life at that moment as well. Their need for Him is so great in their present life that they hardly see beyond the moment. One example that comes to mind is the woman with the issue of blood. The Samaritan woman and possibly all the converted Samaritans did not believe in eternal life, yet they believed in Jesus.

    With respect to the testimony of the Holy Spirit I understand that He first reveals in our heart that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God and it is incumbent upon us to determine His testimony true or we blaspheme and call God a liar. This is the unforgivable sin. If and when we accept the proposition of the Holy Spirit concerning Jesus we then have His Spirit within us that witnesses with our Spirit that we have eternal life. We must first have eternal life before we can know we have it. We do not have it by knowing we have it but through faith in Him who gives it. To reject the first proposition of the Spirit is to reject the truth concerning Jesus and this is unforgivable. To reject the second proposition is to begrudge the Spirit by which we are sealed and reject the truth concerning our self. This puts misery where joy should be and is the error that both Paul and John fought. It is commonly found in the Roman and Lordship doctrines of today.

    I would not agree with the statement that one can reject the Gospel and be saved but I would ask as you did; how much must be known?

    You continue to be a blessing to me as always. Even in our disagreement. ;-)

    By Blogger Kc, at Monday, October 23, 2006 10:30:00 PM  

  • Solifidian
    That would be a good way of putting it, except it makes no reference to faith as the basis for receiving eternal life.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Tuesday, October 24, 2006 12:26:00 AM  

  • Kc, thanks.

    What exactly does a person need to believe to be saved?

    If the Bible is about salvation, it shoudl be clear what the saving content of faith is.

    God Bless

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Tuesday, October 24, 2006 8:14:00 AM  

  • DF,

    You wrote, “That would be a good way of putting it, except it makes no reference to faith as the basis for receiving eternal life.”

    If you wouldn’t mind, please explain how you would make reference to the concept of faith in the proposition(s) that is describing the content of faith. Also, please define how a person would need to necessarily understand the term faith, including its content.

    Thanks.

    By Blogger Solifidian, at Tuesday, October 24, 2006 1:40:00 PM  

  • I see what you are getting at there.

    Putting faith there would be problematic, because one would need to consciously define faith correctly.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, October 25, 2006 12:44:00 AM  

  • I like this being the content of faith, the Jesus of the Bible is the provider of eternal life to me, because it speaks of Jesus' claim as both the resurrection and the life.

    I love that!

    :)

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Wednesday, November 01, 2006 7:00:00 AM  

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