Have you ever been to a concert or a significant sporting event? You know the kind that takes place in the big stadium and all the tickets get sold out weeks before the event. If you have been to something like this then you will be familiar with the scalper. This individual offers to buy and sell tickets in the parking lot or as you walk to the event. Sadly what is often true about these individuals is that they are selling fake tickets. They look like the real thing but when brought to the entrance they don't work. If this has ever happened to you then you understand the importance of having genuine tickets. Likewise, there is a difference between true faith and its imitations. So we have to ask the question what does true saving faith look like? This is important because there is only one way to salvation, there is only one faith that saves. So "What is true faith?" (Q. 21)
More Than Just Knowledge
The first aspect of true faith that we need to understand is that it is not just knowledge. The important word here is "just." True saving faith does consist of knowledge that is only revealed in and through the word of God. The mind is an integral part of what it means to have faith. Faith without knowledge is not biblical faith. For example, Hebrews 11:3 say, "By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible." And Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." So an essential part of faith is knowledge. Next week we will talk about what those essentials are but for this week it is enough for us to understand that knowledge is essential, but it is not the only part of true faith.
The Reformation Understanding
Since we have just celebrated the 505th anniversary of the start of the reformation (Oct 31, 1517) and we are going through a reformation catechism, it is fitting that we look at how these reformers understood faith. First by looking at the catechism answer.
True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart, that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.
Now I understand that this answer can be confusing at first but we will break it down a little bit. In essence, faith is understood to have three parts, two of which are portrayed here in the catechism answer. The first part as we see is "certain knowledge." As mentioned before this is the knowledge that this revealed in the scriptures. The second part, which is the focus of the rest of the catechism answer, is in the "assured confidence" of the truth of scripture. The traditional names for these parts of faith are notitia and assensus. Now I'm sure that those are both words that you have never heard and probably did not know how to read. They are the Latin words for Understanding and Belief, or knowledge and assent. True faith consists first in certain knowledge, then in belief or assent to that knowledge. It is not enough to know, you must believe that it is the truth.
The Final Part
The final part of true saving faith is called fiducia or confidence. This is not merely an intellectual confidence, but an active lived-out confidence. True faith is faith that is lived out unashamedly. As Paul writes at the beginning of his letter to the Romans. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16) True faith is demonstrated in how we act in that faith. So I do not just say that I believe in the gospel and that it is the power of salvation, but I actively go out and tell people. I am willing to die rather than give up the truth. Confident faith says I will do what God has commanded regardless of what the world around me says.
My prayer is that this is the kind of faith that we would show. This true faith that is knowledge, belief, and confidence. Far too often in our world today we think of faith as only knowledge or only belief. That simply understanding that Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead is enough. But James tells us that the demons know these things and they tremble in fear (James 2:19). It is not enough to say you believe and go on living the same way you did before you understood the truth. It is not enough to say I believe and to live in fear of how others will think of me. True faith is a bold faith, and unashamed faith, that this willing to go to the ends of the earth and even die for the wonderous, glorious truth of the gospel. That Jesus Christ, very God of very God, took on frail humanity that he might purchase himself a bride and a people for his own. He paid the debt for all who will come in true faith. Do you you have a true, confident faith, or is your faith limited to knowledge and assent? My prayer is that all who read this will be challenged to live unashamed of the gospel, confident that it is the power of salvation to all who believe.
Soli Deo Gloria