John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress said, "Hope is never ill when faith is well."
The Bible clearly teaches that a person must have faith or trust in God and Jesus Christ in order to be saved from sin.
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Other Bible scriptures teaching the necessity of faith include Mark 16:15, 16; John 6:29; 11:25-27; 12:36; 20:31; Acts 10:43; 15:9; Romans 1:16; 3:25; Ephesians 2:8.
Because Jesus Christ is God's gift that makes salvation possible, this lesson will emphasize the importance of faith in him. We must first learn what it really means to have faith in Christ in order to obtain the salvation we desire.
1. We must accept the fact that Jesus is God's Son and our only Savior. We have not seen Jesus in person, but we believe that he really exists. We believe that he is God's Son and our only Savior.
Why do we believe? Because of the eye witness testimony or evidence given in the Bible. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as being "certain of what we do not see." We have never seen the famous people who lived and died many years ago, but we believe they lived because the evidence is so clear. We have never seen Jesus in person, but we have the evidence concerning him in the Bible (1Corinthians 15:1-4). This evidence found in the Holy Scriptures produces our faith in Jesus.
"Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17)
Peter declared that those who believed did so because they heard the gospel. "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the Gospel and believe." (Acts 15:7)
Other scriptures producing belief in Jesus as our Savior include John 17:20; 20:30, 31;
Acts 17:11, 12.
2. We must do more than accept the fact that Jesus is God's Son and our only Savior. Believing that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of man is necessary, but it is not all that is required. John tells about some people who did believe but were not acceptable to God.
"Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God." (John 12:42, 43)
Jesus will not confess us before God unless we have enough faith to confess him before others, (Matthew 10:32, 33).
If faith requires nothing more than accepting Jesus as God's Son and mankind's Savior, the demons would be saved, because "the demons also believe, and shudder" (James 2:19).
While just believing is not enough, it is essential for our salvation. No one would desire the salvation provided by Jesus until he was convinced of the gospel facts concerning Christ. When Hebrews 11:1 says "faith is being sure of what we hope for," it means that our hope is supported by our faith. If a person does not believe in Jesus Christ, then he has no reason to hope for salvation in him. The believer has a reason for his hope, and he obtains the salvation hoped for when he accepts God's terms of pardon for his sins.
3. We must have trust in Christ. The true believer accepts the fact that Jesus is God's Son and mankind's Savior, and he obeys God's commandments. We are able to do this because we learns to trust completely in Christ. A person must learn to trust Christ for the salvation that cannot be obtained from any other source. Jesus says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father, except through me" (John 14:6).
4. We must obey the commands of our Lord. Obedience clearly follows mental acceptance of Jesus as God's Son and mankind's Savior, and trusting him for salvation. There is no real answer to Jesus' question, "Why do you call me, `Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46) One who will not obey Jesus has no reason to call Him "Lord."
Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7), Jesus stressed the necessity of doing the things commanded. "Not everyone who says to me `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)
In Romans chapter six, verses seventeen and eighteen, Paul said that when the people in Rome "became obedient from the heart" they were "made free from sin." Obedience from the heart was that which changed them from servants of sin to servants of righteousness.
The Scriptures, which teach that salvation is received by obedience, are not in conflict with those that teach that salvation is received by faith. Saving faith always produces obedience, for the faith which saves is the faith which obeys. In Hebrews 11:4-38 we have an impressive list of faithful people, and in each case the faithful person is described as doing something his faith led him to do.
The second chapter of James gives special point to the importance of faith being expressed in obedience. After noting that the demons believe so strongly that they shudder in knowing their condition, James concludes, "faith without deeds is dead" (James 2:26).
We should clearly point out that there is no conflict between James' teaching of salvation shown by works or deeds and Paul's teaching that salvation is by grace and faith. Paul taught: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8,9)
By such teachings he simply said that salvation is not earned by works of credit which people may do. At the same time he recognized that saving faith calls for an obedient answer by the faithful person. One who has so little faith that he refuses to obey God is the one who rejects God's saving grace by his refusal to obey.
"Peter replied, `Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 2:38)
Again we ask, "Is there a conflict between the teaching that remission of sins results from repentance and baptism and the teaching that remission of sins is the result of faith or belief?" It is easy to see that there is no conflict if one realizes that faith is a general term including everything involved in believing and obeying God.
The people who heard Peter's sermon and accepted it were baptized (immersed) that same day, according to Acts 2:41. In similar fashion, Crispus is described as one who believed (Acts 18:8) and one who was baptized (immersed) (1 Corinthians 1:14).
In Acts 16:31 the jailer in Philippi was told, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved - you and your household." Continuing the reading of the story makes clear what he understood belief to include. Verse 32 says that Paul and Silas preached the word of the Lord. Verse 33 says that he and his household were baptized (immersed) the same hour of the night. There is no question that they understood the command to believe to include baptism (immersion) as well as repentance and other evidences of a willingness to obey. In every other example of one converting to Christianity described in the book of Acts, faith was always expressed by obedience to the Lord's will. There is no exception.
We have learned in this lesson that faith in Christ is essential to salvation. The faith that saves is the faith of complete trust, and the faith which causes us to obey every commandment given by God for our salvation. May God bless you in believing, trusting, and obeying him.