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Saving Faith Versus Non-Saving Faith

By Arthur Walkington Pink
Guest Author
There is a faith which saves and a faith in Christ which doesn't. Make sure yours does!

Sheep Ministries -

by Arthur Walkington Pink from Practical Christianity

All faith in Christ does not save; yea, it bears repeating, all faith in Christ does not save! Multitudes are deceived on this vital matter. Thousands of those who sincerely believe that they have received Christ as their personal Savior and are resting on His finished work are building on a foundation of sand. Vast numbers who have not a doubt that God has accepted them in the Beloved and that they are eternally secure in Christ, will only be awakened from their pleasant dreamings when the cold hand of death lays hold of them; and then it will be too late! Unspeakably solemn is this! Dear reader, will that be your fate? Others just as sure that they were saved as you are now in hell!

THE COUNTERFEITS OF SAVING FAITH. There are those who have a faith which is so like to that which is saving that they themselves may take it to be the very same and others may deem it sufficient, yea, even others who have the spirit of discernment. Simon Magus is a case in point. Of him it is written that he believed, was baptized and continued with the apostle Philip (Acts 8:13). Yet, a little later, the apostle Peter said to him, “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. . . I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity” (vv. 21 & 23). We have another solemn example in Hebrews 6:4. There we read of a company of apostates, of whom it is said, “It is impossible . . . to renew them again unto repentance.” Yet of these we are told that they were “enlightened,” which means they not only perceived faith but were inclined toward and embraced it; and both because they were “partakers of the Holy Spirit.” Still another solemn example is seen in the stony-ground hearers, of whom Christ said, “which for a while believed” (Luke 8:14), but they have no root in themselves (Matthew 13:21). Let us now refer to another case which seems still more incredible. In Matthew 7:21-23, there is a large class (“many”) who profess subjection to Christ as Lord, and who do many mighty works in His name: thus, a people who can show you their faith by their works, and yet it is not a saving one! In the Old Testament, there are still more illustrations of those who believed in, rested upon, leaned upon, relied upon the Lord who were, nevertheless, unsaved souls (Micah 3: 9 & 11; 2 Chronicles 32: & & 8, 33:9; and 13:5-12, 17 & 18, 1 Kings 15:3).

It is impossible to say how far a non-saving faith may go and how very closely it may resemble that faith which is saving. Saving faith has Christ for its object; so has a non-saving faith (John 2:23 & 24). Saving faith is wrought by the Holy Spirit; so also is a non-saving faith (Hebrews 6:4). Saving faith is produced by the Word of God; so also is a non-saving faith (Matthew 13:20 & 21). As saving faith will make a man prepare for the coming of the Lord, as in the case of the wise virgins, so also will a non-saving faith, as portrayed by the foolish virgins, it being written of “all virgins” that they “trimmed their lamps” (25:7). Moreover, saving faith is accompanied with joy; so also is a non-saving faith (13:20).

Perhaps some readers are ready to say that all of this is very unsettling and, if really heeded, most distressing. May God in His mercy grant that this article may have just those very effects on many who read it. If you value your soul, dismiss it not lightly. If there be such a thing (and there is) as a faith in Christ which does not save, then how easy it is to be deceived about one’s faith! At no point does Satan use this cunning and power more tenaciously, and more successfully, than in getting people to believe that they have a saving faith when they have not. The Devil deceives more souls by this one thing then by all his other devices put together. He dissuades them from heeding that most salutary exhortation, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith: prove your own selves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Oh, my reader, heed that word now!

What are the particulars in which this non-saving faith is defective and wherein does it come short of a faith which does save? First, with many it is because they are willing for Christ to save them from hell but are not willing for Him to save them from self. They want to be delivered from the wrath to come but they wish to retain their self-will and self-pleasing. When Christ saves, He saves from sin – from its power and pollution and, therefore, from its guilt. And the very essence of sin is the determination to have my own way (Isaiah 53:6). Where Christ saves, He subdues the spirit of self-will and implants a genuine, a powerful, a lasting desire and determination to please Him. Second, many are never saved because they wish to divide Christ; they want to take Him as Savior but are unwilling to subject themselves to Him as their Lord. Or, if they are prepared to own Him as Lord, it is not as an absolute Lord. But this cannot be: Christ will either be Lord of all or He will not be Lord at all! Third, there are multitudes who are quite ready for Christ to justify but not to sanctify them. Some kind, some degree of sanctification they will tolerate, but to be sanctified wholly in their “whole spirit and soul and body” (1 Thessalonians 5:23) they have no relish for. Finally, many are willing for Christ to officiate as their Priest but not for Him to legislate as their King. Ask them, in a general way, if they are ready to do whatsoever Christ requires of them, and they will answer in the affirmative, emphatically and with confidence. But come to particulars: apply to each one of them those specific commandments and precepts of the Lord which they are ignoring, and they will at once cry out “Legalism!" or “We cannot be perfect in everything.”

THE NATURE OF SAVING FAITH. On the other hand, what does saving faith consist of? In seeking to answer this question, the writer must now seek to avoid unduly discouraging real saints, on the one hand, by raising the standard higher than Scripture has raised it, and encouraging unregenerate professors, on the other hand, by so lowering the standards as to include them.

An essential ingredient in saving faith is yielding to the authority of God, a submitting of oneself to His rule. It is very much more than my understanding assenting and my will consenting to the fact that Christ is a Savior for sinners and that He stands ready to receive all who trust Him. To be received by Christ I must not only come to Him renouncing all my own righteousness (Romans 10:3), as an empty-handed beggar (Matthew 19:21), but I must also forsake my self-will and rebellion against Him (Proverbs 28:13). Should an insurrectionist come to an earthly king seeking his sovereign pardon, then, obviously, the very law of his coming to him for forgiveness requires that he should come on his knees, laying aside his hostility. So it is with a sinner who really comes savingly to Christ for pardon; it is against the law of faith to do otherwise.

A second element is a genuine coming to Christ (Matthew 11:28; John 6:37, etc.). Here, let us take care we do not miss the clear and inevitable implication of the term, “coming.” If I say, “I come to the U.S.A.” then I necessarily indicate that I left some other country to get here. Thus it is in “coming” to Christ; something has to be left. Coming to Christ not only involves the abandoning of every false object of confidence it also entails the forsaking of all competitors for my heart.

Moreover, saving faith consists of the complete surrender of my whole being and life to the claims of God upon me: “But first gave their own selves to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5). It is the unreserved acceptance of Christ as my absolute Lord, bowing down to His will and receiving His yoke. Yes, mark it well that Christ is “received” as Lord. Oh how far, far below the New Testament standard is the modern way of begging sinners to receive Christ as their own personal “Savior.” If the reader will consult his concordance, he will find that in every passage where the two titles are found together, it is always “Lord and Savior,” and never vice versa (Luke 1:46 & 47; 2 Peter 1:11; 2:20 and 3:18). Until the ungodly are sensible of the exceeding sinfulness of their vile course of self-will and self-pleasing, until they are genuinely broken down over it before God, until they are willing to forsake the world for Christ, until they have resolved to come under His government, for such to depend upon Him for pardon and life is not faith but blatant presumption, it is but to add insult to injury. And for any such to take His holy name upon their polluted lips and profess to be His followers is the most terrible blasphemy and comes perilously nigh to committing that sin for which there is no forgiveness. Alas, alas, that modern evangelism is encouraging and producing just such hideous and Christ-dishonoring monstrosities.

Finally, saving faith is a believing on Christ with the heart: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness (Romans 10:9 & 10). There is no such thing as a saving faith in Christ where there is no real love for Him, and by “real love” we mean a love which is evidenced by obedience. Christ acknowledges none to be His friends save those who do whatsoever He commands them (John 15:14). As unbelief is a species of rebellion, so saving faith is a complete subjection to God. Hence we read of “the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26). Saving faith is to the soul what health is to the body: it is a mighty principle of operation, full of life, ever working, bring forth fruit after its own kind.

- A condensation of the first half of the chapter on “Saving Faith”

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"Surely I tell you, until a seed drops to the ground and dies, it stands alone. But if it dies, it becomes a fruitful tree. The man who loves his life will forfeit it whereas he who subordinates his life in this world to living for Jesus Christ will keep it from here to eternity."
-John 12:24 & 25

"The whole Bible proceeds from the mouth of God and is available for teaching the truths taught by Christ, disproving false teachings, reforming misbehavior and building Christ-like character, to the end that the Christian may be fully fit for noble service to God and mankind."
-2 Timothy 3: 16 & 17

"Be accountable among yourselves as God-fearers, confessing your sins to one another so that your prayers for healing may be answered.  The sincere prayer of a true disciple of Christ is so powerful it changes things."
-James 5:16

“Be joyful always because you are in the Lord!  I say it one more time, be joyful in the Lord!”                  - Philippians 4:4


(Paraphrased by Pedro C. Dimaya, Jr., founding Director of Sheep Ministries)

"In every man's heart there is a throne and a cross.  If Christ is on the throne, then self is on the cross.  If self is on the throne, then Jesus is still on the cross."
-Adoniram Judson Gordon (April 13, 1836-February 2, 1895)

"If you believe what you like in the Gospel and reject what you like, it is not the Gospel you believe but yourself."
-Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (November 13, 354-August 28, 430 A.D.)

"Real prayer is communion with God so that there will be common thoughts between His mind and ours.  What is needed is for Him to fill our hearts with His thoughts and then His desires will become our desires flowing back to Him."
-Arthur Walkington Pink (1886-July 15, 1952)

“Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever.” – Westminster Larger Catechism, Westminster Assembly of Divines (1645-1652)


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