Genuine Faith: The Faith that Saves

Genuine Faith: The Faith that Saves

How many times have you actually heard people say, “We are saved by faith alone and not by works so all we have to do is believe in order to be saved? Yes, you heard it right! Just believe and you are saved.” But is that really what the Bible teaches? That we just have to believe and we are saved? Sounds pretty easy right? Considering that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

And what’s the payment for our sins? Death (Romans 6:23)! This Bible verse is referring to spiritual death which means separation from God. Every man born after Adam has inherited a sin nature and so we all have been alienated from God and are destined to suffer for eternity.

If salvation is just a matter of believing, in what should we believe? Or whom should we believe? Years ago, a close friend and relative of mine confided in me how she has struggled with this for quite sometime. She just couldn’t comprehend how God could find it very easy for us to obtain salvation. Is God’s salvation that cheap? Surely not!

We are not saved by believing in some fairy tale that people have made up. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are saved by putting our trust in what the Lord Jesus has accomplished for us when He suffered and died, and when He was raised to life to conquer death once and for all.

Faith Defined

So what is faith? The dictionary defines faith as belief, trust, fidelity, or loyalty to a creed or religion. The Bible, however, defines faith as the substance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

There are 2 kinds of faith in regard to salvation: head belief & heart belief

1. Head belief – a knowledge of the historical Christ and a general acceptance of the Bible.

Personal saving faith, as Scripture defines it, involves more than mere knowledge. Of course, it is necessary for us to have some knowledge of who Christ is and what He has done. But knowledge about the facts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is not enough because many people who know the facts may still rebel against them or dislike them.

Paul tell us in the book of Romans 8:32 that many people know God’s laws but dislike them. Even the demons know who God is and know the facts about Jesus’ life and saving works (James 2:19). But that knowledge certainly does not mean that the demons are saved.

2. Heart belief – faith from the heart that causes the person to act on his faith.

In addition to knowledge of the facts of the Gospel and the approval of those facts, in order to be saved, we must make a decision to depend on Jesus to save us. We then move from being an interested observer of the facts of salvation and the teachings of the Scriptures to being someone who enters into a new relationship with Jesus Christ as a living person. True faith in Christ is believing to the extent of receiving Christ as personal Lord and Savior (John 1:12).

Neither knowledge nor assent is true faith; true faith or saving faith involves appropriation. Saving faith is not just belief in facts but personal trust in Jesus to save us. Because saving faith as defined by the Word of God involves personal trust. The word “trust” is a better word to use in contemporary culture than the word “faith” or “belief.”

Acts 16:31 says, “And they said, ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ … “; “on” not “in”. If we are to use an illustration, let’s say a sick man has a bottle of medicine. He believes in the medicine, that if taken he would recover. But if he believes on the medicine, he will act on his belief and actually take the medicine.

Faith is not the blind act of the soul. Instead, faith in God rests upon the best evidence, the infallible Word of God. Faith is trust in the God of the Scriptures and in Jesus Christ whom He has sent, which receives Him as Savior and Lord and impels loving obedience and good works. The faith that saves is a personal trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Works as Evidence of a Genuine Faith

So how can we say that our faith is real or genuine? James, the Lord’s brother, says works are the evidence of a genuine faith (James 2:14). We do not add works to faith in order to be saved but genuine faith results in good works because faith without works is dead.

No, James is not in any way contradicting the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith. While Paul’s letters to the Romans and Galatians places emphasis on justification by faith in order to be saved, James on the other hand while not denying the necessity of faith in order to be saved, was insisting that genuine faith must produce works.

It should be noted that Paul’s focus were Gentile believers being influenced by Judaizers (Jews who have converted to Christianity) telling them they had to keep the O.T. Law to be justified, while James was addressing believers who claim to have faith but are not displaying the characteristics of genuine faith. James is protesting the hypocrisy of pretending to have faith without demonstrating it in works (James 2:18).

Genuine Faith: The faith that saves

James is not saying that works is at odds with faith. There can be no “justification by works” because no one can do good works unless he has already faith (trust) in God. James doesn’t mean that faith can exist without works, but any faith that doesn’t lead to works is dead; in other words, it is no faith at all (James 2:26).

Christians are not commanded to work for the benefit of others in need instead of trusting in Christ, or in addition to placing faith in Christ. Christians are expected to work for the benefit of others in need as a result of their faith in Christ.

Conclusion

What kind of faith saves? Faith that is genuine, faith that is living and produces good works. James 2:15-16 talks about the futility of words without deeds. Like faith without works, words without deeds are empty and meaningless. Faith and works are inseparable.

Faith alone saves us but it must be a living, genuine faith. Genuine faith will produce good works; it will be accompanied by action. James 2:17 says we can tell if faith is alive by seeing if it is accompanied by works, and if it does not have works it is dead, for dead faith produces nothing!

Genuine faith always leads to practical action. We cannot divide the world into practical and spiritual, for the spiritual is practical. James 2:22 says that Abraham’s faith was active along with his works. Therefore, we can never say, “I believe in Jesus and I go to church, but I keep my personal faith out of my works.” James 2:24 challenges us to work out our commitment to Christ in our daily activities.

Every day, we have opportunities to meet the needs of people we work for and among. It can be as simple as making sure a confused customer finds the right item for their need or noticing that a new co-worker needs help but is afraid to ask. James urges us to take special concern for those who are vulnerable or marginalized, and we may need to practice noticing who these people are at our places of work.

 

 


Recommended Resource: A Deeper Look at James: Faith That Works

For a complete list of Bible translations, Christian books, Study guides and materials, music, DVDs, toys and gift items, visit Christian Book Distributors. 

 

28 Replies to “Genuine Faith: The Faith that Saves”

  1. Wonderful insight and truth in your article! The differentiation between “faith” and “trust” really stood out to me. There truly is a difference!

    I remember the story when Jesus was asked how we can be saved and His response was, “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” When we love someone, it is displayed by our actions. 

    I enjoyed reading this today. Thank you!

    1. Hello Kayla, thank you so much for reading the article and commenting.

      When I was a new believer I also did not understand the difference between trust and faith. I just assumed they’re one and the same. But as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, we will come to understand the Bible more and more. In the same way that love is accompanied by actions, genuine faith also will lead to good works.

      Shalom and God bless!

  2. Such an awesome and inspiring article. I truly believe in God and faith is very important for our salvation. I know some people who says that they believe in our Lord but they are doing completely other things such as guilting the God because of their despair and weakness which is sad.

    1. Hello Daniel, thanks for visiting.

      You’re right, faith is important because it’s what causes us to come to God, repent of our sins and receive God’s gift of salvation. I know what you mean, there are many who claim to believe in Jesus but we do not see it in the way they live their lives because they are still living according to worldly standards.

      Genuine faith which is the faith that saves will always produce good works. After all, we cannot keep claiming to have genuine faith if we are still living the way we did before getting saved.

      Blessings to you!

  3. I think that if you truly have faith on the inside it will manifest as good work on the outside. These two things are two sides of a coin. You cannot be saved by good works (filthy rags) alone because then the Savior is not needed. Likewise you cannot truly claim to have faith in the Son of the living God and not have your faith lead you to do good works.

    In Christ we become new creatures and if those creatures are to behave like the leader they follow, they too must become servants of each other as Christ was.

    1. That’s right Renton, it’s inevitable for anyone who has genuine faith to not produce good works. However, this principle remains vague to some people. Although they acknowledge that we are saved not by good works but by putting our faith in the Lord Jesus, they turn around and say that we need to obey all of God’s commandments in order to be saved.

      Thanks for weighing in, God bless.

  4. Thanks for this great article describing what faith is and how Christians are saved. Being a baptist myself, I fully agree with you that the only way to heaven is by putting your full faith in Jesus Christ alone.

    In fact I think this is what separates Christianity from all other religions — because every other religion says you have to do something in order to please God, but the Bible says that there’s nothing you can do to please God and the only way to be saved is through His grace alone.

    I heard a very good comparison about trusting Jesus that I liked. It’s basically like you’re on a plane about to jump out without a parachute — but since you put your trust and faith in the parachute you were given, you won’t die. And this is exactly how we should put our faith in Jesus Christ.  

    You wouldn’t expect that by flapping your arms once you jump out of a plane that you’ll live — just like you shouldn’t believe the good deeds you do while living should make you live. You have to put your full trust in a parachute / Jesus to have everlasting life.

    Thanks again for the great article.

    1. Hello Michael, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic of faith. You’re absolutely right, what makes Christianity different from all other religions is the fact that we cannot earn our salvation; that no matter what we do to please God, they will have no bearing in our salvation. That’s because salvation in Christianity is a gift, it’s free and all we have to do is receive it by faith.

      I am currently based in a Muslim country and I see how my colleagues and the people here are trying so hard to follow strictly what the Quran tells them to do in order to earn “plus points.” Basically, they cannot know for sure if they will make it to heaven. In other words, they have no assurance of salvation. They can just hope that at the end of their physical life, their good deeds have far outweighed their bad deeds.

      I like the analogy you used about completely trusting in what Jesus has done for us. Everlasting life is attained by trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior of our life. We are saved by faith but the faith that saves is faith that is genuine; faith that produces good works.

      Blessings to you and your family.

  5. It’s a complicated issue. I’ll have to admit that I am confused. Faith leads to actions and actions lead to salvation. That part I get. But why is it that head faith is not enough? How come knowledge along isn’t enough to lead to actions? 

    I’ll have to come back and read more from you. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Faith leads to actions and actions lead to salvation, that is correct Wei. Actually it’s not that complicated at all. The Bible is pretty clear that salvation or justification is by grace through faith alone in the Lord Jesus. Salvation is a gift which means it’s free. We do not have to work for it and we cannot earn it.

      But here comes the part where most people get confused. Although we are saved by faith, our actions will determine what kind of faith we have. I said in the article that genuine faith is what saves and the evidence that one’s faith is genuine is if it produces good works.

      Why is head belief not enough? Because one can believe in God but has actually no faith in God. For instance, James 2:19 says that “even the demons believe there is one God and tremble” but they’re not saved.

      So it’s not enough that we know and believe God is Almighty and is the only One who can save us, we need to put that belief into action. After all, it’s faith that causes one to call out to God for mercy. Romans 10:13 says, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

      Please do check out the other articles about salvation. God bless you!

  6. Thank you for sharing this article. I am Christian & always have been. My family & I would go to church every Sunday & Wednesday. I’m glad you said faith is genuine.

    Sometimes I feel like people don’t share their Christianity that way. Which gives us a bad name. I know that is true for some but others we are looked down upon & make it seem that we are “stuck up”. I do hope the World eventually changes on how they look at us in the future.

    1. Hi Rachel, thanks for dropping a comment.

      You are blessed to have been raised in a Christian family. In today’s society where sharing your faith is becoming unpopular, I totally understand why many Christians no longer want to engage. It’s also evident that as a result of culture modernization, many Christians who grew up in Christian homes have left the faith.

      One of the biggest misconceptions in regards to the doctrine of “salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ” is that as long as you have faith, you are saved, regardless of what you do afterwards. This of course, is not true at all.

      So in sharing our faith with others, we need to make a distinction between the kind of faith that saves and that which does not. Genuine faith is the kind of faith that saves; faith that is backed with actions such as obedience to God and His commands and good works/deeds.

      The reason people look down on us for saying that we are saved by faith alone is because many who claim to be Christians are not walking the talk. If we want to reach out to people, they need to see in us the evidence of the faith that we claim to have.

      Shalom!

  7. Thanks fot this great post. Just what I needed to read today. You have pulled together some of my favourite bible quotes here and also highlighted some that I was less familiar with. I will be sure to visit you site again as you hav eso much great content on here. Thansk again

    1. Hello Chris, thanks for visiting. I’m just glad to be able to share my insights on some Bible passages, especially those that we do not really give much thoughts to, such as the topic of faith.

      Christians are aware that they are saved by grace through faith alone in the Lord Jesus. Unfortunately, many have put so much emphasis on the words “faith alone” that they neglect to put that faith into action

  8. I love this Alice!

    I think genuine faith is sometimes overlooked by ‘just going to church’ every week. I have seen a lot of people that come to church every week and say that they have great faith and accept the bible. But when it comes to day to day life beyond just church, they don’t fulfill what is taught in the bible. Like you mentioned, simple things like helping a customer find the right item, are I think pivotal to really have genuine faith. It’s not just about going to church, but more about applying the teachings as well so you can spread God’s words through your actions. 

    A quick story. We have recently just started small groups that meet outside of our weekly church times where we discuss our day to day lives and try to use God’s message into our lives. I feel this is a great way to really apply the teaching and also have accountability of doing it. 

    1. Sad but true Parmi, some people think that going to church every week is enough. In a way, the image of Christianity is tinted because some people who claim to be followers of Christ are not walking the talk. It’s the same problem that the early church were going through, which was the reason James wrote his epistle. Although good works do not earn us our salvation, they do prove to other people and to ourselves that we have genuinely come to faith in Christ.

      Having a small community group where we meet and share not only the good things that the Lord is doing in our lives but also to encourage and help one another with their physical and spiritual needs is a great idea. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, shalom.

  9. Alice, 

    Faith, what an amazing subject that our Country has been separating from more so ever since the Bible was removed from the classrooms in the early 1960’s. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps it is too easy of a concept, accept Christ into our lives, and truly mean it and you are saved. Yes it does sound too simple, perhaps when we fall so short and the truth demises from everyone’s everyday life, it becomes difficult because the knowledge is not prevalent anymore. 

    That may be an illustration of me 8 years ago, my life had to fall apart, then I genuinely asked Christ into my life, once born again the good works were joyful. There are so many people out there that believe they can climb to heaven from good deeds, when as simple as it sounds again a genuine acceptance of Christ, and heaven comes down to us. 

    What scripture or New Testament book would you recommend to help touch someone’s life for their salvation. 

    Thank you for the wisdom and knowledge of your post.

    Jack

    1. Dear brother Jack,

      I consider it a tragedy that America, which is supposed to be a Christian nation and whose constitution was founded on the very word of God, the Bible, has been slowly departing from God.

      Indeed, the statement, “Just believe and you are saved” or “Just have faith in God and you are saved,” sound too simple and easy. However, faith that the Bible describes as the means of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9) is that which is genuine, alive and active. 

      It’s rather easy to just confess with your mouth that you believe in what Jesus Christ has done in order to save you, but you also have to believe in your heart (Romans 10:9). Believing with your heart will result to a changed life as evidenced by good works, which is exactly the point of James when he said, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).

      In helping someone realize his need of salvation, I would start out with Romans 3:23 then proceed to Romans 6:23, John 3:16 and Romans 10:9. I hope this helps.

      Shalom!

  10. Hi, Alice. Thanks for another fine article.

    I liked your analogy about believing medicine will work but not actually taking it. A good way to describe faith that is shallow and lacking substance.

    Yea, I don’t think Paul & James contradict each other either. It just makes sense that if Christ saves us that fruit of that will show in our lives.

    As the Christian music group DC Talk put it: : “Love is a Verb!”

    1. Hello TJ, it’s really nice to hear from you again!

      The problem with many people who claim to have faith in Jesus is that there’s no evidence that they actually believe. Declaring with your mouth that you believe is not enough, you also have to believe in your heart (Romans 10:9). When you believe with your heart, fruits are sure to follow.

      “Love is a verb.” I like that definition too.

  11. Alice,
    This biblical verse you used is powerful I use it each living day. Believing in something that one cannot see and being determined that the positive outcome will be done in certainty. How can I have faith that I will be healed if I see myself convulse daily? I chose to believe. Its a decision. No rocket science. Hot topic.

    1. Hi Linda,
      Indeed, the word of God is powerful; it’s a weapon available for us to use daily to combat any kind of obstacles that try to get in our way.
      You’re right, to keep believing in something with certainty can be hard especially when we don’t see even the slightest hint that it’s gonna happen. In your case, I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you to keep believing that you’ll get healed. But you made a decision to keep believing; you are choosing to believe because you know that God is faithful and in Him nothing is impossible.
      When we can’t see God’s hands, we just have to trust His heart.
      God bless!

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this. I really liked how you said that if you truly do have faith, then your faith will produce works that show that faith. I know certain denominations put works ahead of anything else, but that is simply not true especially if you don’t have any faith. I am definitely a believer in Christ and know that He is my Savior and so I want to show that. Great article and I will share this with others.

    1. It is undeniable that there are certain  religious groups or denominations that focus too much on work to the point that they believe their good works will contribute to their salvation. But this clearly contradicts the doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith. 

      Good works which include submission to God and obedience to His words are necessary  but they do not in anyway have any bearing to our salvation.  Good works supports the faith that we claim we have and they will be used to evaluate us at the rewarding ceremony when we face Jesus at the judgment seat of Christ. 

      Thanks Brian, God bless you!

  13. Thanks for the beautiful post on faith Alice.

    I loved the way you clearly explained and stepped through the different kinds of faith and clarified how the word in James is consistent with Paul’s teachings.

    It is indeed challenging but true that a genuine faith does produce a heart change that results in evidence of works. On the other hand, just merely going to church and having head knowledge doesn’t produce any change. My favorite saying is, ” Going to MacDonald’s everyday doesn’t make you a hamburger.”

    1. Accordingly, James 2:14-26 is one of the most difficult passages to interpret and has caused many Bible readers to conclude that James is teaching the necessity of works in salvation, which in effect is contradicting Paul’s teaching of salvation/justification by faith alone. 

      Although it is clear that the Scriptures do not teach a work-based salvation, a genuine faith in Christ always produces good works as a result of a changed heart. It’s so very easy to say we have faith but without the fruit of the Holy Spirit manifested in our life, (i.e., good works), the faith we profess is questionable. 

      I agree with your favorite saying which in effect is saying, “Going to church very Sunday doesn’t make you a Christian.”

  14. Fantastic page. Being a Christian, I also understand the importance of faith in our walk with Christ. I also believe and agree with you that accepting Christ as your savior is your first step that needs to be taken. Trust and prayer and reading the scriptures on a daily basis build that relationship and foundation and then naturally you will produce good works from the fruit of the spirit which resides in us. We are imperfect and will still sin but we have that which prevents us from living in that sin. Jesus washes away our imperfections and continues to grow in us a new creation in Him. God bless sister and keep proclaiming the works of our Savior. Much love.

    1. Hello Catherine, thanks for your thoughtful comment, it means a lot coming from a sister in Christ. 

      The role of works in salvation is one of the most misunderstood subjects in Scriptures which in effect is causing disagreements among Christians. Bible readers seem to think that James was contradicting Paul when he said that one is justified by works and not by faith only (James 2:24). However, a closer look at James’ and Paul’s letters clearly reveal how these two great followers of the Lord Jesus are in agreement with regards to justification by faith alone. 

      The Lord Jesus has done all the works needed to redeem us, all we have to do is place our faith in Him and in His finished works. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Then we are made new in Christ to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). Good works do not in any way contribute to our salvation but good works are the result of a genuine, saving faith. 

      You’re absolutely right, good works come naturally as a result of being in Christ. Good works are the fruit of the Holy Spirit manifested in the life of a genuine believer. We still commit sin and will never attain perfection until we behold the glory of the Lord face to face. But let us allow God to transform us daily from glory to glory and let Jesus continually wash us.

      Shalom, God bless you!

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