Earlier this week, we talked about having the right perspective in evangelism as well as a simple definition of the gospel. But just what does God expect a non-Christian to do with the gospel message? In other words, what is saving faith?
To communicate the concept of saving faith, the Bible uses two words: believe and faith. These two words occur hundreds of times. When these words are studied as to how they relate to salvation, it becomes clear that saving faith in Christ involves three elements: (1) knowledge, (2) acceptance, and (3) trust.
First, saving faith involves knowledge of who Christ is. How do we know this? The Bible often puts hearing before believing.
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.
It’s not surprising that you need to know about a person in order to believe in them. That’s simply common sense, but what specifically must a non-Christian know about Christ?
The non-Christian must know that Jesus Christ died as their substitute and rose again. That he was the willing sacrifice and has the power to save.
The second element of saving faith invovles acceptance of His person and work.
In the original language of the New Testament, the words believe and faith mean “to accept something as being true” or “to be convinced of something.” A person might understand something (i.e. that Christ dies for our sins) and yet not accept it as being true. When the Bible uses the word believe it means to accept it as being true…you are convinced of it!
The third element of saving faith involves trust in Christ alone to save.
The basic idea behind the words believe and faith is that of trust, meaning “reliance on” or “dependence on.”
The New Testament typically puts the preposition “in” or “on” after the verb believe to indicating the person or object of belief. In the case of salvation, that is Jesus Christ. When the Bible speaks of believing and trusting in Christ, it means that salvation is through Christ alone.
The non-Christian must understand this his own merit cannot save. It is trusting in Christ alone that saves.
The following illustration offers a helpful picture:
Imagine you are on an ocean liner in the middle of the ocean and it begins to take on water. The life boats all of a sudden become essential. Four people stand by taking it all in and each responds to the lifeboat differently. The first person sees the life boats being ready and has no idea what the life boat is. He has never seen one and has no clue what it is used for.
The second person sees the life boat and knows that a life boat can save him. He’s had five other people tell him that, but he’s not convinced. The third person sees the lifeboats, understands that it can save him and is convinced, but is not about to trust it to save him by getting in.
The fourth person sees the lifeboat, understands that it can save him, is convinced that it can save him, and trusts it can save him by stepping into it.
Now which of the four people is saved? The fourth one.
You’re saved when you understand Christ died for you and rose again, accept it as being true, and trust Christ alone as your only way to heaven.
So, the three elements of saving faith are a knowledge of who Christ is, acceptance of His person and work, and trusting in Christ alone to save.
(This material was adapted from EvanTell’s training curriculum. Take our complete online personal evangelism course here.)