Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Faith (1)

Written by Rev. G.R. Procee
Will All People be Saved?
A common question is: "Will all men be saved?" Will all people go to heaven? If the answer is yes, we really do not have to be concerned about salvation, for it is all ordered and we will all be saved in the end. We would really not have to be concerned about matters of spiritual life and the church, for in the end all will be saved anyway.

The question, "Will all people be saved?" is a most important one. There are people who answer yes to this question. They hold to the doctrine of universalism; they believe all people will be saved, even the demons. They base this view on a wrong exegesis of Colossians 1:20: "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven" (see also Eph.1:10). But the Bible is very clear about the everlasting damnation of the wicked and the disobedient. Not all people will be saved.

Others answer the question, ÒWill all people be saved?" with a conditional yes. They say that if they wish to be saved and want to be saved they can be saved. Christ has paid the sins for all people, they say. This is the doctrine of universal atonement. Christ paid for the sins of all and now it is up to man to embrace the salvation that is offered. By using their own will they must accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. They preach: You are reconciled to God, Christ has paid for your sins and now you must believe this. But Paul teaches us differently, for in 2 Corinthians 5:20 he writes: "Be ye reconciled to God." One must be reconciled to God and this is by means of faith.

This is how the Heidelberg Catechism answers this question in Lord's Day 7, Question & Answer 20: "Are all men then, as they perished in Adam, saved by Christ? No, only those who are ingrafted into Him and receive all His benefits by a true faith." Not all are saved.

This is a most awesome and devastating reality. Not all people will be saved. Some will be admitted to heaven and others cast into hell. There may be two sisters--one will go to heaven and the other to hell. There may be two colleagues--one will go to heaven and the other to hell. There may be a father and a child--the one will go to heaven and the other to hell. This is the great demarcation line between people.

This line of separation is characterized by one matter. And what is that matter? Some say that it is election. But that is not what Scripture says. That is not what the Heidelberg Catechism says or what the main author of the Catechism, Zacharias Ursinus says. The mark of separation is either faith or unbelief. A sinner does not perish because he is not elect. He perishes because of his unbelief and because of his sin. Ursinus writes:

The reason why all are not saved through Christ, is not because
of any insufficiency of merit and grace in Him, but it arises
from unbelief, because men reject the benefits of Christ offered
in the gospel, and so perish by their own fault, and not because
of any insufficiency in the merits of Christ.

Here we are introduced to the most important matter of faith. Sinners are saved by means of faith. This shows us the vital significance of faith. This is clearly emphasized in Romans 3:28: "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." Romans 5:1 is another proof: "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Faith is essential.

Faith is manÕs response to GodÕs inward calling. Saving faith is worked by the Holy Spirit in regeneration whereby the sinner is led to faith. Faith is not worked by man, but by the Holy Spirit of God. The credit is given to the work of the Holy Spirit. For when God's calling comes powerfully to a sinner, a total change takes place. This is an inner change or an inward renewal. The calling affects the heart. God renews the heart and this is manifested by faith. Faith is a gift of God and is by God's grace and not by man's power. ÒFor by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Eph.2:8). For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake (Phil.1:29). See also Hebrews 12: 2, where the Lord Jesus is referred to as the Author and finisher of faith.

In other words, faith is present by God's grace, by virtue of the renewing work of God's Spirit in the heart. Faith is a fruit of regeneration (see also Canons of Dort, III/IV art. 12).

What is Faith?
It is not easy to explain exactly what faith is. Apparently there was a missionary in Africa working on a translation of the Gospel according to John into a local tribal language. He did not know their word for faith. While he was pondering, a tribesman came in and was so tired that he dropped into a chair and gave the local expression for this activity. This was, ÔI am leaning with all my weight on this chair.Õ

This gave the missionary his word for faith in the tribal language. Faith is leaning with all your weight upon the Lord Jesus Christ. There is more to be said about faith, but this is the heart of faith.

Some authors have stated that faith is an act of the mind or the understanding. Others have stated that faith affects the feelings and emotions. But this is all too man-centred to really do justice to what faith is. Scripture reveals that faith affects the whole person in heart, will and understanding, in actions and emotions. Faith determines one's whole life and actions.

Faith is necessary for a restored relationship with God. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb.11:6). Faith is an act of the heart, of the total man, whereby the understanding, the intellect, the will and the affections are all involved. Faith is a restoration of the broken relationship with God. It manifests itself by the acceptance of God's Word and a trust in the promises of God's Word, so that we own them as the contents of faith. Faith also consists in obedience and humility so that man has sorrow and contrition because of his natural pride and sins.

Faith is crucial. It is hard to over-emphasize the importance of faith in the process of salvation. The word occurs hundreds of times in the Old and New Testament. God demands man to believe in Christ.

It is not easy to explain and to understand what faith is and much can be written on this topic. At another time we wish to expand further on the matter of faith. For now we want to focus our attention on the Heidelberg CatechismÕs definition. We find the well-known answer to the question on faith in Answer 21: "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."

We see here that the emphasis is on a certain knowledge and an assured confidence. Faith consists of knowledge. We cannot believe in something or someone whom we don't know. We must have knowledge to know Whom we must believe and we must know something about the work of Christ. In order to grant His disciples faith, the Lord Jesus opened their understanding. This knowledge does not mean a full understanding, for God is far above us. Yet, there is a certain knowledge of the deeds and of the character of God. It is a knowledge of love. Calvin says that it is the knowledge of God's benevolence towards us.

How much knowledge does a person need? We must have enough knowledge to realize that we are sinners who need redemption. We must also have the knowledge that we cannot save ourselves. We must know that only Christ can redeem us from our sin and the wrath of God and that therefore Christ died and arose from the grave.

Another element of faith is assent, that is to agree and recognize that God's Word is the truth. Such assent involves the whole person. We fully accept that what the Bible says is the truth.

A third element of faith is trust. Faith is looking away from self and leaning wholly upon the Lord Jesus for salvation. It is the personal appropriation of Christ and His merits. It means resting on Christ's finished work and accepting what He has done for sinners. This trust has as element obedience, that is, doing what God tells us to do. It also includes love. The One you trust is also the One Whom you love.

It is man's calling to believe, to trust, to let go of self and to let God work in accordance with His ways. Faith is focused upon the Lord Jesus Christ, upon God's Word and upon the triune God. Salvation is received In the way of faith. That is the great blessing of true saving faith.

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