Faith in Christ
1. It is impossible to trust God in the Christian sense without holding that He is a free and living Person, the supreme Creator and Ruler of the universe.
Faith must go beyond that, to deal with the problem of man's guilt. How can sinful man be made right with God?
Many assume that all men are children of God. But fact is, Christ came in order that, by his redeeming death and resurrection, He might make us children of God.
The objection that Christians are narrow-minded (in saying that only Christians are God's children) must be answered by pointing out that the Cross of Christ must never be ignored or minimized in its centrality to God's saving work. Only by the cross can man be reconciled and brought in the family of God.
2. It is not merely God as Creator who is the object of faith, but also God as redeemer from sin.
But redemption was accomplished by an event in the external world, at a definite time in the world's history, when the Lord Jesus died upon the cross and rose again.
The incarnation of the Son of God, his ministry, his death, and resurrection are presented to us as the object of faith. Without Christ no one may approach God (Ephesians 2:11ff.; John 14:6).
Faith may result in action, and certainly true faith in Jesus always will result in action; but faith itself is not doing but receiving (forgiveness, eternal life, and all other spiritual blessings, Ephesians 1:3ff.).
3. Genuine faith in Christ is impossible unless a man knows the essential facts about him.
Surely it is impossible to trust a person whom one holds in one's mind to be untrustworthy. That's why we can never be indiffernt to theological controversy.
We need to know today, whether Jesus is alive; whether He is able to touch and transform our lives; whether He is able to save from sin and hell and self-centredness.
So faith is complex; it must feed upon Scripture. "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:13).
4. But if faith is so elaborate an intellectual affair, how could Jesus say: "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein" (Mark 10:15)?
a. But we need to remember that in upholding knowledge we are not saying that knowledge necessarily precedes faith in the order of time. Sometimes faith in a person and knowledge of the person come in the same instant. Faith may come on the basis of very elementary knowledge, and then fuller knowledge may come later.
b. It needs to be asked whether the faith of a child, after all, is independent of knowledge. The child differentiates between the love of his mother and a foreigner. He approaches the one and not the other.
c. Jesus did not appeal to the child's ignorance, but rather to his conscious helplessness, his willingness to receive a gift. To receive the kingdom as a little child is to receive it as a free gift without seeking in slightest measure to earn it for one's self.
5. Many people believe in Jesus' goodness, and as an expounder of high morals and excellence.
But Jesus is to be trusted in not only for his goodness but for his power. We need to run to him for refuge for all that He is, God incarnate.
It is one thing to follow the example of Jesus and quite a different thing to trust Him. The first is auto-salvation; the second is divine salvation.
Real faith in Jesus can exist only when the lofty claims of Jesus are taken as sober fact, and when He is regarded as the eternal Son of God, who came voluntarily to earth for our redemption.
Merely following Jesus' example is damning.
6. The gospel, therefore, is from Jesus, and about Jesus.
The great apostle to the Gentiles proclaimed a gospel, but he was not himself the substance of the gospel (Romans 1:1ff). Jesus is the subject matter of the gospel. He spoke to us about God, heaven and hell, and He himself delivers us from wrath and brings us to God in an acceptable way.
Jesus presented Himself not merely as an example for faith but as the object of faith (John 14:1).
He is the founder of Christianity not because He was the first Christian, that is, the first one of lived the Christian life (which is blasphemous), but because He made Christianity possible and actual by His redeeming work.
The example of Jesus is useful to the Christian not prior to redemption but subsequent to it.
In one sense, though, His example is useful prior to redemption; it is useful in order to bring a sinful man into dispair of ever pleasing God by his own efforts; for if the life of Jesus be the life that God requires, who can stand in His holy presence?
7. The Lord Jesus came into the world not primarily to say something, not even to be something, but to do something (Mark 10:45).
If then He is held to be less than God, His salvation is worthless.
The church has historically hurled anathemas at those who held that Christ, though great, was less than God. But those anathemas were beneficient and right. It kept the truth from being blurred.
The fact that we believe is a mystery to us; it is ridiculed by those who do not have it. Such is the cleavage between the kingdom of God and the domain of darkness.