Faith as a Condition?

Is faith, strictly speaking, a condition of salvation?  In other words, did Jesus die on the cross, doing 99%, and now leaves it up to us to believe, doing the last 1%?  In still other words, did Jesus’ death make salvation possible, or did he actually accomplish redemption?  John Owen puts it so well:

“Christ did not die for any upon condition, ‘if they do believe;’ but he died for all God’s elect, ‘that they should believe,’ and believing have eternal life.  Faith itself is among the principle effects and fruits of the death of Christ….  It is nowhere said in Scripture, nor can it reasonably be affirmed, that if we believe, Christ died for us, as though our believing should make that to be which otherwise was not – the act create the object; but Christ died for us that we might believe.  Salvation, indeed, is bestowed conditionally; but faith, which is the condition, is absolutely procured.”

I especially love the line above where Owen says that faith is one of the greatest effects and fruits of Christ’s death – saving faith is “absolutely procured.”  Jesus actually accomplished salvation for his people when he died on the cross.  So we must believe to be saved, but if we have true faith, it is a gift given by God through the death of Christ by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.

John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1999), 123.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

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4 comments on “Faith as a Condition?

  1. jllouthan says:

    This book is so great and I have only the simplest pleasure of reading it just once.

    This passage, this topic and this argument ignites my little heart for God. Thank you for one of the sweetest reminders ever.

  2. He came to save His people, call His sheep, and they were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world

  3. Jonathan Allen says:

    How would you respond, then, to Deut 26:17-19, which presents two reciprocal statements made by Israel and God. The verb used at the beginning of both verse 17 and 18 is a Hifil form of the verb alef-mem-resh, to say – “caused to say”. 17 literally starts, “You have caused the Lord to say this day to be God to you”. God offered terms (Ex 19:5-6) that Israel accepted (Ex 19:8) and the mutuality of that acceptance caused the covenant to be enacted. Without the mutual commitment, there would be no covenant. This is just like a marriage: without both parties publicly saying ‘I do’, there is no marriage. That is why Paul is so clear in Romans 10: If you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth … then you will be saved. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” No confession, no salvation; no call, no salvation.

    • Thanks for the comments, Jonathan. I’d debate your translation and interpretation of Deut. 26:17-19.

      First, if I read you right, you’re mixing up the subject of those verbs. In the beginning of verse 17, it is Israel speaking, not the LORD. In verse 18, it is the LORD speaking, not Israel. Most of the modern translations are correct, I believe, when they translate this Hebrew word (amr) with the English “declare” or “proclaim.”

      Second, the LORD was Israel’s God long before they accepted the terms of the covenant in Deut. 26. This goes way back to Abraham – see Deut. 7:6-11 and Gen. 15-17.

      Third, Owen was not saying there is no mutual commitment, he was just saying (in other terms) that God’s commitment to his people comes first and results in our commitment to him. He loved us before we loved him, and because he loves us, he changes our hearts and gives us love and true faith.

      Thanks again,
      shane

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