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SAVING FAITH AND DECISIONISM CONTRASTED

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, December 14, 2008
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”
(Acts 16:31).


The ideas contained in this sermon are gleaned from “The Way of Faith,” which was written by Dr. Phil A. Newton, a Reformed Baptist preacher who is the senior pastor of South Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. His comments are given in one chapter of his book, “The Way of Faith” (Founders Press, Cape Coral, Florida, 2002, pp. 21-25). While I consider myself moderately Reformed, but not holding fully all the fine points of Calvinism as Dr. Newton does, I find that what he writes in this chapter is full of deep insight regarding saving faith, given by God only to the elect, those who are chosen by God for salvation.

Dr. Newton points out that there are, what he calls, four kinds of “faith.” Three of the four kinds of faith Dr. Newton explains do not lead to salvation – but rather to Hell, because saving faith is too often misunderstood and therefore does not lead to real conversion in Christ Jesus.

I. The first kind of false faith is what Dr. Newton calls “historical faith.”
This refers to a person who believes the historical facts of the Bible,
and that’s all.

A person who goes no farther than believing what the Bible says about faith in Christ falls short of real faith and real conversion. The person who merely believes the Bible has the kind of faith that is historical faith; it is rooted in his belief in the Bible, but it goes no farther than that. The problem of historical faith is that it cannot save you. The fallen demons have this kind of faith – but they are not saved. The Bible says,

“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils [demons] also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).

So, a person whose faith rests only on what the Bible says has what Dr. Newton calls “historical faith,” faith that is only based on the historical documents of the Bible. They often say things like “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” But they are wrong because believing the historical pronouncements in the Bible saves no one! Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because, although they had faith in the Bible, “historical faith,” they had no saving faith in Christ Himself. Christ gave a scathing rebuke to the Pharisees when He said,

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:39-40).

The Pharisees believed the Bible, but that was as far as it went. They clung to an “historical faith” in the Bible, but they refused to go further, to personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. People like this in our churches never move beyond faith in the Bible to saving faith in the Christ of whom the Bible speaks. They give proof texts to attempt to show that belief in the Bible, nay, belief in the “plan of salvation,” is a substitute for living faith in Christ Himself. Thousands of evangelicals never go beyond their belief in the Bible to a full knowledge of Christ Himself. Thus they stumble at the “rock of offence” and never experience real conversion. Knowing things about Christ is a poor substitute for knowing Christ Himself! It is mere faith in the history and words of the Bible without any knowledge of Christ Himself. The Bible says, on the contrary,

“This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

Eternal life and full salvation come only through a personal experience with Jesus Christ, and in no other way. You cannot be saved by reading and studying the Bible, and believing it. The purpose of the Bible is to move you beyond a mere assent to, or belief in its words. The true purpose of the Bible is to bring you to a face-to-face encounter with the author of the Bible, Christ Himself. You can know a great deal of the Bible and not know Christ Himself. This was the error of the Pharisees and it is the same error many thousands of evangelicals commit today. “Historical faith,” faith in the Bible alone, never saved anyone. Christ Himself is the Saviour, not the words of the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul made this very clear when he said,

“The holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”
      (II Timothy 3:15).

The purpose of studying the Bible is not simply an end in itself. The purpose of the Bible is to point you to “faith which is in Christ Jesus.” He is the Saviour. The Bible points you to Him for salvation. He who stops short at merely believing the Bible will not be persuaded to seek for a knowledge of Christ Himself. At the Last Judgment, such a person will find that his “historical faith” is worthless when Christ says to him that he was,

“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” – in Christ (II Timothy 3:7).

“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment”
       (Matthew 25:46).


So, the first kind of false faith is just believing the Bible or the plan of salvation in the Bible.  Such false faith will not save.  The Bible says that you must believe on Christ Himself. 

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”
      (Acts 16:31).

II. The second kind of false faith is what Dr. Newton calls “miraculous faith.”

This describes those who have miracles performed, or have had prayer answered, and because of this they believe that they are saved. Jesus warned against this false faith in Matthew 7:21-23, where Christ said,

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Dr. Newton said,

Judas Iscariot followed Jesus Christ for three years and was even involved in doing miraculous works. Yet he perished in hell! Pharaoh’s magicians imitated the miracles of Moses for a time, yet they were by no means believers! Jesus warned against this kind of false faith in Matthew 7:21-23 (ibid.).

“Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith” (II Timothy 3:8).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee gave this comment on II Timothy 3:8,

The account in Exodus [of Jannes and Jambres] reveals that Satan has power, supernatural power, and also that he is a great imitator – he imitates the things that God does. Jannes and Jambres were able to perform miracles by the power of Satan. Moses did them by the power of God. This is, I believe, the reason reference is made to them here. We need to understand in our day that Satan can imitate the power of God…In our day I’m afraid that in many places a manifestation of power is misunderstood as coming from God when it really comes from Satan (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume 5, page 471; note on II Timothy 3:5).

Thus, false faith that rests on signs, miracles and answered prayers is not saving faith. Salvation comes only by resting on Christ Himself.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”
      (Acts 16:31).

III. The third kind of false faith is what Dr. Newton calls “temporary faith.”

In Matthew 13:20-21 Christ said,.

“But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” (Matthew 13:20-21).

In Luke 8:13 Christ said,

“They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13).

Dr. Rienecker gives this comment on “fall away” – “go away, withdraw” from the local New Testament church and the true gospel it preaches (Fritz Rienecker, Ph.D., Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, 1980 edition, p. 161; note on Luke 8:13). Dr. Newton said,

There is temporary faith, that lasts for a while, and then fades away because it does not have any roots…Some people have a religious experience or great excitement about the Christian life, possibly even making a public profession of faith. But if the Word of God does not take firm root in his life…this kind of person quickly fades away when the demands of the Christian life confront him. This kind of faith cannot save (ibid.).

Temporary "faith" has no root in Christ.  Christ is not at the center.  Temporary "faith" is based on an emotional feeling, friendships in the church, or some other physical or emotional reason.  Christ is not at the center, so it is not saving faith.  It is only temporary "faith." 

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”
      (Acts 16:31).

All of these are false "faiths."  False "faith" will not save you.  "Faith" that is based only on Bible verses and not centered in Christ will not save you.  "Faith" that is based on a miracle, or an answered prayer, will not save you.  "Faith" that is only temporary will not save you.  But the fourth kind of faith is true saving faith. 

IV. The fourth kind of faith Dr. Newton calls “justifying - saving faith.”

He said,

Justifying...saving faith…is a gift of God given to us that we might believe the Person and Work of Christ in our behalf.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast”
     (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Dr. Newton said,

Saving faith is not a mere acknowledgement of the historical facts of Jesus Christ. Most people will acknowledge this yet remain lost…Saving faith is not simply an acknowledgement that Jesus is a Savior or that Jesus can save. Neither is saving faith simply faith in faith nor faith in a decision nor faith in a prayer nor faith in a profession [decision] nor faith in your own plan of salvation…True faith…is when the sinner humbly trusts in Jesus Christ alone…justifying faith involves a total reliance upon Jesus Christ…That’s what faith or believing means, a total reliance or trust [in Jesus Christ]. When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved, they replied [“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” Acts 16:31]…When a person comes to Jesus Christ by faith, he…knows Christ in a different fashion…now he enters into a living, dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus has redeemed him from the power of sin, so Jesus is now his Redeemer. Jesus has applied His blood and righteousness to his life and declared him righteous before God, so Jesus is now his Justifier. Jesus has saved him from the wrath to come, so Jesus is now His Savior. Jesus has laid claim to his life for eternity by His sacrificial death and mighty resurrection, so Jesus is now his Lord (ibid.).

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”
      (Acts 16:31).

Mr. Griffith sang “I Am Coming, Lord” before I preached this sermon. May the words of that hymn become a reality in your life:

I hear Thy welcome voice
   That calls me, Lord, to Thee,
For cleansing in Thy precious blood
   That flowed on Calvary.
I am coming, Lord!
   Coming now to Thee!
Wash me, cleanse me in the blood
   That flowed on Calvary.
(“I Am Coming, Lord” by Lewis Hartsough, 1828-1919).

The person who has real saving faith will not easily miss church services, especially at Christmas and New Year’s. Those who miss these Christ-honoring services lightly usually have only what Dr. Newton calls “temporary faith,” and “In time of temptation” at Christmas and New Year’s, they “fall away” from the local church they were attending. We pray that you will not be among them, but that you will overcome temptation and be with us for the exciting, Christ-exalting services here at church on Christmas and New Year’s. May God answer our prayers for you.  May you pass that important test of faith. In Jesus' name, Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Ephesians 2:5-9.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I Am Coming, Lord” (by Lewis Hartsough, 1828-1919).


THE OUTLINE OF

SAVING FAITH AND DECISIONISM CONTRASTED

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”
(Acts 16:31).

I.   The first kind of false faith is what Dr. Newton calls “historical faith.”
This refers to a person who believes the historical facts of the Bible,
and that’s all, James 2:19; John 5:39-40; 17:3; II Timothy 3:15, 7;
Matthew 25:46.

II.  The second kind of false faith is what Dr. Newton calls “miraculous faith,”
Matthew 7:21-23; II Timothy 3:8.

III. The third kind of false faith is what Dr. Newton calls “temporary faith,”
Matthew 13:20-21; Luke 8:13.

IV.  The fourth kind of faith Dr. Newton calls “justifying - saving faith,”
Ephesians 2:8-9; Acts 16:31.