Why faith cannot be more than instrumental

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by KGP, Jun 16, 2014.

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  1. KGP

    KGP Puritan Board Freshman

    While the Bible speaks volumes about the work of Christ, the epistles also continually make statements about the nature of the Christian:

    "New creation"
    "In Christ"
    "Set free from the law of sin and death"

    ...and so on.

    And so, when someone begins to look to the work of Christ in the Word, they will eventually see the connections between Christ's historical work on the cross and these individual statements about Christians, that they go hand in hand.

    A genuine saving faith in the person and work of Christ will also yield in time a genuine faith regarding self. But until a person is factually "in Christ", or is actually "a new creation", a person cannot genuinely believe these things to be true for them.

    Synergism is therefore impossible. The act of believing is empty unless it terminates on the rock of truth. Until a person actually has been seated in the heavenly places with Christ; it will do them no good to believe it though they do with all their heart. When the bible says of Christians "you are a new creation"; that is either true for a person or it is not; and while genuine faith is a mark of new creation; as a fact it stands irrespective of faith; you are or you aren't.

    Therefore! A person must first made a Christian before they can believe they are a Christian. A person must be actually blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies before they can genuinely believe it to be truth concerning them.

    A person must be in Christ before they can ever believe it as truth and not a lie. Therefore faith can only be instrumental in revealing to a person what God has already done in them.
    The act of divine grace (not merely the gracious disposition) in an individual must absolutely preceed faith.

    It's late here. Forgive my rambling if it was obvious. Correct me if I am mistaken. Blessings all.

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    Last edited: Jun 16, 2014
  2. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    See WLC 72 for a good definition of justifying faith and WCF 14 for saving faith more broadly.

    Faith is belief in the truth of the gospel and trust in the person and work of Christ. It is upon the intitial exercise of such, as a result of God's regenerating work, that I am brought into the life that a believer enjoys in Christ. Faith is not believing that a bunch of stuff has happened to me. Faith is resting and trusting in Christ alone. When one does rest and trust in Christ, much happens in the life, but faith is not believing something about us (that we've been saved), that's part of assurance, but faith is coming to Christ for His great salvation.

  3. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I know this comes up perennially on PB (most lately here) and elsewhere, but is there a compliation of brief extracts from reformers et al, particularly formulative works that, speculatively have been understood to have influenced the Westminster Assembly in their WCF and LC and SC? Mitchell's work on the second reformation catechisms would be one source (with Rutherford's catechism etc) which would point to other sources as well (Usher, Ball, Perkins). Immediately post Westminster one could cite many things I'm sure. I have recently put 3 sermons of James Durham on the nature of faith up on my PB blog.
    Who hath believed our report (Isa. 53:1): James Durham on the Nature of Faith - Blogs - The PuritanBoard
  4. KGP

    KGP Puritan Board Freshman

    Alan, you say that faith is coming to Christ for his great salvation, which I agree with. That is the essence of faith.

    And when you say that saving faith is not believing a bunch of things about myself, I would agree with that as well, but I would immediately add that believing things about oneself is absolutely a necessary element of faith, no? It is not the sum of the Christian faith, but certainly a part of it, especially when the Word reveals so much about the nature and privileges of the Christian.

    My main idea is that when we reach the biblical data concerning Christians, faith doesn't make those things true about me in the absolute sense. Rather, God has made them true about me, by an act of his grace in my life, and faith is merely the instrument by which the details, implications, and all the ins and outs of what exactly God has done in me are communicated to me.

    Consequent to this main idea then is the fact that until God moves or acts in a persons life, they have no ability to genuinely believe what the Bible says is true of believers "have crossed from death to life, etc." because it is factually not true for them yet. For them to believe so would be a deception.

    And so then, the act of grace must come before a genuine faith can flourish. Synergism is an impossibility.

    As you said: "it is ... as a result of God's regenerating work". Until that happens, all the descriptors of believers in the Bible cannot be true for someone.

    Sovereign action is the only foundation for genuine faith.

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  5. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior


    Faith, God's gracious gift, appropriates all the blessings and benefits of Christ the mediator. Faith is active: it reaches out to receive the proffered gift. Faith is not believing that I have life; faith is coming to Christ so that I might have life. In other words, faith is not something that realizes I already have life in Christ. Faith is that by which I come to Christ so that I might have life in him. Reflection on such faith--do I have life? have I come to Christ?--pertains properly to assurance (WCF 18). Faith is trusting in Christ, not believing that I trust in Christ (that's part of assurance).

  6. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    The distinction that Alan is making is that the initial act of conversion involves repentance and then turning in faith to Christ. That is to say that we rest on Him alone and His death and resurrection as the payment for our sins and for our righteousness. It is obviously preceded by regeneration (normally through the Spirit acting through the preached Word) but in this initial stage of faith, the sinner does not consider what He already possesses in Christ. His focus is not in what he already possess but what he lacks and so he looks to Christ. He is made a partaker of all the blessings of being in Christ - adoption, santification, etc. Faith certainly does not end there but what Alan was concerned about was the content of what the convert believes and rests upon at the first. He can, afterward, testify that all those things are his possession in Christ but it is not appropriate for a man who is being called to repentance and faith to consider that he possesses the fruits of those things until has actually repented and believed.
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    Are you saying that there is a chronological gap in time between the new birth and faith? This would mean that we might bump into a regenerate but faithless person walking around out there?

    A logical priority is not the same as a chronological one. Beware of how you use "before" and "after" when talking of regeneration and faith.
  8. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    The (saving) faith is a gift of God, too, as well as salvation itself.

    Saving faith flows immediately from regeneration.

    You may also find helpful the distinctions of kinds of faith, e.g.

    1) notitia
    2) assensus
    3) fiducia
  9. KGP

    KGP Puritan Board Freshman

    Was away for the weekend, just got home today. Alan, the distinctions you've been making between faith and assurance were rolling around in my head during the weekend and I think I see a bit clearer what you're pointing out. I'll review the confessions tomorrow on this.

    I was posting under the assumption that a believers faith is toward God, Christ, and the Word, and this faith also believes certain things about oneself in light of revealed truth. I had not considered that a persons view of him or herself might be better thought of as assurance rather than a part of faith.

    @Pergamum - I don't think anything I said indicated a gap between regeneration and faith. I don't see that anywhere in the Bible, and it isn't in the confessions. The dawn of faith is the second birth; the first gasp of eternal life. There is not one without the other.

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