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Saved by Believe, not by faith

In any serious, in-depth study of the Bible, one must first start with the fact that Scripture, the written Word of God, is inerrant and true.  Inerrant means that it is free from error.  It cannot contradict itself.  If one part of it is not true, then none of it can be trusted; and you may as well discard all of it. 

In Psalm 12:6, David tells us, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”  If God, in all His wisdom thought about every word seven times, how many times should we think about each word?  Malachi 3:3 tells us that He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.  I’ve been told that a silversmith has to sit with his eyes steadily on the furnace because if the time is exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured.  I’ve also been told that the only way that a silversmith knows when the process of purifying is complete is when he can see his own image in the silver.  God refined his words, and He is refining us.

Isaiah 28.10 tells us, “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.”  For any study in the Scriptures, we must study the text carefully and build line upon line.  It’s just like making butter, as we talked about last week.  We have to look at each and every word, and look at the way that it’s used.  It was taught to me when I was young, and I believe it, that any text out of context is nothing but a pretext.

[Acts 16:30,31]  I’ve mentioned several times about believing in the present tense, and differentiating that from other uses of the word “believe”, and thought it would be a good time to look at this a little more closely.  The salvation experience, as explained in this verse is in what’s called the aorist tense of the verb “believe” and not by the noun “faith”, nor even by the verb “believe” in the present tense.

To graph the aorist tense on a timeline, you would use a dot.  It’s an event, not an ongoing action.  The aorist tense can be a little dot (such as squeezing the trigger of a gun), or it can be a big dot (such as the building of the temple).

Keep your finger in Acts and turn with me to [1 Timothy 1:18-20].  You can make shipwreck of the faith.  You cannot make shipwreck of the aorist tense of the verb “believe”.  Either you believe or you don’t, and you cannot undo the action.  You may change the action (in this case, you believe), but you cannot undo the fact that you did the action (in this case, you believed).

The struggle with understanding this comes when you find out that faith and works go together as shown in James 2.  Some teach that this is contradictory, or that this is a requirement for being saved, or something else.  There is no contradiction between James and Romans, and there are no works involved on our parts for being saved.  Jesus did all that work for us!  We’re going to look at the fact that you are saved by the aorist tense of the verb “believe” and that you please God by living by the noun “faith”.

I want us to look at three passages of Scripture and study and compare them.  Were going to compare Acts 16:30, Ephesians 2:8, and James 2:14, during this study.  The first one, which we read just a moment ago, we’re all familiar with, but let’s break it down a little in order to compare it to the others.

[Acts 16:30,31]  There should be no question as to what this passage is talking about.  This is the only passage in the Bible with “saved” in the question and “saved” in the answer.  It’s the only place that both asks the question of how to be saved and answers that question.

The answer is simple and to the point.  It doesn’t leave any room for doubt, unless you doubt the truthfulness and inerrancy of the Bible.  And as I said earlier, if the Bible is faulty, throw it out.  (It’s not faulty, so if you think it is, before you throw it out, talk to someone.)

The jailor brought them out, away from the others.  The others knew, and he didn’t want to be seen as being ignorant, but he had to know.  Then, verse 31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (actually, the word Christ is not in there; the Christ is the anointed on or the Messiah, and all the Jews and many others believed in the Messiah, but they didn’t all believe that Jesus was the Messiah), Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.”

The verb “believe” is in the aorist tense.  You graph the action of this verb with a dot.  By using the aorist tense of the verb, salvation occurs at once when one believes on the Lord Jesus Christ.  It’s not hard to be saved.  (Well, as soon as you admit that you are lost, it’s not hard to be saved; sometimes, though, that part is pretty difficult.)  Jesus the Christ made it simple and easy to be saved by His death on the cross.  If the verb “believe” were in the present tense, which would be graphed as a line, which would be denoting continuous action, then as long as one continued to believe, he would continue to be saved.  As soon as you stopped believing, you would then need to be saved again.  His sacrifice on the cross would not be sufficient, if that were the case; more would be required.

After one has believed in the aorist, that action cannot be reversed.  You can change your mind, but that does not reverse the fact that you believe and were brought into the family of God.  You cannot be unborn.  You can be disinherited by your parents, but you are still their child.  It’s like the act of murder:  Once it has been done, changing your mind about what you did cannot reverse the murder and bring that person back to life.  You cannot un-murder someone.  It’s a good thing, at least from my perspective, that Paul used the aorist tense and not the present tense of the verb “believe”.  As a side note, the only time that the noun “faith” is used in Acts 16 is in verse 5, in which it is referring to the churches. 

It needs to be noted that if you “believe” in the aorist, you will be saved.  Not may be saved, nor does it say that if you believe and then continue in good works, you will be saved.  Simply believe and be saved, and they tell the jailor that this does not apply to only him, but to his family or his house, as well.

[Ephesians 2:8,9]  This is a verse we’re all familiar with, and since we know it so well, we sometimes don’t look at it as closely as we need to.  This passage seems to say that we are saved by grace through faith.  Well, grace and faith are not mentioned in Acts 16:31, so how are they used in this passage? 

We will look at this verse more closely at a later date, but we are going to look at it a little now.  The first question we’re going to look at is, “to whom is this verse written?”  The word “saved” will help determine the answer.  The word “saved” is what is a participle (it’s a perfect, passive, nominative, participle, to be precise), and it used as an adjective to describe the subject.  The subject is “ye”, which is implied by the verb “eimi”. 

The perfect tense is graphed with a combination of the aorist tense and the present tense, or a dot and a line.  The perfect tense expresses the continuance of a completed action in the past.  Those who are being referred to here in Ephesians 2:8 are those who have been saved in the past and are still saved in the present.  It’s not salvation that’s being dealt with in this verse; it’s God’s grace and what it will do for those who are saved!  [Ephesians 2:7]   “That in the ages to come he might show exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us, through Christ Jesus.”  It will be the power of Jesus Christ that will get the credit.

[Ephesians 2:8]  “Ye are.”  The verb “ye are” is a present active of eimi.  In English, the verb “to be” does not have tense, but in the Greek it does, and the tense is reflected in the way that it is translated into English.

In the parable of the sower we see how the present active of this same verb “eimi” is translated in Matthew 13:21, which says, “Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth [eimi] for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.”  It is very significant that the action of the verb eimi can continue for a while, and then stop because of persecution.  The verb eimi in the present tense is translated “dureth,” in Matthew 13:21.  What Ephesians 2:8 is saying is this:  “Having been saved, ye endure by grace through faith.”  Verses 8 and 9 of Ephesians 2 are not dealing with salvation because the perfect passive of “saved” plainly states that salvation occurred in the past and their salvation continues to the present.  The gift of God in this verse is grace and not salvation.  Salvation is a gift, but this verse is talking about the gift of grace.

[Ephesians 2:8]  “By grace…”  What is the grace of God?  2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  How do we get the power of Christ?  The answer to that question is in Romans 5:2:  “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”  If we make shipwreck of the faith, then grace will not be available for us to endure in times of testing.  We need the grace of God, if we expect to serve Him in an acceptable manner. 

Hebrews 12:28 says, “Let us have (it’s subjunctive; literally, “may we have”) grace, whereby we may serve (present, active, subjunctive) God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”  If we cannot access the grace, then we cannot expect to “…receive the reward of the inheritance:  for ye serve the Lord Christ.”  (You find that in Colossians 3:24.)  Grace must reign!  Romans 5:21 says, “So might grace reign through righteousness…”  Grace does not reign simply because we’re saved.  In Romans 5:21, the verb “might reign” is subjunctive, which indicates that grace might not reign.  Grace reigns if we continually come to the throne of grace as in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need.”

[Hebrews 11:1]  Now, “faith”, which is a noun, gives substance and evidence to things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Faith is the substance that allows us to please God.  Verse 6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him...” Only the just, the obedient, can live by faith.  Faith gives substance to grace.  Romans 5:2 says, “...we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand...”  If we do not access grace by faith we will not have the power of God we need to endure.

There is a time when the verb “believe” and the noun “faith are the same, and that is when the verb believe is used as a present active participle.  A participle can be an adjective or a noun.  When the participle has the definite article the before it, the participle is used as a noun.  We’re going to look at three verses are the only verses that have both the present active participle of the verb “believe” with the definite article and the noun “faith”.  These passages deal with the righteousness of God that was imputed to Abraham when he believed God in Genesis 15:1,5,6.  At that time, Abraham had already been saved and walking with the Lord for more than 10 years.  God told Abraham about his reward and what his family heritage would be.

[Romans 3:22]  (Faith…believe – present, active, participle.)

[Romans 4:11]  (Faith…believe – present, active, participle.)

[Galatians 3:22]  (Faith…believe – present, active, participle.)

In all three passages, the ones believing are the ones who are being faithful and are living by faith.  You can be saved and not live by faith.  You can be saved and not be faithful in your walk.

Did you know that you could stop believing?  The ones believing can stop believing just as the one holding [present active participle] faith can release that hold on faith as in 1 Timothy 1:19, which we looked at earlier.  It says, “Holding faith, and having a good conscience, which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:”  The releasing of our hold on faith causes us to make shipwreck of the faith.  We need to have or to hold [present active participle] onto faith.  To put away, depart from, and make shipwreck of the faith is to stop having or holding to faith.

The present tense of the verb “believe” can also be stopped as in Luke 8:13, which says, “...these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.”  The present tense is something you can do for a while then stop.  The aorist tense is something that you do and it is finished.  It’s done!

[2 Corinthians 13:5]  Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.  Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”  How can we tell if we are living an approved life pleasing God?  We have a clue in 1 Corinthians 13:2:  “...though I have all faith, ... and have not charity, I am nothing.”  This is talking about “...faith which worketh by love”, as found in Galatians 5:6.  Faith is shown by the poor widow in Mark 12:42-44:  “...she threw in two mites... into the treasury: 44. ...she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”  She forced herself to trust the Lord to fill her barns by honoring Him with her substance.  Proverbs 3:9, 10 says, “Honour the LORD with thy substance... so shall thy barns be filled with plenty...” This is faith when we honor His Word with our obedience when it may cost us everything. 

What are the commandments of God?  In Matthew 22:37-39, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”  John 14:15 says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”  Continued love prevents disobedience.  If we stop loving in the present tense, then faith will not be effective.  You cannot please God if you are being disobedient to Him no matter how much faith you might have.

We will have a trial of our faith.  [1 Peter 1]  When we have passed the test of faith, we receive praise, honor, and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ as found in [1 Peter 1:7-8] . “That the trial of your faith... might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8. Whom having not seen, ye love [present active indicative]; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing [present active participle], ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”  If we have praise, honor, and glory at the judgment seat of Christ what does that mean?  This is receiving the end of your faith as in [verse 9]. “Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”

Now, at the beginning of this study, I said that I wanted to compare three verses:  Acts 16:30,31, Ephesians 2:8, and James 2:14.  Acts 16:30,31 says, “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”  Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”

[James 2:14]  “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?”  We are saved by the aorist tense of the verb “believe” and not by the noun “faith”; remember that the present active of the verb “believe” can be the same as the noun “faith”.  The salvation in James is not the same salvation offered to the jailer in Acts 16:31.  The salvation in the book of James has already been defined in James 1:21, which says, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls [psuche; also life, as we’ve studied before].”  This is the praise, honor and glory of 1 Peter 1:7.

Works referenced in the book of James are works of love which makes faith profitable. 1 John 3:17-18 says, “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”  1 John 4:20:  “...for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

We’re not saved by works, but we are justified by them.  [James 2:21]   Abraham’s faith was tested when God told him to offer up Isaac. Hebrews 11:17 says, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac...”  Abraham loved God and was obedient in offering Isaac as a sacrifice, and this act of faith pleased God.  [James 2:23]  Abraham was already saved when he believed God for this imputed righteousness.  This event took place in Genesis 15:6 long after he had left Mesopotamia.

Abraham was saved!  In Acts 7:2, we find that, “...The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham...in Mesopotamia.”  What Abraham believed is found in Genesis 15:1:  “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward,” and also in Genesis 15:4:  “...he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.”  According to Romans 4:20-22, Abraham “Staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.  And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.”

Salvation is on the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  If anything is added, it says that what he did on the cross was not enough. New Birth or being born from above is on the basis of the aorist tense of the verb believe in Acts 16:31.  This salvation can never be forfeited because it is not based upon what we do after we have believed.  You can be saved and never have a good work to your name.  You cannot make shipwreck of the aorist tense of the verb believe.  Either you believe or you don’t.

Soul salvation, on the other hand, is on the basis of approved faith and obedient works of love.  “Praise, honor, and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ,” or salvation of the soul, can be lost if our faith does not pass the test.  We fail the test of our faith when we make shipwreck of our faith.

We are saved by the verb “believe”, but we live by the noun “faith”.  Hebrews 10:38 says, “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”   Romans 14:23 tells us,  “...for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”  [As we go forth this week, may we pray that we will be given the grace to live by faith.]