The Saving Nature of True Faith
Reformed Free Publishing Association
"Such is the saving nature of true faith that faith is a most wonderful spiritual faculty and activity. In the language of the Confession, faith 'embraces Jesus Christ with all his merits, appropriates him.' 'Through faith,' believers 'possess Jesus Christ [and]…complete salvation.' True faith takes hold of the risen Jesus Christ himself and all of the salvation that is in him, all his merits and all his benefits, justification but also sanctification.
The Confession is at pains to guard against the notion that the activity itself of believing is the salvation of the believing child of God. With regard particularly to the benefit of justification, the Confession, having recognized that this justification is by faith and by faith alone, is quick to add that 'we do not mean that faith itself justifies us.' Rather, 'faith is an instrument that keeps us in communion with him [Jesus Christ] in all his benefits, which, when they become ours, are more than sufficient to acquit us of our sins.' It is not the activity of believing in and of itself that justifies and saves, as though faith were another good work of the sinner that God regards as the sinner’s righteousness, or as a meritorious good work that deserves salvation, or as otherwise amounting to the sinner’s salvation. Jesus Christ is the elect sinner’s complete salvation, including his righteousness in the judgment of God. Faith is the bond of communion with this Christ, so that by this true faith the sinner receives Christ and the salvation that is in him, particularly righteousness before God.
Faith is the means, or as the Confession describes it, the 'instrument,' through which the sinner receives Christ himself and his salvation. The system of pipes that connects my faucet to Lake Michigan is the means by which the water of Lake Michigan comes to me. The pipes themselves are not the water or the source of the water. They are important, even necessary, but only as means or instrument. Such is true faith in relation to Jesus Christ and to all of the salvation that is in him, particularly justification.
To this saving benefit of justification, the second half of article 22 is devoted: 'Therefore we justly say with Paul, that we are justified by faith alone, or by faith without works,' and what follows. The reasons for introducing justification in an article on true faith undoubtedly are, first, that scripture itself emphasizes that the outstanding blessing of salvation that comes to the believer through his faith in Christ is justification (see Romans, especially chapters 3–5, Galatians, and Philippians 3). This emphasis is due to justification being the fundamental blessing of salvation in the consciousness of the elect, but guilty, sinner. Without justification, there may be no salvation. Apart from justification, there is no salvation." ~ David J. Engelsma, The Belgic Confession: A Commentary: Vol 2 (Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association), 14-16.
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