When you somehow soil, mar or deface another’s beautiful piece of art or craftsmanship that they put all of themselves into, giving it their best, how does that, or would that, make you feel? Have you ever accidentally left a footprint on a child’s drawing and witnessed their crestfallen expression? By accident, I have done both on more than one occasion. It is not a good feeling. How do you think God feels when the same is done, whether on purpose or not, to His will as set forth in His Word, the Bible? God’s Word is a beautiful piece of art and it has been defaced time and time again over the centuries. I obviously cannot go into all the ways that is done. I have instead chosen to focus on one, a concept styled ‘saving faith’.
Saving faith is sadly an integral part of many mainstream churches today. It is also deadly to people that believe it and those they teach. As a concept, it is derived from the Calvinist doctrines of Unconditional Election and Perseverance of the Saints. To sum up the concept of ‘saving faith’ in a few words; it is something that the predestined to election receive upon hearing the word. They are zapped by God with saving faith and will then never lose their salvation.
The reason this idea sprang to being is the simple fact that a lot of people abandon their churches and beliefs and “fly off the deep end”, you might say. Well, this undeniable truth simply does not square with Perseverance of the Saints. And saints do not wallow in debauchery right? The easiest solution was to just say that these people who “fell away” had never been saved in the first place; i.e., they were never elected or predestined, therefore they were never saved, never saints, in the first place—false doctrine secure.
Maybe not; the idea of saving faith, which is something God selectively gives some who believe the gospel but not others, has many issues, all of them from the Bible.
Just a cursory glance at a few New Testament scriptures is revealing for starters.
Hebrews 3:12 speaks of departing from the faith which, in the Greek, means “instigate revolt”, “draw away”, “fall away”, “refrain” or withdraw”. Galatians 5:4 also, some are estranged and fallen from grace. The former means “severed”, “cut off”, “cause to fail”, “abolish”, or “make void” and the latter is to be “driven out or off one’s course”. I Timothy 5:12 says that some have cast off their first faith: despise, disannul, frustrate, bring to naught, reject; and 6:10 that these have strayed from the faith: stray, err; and verse 21, they have strayed concerning the faith: swerve, deviate, miss the mark. None of these so described were in good standing with the church or with God. Were they still saved after having “fallen from grace”? I thought Jesus came to give us grace? If we did not need redemption after having already fallen from grace the why did Jesus have to die?
Not only is the concept of ‘saving faith’ erroneous, but it is also absurd. It assumes that there are only two kinds of faith, both of which are static: Saving faith, which is real, genuine, and saves, and every other kind, which is/does none of the preceding (meaning worthless). But the Bible teaches that faith is dynamic, it ebbs and flows like ocean waves, it has seasons if you will. Why else would Paul encourage his readers (nominal Christians?) to continue in or remain steadfast in the faith on so many occasions? Carefully consider the following scriptures that show just how dynamic, or fluctuating, faith can be:
1) Faith may Fail—Luke 22:32
2) Faith may become Weak—Romans14:1
3) Faith may be Lacking—I Thessalonians3:10
4) Faith can Increase—II Colossians10:15
5) Faith Grows—II Thessalonians1:3
6) Faith may be Overthrown—II Timothy 2:18
Most of us experience some of these. Does that mean we never had ‘saving faith’? There is no ‘saving faith’ as is supposed by some. There is only biblical faith and because of our human failings it can, at various times in our lives, be described as above and more. If I have ‘saving faith’ then who cares if it grows? And should we kick out all the ‘nominal brethren’ who obviously do not have ‘saving faith’ because their faith is weak?
Grace saves us through the avenue of faith per Ephesians 2:8. It is necessary for salvation, just like breathing is necessary to keep on living. Continuing this analogy, some of us are shallow breathers, some of us are deep breathers, some of us have difficulty breathing and others do not. Does this mean that those having difficulty breathing or are shallow breathers are not living? No. It means they need our help, just like the weak brothers whose faith is lacking. But should someone’s breathing be overthrown or made void, what does that mean? Will they continue to breathe and live? Sadly, no and faith is the same. A believer whose faith is strong, like a strong breather, can have that faith weaken and be made of no effect, as also may be the case for their capacity to breathe.
I fear what ‘saving faith’ and all its derivative teachings could do to some who are not as strong in the faith. Like God’s Word, everyone is a piece of His craftsmanship and for a Christian, is a new creation in Him, a work of God. Implying that a new or struggling Christian, by default both may be considered lacking or weak in faith, defaces God’s art and could overthrow what little faith that believer has, an individual that God put his best into and gave his all to create (Jesus). Would it be better for you to hang a millstone around your neck or to teach one of His ‘little ones’ such things and cause them to stumble? Think hard before answering.