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How redefining ‘faith’ prevents people from knowing Christ

The word faith is silhouetted against an orange and blue sunset. The I in the word is made from a figure with their arms raised up in the air in a successful victory pose.
The word faith is silhouetted against an orange and blue sunset. The I in the word is made from a figure with their arms raised up in the air in a successful victory pose. | iStock / Getty Images Plus/ mattjeacock

Some people in their religious zeal mistakenly claim, “Faith is more than belief. Faith is also how you live your life.” This popular redefinition of “faith” is far more dangerous than you may realize.

While there are plenty of words you could distort without jeopardizing the salvation of others, revising the word “faith” actually prevents people from knowing Christ as Savior. 

Scripture reveals that believers are saved by grace through faith, and "not by works" (Eph. 2:8,9). This is the only way to be forgiven and to receive the free gift of eternal life in Heaven (Acts 4:12). Repentance and faith in Jesus are produced by the Holy Spirit working through the Word (1 Cor. 2:14).

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“Faith comes from hearing the message” (Romans 10:17).

A person with faith in Jesus is trusting Christ for the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life, whereas those who rely upon their works for salvation are unbelievers in need of forgiveness (Romans 3:20).

When faith gets redefined to mean "trust plus works," it corrupts the meaning of the word. And this prevents people from knowing Christ. 

On Judgment Day, people who relied on their works to get into Heaven will be shocked when Jesus tells them, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23).

These unbelievers will plead their case to the Lord by pointing to the works they carried out in Jesus’ name, rather than to Christ’s sacrificial death.

Notice what these people in Matthew 7:21-23 will not be saying on Judgment Day: “But we trusted in you Jesus as our Savior. We relied upon your death on the cross for salvation.” Instead, their hope for Heaven was built on the crumbling foundation of their religious deeds and human efforts.

It was their works righteous mentality that prevented them from knowing Christ. The only way to meet Jesus is to rely upon His sacrifice on the cross for your salvation, and thereby be converted (Galatians 2:16).

It is only after you are converted by the Holy Spirit that your works please God. (Ephesians 2:10) If you launch right into doing works without first receiving Christ as your Savior, (John 1:12) you do not meet Jesus and the Lord does not know you.

Some religious organizations redefine faith and develop a works-based system of salvation. Rather than proclaiming the Gospel, they assert that believers cannot know whether they are justified and redeemed until they stand before God on Judgment Day. This false teaching does nothing to help people escape eternal punishment in Hell.

You can absolutely know today that Heaven is your eternal home, but only if you know Jesus. If you look to Christ merely as a good teacher but not as your Savior, your moral behavior does not impress God or wash away even one of your sins (Hebrews 9:22).

The only way to have your sins washed away by the blood of Jesus is to know Christ. Jesus said, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14). Do you know Jesus, or are you attempting to work your way into Heaven?

If you have been told that faith is more than belief, you were given false information. “Faith” is trusting Jesus to forgive your sins and save your soul. Unbelievers need to be forgiven, saved, redeemed, born again and justified through faith in Christ.

In an attempt to redefine faith as “trust plus works,” some people use the following argument. 

“Even the demons believe God exists.”

Of course, demons believe God exists. And these fallen angels are terrified of the punishment that awaits them (Matthew 8:29). 

But demons do not trust Christ to forgive them. Forgiveness is not even available to them. Demons are doomed to eternal torment due to their wicked decision to follow Lucifer in his rebellion against God (Matthew 25:41). 

Thankfully, salvation is available to you today. Will you repent of your sins and trust Christ to wash away the huge stain that sin has placed on your soul? You could perform thousands of religious deeds, but all of those efforts would not wash away a single sin.

Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). The new birth is not the result of man’s efforts (Titus 3:5). It comes about only through faith in Christ (John 3:36).

Think of it this way. What work did you do to bring about your physical birth after God formed you in your mother’s womb? Likewise, spiritual birth is an even greater demonstration of God’s power and grace. 

Jesus said, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6). That is, the Holy Spirit gives birth to man’s spirit.

Religious people often try to imitate Christ’s example, but only the Holy Spirit can turn a lost sinner into a saved saint (1 Cor. 12:3).

Jesus said, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Some people gladly receive the Good News, while others choose to reject it.  

“For we also have had the Gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith” (Hebrews 4:2).

Man's immortal soul is redeemed when he combines faith to the message of the Gospel.

The Christian life involves both trust and obedience. But for an unbeliever, no measure of obedience can please the Lord. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). Prior to conversion, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags” to God (Isaiah 64:6). 

If you are still unsure about God’s free gift of everlasting life in Heaven, reflect upon what the Lord said to Thomas: “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27). 

Do you believe Jesus suffered, died and rose again for your eternal salvation? And if not, why not? A simple childlike faith is all you need to come to know Christ as your Lord and Savior. 

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska. 

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