Faith Defined

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

- John 3:16

In our study of justification thus far we have seen that faith is the only instrument by which we lay hold of the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness of Christ is the ground of our justification and is imputed to us when we trust in Jesus alone for salvation. The Father then declares us righteous in His sight, enabling us to inherit eternal life. This is accomplished entirely apart from any works we perform.

Justification by faith alone has been opposed by Roman Catholicism, which says that a combination of our faith and good works provides for our justification. One impetus for this understanding has been Rome’s fear that the doctrine of justification by faith alone would encourage people to live immoral lives. Rome fears that this doctrine might lead some to think that the casual acceptance of Jesus without any change in one’s life is the kind of faith that justifies.

In order to meet such objections, the Protestant Reformers were careful to outline the biblical definition of faith in their writings. Next week we will look at the fact that true faith always leads to a changed life. Today we will look at the definition of faith given by the Reformers in order to show that faith is not merely a casual acceptance of Jesus.

The Protestant Reformers recognized that biblical faith has three essential aspects: notitia, assensus, and fiducia.

Notitia. Notitia refers to the content of faith, or those things that we believe. We place our faith in something, or more appropriately, someone. In order to believe, we must know something about that someone, who is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Assensus. Assensus is our conviction that the content of our faith is true. You can know about the Christian faith and yet believe that it is not true. Genuine faith says that the content — the notitia taught by Holy Scripture — is true.

Fiducia. Fiducia refers to personal trust and reliance. Knowing and believing the content of the Christian faith is not enough, for even demons can do that (James 2:19). Faith is only effectual if, knowing about and assenting to the claims of Jesus, one personally trusts in Him alone for salvation.

Coram Deo

Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you know about the sinless life He led and the work He did on the cross? Do you believe that He is who He says He is and does what He says He does? Have you trusted in Him alone to save you from the wrath of God? Take some time to ask yourselves these questions today. If you have never believed in Christ, believe today. If you have been a Christian for some time, ask God to increase your faith in our all-sufficient Savior.

Passages for Further Study

Ps. 14:1
Dan. 5
John 7:37
Rom. 10:14

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