Or does it depend on Jesus’ faithfulness?
Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
Mark 9:23-25 (NKJV)
I’m not encouraging anyone to be unfaithful. I don’t need to. We are all thriving in our unfaithfulness. Jesus brought even our thoughts under judgment, highlighting that we are always transgressing the law. We are always lacking faith. We are always looking to idols to give us what we have already been given in Christ (our job, other people’s approval, financial security, etc.).
So the question is important. If our faith saves us, and our faith is constantly failing, then how can our faith be secure?
Let me drop two things on you. This part is really important.
Here is how most evangelicals think of their salvation:
Major Premise: Whoever believes in Christ is saved.
Minor Premise: I believe in Christ.
Conclusion: I am saved.
This seems like a safe way to ponder our relationship with Christ. Unless, of course, we begin to doubt our belief. If we are transgressing, then we might begin to question our salvation. Luther articulated the syllogism in a different way – a way that is more consistent with the biblical picture of God’s work in Christ. Take a look:
Major Premise: Christ told me, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
Minor Premise: Christ never lies but only tells the truth.
Conclusion: I am baptized and have new life in Christ.
Luther’s articulation gives the glory to God, and strips away the ability to boast in the strength of one’s own faith. This articulation is based on Christ’s promise for us, spoken by a pastor (Matthew 28:19). This makes your salvation very particularly yours. From Christ to you. No need to compare the degree of your belief to those around you. Or the consistency. On your bad days, it is Christ’s promise that saves you. And on your good days, it is still Christ’s promise that saves you.
The security you feel in your salvation, which correlates to the freedom that you experience in Christ, depends on whether your eyes are on your faith or God’s faithfulness. If your strength comes from your own belief, then you might have frequent doubts – as you should. If, instead, you draw strength from the object that your belief is aimed at, the object – the event – that is outside of you in Christ’s death and resurrection, then your hope is sure. Christ doesn’t break his promises. When your faith is failing, Christ is not hindered in pursuing you in his Word, his promise of eternal life.
Go be faithful. But don’t put your faith in your faithfulness. Because when your faith fails, even then God is saving you by Christ’s work alone.