This Day in Presbyterian History:
Faith Wholly and Only in Christ
With nothing of great significance in historic Presbyterianism on this date of September 8, we return to the heart of evangelical and Reformed religion, that is, “What is faith in Jesus Christ?” That question and answer is number 85 in our Westminster Shorter Catechism. It answers “Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.”
The Confession, first of all, clearly tell us by the change of topics from that which has gone before, that we are in a new section of the subordinate standards. Being convicted by the law of God and shown to be sinners, facing nothing but the wrath and curse of God for that sin, and those sins, we now see what God requires of us, namely, faith in Jesus Christ. This is the path unto salvation, indeed, this is salvation itself. Here is eternal life for all those who rely upon Jesus Christ for eternal life.
We are told first that it is “a saving grace.” Not only is it a divine disposition of undeserved favor towards us, it is a divine gift in us, an inclination in our soul by the Holy Spirit working in us. In every sect and cult which has ever been in existence, there is the fundamental idea that human beings earn salvation, rather than simply receiving the free favor of God for that salvation. Eternal life is never deserved or earned, according to the Scriptures. This is a saving grace.
This faith in Jesus Christ speaks of receiving and rest upon Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Both of these verbs are the acts of faith in Christ Jesus. We first of all “receive” Jesus Christ. John 1:12 speaks of “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe on His name.” (NASB) We must receive Christ. Then we speak of “resting” upon Him alone for salvation. It is faith alone which is the key phrase in the Scriptures, to say nothing of the Protestant Reformation. It is faith plus nothing. If even a scintillate of works, righteous works are found in the formula, than we are left with the terrible idea that Christ did not finish the work of redemption during His perfect life and sacrificial death on the cross. Paul says it all when in Galatians 2:21, he writes, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (NASB) It is as we renounce our own righteousness, and so laying hold on Christ, relying upon him, putting all confidence in Him, and in Him alone, for eternal life.
How do we receive and rest upon Christ? Is is only “as he is offered to us in the gospel.” He is the Sin-bearer, Substitute, fully satisfying God’s justice against sin, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and the Savior of mankind. This is the one in Whom we can trust for our salvation.
Words to live by: Think of all things which Christ means to you for a moment. What came to your mind and heart when He first revealed Himself to you? What answers did He give to your questions at that time? What solace did He offer to your troubled heart then? Think about how He was offered in the gospel to you in time past. Then rejoice anew in the gospel message which you received and rested upon at that time, or even period of life. And memorize this catechism answer, for it can be a powerful reminder of the salvation which you experienced when you possessed faith in Jesus Christ.
Through the Scriptures: 2 Chronicles 26 – 29
Through the Standards: The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, in the Larger Catechism
WLC 190 — “What do we pray for in the first petition?
A. In the first petition, (which is, Hallowed be thy name,) acknowledging the utter inability and indisposition that is in ourselves and all men to honor God aright, we pray, that God would by his grace enable and incline us and others to know, to acknowledge, and highly to esteem him, his titles, attributes, ordinances, word, works, and whatsoever he is pleased to make himself known by; and to glorify him in thought, word, and deed: that he would prevent and remove atheism, ignorance, idolatry, profaneness, and whatsoever is dishonorable to him; and, by his over-ruling providence, direct and dispose of all things to his own glory.”