There is one verse that pops into my head every time this discussion comes up, the one about faith and salvation not cheesecakes, and that is Romans 1:17. I believe that through a valid understanding of Romans 1:17 any person can see what the multiplied verses in the Gospel of Christ refer to when they mention faith or belief resulting in one’s salvation. Let’s read the verse,
“For in it (the Gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’”
In order to understand the meaning of Paul’s statement we have to back up and get the context of the passage at hand. Romans 1:15-16 set the state for what is most likely the best statement in all the Bible! Paul starts with stating that he is ready, mentally, to preach the Gospel to those who were in Rome in addition to those to whom he had already preached (Romans 1:15). He then states the verse that has been proclaimed from many a pulpit throughout the ages, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (Romans 1:16).” There are so many wonderful things we can glean from this singular verse, but time does not allow such since we are attempting to understand something that comes on its heels.
Now we have the context! So let’s look at the verse in question. Just a simple reading of it now may make for some ease of understanding. “For in the Gospel the righteousness (justification) of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written…” Did you catch it? The Gospel is the justification which cannot be found in any other source other than these “faiths” that are mentioned. But the question is still there, “What faiths is he talking about?”
The last part of the verse, I believe, sets everything in order. Paul quotes from Habakkuk 2:4 and therefore links the Old Testament to the Gospel (or the New Testament) in the verse. What Paul is attempting to say is that the Gospel (good news of Jesus Christ) has always been the justifying thing for mankind. The Old Testament looking unto the New Testament and Jesus’ crucifixion, then was the good news as well as the New Testament and all of it’s truth and doctrines.
So, at any time throughout history man has been justified in the eyes of God through faith in whatever law God had in place at that particular time (Old Testament being the Patriarchal and Mosaic and the New Testament being the Law of Christ).
Now, in order to see whether this faith is a mental acknowledgement or something else we are going to have to go through the Old Testament and see how someone was saved back then. This can be done in one single chapter, and it isn’t even in the Old Testament – Hebrews 11. Sixteen (16) times in the chapter the Hebrews writer states, “By faith so-and-so…” and every time it is followed by an action! If we are going to be saved through faith in the same manner (not same system) as those in the Old Testament (Romans 1:15-17) we are going to have the actions and the faith together!
Are we saved by faith? ABSOLUTELY! What is faith? The mental acknowledgment that God is right and the actions based upon that acknowledgment! James said it like this, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? (cf. Heb. 11:17) Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made complete (James 2:21-22)?” There it is, we are saved in the same manner as those under the Old Testament Law, by faith. Our actions have changed, because the Laws changed (cf. Gal. 3:22-25), but it’s still all wrapped up into one word – “faith.”
It’s so simple to understand the New Testament when we stop letting man speak and just let God speak. When we realize that God has defined His terms and we seek to find the definition everything falls right into place. I’m so glad that I am saved by my faith, my acknowledgment of the Truth and my actions based upon it, because that means that I have the same things coming to me as all those that have ever lived faithfully to God Almighty!