Signs of Faith
Peter Hedley, Exeter, England
SHOULD WE REQUIRE SIGNS OF FAITH?
Are there recognisable signs that saving faith and regeneration have occurred? John, in his first epistle, chapter two, verse three, clearly informs us that we may indeed know that we have come to know experientially, ginosko, the Lord Jesus because of certain evidences in our lives. At such times as we are asked by those professing faith in Christ, that they now wish to be baptized, we will need to know the things to require of them, in order to as far as we can, test the reality of their profession before doing so. John the Baptist demanded ‘fruits in keeping with repentance’, Luke 3. 8 NASB, before he would baptize anyone. The apostle Paul told his hearers that they should, ‘repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance’, Acts 26. 20 JND, which the NIV renders, ‘repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds’.
So baptism, which is a confession of one’s faith in Christ, is only for those who can demonstrate that they are repentant believers. Indeed, an evidence of truly experienced saving faith is that they are willing to test their faith by the teachings of Holy Scripture. Any one asking for baptism should be willing to demonstrate that they are ready and any one asked to baptize should require it. Repentance and faith can only be proved if they are already being practised. Both must begin before baptism and continue after, for they are ways of life and not just mental concepts.
TWO PERTINENT PERSPECTIVES TO SIGNS OF FAITH
Firstly, with regard to Christian salvation, there are basically five kinds of people in the world. 1. There are those that are truly saved from the present guilt and future consequences of sin; they ‘know’ they are saved. 2. There are those that are saved but do not have the certain assurance of that salvation and lack confidence of it. 3. There are those that are not saved and they know they are not saved. 4. There are many that are not saved and are not aware that they are not saved. 5. Lastly, there are those that think they are saved but in fact are not so. This is the category of person that the New Testament teaches us have intellectual faith but not personal faith and are not yet members of God’s family. That is, there is a difference between what the Latin language calls, fides, ‘credence’ and fiducia, ‘confident trust’, which is a very personal, experiential matter, Luke 8. 13; John 2. 23-24, 12. 42- 43; Acts 8. 12-23; James 2. 19.
Secondly, some of the biblical characteristics of genuine, authentic Christians are not equally apparent in all believers. Nor are any of these marks manifest to the same degree in every period of a genuine Christian’s life. They may even vary in the same person in different periods of their Christian experience. A genuine believer may also stumble or fall and have periods of backsliding in the path of discipleship. This is why we find scriptural examples of these things in the lives of true believers and have many warnings of temporal judgment, chastisement and discipline by our heavenly Father.
MARKS AND SIGNS OF SAVING FAITH
The following marks or signs of saving faith will begin to manifest themselves and grow in the life of a genuine regenerated person. If most of these characteristics are absent from your life you may be at best a backslidden Christian, at worst you may not be a genuine Christian at all.
- A genuine Christian is a person of conviction. He believes in the authority of Scripture and in the fundamentals of the Christian faith. That is he holds as vital the truths concerning the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, Phil. 1. 27; Jude 3; 1 Tim. 1. 18; 6. 11-14. This is intellectual belief, or credence. It is the test of belief mentioned by the apostle John, 1 John 5. 1.
- A genuine Christian has personally encountered the living Lord Jesus. To the true believer the Lord Jesus is not only the Jesus of history who died on the cross and was buried, but the resurrected and living Lord Jesus of vital spiritual encounter and heart experience. The discovery by ‘confident trust’ that Christ is a living reality is a vital test of Christian genuineness as well as testimony, Acts 9. 3-7; 22. 7-10. This personal commitment to the Lord Jesus, 2 Cor. 5. 15, is an exclusive reliance on Him to save from destruction, Acts 4. 12.
- A genuine Christian truly loves God in Christ. The apostle Peter speaking of the experience of believers could say ‘whom having not seen you love’, 1 Pet. 1. 8 NKJV. John Wesley reasoned in one of his sermons ‘He who now loves God, who delights and rejoices in Him with humble joy, a holy delight and obedient love, is a child of God. But if I thus love, delight and rejoice in God. I am therefore a child of God’, (Sermon: ‘The Witness of the Spirit’, 1746).
We know inwardly that we sometimes don’t love Christ totally as we should, but at the same time, we do love Him. We rejoice inwardly at the thought of what He accomplished on the cross and the fact that He is coming again. Moreover, we know that none of these sentiments would be possible if it were not for the grace of God and the work of His Spirit.
When a man and woman are in love, we assume that they are aware of it. A person usually is able to discern whether or not they are in love with another person. This comes from an inward assurance. Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ? This is a very personal but vital test and sign of spiritual reality, Matt. 12. 33; 1 John 4. 19; 1 Cor. 16. 22; Rom. 8. 28-30.
- A genuine Christian loves other Christians for no other reason than that they are in the family of God. We read, ‘He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light’, 1 John 2. 9-10. Also in 1 John 3. 14, ‘We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren’. Further, Eph. 1. 15, ‘the love which ye have towards all the saints . . .’. The fact is that we cannot have less brothers and sisters than God has children, and the love of God found in a true believer’s heart made good by the Holy Spirit reaches out to all of them, 1 John 3. 23; 4. 11; 20-21; 5. 2; John 13. 35.
All references in point 4 from Darby’s New Translation.