“EVIDENCE OF FAITH IS NOT PROOF OF CONVERSION”
Isaiah 1.18 is where we read, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Though we understand the LORD is speaking through the prophet to the people of Judah, we also understand the timeless principles revealed in this verse, that the starting point for any real interaction with God leading to salvation is an individual’s terrible and debilitating sinfulness, and the absolute importance of your mental faculties being brought to bear so you can reason with God concerning your sins. Though not particularly important in some religions, or some versions of Christianity, the faith found in the Bible, the faith once delivered to the saints, is a faith that can only be entered into with a functioning consciousness and a faith that has at least some grasp of the issues involved.
The problem, of course, is that we are sinners. When Adam rebelled against God, his single act of sin produced a shock wave that has reverberated down through the centuries to every one of his descendants, leaving each of us with a sinful nature that bears the mark of Adam’s fall. Paul referred to this in Romans 5.12, when he wrote, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world.” He goes on to write in the same chapter that sin now reigns, and death now reigns, as a result of the effects of Adam’s sin.
Theologians have studied the Bible for centuries in an attempt to understand and distill what the Bible says about the affects of sin on the human condition. For just a moment, I would like to summarize for you that aspect of the effect of sin that has to do with our thinking and our abilities in the spiritual realm. The word I want you to remember is the word depravity. It is a theological word, not found in the Bible, but summarizing what is taught in the Bible about some of sin’s effects on mankind.
Depravity refers both to the damaged relationship between God and humans and to the corruption of human nature such that there is within every human an ongoing tendency toward sin. Total depravity refers to the extent and comprehensiveness of the effects of sin on all humans such that all are unable to do anything to obtain salvation. Total depravity, therefore, does not mean that humans are thoroughly sinful but rather that they are totally incapable of saving themselves. The term suggests as well that the effects of the Fall extend to every dimension of human existence, so that we dare not trust any ability (such as reason) that we remain capable of exercising in our fallen state.
Do you see the problem? Because mankind is a race of depraved sinners, we dare not trust any ability (such as reason) that we remain capable of exercising. Yet Isaiah 1.18 reveals to us that our soul’s salvation is in great measure dependent upon our ability to reason with God. Sinners, therefore, find themselves on the horns of a great dilemma. You have to think, to reason, to cogitate, yet those faculties in you are unreliable when applied to spiritual things. You are very much between a rock and a hard place.
There are four realities that we know, but that we frequently do not string together in our thinking, four realities that you need to act upon to ever have any hope of being truly saved from your sins:
First, WE KNOW THAT THE PRESENCE OF FAITH IS NO PROOF OF SALVATION
Please understand that faith and salvation are not the same thing. Faith is necessary for salvation, since Ephesians 2.8 declares, “For by grace are ye saved through faith,” and Romans 5.1 declares, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” However, the presence of, or the exhibition of faith in a sinner’s life, does not necessarily mean that sinner is saved from his sins. Consider that,
First, the genuine faith of Abraham before he was saved illustrates this. Hebrews 11.8 declares that, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” Of course, that corresponds to Genesis 12.1: “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.” However, it is not until approximately fifteen years have passed, Genesis 15.6, and referred to in Romans 4.1-5 and Galatians 3.6, that Abraham was actually saved, justified by faith. Thus, for some fifteen years Abraham had faith, but he did not have salvation.
Next, the faith of Simon the magician illustrates this. Simon lived in the city of
20 . . . Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
Telling him “Thy money perish with thee,” and stating that he has no part nor lot in this matter, with a heart not right in the sight of God, commanded to repent of his wickedness, and directed to pray in the hopes that he might be forgiven, are powerful arguments that this man, though he had faith, was not truly saved.
Finally, the warning by Paul concerning those who have believed in vain illustrates this. Please read First Corinthians 15.1-2 with me, paying particular attention to the last phrase of verse 2:
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
“. . . unless ye have believed in vain”? This phrase holds virtually no meaning to most who read the Bible. However, when you read this phrase in light of the years Abraham had faith without having salvation, and when you read this phrase in light of a man named Simon who believed though he was not saved, then the phrase takes on a meaning you have probably never before appreciated. To believe in vain is to believe without effect. John 2.23-25 suddenly becomes so much clearer, does it not?
23 Now when he was in
24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,
25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
To believe is to have faith. It is possible to believe, to have faith, and not be a child of God, and not be born again, and not be saved from your sins. Therefore, those people who look only for evidence of faith, and satisfy themselves only by some evidence of faith, are very likely in danger of Hellfire, because faith saves no one. It is Jesus who saves, not faith.
Next, THE PRESENCE OF FAITH RESULTS FROM HEARING GOD’S WORD
Let no one misunderstand what I say. Faith is profoundly important. Faith is essential to genuine salvation. However, faith by itself is not sufficient to deal with any sinner’s sins. To sort this out in our minds, consider how faith is obtained:
The importance of faith is seen throughout God’s Word. In Hebrews 11, we learn a great deal about faith, what it is, and how it pleases God. However, time is too limited for us to spend much time on what faith is. Important to us today is how faith is obtained.
Romans 10.17 shows us, in a nutshell, how faith is imparted by God to a sinner: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” We know that Abraham had faith because Hebrews 11.8 tells us he had faith. How was faith imparted to him? According to Genesis 12.1, he heard the Word of God. Thus, he had faith, though he was not saved at that time. Later, when he was saved, Genesis 15.5 records God speaking to him, whereupon he responded by faith and was saved, according to Genesis 15.6. What about Simon the magician? We know Philip preached the gospel. We know Simon heard Philip preach the gospel. We also know Simon believed. Thus, Simon’s faith came by hearing the Word of God preached, though evidence convinces us Simon was not saved as a result of the faith imparted to him. Even those who heard Jesus preach, in John 2.23-25, had faith as a result of hearing God’s Word preached to them. However, Jesus knew the difference between having faith and being saved, which is why He did not commit Himself to them.
The difficulty of so many people is that they are confused about faith and salvation. You must have faith to be saved. However, having faith is no guarantee that you are or that you will be saved. This is because faith and salvation are two different things. Faith has to do with the trust and confidence the sinful person has, while salvation is entirely the result of what the Savior does. Therefore, while it is possible for the sinner to believe without being saved, keep in mind that the Savior will save no one who does not believe in Him. To state it another way, there can be faith without salvation, but there cannot be salvation without faith.
Third, SALVATION TAKES PLACE ONLY WHEN
Look at the diagram below to see how the Greek language of Jesus’ day, the language the New Testament was written in, conveys the ideas of relationships. Please refer to it as you continue to read.
In Acts 16.31, we have the preposition epi being used, number 2 on top of the cube that means upon. Let me read it to you while you look at the diagram: “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” In Romans 10.14, we have another preposition, eiV, number 7 to left of the cube and meaning into: “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Finally, look the preposition en, meaning in, which is number 8 inside the cube, as I read Romans 8.1, which uses that same preposition: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
Each of these prepositions illustrates a different aspect of union. Reliance upon, coming into union with, and being in union with. Turn now to John 14.20, where the Savior spoke to His disciples of union with Him, using preposition number 8, the Greek word en: “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” My friends, salvation occurs only when the sinner comes into union with Jesus Christ by faith.
Thus, union with Christ is not uniquely evidenced by faith. Faith is the means by which God brings the sinner into union with Jesus Christ. Thus, there is a difference between the means used by God to save sinners and the salvation of sinners. Faith is not salvation and salvation is not faith. The one is used to appropriate the other. To state the same matter slightly differently, when a sinner comes to Jesus he is said to place his faith in Christ. However, as we have seen, it is possible for sinners with faith not to come to Christ, as in the case of Abraham for a while, as in the case of Simon, as in the case of our Lord’s audience, and as in the case of some of you who are here today. Salvation, then, corresponds not to faith, but to union with Jesus. Faith is the means of being joined to Christ, but it is not itself union with Christ. In other words, it is not your faith that saves you, it is Jesus who saves you, and some people mistake faith for salvation.
Therefore, union with Christ is evidenced by something other than faith. What other evidence would that be? By radical transformation and perseverance in the faith. There are two kinds of people with faith. There are lost people with faith and there are saved people with faith. If you have faith, you may or may not be saved. Thus, the key to discerning whether someone is saved or not saved is not the presence of faith. It is discerning the presence of new life, something no lost person can do with certainty, and few Christians can do. However, the Bible does speak somewhat generally about the presence of real salvation, in Second Corinthians 5.17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Notice two things this verse does not suggest: First, it does not suggest sinlessness. No Christian is entirely without sins in his life. Next, there is no suggestion that a Christian is better behaved than you are. It is entirely possible for any one lost person to be overall more well behaved and more upright than any Christian. This verse does not suggest otherwise. What this verse does assert is that when a man or woman comes to Christ and is genuinely saved through faith in Christ, so that union with Christ results, that Christian will be radically transformed from what he was. He is a new man, a truly new man, an inexplicably new man. That is the evidence of salvation, not detecting in someone the presence of faith. Listen to how Paul describes the essence of this verse in the lives of the new believers in Thessalonica, in First Thessalonians 1.4-10:
4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:
7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in
8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in
9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
Whoa! Once a union with Jesus Christ exists things are so much different. Without changing geography, you now live in a whole new realm of existence.
This must correspond with the miracle of the new birth. Why so? Because Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the
One final comment concerning union with Christ. If union with Christ has truly occurred, the saint will persevere. If the new birth has truly occurred, the believer will not finally fall away from the faith. For, as Jesus said, “he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”
Finally, STEPS YOU NEED TO TAKE BY FAITH TO BRING ABOUT YOUR SALVATION
There is no evidence in the Bible that Abraham knew he was still lost though he had faith, until his salvation took place in Genesis 15.6. In like manner, Simon the magician was certainly convinced he was saved until the Apostle Peter soundly rebuked him. The point that I seek to make is that the worst possible person to evaluate a man’s relationship with Christ, or lack thereof, is that person himself.
May I wrap up this sermon by urging your consideration of three things, for your soul’s sake? First, recognize that scriptural truth does not support your contention that you are saved. In thirty years, I have met almost no one who has the discernment to recognize that faith does not prove anyone to be saved, though it is almost universally true that those who think they are saved are so persuaded by the evidence of faith in their life. Thus, if you testify that you are saved, and you rely on the presence of faith in your life to convince yourself, you are deceiving yourself. As well, if your personal testimony and life experience does not align with what the Bible says about how sinners are saved and transformed, you are deceiving yourself. Until you are thoroughly convinced you are lost, there is no reliable way of doing you any spiritual good. You see, the way sinners get saved is by first getting lost. Therefore, if you are lost and you stubbornly insist that you are saved, your situation is hopeless.
Next, humble yourself enough to admit that you are not competent to solve this problem yourself. In First Corinthians 2.14, the Apostle Paul wrote, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” This comes back to the concept of depravity that I opened this message with a few minutes ago. Because sinners are depraved, they cannot address God’s requirement to think rationally, logically, and in their own self-interest. This means that no man is competent to exercise discernment and judgment concerning the saving of his own soul. Therefore, each lost person is faced with a dilemma. God demands that judgment be exercised in order to deal with matters of salvation and the soul, yet the Bible clearly shows that lost men do not have such judgment. What, then, is to be done?
Trust God enough to submit to His plan to use men to reach men. We know God’s plan involves the use of men to reach other men by virtue of the Great Commission. We are not told to print Bibles and place them in plain sight everywhere so men can pick them up and read them. Rather, we are commanded to persuasively and powerfully preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, pleading and urging sinners to come to Christ. That is what I am do. That is my part to play. However, there is a part that you are to play, my friend. That part is illustrated by a powerful and well-educated man known to us as the Ethiopian eunuch. The treasurer of his country’s queen, no doubt politically influential and materially prosperous, his spiritual hunger propelled him to
30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
The eunuch had been reading from Isaiah chapter 53. We continue from verse 34:
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
A man of prestige, with political power, with learning, with wealth and position, but also a man who was helpless in the face of the most important challenge he would ever face. He knew he had profound spiritual needs. He was reading one of the key portions of scripture bearing on the suffering Savior, yet he could not understand what he was reading. The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God. What did he then do? Recognizing his helplessness, he allowed Philip to guide him to Christ. This showed both humility and faith, with the result being his genuine conversion to Jesus Christ.
My friends, I know how people think. Most people are basically sentimental, responding to well presented stories and heart-rending appeals. No doubt, there is a place for that in the gospel ministry. However, the great need of our day is strong doctrine and an appeal to sinners to think, to reason, to use their minds, all the while recognizing that God’s Word warns us of our severe limitations caused by our sins.
Thus, knowing that faith is no sure evidence of salvation, I urge you to make use of God’s provision for guiding you to Christ. As the Ethiopian made use of Philip, I urge you to allow me to fulfill my calling by guiding you to Christ.
 Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), page 37.
 Darrell L. Bock, Acts, (
 Bruce M. Metzger, Lexical Aids For Students Of New Testament Greek, (Princeton, NJ: Bruce M. Metzger, 1977), page 80.
 Colossians 1.13
 Matthew 10.22