Q: What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A: 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.
Ephesians 2:8–9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
What I really appreciate about this week's catechism is, it shows us (along with the Scripture passage in Ephesians), how God is the one who provides everything needed to save men. We discussed last week what God requires of us to escape his wrath and curse due to us for sin. The answer is, God requires faith in Christ and repentance. And over the next few weeks, we'll see how God gives his people what is required. It's amazing that God doesn't just require something, but also provides it (for a little more insight on these things, re-read our blog on the catechism's 30th and 31s questions concerning redemption and effectual calling).
But what IS faith? "Faith" seems to be a word that we, even as Christians, can find confusing. The catechism reminds us of a few things. First, it's a saving grace. What does that mean? Well, if we remember what grace is-God blessing us with something that we don't deserve-then we see that faith is a gift from God! God provides us with something that we, ourselves lack, and what we, ourselves, do not deserve; namely, faith in Jesus Christ. This is what Paul is talking about in Ephesians 2:8-9 when he says, "And this is not your own doing; it (faith) is the gift of God".
Okay great. Faith is a gift, a saving grace, from God himself. But what, exactly, is faith? What is this gift God gives us? Some people think that "faith" simply means believing. They equate "faith in Christ" with "belief in Christ". There's a problem with that, though. As James reminds us, even the demons believe! Believing, then, that Jesus Christ is real, that he is who he said he is, that he did what the gospels declare he did, that doesn't do us any good. Belief is not the same as faith, unless anyone wants to translate James 2 to say, "Even the demons have faith..." The joke in our youth group at Proclamation, as we constantly seek to remind the students of the definition of faith, is that "believing in Jesus qualifies you to be a demon!" There has to be more than simply, "belief".
The catechism shows us how faith moves beyond simply believing the truth about Jesus Christ. Notice, "we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation". The saving grace of faith that God gives us is not mere believe in facts, but rather, a full trust and reliance upon Jesus Christ for our salvation. The faith God gives us is a trust in the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. It's a faith that declares, "I can do nothing to save myself from the wrath and curse of sin that I deserve! I can only look to, trust in, and place my hope upon Jesus Christ". This is the saving grace of faith! This faith is a declaration that, as Jonathan Edwards said, "You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary", and it is a faith that relies solely on and trusts fully in the finished work of Jesus Christ.