Saving Faith as Paradox

According to the Westminster Confession, by Saving Faith,

“a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come.” WCF XIV.II

So, if our faith is to be saving faith, we must at once tremble at God’s threats and believe God’s promises.

But one will say, “If you have faith, you have nothing to fear. God’s promise of eternal life is yours.” This is the first step toward apostasy: “It can’t happen to me. I am immune to temptation, sin, or the ultimate sin of falling away.”

But God says,

“If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done.”  Ezekiel 33:13

And yet another will say, “If you believe with certainty that God’s promises are directed toward you, and even teach your children to believe that God’s promises are directed toward them, you are presuming upon God’s grace. No one can know with any certainty that he or his children are elect.” This is the first step toward apostasy: “What if I am not elect? What if I am only part of the visible covenant? My father cannot even tell me for sure if I am in a real relationship with Jesus. If I am not, then what I am doing here?”

But God says,

“If I say to the wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right … he will surely live; he will not die. None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live.” Ezekiel 33:14-16

Saving faith comes when both promises and warnings are embraced. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God (Romans 11:22).

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3 Responses to “Saving Faith as Paradox”

  1. 100% agreement here.

  2. theoldadam Says:

    I like Luther’s response when he was at the Wartburg Castle and the pine cones that rolled onto the roof sounded as though the devill was rolling beer kegs around up there.
    Luther was in doubt if what he was doing was right and his faith severly tested.

    He wrote on the wall of his room, “I am baptised.”

    He returned to the promise that God had made at his baptism for the assurance that he so desperately needed.

    This is why I believe our Lord instituted the sacraments, that we could have assurance from outside of our own performance, or our own feelings (which, of course we have…but can’t be trusted)

    Embracing the law and the gospel is great, but how does one do that apart from his own performance or feelings? The sacraments. (was Luther’s answer…mine too)

    Great post! Ran across your site while looking for quotes from Gerhard Forde.

    Happy I did!

    – Steve Martin San Clemente, CA

  3. catechismatic95 Says:

    Wow, you keep this in excellent tension. Saving faith embraces both the threats and promises. That’s how Law & Gospel must work, the Law says “Look man, you cannot do it on your own, you’re already way over your head”, and the Gospel says, “Behold man, I have accomplished everything ‘for you’, now depart in peace and freedom to serve me and your neighbor”.

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