For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:…
Faith occupies the position of a channel or conduit pipe. Grace is the fountain and the stream: faith is the acqueduct along which the flood of mercy flows down to refresh the thirsty sons of men. It is a great pity when the acqueduct is broken. It is a sad sight to see around Rome the many noble acqueducts which no longer convey water into the city, because the arches are broken and the marvellous structures are in ruins. The acqueduct must be kept entire to convey the current; and, even so, faith must be true and sound, leading right up to God, and coming right down to ourselves, that it may become a serviceable channel of ,mercy to our souls. Still, I again remind you that faith is the channel or acqueduct, and not the fountain head, and we must not look so much to it as to exalt it above the Divine source of all blessing which lies in the grace of God. Never make a Christ out of your faith, nor think of it as if it were the independent source of your salvation.
I. FAITH: WHAT IS IT? What is this faith concerning which it is said," By grace are ye saved through faith"? What is faith? It is made up of three things — knowledge, belief, and trust.
1. Knowledge comes first. Know God, know His gospel, and know especially Christ Jesus, the Son of God and Saviour of men. Endeavour to know the doctrine of the sacrifice of Christ, for that is the point upon which saving faith mainly fixes itself.
2. Then the mind goes on to believe that these things are true. The soul believes that God is, and that He hears the cries of sincere hearts; that the gospel is from God; that justification by faith is the grand truth that God hath revealed in these last days by His Spirit more clearly than before. Then the heart believes that Jesus is verily and in truth our God and Saviour, the Redeemer of men, the prophet, priest, and king unto His people.
3. So far you have made an advance towards faith, and one more ingredient is needed to complete it, which is trust. Trust is the life blood of faith: there is no saving faith without it. The Puritans were accustomed to explain faith by the word "recumbency." You know what it means. You see me leaning upon this rail, leaning with all my weight upon it; even thus lean upon Christ. It would be a better illustration still if I were to stretch myself at full length and rest my whole person upon a rock, lying fiat upon it. Fall flat upon Christ. Cast yourself upon Him, rest in Him, commit yourself to Him. That done, you have exercised saving faith. Faith is not a blind thing; for faith begins with knowledge. It is not a speculative thing; for faith believes facts of which it is sure. It is not an unpractical, dreamy thing; for faith trusts, and stakes its destiny upon the truth of revelation.
II. Let us inquire, WHY FAITH IS SELECTED AS THE CHANNEL OF SALVATION?
1. There is a natural adaptation in faith to be used as the receiver. Suppose that I am about to give a poor man an alms: I put it into his hand — why? Well, it would hardly be fitting to put it into his ear, or to lay it under his foot; the hand seems made on purpose to receive. So faith in the mental body is created on purpose to be a receiver: it is the hand of the man, and there is a fitness in bestowing grace by its means.
2. Faith, again, is doubtless selected because it gives all the glory to God. It is of faith that it might be of grace, and it is of grace that there may be no boasting; for God cannot endure pride.
3. It is a sure method, linking man with God. When man confides in God there is a point of union between them, and that union guarantees blessing. Faith saves us, because it makes us cling to God, and so brings us into connection with Him. I am told that years ago, above the Falls of Niagara, a boat was upset, and two men were being carried down the current, when persons on the shore managed to float a rope out to them, which rope was seized by them both. One of them held fast to it, and was safely drawn to the bank; but the other, seeing a great log come floating by, unwisely let go the rope, and clung to the log, for it was the bigger thing of the two, and apparently better to cling to. Alas, the log, with the man on it, went right over the vast abyss, because there was no union between the log and the shore. The size of the log was no benefit to him who grasped it; it needed a connection with the shore to produce safety. So when a man trusts to his works, or to sacraments, or to anything of that sort, he will not be saved, because there is no junction between him and Christ; but faith, though it may seem to be like a slender cord, is in the hand of the great God on the shore side; Infinite Power pulls in the connecting line, and thus draws the man from destruction. Oh, the blessedness of faith, because it unites us to God!
4. Faith is chosen, again, because it touches the springs of action. I wonder whether I shall be wrong if I say that we never do anything except through faith of some sort. If I walk across this platform, it is because I believe my legs will carry me. A man eats because he believes in the necessity of food. Columbus discovered America because he believed that there was another continent beyond the ocean: many another grand deed has also been born of faith, for faith works wonders. Commoner things are done on the same principle; faith in its natural form is an all-prevailing force. God gives salvation to our faith, because He has thus touched the secret spring of all our emotions and actions. He has, so to speak, taken possession of the battery, and now He can send the sacred current to every part of our nature.
5. Faith, again, has the power of working by love; it touches the secret spring of the affections, and draws the heart towards God. Faith is an act of the understanding; but it also proceeds from the heart. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness;" and hence God gives salvation to faith because it resides next door to the affections, and is near akin to love, and love, you know, is that which purifies the soul. Love to God is obedience, love is holiness; to love God and to love man is to be conformed to the image of Christ, and this is salvation.
6. Moreover, faith creates peace and joy; he that hath it rests, and is tranquil, is glad, and joyous; and this is a preparation for heaven. God gives all the heavenly gifts to faith, because faith worketh in us the very life and spirit which are to be eternally manifested in the upper and better world. I have hastened over these points that I might not weary you on a day when, however willing the spirit may be, the flesh is weak.
III. How can WE OBTAIN AND INCREASE OUR FAITH? A very earnest question this to many. They say they want to believe but cannot. "What am I to do in order to believe?"
1. The shortest way is to believe, and if the Holy Spirit has made you honest and candid, you will believe as soon as the truth is set before you.
2. But still, if you have a difficulty, take it before God in prayer. The Lord is willing to make Himself known; go to Him, and see if it be not so.
3. Furthermore, if faith seem difficult, it is possible that God the Holy Spirit will enable you to believe, if you hear very frequently and earnestly that which you are commanded to believe.
4. Consider the testimony of others. I believe there is a country called Japan, although I never have been there. I believe I shall die: I have never died, but a great many have done so whom I once knew, and I have a conviction that I shall die also; the testimony of many convinces me of this fact. Listen, then, to those who tell you how they were saved, how they were pardoned, how they have been changed in character: if you will but listen you will find that somebody just like yourself has been saved. As you listen to one after another of those who have tried the word of God, and proved it, the Divine Spirit will lead you to believe. Have you not heard of the African who was told by the missionary that water sometimes became so hard that a man could walk on it? He declared that he believed a great many things the missionary had told him; but he never would believe that. When he came to England it came to pass that one frosty day he saw the river frozen, but he would not venture on it. He knew that it was a river, and he was certain that he would be drowned if he ventured upon it. He could not be induced to walk on the ice till his friend went upon it; then he was persuaded, and trusted himself where others had ventured. So, mayhap, while you see others believe, and notice their joy and peace, you will yourself be gently led to believe. It is one of God's ways of helping us to faith. A better plan still is this — note the authority upon which you are commanded to believe, and this will greatly help you. He bids you believe in Jesus Christ, and you must not refuse to obey your Maker. The foreman of a certain works in the north had often heard the gospel, but he was troubled with the fear that he might not come to Christ. His good master one day sent a card round to the works — "Come to my house immediately after work." The foreman appeared at his master's door, and the master came out, and said somewhat roughly, "What do you want, John, troubling me at this time? Work is done, what right have you here?" "Sir," said he, "I had a card from you saying that I was to come after work." "Do you mean to say that merely because you had a card from me you are to come up to my house and call me out after business hours?" "Well, sir," replied the foreman, "I do not understand you, but it seems to me that, as you sent for me, I had a right to come." "Come in, John," said his master, "I have another message that I want to read to you," and he sat down and read these words — "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Do you think after such a message from Christ that you can be wrong in going to Him?" The poor man saw it all at once, and believed, because he saw that he had good warrant and authority for believing. So have you, poor soul; you have good authority for coming to Christ, for the Lord Himself bids you trust Him. If that does not settle you, think over what it is that you have to believe — that the Lord Jesus Christ suffered in the room and place and stead of men, and is able to save all who trust Him. Why, this is the most blessed fact that ever men were told to believe: the most suitable, the most comforting, the most Divine truth that ever was set before men. If none of these things avail, then there is something Wrong about you altogether, and my last word is, submit yourself to God. May the Spirit of God take away your enmity and make you yield. You are a rebel, a proud rebel, and that is why you do not believe your God. Give up your rebellion; throw down your weapons; yield at discretion; surrender to your King.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: