Knowledge of the facts of the gospel and even approval of those facts alone is not enough to experience saving faith. In order to experience saving faith, you must personally decide to depend upon Jesus to save you. In doing this we move from an interested observer of the facts of salvation and bible teaching, to someone who enters into a relationship with Jesus.
Consider a guy who pushes a wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls on a tightrope every day. You’ve seen him do it so many times it doesn’t even occur to you he won’t make it. You believe with all your heart he can do it.
One day he comes up to you and asks, “Do you believe I can push this wheelbarrow across the tightrope without falling?” And you say, “Of course I do. I’ve seen you do it hundreds of times.” “All right,” he says, “get in the wheelbarrow.”
Well, now we’re talking about a whole different kind of thing, aren’t we? The first is an intellectual belief, an acknowledgment of certain facts. The second is active faith, converting your knowledge to action. When you climb into the wheelbarrow, your belief in facts is converted into active trust.
Wayne Grudem defines saving faith in the following way ‘Saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God’. This definition emphasizes that saving faith is not just a belief in the facts, but a personal trust in Christ.
John MaAarther wrote: “[Saving faith is] not just believing that Jesus lived and died. Faith that saves is the confident, continuous confession of total dependence on, and trust in Jesus Christ to meet the requirements on your behalf to give you entrance into God’s Eternal Kingdom. It’s the surrender of your life in complete trust to Him to do what you cannot do.
Because saving faith as seen in scripture involves this personal trust, the actually word ‘trust’ is much easier for us to understand in our age and culture, then the words ‘faith’ or ‘belief’. We can believe something as the example above with the wheelbarrow but have no dependence in that belief, many people believe things which are not true or in which they don’t depend. The word ‘Faith’ on the other hand is often seen today as an almost irrational commitment to something, contrary to evidence. For example if you baking a cake and it looks terrible, someone might say ‘have faith’ even though the evidence points in the opposite direction.
For us then today the word ‘trust’ is closer to the biblical idea, since we are familiar with trusting persons in everyday life. Tomorrow we will further explore this point.”