As I tackle this question I am not doing it without some personal investment. I too have family members and close friends who have at one time professed a faith but currently reject Christianity. This is not an easy subject.
What does salvation mean? Salvation is to be right with God through faith and upon death to come into the presence of God. Salvation cannot be earned by doing good works. The Apostle Paul writes, Ephes. 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” Salvation is by grace alone by faith alone. Both the Old and New Testaments teach the same salvation. Moses writing about Abraham, “Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6) Abraham was right with God through belief or by faith.
What are the elements of salvation or a saving faith?
The Bible seems very clear that saving faith involves the entire person; mind, emotions, and will. Let’s look at each one.
- Intellectual accent – True belief involves the intellect
Information is vital to growing in knowledge. In Christianity the facts matter. Biblical faith is defined as knowledge that leads to action. Knowledge is supported by evidence that appeals to our intellect. When we hear the truth we respond with belief.
Romans 10:14 “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?”
Paul writes a non-Christian cannot believe unless someone brings him the good news. This makes a good case for why we need to not only live like Jesus but we also have to talk about Him. Once we hear about Jesus we can either accept or reject. Faith is a personal commitment to believe Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins.
However, knowledge is not enough. We read in James 2:19 “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” Here we see knowledge alone will not save anyone. Even the demons have spiritual knowledge and are still condemned. Their problem is they refuse to submit their will to God. This leads to the second element of saving faith.
- Commitment of the will – True belief involves the will
Romans 10:9-10“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
Here we see believing and submitting our will to the authority of Jesus working side-by-side. Our confession that Jesus is God and authority over our life comes as an outworking of the belief in the heart. A true confession is part of right belief.
In the early church the heart symbolized our entire being; to believe in the heart was to encompass our heart, soul, and mind. The point of the passage is an outward confession stems from an inward conviction resulting in a submission of the will to Jesus. We become followers of Jesus; we make Him ruler over our life.
Further we see in John 1:12 saving faith is more than an intellectual exercise. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,” John 1:12 (NASB). The receiving is an act of the will. Remember saving faith is knowing that leads to action; the action here to receive the free gift of God’s saving grace and commit our lives to Him.
- Brokenness – True belief involves the emotions
Here we sense our brokenness over our rebellion against God. God is not interested in us telling Him how lucky He is to know us. Jesus spoke of a Pharisee who once did that in the temple. He told God all the good things he did and he was not like the lowly tax collector, who was also in the temple praying. God was not impressed with this Pharisee. However, he was impressed with the tax collector. He came before God with his hands empty, his heart heavy, and knew he fell short of God’s standard. He simply said, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” No arrogance, no strutting his stuff; just heartfelt sorrow over breaking God’s laws. Jesus then says this man, the tax collector and not the Pharisee, left the temple right with God.
With our mind we intellectually believe the truth, with our will we receive the free gift and follow, and with our emotions we humbly bow before God broken and asking for God’s mercy. Paul writes about this…2 Cor. 7:10 (NASB) “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
Worldly sorrow leads to death but Godly sorrow, admitting we have broken God’s commandments leads to eternal life. Repentance of sin is turning from our moral wrongs and turning to God.
The vital elements of a saving faith are intellect, will, and emotions. They are all essentials of a true salvation.
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