Pink on the Nature of Saving Faith
I posted this on the CSF devotional list and on the front page of the site, but figured I’d share here as well.
From Arthur Pink’s book “Studies in Saving Faith” – chapter 13, he writes:
Having before us the twofold objective named above, let us ask the question, Is a simple faith in Christ sufficient to save a soul for time and eternity? At the risk of some readers turning away from this article and refusing to read further, we unhesitatingly answer, No, it is not. The Lord Jesus Himself declared, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Repentance is just as essential to salvation as is believing. Again, we read that,
“wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).
A “simple faith” which remains alone, a faith which does not purify the heart (Acts 15:9), work by love (Galatians 5:6), and overcome the world (1 John 5:4), will save nobody.
Much confusion has been caused in many quarters through failure to define clearly what it is from which the sinner needs saving. Only too often the thought of many minds is restricted to Hell. But that is a very inadequate conception, and often proves most misleading. The only thing which can ever take any creature to Hell is unrepented and unforgiven sin. Now on the very first page of the N.T. the Holy Spirit has particularly recorded it that, the incarnate Son of God was named “Jesus” because “he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Why is it that that which God has placed at the forefront is relegated to the rear by most of modern evangelists? To ask a person if he has been saved from Hell is much more ambiguous than to inquire if he has been saved from his sins.
Let us attempt to enlarge on this a little, for thousands of professing Christians in these days have but the vaguest idea of what it means to be saved from sin.
First, it signifies to be saved from the love of sin. The heart of the natural man is wedded to everything which is opposed to God. He may not acknowledge it, he may not be conscious of it, yet such is the fact nevertheless. Having been shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5), man cannot but be enamoured with that which is now part and parcel of his very being. When the Lord Jesus explained why condemnation rests upon the unsaved, He declared “men loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:19). Nothing but a supernatural change of heart can deliver any from this dreadful state. Only an omnipotent Redeemer can bring us to “abhor” (Job 42:6) ourselves and loath iniquity. This He does when He saves a soul, for “the fear of the Lord is to hate evil” (Proverbs 8:13).
Second, to be saved from our sins is to be delivered from the allowance of them. It is the unvarying tendency of the natural heart to excuse evil-doing, to extenuate and gloss it over. At the beginning, Adam declined to acknowledge his guilt, and sought to throw the blame upon his wife. It was the same with Eve: instead of honestly acknowledging her wickedness, she attempted to place the onus on the serpent. But how different is the regenerated person’s attitude toward sin! “For that which I do, I allow not” (Romans 7:15): Paul committed sin, but he did not approve, still less did he seek to vindicate, it. He disclaimed all friendliness toward it. Nay, more; the real Christian repents of his wrongdoing, confesses it to God, mourns over it, and prays earnestly to be kept from a repetition of the same. Pride, coldness, slothfulness, he hates, yet day by day he finds them reasserting their power over him; yet nightly he returns to the Fountain which has been opened “for sin and for uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1), that he may be cleansed. The true Christian desires to render perfect obedience to God, and cannot rest satisfied with anything short of it; and instead of palliating his failures, he mourns over them.
Third, to be saved from our sins is to be delivered from the reigning power or mastery of them. Sin still indwells the Christian, tempts, annoys, wounds, and daily trips him up: “in many things we offend all” (James 3:2). Nevertheless, sin is not the complete master of the Christian, for he resists and fights against it. While far from being completely successful in his fight, yet, on the other hand, there is a vast difference between him and the helpless slaves of Satan. His repenting, his prayers, his aspirations after holiness, his pressing forward unto the mark set before him, all witness to the fact that sin does not have “dominion” over (Romans 6:14) him. Undoubtedly there are great differences of attainment among God’s children: in His high sovereignty, God grants more grace unto one than to another. Some of His children are far more plagued by constitutional sins than others. Some who are very largely delivered from outward transgressions are yet made to groan over inward ones. Some who are largely kept from sins of commission have yet to bewail sins of omission. Yet sin is no longer complete master over any who belong to the household of faith.
The last sentence may perhaps discourage some who have a sensitive conscience. He who is really honest with himself and has had his eyes opened in some degree to see the awful sinfulness of self, and who is becoming more and more acquainted with that sink of iniquity, that mass of corruption which still indwells him, often feels that sin more completely rules him now than ever it did before. When he longs to trust God with all his heart, unbelief seems to paralyze him. When he wishes to be completely surrendered to God’s blessed will, murmurings and rebellion surge within him. When he would spend an hour in meditating on the things of God, evil imaginations harass him. When he desires to be more humble, pride seeks to fill him. When he would pray, his mind wanders. The more he fights against these sins, the further off victory seems to be. To him it appears that sin is very much the master of him, and Satan tells him that his profession is vain. What shall we say to such a dear soul who is deeply exercised over this problem?
First, the very fact that you are conscious of these sins and are so much concerned over your failure to overcome them, is a healthy sign. It is the blind who cannot see; it is the dead who feel not—true alike naturally and spiritually. Only they who have been quickened into newness of life are capable of real sorrow for sin. Moreover, such experiences as we have mentioned above evidence a spiritual growth: a growth in the knowledge of self. As the wise man tells us, “he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:18). In God’s light we see light (Psalm 36:9). The more the Holy Spirit reveals to me the high claims of God’s holiness, the more I discover how far short I come of meeting them. Let the midday sun shine into a darkened room, and dust and dirt which before were invisible are now plainly seen. So with the Christian: the more the light of God enters his heart, the more he discovers the spiritual filth which dwells there. Beloved brother, or sister, it is not that you are becoming more sinful, but that God is now giving you a clearer and fuller sight of your sinfulness. Praise Him for it, for the eyes of the vast majority of your fellows (religionists included) are blind, and cannot see what so distresses you!
Second, side by side with sin in your heart is grace. There is a new and holy nature within the Christian as well as the old and unholy one. Grace is active within you, as well as sin. The new nature is influencing your conduct as well as the old. Why is it that you so desire to be conformed to the image of Christ, to trust Him fully, love Him fervently, and serve Him diligently? These longings proceed not from the flesh. No, my distressed brother or sister, sin is not your complete master; if it were, all aspirations, prayers, and strivings after holiness would be banished from your heart. There are “as it were the company of two armies” (Song of Solomon 6:13) fighting to gain control of the Christian. As it was with our mother Rebekah—
“the children struggled together within her” (Genesis 25:22)
—so it is with us. But the very “struggle” shows that the issue is not yet decided: had sin conquered, the soul would no longer be able to resist. The conqueror disarms his enemy so that he can no longer fight back. The very fact that you are still “fighting” proves that sin has not vanquished you! It may seem to you that it soon will: but the issue is not in doubt—Christ will yet save you from the very presence of sin.