April 16, 2013
ii. By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatening, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.
What does faith do? Or to put it another way, what does the Christian do by faith? By faith, the Christian believes and acts.
Our confession is that "by faith a Christian believes to be true whatever is revealed in the Word." This believing is because of the "authority of God himself speaking therein." God's Word is the Word of divine authority--and the grace of faith both realizes this and believes all that God reveals by his Word.
However, saving faith does not stop at believing. It also acts in response to whatever is revealed in the Word. The Confession notes that genuine faith responds differently in response to, or according to, what each passage of God's Word contains. Where God gives commands, faith yields obedience. Where God's Word threatens, faith trembles. Where God's Word holds out promises for our present life, faith receives them. Where God's Word gives promises for the life to come, faith embraces them.
Robert Shaw states that where "the general object of divine faith is the whole Word of God... the special and personal object of faith is the Lord Jesus Christ"--the Word made flesh.(1) This is what our confession turns to in the last part of this section. The "principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace." Shaw states: "saving faith is a believing on the person of Christ, or an appropriating [taking hold of] Christ himself, with all the benefits and blessings included in him." (2)
Saving faith is more than intellectual assent to truth; "the gospel is not a mere statement of historical facts, or of abstract doctrines respecting the Savior." (3) As such, saving faith accepts, receives and "rests on" Christ as he freely offers himself to us in the gospel. Saving faith receives and rests on Christ alone for salvation because he alone can save and he is fully sufficient, freely delighting to save. He is fully sufficient for your justification. He is fully sufficient to deliver you from the pollution and power of sin, fully sufficient for your sanctification, fully sufficient for your eternal life. By establishing the covenant of grace, he has secured these blessings; by declaration of the covenant of grace, he welcomes everyone to come and take hold of these rich promises. Saving faith believes him and acts on his Word. "Because of the steadfast love of the Lord, we are not cut off; his mercies do not fail; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I hope in him!'" (Lamentations 3:22-24)
1. Robert Shaw, The Reformed Faith: Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2008), 202.
2. Shaw, 203.
3. Shaw, 203.