All I could see dangling over the edge of our shed’s roof were his feet. My words ascended up to a boy obscured from view, “Son, slowly let yourself down. I will support you.”
The response was short and terse, “I’m afraid.”
In the most security inspiring tone I could muster came the words, “It’s OK. Just six more inches and I will be able to grab your feet. Trust me.”
In that moment, a young boy instinctively experienced something which has formally eluded many. How we trust is situationally specific.
Earlier that week he had exhibited faith in me by simply believing my promise: “I’ll be home on time so we can play soccer together.” But now, as he lay on his stomach on a warm asphalt shingled roof, even he knew, if he were to think about it, that this scenario on the shed would require a different faith response than just being fully convinced his dad would grab his feet. To trust in his dad would require moving another six inches off the roof.
On another occasion earlier that summer, a couple of bees had circled around his body. I had commanded, “Stand still.” It had taken a lot of faith in dad to remain motionless. But to remain frozen now would not constitute trusting in his dad nor believing in his dad, even though this is what was required for faith earlier. No, in order for him to believe in his dad at this moment would require him to slowly back off of the roof until he could feel his dad’s secure hands supporting his tennis shoes.
Declaring that faith is necessary does not inform us about the details how to trust. To know how to exemplify faith in any given scenario, we must know the context.
The nature of faith impacts both godly living as well as the doctrine of salvation. As Hebrews 11 reveals, in some situations faith only requires believing while in other scenarios faith demands actions. Living by faith is not characterized solely by inner conviction, rather possessing faith in Christ involves appropriate faith responses. By faith God’s people endure persecution, live with confident expectation, etc. But let’s roll our story back to the beginning of life in Christ.
All of us have discovered ourselves in a situation far worse than merely dangling our feet over the edge of a roof. When God looks at people, he perceives the stain of sin upon us, condemning us to what has been prepared for Satan and his angels. And so, in love the Father took the initiative to rescue us, yet to do so without violating his righteous nature./1
By sending his Son to die on our behalf, God avoided the problem of trampling upon the requirements of justice which demanded sin to be condemned while simultaneously also creating through grace the basis for a new relationship with himself. People could now be forgiven and belong to God, not based upon their own merit, but rather upon the sinless righteousness of Jesus./2 God’s promise to forgive those who would receive Jesus is contained in the new covenant./3 God chose those within this new covenant community of Christ, known as the body of Christ, to belong to himself and be forgiven.
Understandably then, through the gospel God calls us to stop creating further guilt and begin to trust in Jesus for salvation./4 Since God has provided salvation to us on the basis of grace through faith, and since he has determined how we are to trust in Jesus’ blood, the gospel’s call to rely upon Jesus by being immersed is unequivocal and unilateral./5 With the faith response of baptism, Christ performs a surgery cutting off the sinfulness of our old person in order to create a new creature in Christ raised up from the water forgiven, adopted as a child of God and a servant to righteousness./6 God adds those who have faith in Jesus to his saved people./7
Different preachers might proclaim different ways for trusting in Jesus. Yet because of faith’s nature, everyone must instruct their listeners how to respond to Jesus in order to have faith in Christ. Some might instruct to say a prayer or invite him into one’s heart. Others might teach to be baptized. What we discover is that how we are to rely upon Jesus is not determined by the word faith, but by examining the gospel and its context, namely covenant. Neither a letter nor an historical example in the New Testament suggests we trust in Jesus by inviting him into our hearts through saying a sinner’s prayer.
What we do repeatedly find are examples and teachings clearly indicating faith in Jesus starts with baptism. Furthermore, baptism is the point at which the promises of the new covenant are bestowed.
Hopefully, sooner as opposed to later the gospel message will universally return to its original proclamation.
(This article is the last article in a three part series.)
1/ Romans 5:8; 3:25-26
2/ Romans 8:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; 1 Peter 1:18-21
3/ Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 8:10,12
4/ Romans 6:1-4; Luke 24:46,47; John 3:16; Acts 4:12; 10:43
5/ Ephesians 2:8; Romans 3:25; Galatians 3:26-27; Titus 3:4-7; Acts 8:12,13
6/ Colossians 2:11-12; 3:1f.; Romans 6:3-4, 17-18, 22-23; Titus 3:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16
7/ Acts 2:47, 41