Saving Faith

Josh WannerDevotions

He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

Luke 16:31

Do you ever beat yourself up for not having enough faith? Do you ever wonder how much faith you need to be saved? While you think about that, please read the following two stories.

1. In our first story, we have a man named George Wilson who was arrested in 1829 for robbery and murder in a US mail heist. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. Some friends intervened on his behalf and were able to obtain his pardon from President Andrew Jackson. But when told of this, Wilson refused it saying he wanted to die.

The sheriff didn’t know what to do; how do you execute a man officially pardoned? An appeal was made to the President who, perplexed, turned the matter over to the US Supreme court. Chief Justice John Marshall gave this ruling: A pardon is a piece of paper, the value of which depends on its acceptance by the person implicated. In the end, George Wilson was executed while his signed pardon lay on the sheriff’s desk.

2. In our second story from Luke 16, Jesus paints a picture about a rich man who dies and goes to hell. Lazarus, a poor beggar whose pleas for help had been ignored by the rich man, also dies, and he goes to heaven. In torment, the rich man sees Abraham and Lazarus in paradise and makes two pleas.

First he begs Abraham to send Lazarus to provide some relief from his torment. Abraham replies saying that’s impossible, because “none may cross” between heaven and hell.

Next he begs Abraham to send Lazarus to warn the rich man’s brothers about the danger they are in. Abraham replies that “They have Moses and the Prophets,” and that, if the brothers will not listen to them, “neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

Both the above stories teach important lessons about what it means to have saving faith.

In the first story, we see a man whose self-condemnation is so great that he cannot accept a pardon which would have saved his life. He knew what was available to him; he just refused it.

The salvation Christ won for us on the cross is like that signed pardon. We are forgiven, but without faith that forgiveness is just a piece of paper sitting on a desk; it doesn’t do us any good.

In the second story, we see the lengths to which Jesus went not only to sign our pardon, but also to give us the faith we need to receive it and be saved by it.

In this story, Abraham says “none may cross” between heaven and hell – but that’s exactly what Jesus did! He left heaven, lived among us, and then died on the cross, paying for our sin. Then Jesus entered hell itself to proclaim His victory over Satan and over all the forces that would keep us mired in hopeless condemnation. And when Jesus rose from the dead, He gave people all the proof they would need to believe in Him and receive His salvation.

Except they didn’t.

People didn’t believe, even in the face of the ultimate proof of Jesus’ power over death. That’s because faith isn’t based on proof – no matter how convincing that proof may be. Faith is based instead on the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God – through what Abraham called “Moses and the prophets.”

Praise God that we don’t have to worry about generating enough faith to receive salvation. It’s not up to us. The Spirit creates saving faith in our hearts when we are baptized. And every time we hear His Word and receive the Lord’s Supper, that faith is nurtured and grows.

So don’t worry, my friends. Faith is a gift, not an accomplishment. Do you have enough faith to be saved? Yes, you do, because of Jesus.