“There is no love without hope, no hope without love, and neither hope nor love without faith,” St. Augustine wrote. Faith is the foundational principle of the Christian life. Eternal life begins and ends in faith. Why is faith so important to God? According to the apostle Paul, it is a matter of grace.
Paul illustrates this by using Abraham as an example and contrasting the gospel with the law in Romans 4:13–16. Abraham did not receive all that God promised because of his own efforts—they were granted on the basis of faith. Abraham was credited as righteous because he believed God would do as He said (Rom. 4:9–10). This was for our benefit as much as for Abraham’s. God made righteousness a result of faith so that He could offer His righteousness to us as a gift of grace through faith in Christ (Rom. 4:16).
Why grace? Because it was the only way to make certain that those who need righteousness would be able to obtain it. God could have made righteousness a result of human effort. If He had, the guilt of our sin and the weakness of our sinful nature would have ensured that righteousness would always remain beyond our grasp (Gal. 2:16). God’s law, as good as it is, can never be a means of earning God’s favor. The best the law can do is point to our sin. For this reason, the law can only condemn; it cannot make anyone righteous (Rom. 4:15). By offering His righteousness as a gift of grace, God guarantees it to all who believe in Christ.
The importance of faith cannot be overemphasized. It is not merely a component of the gospel but its very heart. Faith is the conduit through which the righteousness of Christ flows to us. It is the wellspring of all obedience. When faith is removed from the gospel or is subordinated to human effort, the gospel message is distorted and the believer’s hope is destroyed. Salvation in Christ is received by faith because it is a gift of grace. Since salvation comes to us by God’s grace and not our own works, we can be secure in the knowledge that it is guaranteed. Faith, then, is the lynchpin in the church’s theology of grace and its ability to offer assurance of salvation to those who believe in Christ.
FOR FURTHER READING
To learn more about the difference between propitiation and expiation read Eternal Security by Charles Stanley (Thomas Nelson).