[Reading of the Texts]: Thus far the reading of God’s holy Word… And beloved, the Word of God that we will discuss this afternoon is summarized to us in Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 7, and we’ll be reading Questions 20 to 22.
[Prayer]: Now would you join me in prayer: “Father, thank you for this privilege that we can once again listen to your Word. By your Spirit, open our hearts and minds that we will behold wondrous things from your Word, and grow more in the faith and likeness of your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Isa sa favorite songs ko no’ng teenager ako ang ‘yong “When You Believe” na kinanta ni Mariah Carey at Whitney Houston. Although original soundtrack (OST) ‘yon ng isang film tungkol kay Moses (The Prince of Egypt), the song is often used to inspire people to believe they can achieve anything.
One line in the song goes this way:
“Who knows what miracles you can achieve?
When you believe, somehow you will.
You will when you believe.”
And that’s one of the slogans of the modern mindset. “Just believe.” “Basta maniwala ka lang.”
But the big question is this: “How do you believe?” “What kind of belief?” “Believe in what?”
Now when it comes to the eternal salvation of our souls, God also tells us that “you must believe” in order to be saved. And that’s the focus of Lord’s Day 7 in our Catechism. Salvation is only to those who have “true faith.”
Obviously, there is no single verse or passage in Scripture that covers all the answers of the Catechism concerning faith. But one text we can look at is Romans 10:9-17, na siyang binasa natin kanina.
This passage falls within the larger message of Paul about God’s sovereign act of salvation. Sa chapters 9 hanggang 11, pinapaliwanag ni Paul na hindi lahat maliligtas. Ang tanging maliligtas lang ay ‘yong mga pinili ng Diyos… those who were chosen by God and who pursue righteousness not by obeying the law but by faith in Christ.
Maraming quotations na ginamit si Paul mula sa Old Testament, at dito sa mismong passage natin, Paul quotes from the prophets Isaiah and Joel. Although may differences sa historical background no’ng mga prophets na na-quote ni Paul—they have one primary message: God has promised salvation to his people, and all who believe in him—all who call in his name—shall be saved.
No true faith, no salvation.
Now, how can we have this “true faith” resulting in salvation? Lalo na sa panahon natin ngayon, maraming taong nagsasabi, “Naniniwala naman ako sa Diyos. Naniniwala ako kay Cristo. I believe.” Yet one way or another, we see that it is just superficial faith.
What then is “true saving faith?”
Let me give a brief definition: True faith that leads to salvation is a gift from God, in which we whole-heartedly trust and rest on God’s saving promises in Christ. (Repeat)
Main Point 1: Saving Faith is a Gift from God
So first of all, saving faith is a gift from God.
Look at Romans 10:16, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’” They heard it, they knew it—yet not everyone obeyed the gospel. They didn’t repent, they didn’t believe in Christ.
How could that be? Well, it’s because faith must be given by God.
It’s not explicit here in Romans 10, so we need to consult from other Scriptures. Let’s look at Matthew 16:15-17. After Christ asks the disciples what other people say about who he is, Christ asks them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter confesses what he believes about Jesus, and what he believes is true! Then Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
Here we see why saving faith is a gift from God.
- [Subpoint] Because it does not and cannot come from us.
By nature, totally depraved and unable tayo eh. At ilang beses na nating na-discuss ‘yon in the previous Lord’s Days. We have fallen, we are lost. And therefore, we have no ability or even the willingness to know God and believe in his Word (Romans 3:11 – “… no one seeks for God.”)
At the same time, saving faith is a gift from God…
- [Subpoint] Because it is created by the Holy Spirit within
We read that in Lord’s Day 7, Q. 21. Paul discussed it in 1 Corinthians 2. Para tayo’y magkaroon ng tunay na pananampalataya, ang Banal na Espiritu mismo ang magbibigay sa’tin ng bagong puso, isipan, at kalooban—nang sa gayon, hindi lang natin mababasa o maririnig ang Salita ng Diyos. The Spirit himself will convince us, and make us understand it, believe it, and live by it.
Kaya nga sabi rin ni Paul in Ephesians 2:8, salvation is “by grace, through faith. It is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
May dalawang tao akong na-share-an ng gospel dati na hinding-hindi ko makakalimutan. ‘Yong una, way back 2011 (I think) nag-mission kami sa Palawan for 1 week, at nagturo kami pati sa mga bata. Many years passed, hindi na kami nakabalik and hindi ko na alam kung anong nangyari sa kanila. But after a decade, last year, a young lady chats to me, thanking me for sharing the gospel back then.
Na-guilty ako kasi hindi ko siya maalala. Hindi siya ‘yong bibong bata na nare-recall ko. So she sends photos and tells what I shared to them before. And right now, she’s a married and they are missionaries sa isang remote area sa Bukidnon. Praise God!
‘Yong pangalawang tao na na-share-an ko dati ay barbero sa Robinson Imus. This was 2016, so mas marami na rin akong alam about the gospel no’n. After ko mag-share sa kanya habang ginugupitan ako, very thankful and interested siya. Nag-meet pa kami twice at binigyan ko pa siya ng Bible. But after a few weeks, no’ng hindi ko na siya makita sa barber shop, I just learned na lumipat na siya sa QC para maging ministro ng INC. Soon, tawag na ng tawag sakin para i-convert ako sa INC…. That’s sad.
One gospel shared to two different people yet with two different outcomes.
You see friends, true saving faith is a gift from God. Minsan nando’n ‘yong tendency natin na isipin na nakasalalay sa’tin ‘yong conversion ng taong shine-share-an natin ng gospel—’yong mahal natin sa buhay, ‘yong friends natin, or isang visitor sa church. “Siguro kung mas eloquent ako mag-share, siguro kung mas sisipagan at mas dadalasan ko pa ‘yong pag-share sa kanya—t’yak magiging Christian na ‘yan.”
I’m not saying those things are not important. But at the end of the day, as John Calvin said, “no one comprehends the mysteries of God except those to whom it is given.” Not man but God creates saving faith in a person.
And for us who are Christians, there’s nothing we can boast. The faith we have in Christ is only given to us by the Spirit, and so we give all the thanks and glory to God.
[TRANSITION]: Now, saving faith is a gift from God, but how does it look like in reality? Anong klaseng paniniwala o pananampalataya ‘yong tinutukoy natin? Well, our second point, saving faith is a whole-hearted trust.
Main Point 2: Saving Faith is a Whole-Hearted Trust
Look at Romans 10:9, “… if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
“Believe in your heart, confess with your mouth.” It is both an internal and external expression of faith. So faith is not just hearing and knowing the truth. The whole being is involved—the mind, the heart, the will. Gaya ng sabi ni Louis Berkhof, “it is an activity of the person as a whole.”
Kaya nga ‘yong language sa Q. 21, faith is not only knowledge and conviction, it is also a deep-rooted assurance. So kapag sinabi nating “faith is whole-hearted trust,” it includes knowledge, assent, and trust.
- [Subpoint] Knowledge
You believe and trust something because you know something about that thing. It applies to your spouse, your friend, your car, and everything and everyone else that you believe and trust.
Likewise, saving faith includes knowledge of God’s Word—particularly the gospel. Although ang Banal na Espiritu ang nagbibigay ng pananampalataya, hindi ‘yon magic na out of nowhere, you already believe in Christ. Romans 10:17 – “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Pero ‘yong knowledge na tinutukoy dito ay hindi lang basta “intellectual information,” kung saan alam mo lang ‘yong sinasabi ng Salita ng Diyos patungkol kay Cristo. You also recognize it, you agree with it, you accept everything God says as true.
At the same time, “saving faith as a whole-hearted trust” is not just knowledge, it also includes “assent.”
- [Subpoint] Assent
At pag sinabi nating “assent,” it is a deep-rooted, hearty conviction in light of the truth that you recognize. So hindi ka lang sumasang-ayon sa sinasabi ng Salita ng Diyos, in your mind, you are also moved by it in the heart. The emotions are also involved.
And lastly, saving faith is not just knowledge in the mind and assent in your heart… It also includes “trust.”
- [Subpoint] Trust
And this is where the will is involved. You agree with the truth, you are moved by the truth, then you also direct yourself towards that truth. What you believe you also embrace, and you act in accordance to it.
So saving faith includes the person’s whole being—mind, heart, and will. It’s a whole-hearted trust.
One of the great examples of true faith in the Bible is Abraham. No doubt about it, since kasama siya dun sa so-called “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11. If you would recall, God promised to Abraham that he will become a nation, a multitude of people, and through him all the nations shall be blessed. Through his offspring, the Messiah, the promised Savior will come.
At first, parang imposible ‘yong pangako ng Diyos, kasi wala pa silang anak ni Sarah. But as God promised, he gave them a son Isaac. So ito na nga, malamang totoo na nga ‘yong pangako ng Diyos.
Yet in Genesis 22:1-14, Abraham’s faith is put to the test. God said to him, “Go and offer your son, Isaac, your only son whom you love.” … What!? Akala ko ba I will be a great nation? And now I will offer and kill the child, the only means and hope to fulfill that promise?
But that’s not what Abraham thought. Instead he got up, took Isaac, together with his servants. At nang nakita na niya ‘yong place kung saan pinapa-offer si Isaac, ano sabi niya sa servants niya? “Stay here, the boy and I will go… and come back to you.” We will come back. Confident siya na pareho silang babalik nang buhay.
At no’ng tinanong siya ni Isaac, “Father, we have fire and wood, asan ‘yong i-o-offer?” Ano sabi ni Abraham? “God will provide the lamb.” At ‘nong tinali na niya si Isaac, at ibababa na niya ‘yong knife para patayin ‘yong anak niya—God stopped him. And behold, God provides a “ram,” a male lamb, at ‘yon na ‘yong in-offer nila instead of Isaac.
So there we see the kind of faith that God gave Abraham. Although the command doesn’t make sense, he still trusted God’s promise. As Hebrews 11:19 said, Abraham believed na kahit mapatay niya talaga si Isaac, kaya siyang buhayin ulit ng Diyos. Nando’n ‘yong confidence niya that God cannot break his promise. Hence, he just trusted and obeyed.
Friends, God provided the final and perfect lamb who offered himself to take away the sins of the world. That lamb is Jesus Christ. And God commands you to repent and believe in Christ with the promise that all who put their faith in him will be saved. Do you believe it? Do you trust him?
True faith means you recognize that you are a sinner deserving God’s wrath, and you surrender your guilty soul to Christ. True faith runs to him for mercy, forgiveness, and cleansing. True faith cries out to God in prayer, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
But at the same time, true faith believes and trusts that in Jesus Christ “all your sins are forgiven, that you are forever righteous before God, that you have everlasting life.” Because God says, “you are now forgiven,” you rejoice and give thanks to God. Because God says, “you are now a new creation,” you live no longer for yourself but for him. Because God says, “Christ will return and bring you home to heaven,” you live not in fear but with hope.
Saving faith is not just knowledge, but a whole-hearted trust.
[TRANSITION]: Finally, we could ask, “How can we have such whole-hearted trust and confidence in Christ?” It’s the same reason Abraham could trust God fully: Because we can rest on God himself who promised salvation in Christ. That’s our third point…
Main Point 3: Saving Faith is Resting on God’s Promises in Christ
Look at Romans 10:11, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” “Will not be disappointed.” Then half of verse 12, “… for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.”
The object of true faith is Christ himself and the ground of faith is God himself.
Let me explain. Ang dahilan kaya ka nagtitiwala sa isang tao ay hindi dahil lang marunong kang magtiwala, na kaya mong kontrolin kung magtitiwala ka o hindi. No. Ultimately, whatever level of trust that is, you trust someone because there is something worthy of trust in that person.
Likewise, we whole-heartedly trust in Christ not because we could believe better than just knowing him. Rather, we put our confidence in him because he himself is trustworthy. As Q. 21 answers, “everything God reveals in his Word is true.” Hence, everything that he promised concerning salvation ever since the time of Adam is true.
God is faithful. In fact, the Word of God tells us that though we are faithless, God is faithful. And consider this friends: The one who promised us salvation is no other than God the Father himself. The one who fulfilled our salvation [as promised] is no other than God the Son himself. And the one who testifies and seals that salvation in us [as promised] is no other than God the Spirit himself.
That’s the reason we can rest in him and put our faith in Christ. Our assurance, our confidence is not our faith itself, but God.
Although we understand that saving faith involves our whole being, our faith will never be perfect. In fact, many times it is weak. And it is not something new.
In Mark 9:24, one man said to Christ, “I believe, help my unbelief.” In Luke 17:5, the apostles said, “Lord, increase our faith!” Yet one evidence of the assurance of salvation despite the weakness of faith is the thief on the cross in Luke 23.
Ilang oras or ilang minuto na lang bago siya mamatay, sabi no’ng magnanakaw kay Cristo, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Few moments earlier, he recognizes that Christ is innocent. That he is perfect. And now, he recognizes that Jesus will reign. That Jesus is Lord. That’s a confession of faith!
Ano sabi ni Cristo, “Mag inquirers’ class ka muna. Explain mo muna ‘yong Doctrines of Grace. Gawin mo muna ‘to para maging sure ka na pinatawad at ligtas ka na.” ‘Yon ba sabi ni Christ? No. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Especially in our time, nando’n ‘yong tendency ng iba na kapag hindi Reformed, you’re less-Christian. Or maybe some of you here think na hindi pa yata ako saved or hindi ako masa-saved hangga’t hindi ko saulado ‘yong Apostles’ Creed or kasi hindi ko pa ma-explain ‘yong Doctrine of Election.
I’m not saying those are not important. They help us mature in knowing Christ.
But the good news friends is that salvation rests not even in the maturity of our faith. We are saved through faith, but not on the basis of our imperfect faith. We are saved because of the perfection and faithfulness of Christ whom we believe.
So beloved, even if you don’t know everything yet, even if you still have some doubts and weaknesses—come to him. God said that everyone who repents and believes in Christ shall be saved. Meditate on it, embrace it, trust those words. He is faithful. He will do it.
By the Spirit’s work, let us whole-heartedly trust and rest in God’s saving promises for us in Jesus Christ. Amen.