Author: Ron Graham
Paul says to the Roman Christians that the gospel was the power for their salvation when they believed (Romans 1:16). However, as the next verse shows, they had to progress "from faith to faith" (Romans 1:17).
The gospel was not merely the power for their initial salvation, but also the power for their establishment (Romans 1:15, Romans 16:25). They were not only to obey that gospel from the heart initially, but also to continue in it, as especially Romans 12 teaches. This leads us to observe two stages of faith:
(1) The faith of the enslaved.
Before we can be freed from slavery to sin, we must believe the gospel. Faith is essential for the transition or conversion.
(2) The faith of the saved
After we are set free from sin, faith is essential to stop us falling back into bondage.
Now behind what we have just said, their are two key questions:
(1) Can the enslaved sinner have faith before being saved, so as to make the transition into the saved state?
(2) If so, what act marks the critical point in the development of a person's of faith where that faith brings them into the saved state?
Some people would look upon these questions as nonsense, and the transition we have been talking about as impossible. They don't see how faith can develop in one who is enslaved in sin. They see the first instant of faith as the moment that marks the transition into the saved state. They can't accept that there is a progression of faith, and that faith needs to develop to a certain point, suitably marked by an appropriate act of faith, at which the person becomes saved by faith.
However, as we saw in our previous lesson, Romans 6:17-18 describes a most definite progression of faith.
Paul understood faith to be a process of being freed from enslavement to sin and entering into the happy state of being enslaved to Christ. Take for example his description in Romans 6:17-18.
¶“17 But thanks be to God that you, although you were slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17-18)
By faith we enter the discipline of enslavement to Christ and his righteousness. There we find true liberty and security. So we live in Christ by faith, and by faith we are established.
1. When a person hears the gospel (Romans 10:11-17) , that person is "delivered to the form of doctrine" which is the power for salvation. The person learns from the gospel about Jesus, his death, burial, resurrection, how Jesus can thereby save the person from the wrath of God and bondage to sin, and what action is needed to obtain that salvation and be counted among the righteous. The person has not yet "obeyed from the heart" but is able to do so.
2. The person now believes the gospel, but that faith in Christ (Romans 1:16-17, Romans 8:34) has not yet moved the person across the line. The person is still among the unsaved, the "slaves to sin", but now has the power to be "set free from sin".
3. The person now wants the sinful self to die, to be crucified and buried with Christ, wants release from bondage to sin, wants to become the slave of Christ instead. This is not only a desire, but a decision, a change of heart called repentance (Romans 2:4-5, Romans 6:1-2) . The person is now closer to being saved, but has other steps to go in obeying from the heart.
4. The person next makes a confession of this faith (Romans 10:8-10) , developing it from a conviction hidden in the heart to a faith made known to others. This brings the person nearer to the saved state, but not yet into it.
5. The person goes through the waters of baptism (Romans 6:3-4, Romans 8:1) , is buried with Christ, comes into his death, is born again, and freed from sin. Now faith is no longer the faith of the enslaved, but the faith of the saved, those who are "enslaved to righteousness".
6. As we have noted, faith must still continue to develop and to be established (Romans 12:1-2, Romans 12:11-12). However the transition has been made, the line has been crossed. The person has progressed "from faith to faith", from the faith of one enslaved to sin, to the faith of one saved from sin.