Author: Ron Graham
Paul summed up his faith this way: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed, from faith to faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith'" (Romans 1:16-17). Here Paul has in mind three great principles of faith:
Underlying our faith, and making salvation by faith possible, is the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood... to be the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:21-26).
No other message in the world has that power to produce and develop saving faith, because only in the gospel is revealed the righteousness (justification) of God. Only the gospel can produce the faith by which the righteous (the just) shall live, and live forever.
Some people believe that God decides who will believe in him, and that nobody has a choice to believe. But Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized (whoever has faith) will be saved; he who disbelieves (whoever lacks faith) will be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16).
To some people, the preaching of the gospel is powerless to save anyone unless God has selected them for faith. If God has chosen them, then they respond. However, if that were true, the scriptures would say, "I am not ashamed of faith in Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who hears". However the scripture actually says: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).
Thus "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). The gospel is a mechanism for revealing the way of salvation which is open to all people. The gospel has the power to enlighten anyone unto salvation, and anyone can respond and believe it. If anyone will accept the gospel in faith, then God, by his eternal and unchangeable decree, will choose that one to be justified and saved through Christ.
Some people think of faith as an event, rather than a process. In that view, faith is something that happens to you, something you experience as solely a work of God in you, and not as something which you do yourself.
But the Bible presents faith as something you do, something you work at, a process you put your own energy into throughout your life. Even at the very outset of the Christian life, we see that faith is one response in a chain of responses which you make to the gospel...
These are not things that God does. These are things that God requires you to do. If you will not do them, God views you as rejecting the gospel of his grace, rejecting his gift of salvation.
This does not mean that you can save yourself merely by your own work. For your salvation, you need "the power of God". However, as we have seen, that power is in the gospel (Romans 1:16). The gospel is the power because it reveals both the work God has done to save us by grace, and the work he wants us to do in response to his grace.
Justification by faith is a process of development through "the obedience of faith" (Romans 1:5, 16:25-26). Faith not only leads us to rebirth (through the responses outlined above), but faith also leads us to be transformed as we grow and develop throughout our new life in Christ (Romans 12:2). Or to use another analogy, faith is like marriage. Marriage is not just a wedding. The wedding is only the beginning of an on-going process and developing relationship. It is the same with faith.
Just as God has worked for our faith, so our faith must work for God. Otherwise our faith is dead and useless (James 2:24,26). Through the power of the gospel we must develop "from faith to faith" (Romans 1:17), increasing in obedience, ever growing closer to God.